How our culture
has ruined sex.
In today’s lesson,
Jesus teaches how to
get the blessing back.
+ + +
I used to have an image that I would use for teens when talking about sexuality.
Without explanation, I’d give them a piece of tape and a list of things to see if the packing tape stuck to.
So the youth would go around sticking and unsticking. Sticking and unsticking. Sticking and unsticking. And every time there’d be a little less stick.
Every time, the tape would leave behind a little residue on what it had been previously stuck to … and … the tape would pick up a little corrosive residue (dust, dirt, paper fibers, etc.) of what it had been stuck on.
Premarital sex can be like this. Sex is designed to help us stick permanently to another person. But sex outside of marriage always leaves a little adhesive behind and simultaneously picks up a little corrosion too. The danger is that when the right person comes along, we may have cheapened this gift so dramatically that we’re likely not to stick well … if at all. (Is that what happened to the woman at the well, as described in today’s passage? Jesus said to her, Jesus said to her, “You are right … You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Apparently, she was like tape who’d completely lost its stick.)
Wait … I started with this is how I “used to” illustrate this image. I still believe it’s absolutely true, but now I’m more careful. Because our culture is cheapening sex so very dramatically, we have an epidemic of people who’ve been encouraged to – and thus have a personal history of – jumping in and out of beds. Therefore, nowadays, I need to focus on a second part of the tape illustration. Jesus reveals it in our verse for today: It’s how to get our stick back!
Step one, Jesus didn’t condemn the woman’s checkered past. He did, of course, acknowledge the truth of her history. Like in medicine, there’s no real healing without first acknowledging the real problem. So, first he acknowledged the problem – serial relationships … which are devolving further and further. But … he didn’t condemn her.
Rather, Jesus offered healing through an even more intimate relationship. Our culture has lied to us. Yes, sex is wonderful. It is powerful. It is an instinctual want. It is designed to draw husband and wife profoundly closer and closer. But it is not a need. (Indeed, I know of scores of marriages in which is sex is not currently a regular part – usually because of health reasons, inabilities, physical pain.) Defining sex as a “need” causes unmarrieds to waste their sacred tape and marrieds to grow unnecessarily dissatisfied.
What we’re seeking is intimacy. Deep intimacy. And the woman at the well found that in Jesus! She ultimately wanted someone to know her and accept her. Jesus did both – knowing and accepting. He knew her flaws. And he loved and accepted her anyway! (One of my favorite phrases was the pre-title of Max Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus. It was branded: “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way! He wants us to be … Just Like Jesus.”) That’s what the woman experienced at the well. He loved her just the way she was … but didn’t leave her that way. He gave her living water. He restored her life.
That’s how I need to change my old story. In human ways, if we substitute sex for intimacy, we’re never really going to stick. But if we seek first the kingdom of God – and find intimacy there – then we won’t be as desperate and dependent on finding intimacy in and with and through another fallible human.
And here’s the irony … when we’re not dependent on another human to fill us up, that generally frees relationships up. It generally allows to take people and relationships for what they are … and enjoy them for what they do offer (not what they don’t). Indeed, this generally frees us to discover more real intimacy (because we’re not putting pressure on them or ourselves).
So, could I say that maybe the secret to good sex is spelling “sex” (and intimacy) like we spell “joy” – Jesus. Others. You.?
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who grieves