Sexual dissatisfaction is one of the fastest growing concerns among married people today. Despite all their dreams of great sex during their married years, many couples consider their sex lives to be a major let-down. Some blame it on poor technique, physical inadequacy or a lack of interest. But for most of these couples, their sexual disappointment can be traced back to a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between love and sex.
Increasingly today, love and sex are portrayed synonymously. If you’re in love, the world suggests, you should also be in bed. In an effort to experience love, many people destroy the thing that was meant to communicate it at the deepest level. If we truly understood the difference between love and sex, it would change our whole perspective on dating and marriage.
Let’s explore together the differences between love and sex. I’m sure you’ll agree our source of information needs to be somewhat wiser than another confused human being. The One who created love, sex and you and me has to be the best guide for understanding what we find confusing.
Walk in Love, Don’t Fall in Love
Our problem, however, is that loving isn’t easy. You and I simply don’t have the power to always forgive or be consistently kind. Our love, strength, will and understanding don’t stretch that far. We don’t have the power to love this way unless we are so filled with God’s love that we recognise that our deepest needs have already been met and we’re no longer expecting another human being to complete us.
It boils down to this: We will not be able to imitate God in our love for others unless we know that we are blessed, valuable and significant – that we are loved. The God who made us and loves us tells us to live and love like He sees us and like He loves us. This is why the idea that having a great relationship is all about finding the right person is a lie. The key to developing a great relationship is becoming the right person.
Walking in love means something much deeper than taking long strolls on the beach or wandering hand-in-hand through the mall. In fact, walking in love means that we love each other in “exactly the same way that Christ loved us” Eph 5:1-2. How did Christ love us? He gave Himself up for you. So, here’s the deeper application: Walking in love is about sacrificial commitment. It means giving the other person what he or she needs the most when it is least deserved, because that’s exactly how God has treated you.
Let me summarise God’s prescription for lasting relationships in four steps.
Step 1 – Instead of looking for the right person, become the right person.
Step 2 – Instead of falling in love, walk in love.
Step 3 –Instead of fixing your hopes and dreams on another person, fix your hope on God and seek to please Him through this relationship.
Step 4 –If failure occurs, repeat steps 1, 2 and 3.
What did Paul say about sex?
In Ephesians 5:3 – 4 the apostle Paul gives us a picture of the negative results that occur when we fail to walk in love or to understand the difference between love and sex. We have got to remember that sex is not wrong and God is not a prude. Sex is not a sin to be avoided but a gift to be cherished.
You and I want genuine intimacy. We want to have relationships that matter. We long for someone to feel deeply loved because of us. We also want to be loved and cherished and cared for by someone else. However, Paul says certain things will squelch and destroy love and break relationships. These are crucial warnings. If we are going to love somebody, we will not take, exploit, or cheapen him or her. We will not engage in sexual activity to create pseudo intimacy that’s false because we don’t really care and we’re not really committed. We won’t substitute sex for authentic intimacy.
Why giving thanks is so important
The verses above tell us that each of the speaking modes (filthiness, silly talk and course jesting) is to be replaced by giving of thanks. So how does gratefulness provide an adequate substitute for the way we typically speak and act? First, thankfulness has an objective – we’re thankful to someone. Second, we’re thankful for something. If we develop a deep gratefulness to God for all He’s done for us and given to us, we also will develop a deep respect for the way we treat what we have.
Knowing that we have been made in the image of God, who loves us, how could we not be overwhelmed by the privilege of getting to know and cherish another person equally made in God’s image? When I am grateful for the relationship I have, I find it very hard to be interested in someone else. And the same is true for you, whether single or married. The act of perpetual giving thanks for what God has given you and what He has in store for you is the greatest antidote against the onslaught of mental pollution that bombards all of us daily concerning this beautiful gift of sex.
So, what’s the difference between love and sex?
Sex is one of the servants of love. They are different in that love is much greater than sex, but love and sex are designed to function in harmony. When love becomes the servant of sex, chaos results. Our culture has become confused about the difference between love and sex in two ways: (1) We have tried to separate love and sex, describing sex as a harmless and meaningless form of casual entertainment between people who have no lasting commitment
(2) We have tried to make sex and love almost synonymous, so that great love means great sex and great sex means great love.
There’s a direct connection between your current sexual lifestyle and the sex life you will enjoy in the future. Whether you’re single or married, the decisions you make today will have a direct impact on the quality of your sexual experiences in the months and years to come. Some people will bear consequences for their choices and others will receive dividends.
Chip Ingram is the president of Walk Thru the Bible, an international resource and training organisation. He is married to Theresa and they have four children and two grandchildren. For more information contact Walk Thru the Bible on (011) 782 4222 or www.bible.org.za