Love Story: Sin, Sex and Society

image Boris Johnson complained, “It is a wretched and lamentable day when people’s private lives can become used in political machinations”.

Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, took part in a ‘Nazi-style orgy’ with prostitutes threatened to split the world of motorsport — yet Mosely survived a vote of confidence.

Our culture certainly has strong opinions about sex; it’s just that, at times, it struggles to know exactly what they are.

At the same time, sex has also become a big issue for Christians. Faced with a barrage of messages from a sexually permissive environment and lacking a clear rationale for biblical teaching, many Christians are unsure of what they think — uncertain whether an ancient text has anything to say to our Brave New World. Church leaders are divided over key issues like sex before marriage, divorce and homosexuality.

The Apostle Paul spent considerable time explaining to the Corinthian church why, having accepted Christ, they should be different in their sexual practices.

Three culture changes

1. The days are long gone when ‘Because the Bible says so’ was a good enough reason by itself to decide a person’s behaviour.

2. Sex is a private matter between consenting adults.

image 3. We live in an iWorld

Steven Jobs and Apple Computer have brilliantly understood the spirit of our age, a spirit of unfettered individualism and freedom, by marketing many of their products by using the prefix "i". The iPhone, the iPod, the iMac are names that capture the essence of the age in which we live. The t[raditional]World has been replaced by the iWorld.

My relationships — my friends, my family and my sexual partners — are now whatever I want and need them to be

What changed?

Human nature hasn’t changed in millennia, but over the last fifty years cultural attitudes have shifted on an unprecedented scale.

The real revolution was not that contraception allowed sex without the risk of a child, but that the sexual relationship itself could then be redefined to mean something different.

1. Gen 2:18 ff

image God ordained differentiation between men and women. Hebrew for helper = “one who stands opposite him”. Equality of status and complementary in purpose. Making in what each other lacks and focussed on companionship, mutual help and interdependence. Context is monogamous heterosexual marriage with the possibility and expectation of childbirth and raising a family.

Indeed so central is marriage to understanding humanity, that God can use it as a metaphor to describe his relationship with his people Ez 16, and between Christ and his church Eph 5:22-23 and Rev 19:9.

2. Romans 1:21-25

The me-culture appropriated sex for its own purposes, even as this new-found sexual choice reinforced the me-culture. With the advent of the iWorld, the traditional values of Dale Kuehne’s ‘tWorld’ all but vanished. This me-centred mindset is reflected in our laws about sex, which focus heavily on the idea of consent.

Songs of Songs: Getting it back into perspective.

In Song of Songs the two lovers are Everyman and Everywoman. Our themes are love and courtship and beauty and passion and commitment. Song of Songs has been called the most beautiful song ever! Written by or for Solomon. Only other characters are the chorus of friends.

It’s explicit. Very explicit. Stumbling block for both reader and translator. But not vulgar or crude. So welcome to the Bible’s guidebook to sex, written in poetry where euphemisms and double entendres abound.

It’s about a couple – can assume they are engaged but not married. Past point of no return in their relationship. In ANE their marriage has been arranged and payments made. All that remains is their wedding. Here is a couple on their way to marriage sharing their passions and expectations. The surprise is that ANE women are much more liberated about expressing their passions and desires than we expect.

Song of Songs doesn’t give us a complete understanding of the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, any more than Ecclesiastes gives us the full understanding of the nature of God.

The context is a strict moral code. Engaging in premarital sex and adultery resulted in harsh punishment even capital punishment. And for Christians we are just just speaking about actions but intentions.

So by way of introduction 1:2-7:

Sexuality engages with some of our deepest feelings:

image Girl: Wants to be touched and held. To know his deep kisses on her mouth. To be tactile. Not as an object, not as a friend, but to enable her to give herself to her man. Starting point is in this already secure relationship is contact – touch, embrace, kiss.

Hebrew “kiss” is onomatopoeic. Like cuckoo, sizzle, clunk, boom. And kiss – translators – smacking kisses!

“For your love” same word as in Proverbs 7:18:

Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

Ezek 16:7-8

I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. " ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness

21 century starts with human biology. Song of Songs starts with the security of relationship and an anticipated future. If our view of courtship and engagement is lighter now, then our physical relationships need to be even more tentative.

Sexuality raises questions of our self image (5-7)

image Can we cope with ourselves? Or do we long to be someone else? Not much we can do about how we look. Or even the kind of person we are – our personality type. How much better to be ourselves. Recognise our weakness. To know we are made uniquely in the image of God – and yet being transformed by Christ.

1. Made in the image of God

2. Transformed into the likeness of Christ. (2 Cor 3:18)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Cell outline

Setting the scene:
In Romans 1:24–25, Paul says that people either worship God their Creator and enjoy his creation—including our bodies—or people worship creation as God, and in sexual sin offer their bodies as living sacrifices (which is the definition of worship in Romans 12:1). Can you think of examples which might agree with that or disagree?

Or:

What do these kinds of writing look like: allegory, drama, fiction, narrative? From what you have already read of Song of Songs, what kind of writing does this book seem like.

From the text:
1. In SofS 1:2, how is his love better than wine? How much pleasure does your spouse feel in just knowing how much he or she is loved by you?
Hint: Drinking wine does not give as much pleasure as the warm feeling of knowing how much he cares for her.

2. In SofS 1:3, why would a girl tell her beloved that the young maidens all love him? How easy is it to manipulate the feelings of your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend for your own purposes?
Hint: However much others ‘love’ him, she is confident that he loves her and not others.

3. In SofS 1:4, since they are not married, why might the girl be talking about being brought into the king’s chamber? Can we build up positive expectations in our relationships before marriage without going too far?
Hint: In Jewish tradition, the marriage was consummated privately, right after the wedding ceremony. She is telling her beloved she is looking forward to marriage.

4: In SofS 1:7, why would the girl want to go to the flocks of her beloved’s companions? A good barometer of romantic love is wanting to spend time with the other person? What could you do to spend more time with the one you love?
Hint: It never said that she did. She told her beloved she might do so, perhaps by mistake, if he did not tell her where he grazed his flocks.

Beyond the text:
1: What is a sacrament? Could sex be a sacrament? How might it become a perverse sacrament?

2: In SofS 1:5, “Dark am I, yet lovely” (NIV can also correctly be translated "Dark am I, but lovely" (e.g. KJV, and NKJV)

Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do translators sometime disclose their own prejudice in their choice of word? Why? Why is it so hard to get a good self-image in today’s society. What do these verses help us to understand: Prov 31:30; 1 Peter 3:3-6. In what ways is it appropriate to enhance our physical appearance? What other factors of attraction are not to do with appearance?

Witness

Is this series just for Christians? If not, what does that mean for our mission?

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