Sex is everywhere: film plots, newspaper reports and our lives all revolve around it. Relationships are central to what it means to be human, and romantic relationships are some of the most important. I think our culture is ambivalent towards sex: on one hand it is deified; for some having lots of sex is just about the highest state possible; and the feeling is we need it to have intimacy and contentment. But sex is also degraded, with a view that it is just about satisfying my sexual appetite, or having a bit of fun. The other person doesn’t really matter; it’s just about whether I got laid.
Could it be that both perspectives on sex are unhealthy? Even the best sex never fully satisfies; isn’t that why we always want a new sexual experience? Russell Brand, a man who has had a lot of sex, puts it well: ‘In this secular age where man no longer believed in or devoted himself to God, salvation could only be sought through love, that love was a new religion – romantic love, devotion to the female – and women were goddesses who could be saved through worshipping. Thus I was forever on my knees before women, hungrily devouring truth, seeking out redemption wherever it may lie – usually squandered between someone’s thighs.’ Brand indicates something I’m sure is true: we all look for salvation, for redemption, and many of us look for it in relationships and sex. But when we do? It doesn’t provide what it seems to promise. So either we begin to be disillusioned with sex or look for it in other forms – porn is the most popular searched item on the internet. Some become defined by sex.
Christianity strikes a refreshing balance. The Bible is very positive about sex – God’s first command was to be fruitful and increase in number. And yet it regards it as truly precious; people often mock the Christian belief that sex outside marriage is wrong, but in a sense it’s the ultimate romantic position; sex is so special it’s for one person. And it’s in the security of publicly promised, committed faithfulness. This is hard for us to grasp without experiencing it – and when our culture is so far away from this. But the bigger issue, for Brand and all of us, is not ‘what is the place of sex?’ but ‘what can truly redeem me?’ I have discovered that the answer to the ‘what’ is a ‘whom.’
For people who follow Jesus sex and romantic relationships are important, but not everything. They don’t have to carry the burden of our identity and how we feel about ourselves – am I in a relationship? How much sex am I getting? Am I expressing myself fully? That central question of identity for the Christian is found in relationship with Jesus. We’re loved as God’s children no matter our sexuality, sexual performance, and sexual history. That frees us from society’s claim that sex defines us. We are free from any hurt, guilt or loneliness from the past. It means we can be satisfied whatever our sexuality and sexual status.