Because it was the Creator’s intention that human beings have the freedom to make their own decisions, everyone has to come to terms with the basic issues of life. One of these issues is that outside of certain bounds some of the most profoundly pleasurable and meaningful things can become the most destructive.
The emotions connected with human sexuality are so powerful and multi-faceted that we can only begin to describe them. The complementary spiritual and physiological components of male and female find unique fulfillment and intimacy here. Significantly, this profound experience provides the context for the conception of new human life.
Tragically, some in every generation make the sensations of sex the goal of the experience. They neglect the legitimate bounds for sexual experience and eventually face the consequences of that neglect.
Mankind has long been aware of sexual attraction’s tremendous potential for destruction. In The Odyssey, the great Greek poet Homer pictures its power as almost irresistible. In order to avoid being lured to his death by the enticing song of the Sirens, Ulysses commands his men to lash him to the mast of his ship, to plug their ears, and ignore his cries.1 The Old Testament, too, contains solemn warnings regarding the danger of illicit sexual attraction.
When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, . . . from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words, who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:10-12,16-19)
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword, her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell, lest you ponder her path of life—her ways are unstable; you do not know them (Proverbs 5:3-6).
Jesus also portrays the destructive power of sexual immorality with great seriousness:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).
The apostle Paul wrote:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV).
The Bible says that God is the source of all of the love we know in life ( 1 John 4:7 ). It declares that if we don’t know love, we don’t know God ( 1 John 7:8 ). Because we are created in God’s image and love is God’s primary way of making Himself known to us, the longing for love is deeply rooted in our nature. We usually encounter God’s love first in the context of relationships with people. But many people have become so focused on immediate pleasure, they have fallen for the lie that sex is “just a physical function,” romanticized and taken too seriously by earlier generations.
In spite of misleading presentations in the media, most people intuitively recognize the ugliness of impersonal, promiscuous sex. At some level, most people realize that sex involves more intimacy, vulnerability, and meaning than shaking hands, having a conversation, or flirting. This is why most people who engage in extramarital sex try to rationalize it by claiming some “special feelings” for their current “partner.” But how long are their “special feelings” likely to endure in an uncommitted relationship? For that matter, are their feelings real, or only illusions projected by darker desires—perhaps for control over another person?
What about the next “lover”? Will someone new produce “special feelings” of equal intensity? And what of the third, the fourth, the tenth? How long before the sickening realization that the fading “feelings” that accompany uncommitted sex have no roots? Once a person reaches this point of awareness (and many will not, and simply continue a blind pursuit of satisfaction they will never find) there will be few options. One is to despairingly abandon oneself to sensuality with no pretense of seeking love; another is to go from affair to affair, despairingly seeking the “perfect love” (even though one knows in his heart that each new affair takes him farther from his goal); and the last is to recognize the profound relationship between personal commitment, genuine love, and sexual ecstasy.
Sexuality is intended to be a banquet of intimacy. But since sex can occur without love or real intimacy, it must never be expected to provide the basis for intimacy (Proverbs 5:15-20 ). If it is, it will very quickly become a mere addiction, just another way of trying to kill the longing inside that has been placed there by God for the purpose of leading us to Him.
A person who uses other people for his sexual pleasure will become coarse and hypocritical. Such a change of character is inevitable. Misused sexuality separates the heart from physical intimacy. When misused this way, the focus of sex moves from the expression of unconditional affection for the beloved to other things, such as mere physical stimulation, power, or even the expression of self-hatred. Such deviant sexuality often transmutes into increasingly bizarre, overtly vicious behavior.2
The long-term effects of a recreational view of sexual relationships will be seen and noted by other people. But only the sexual addict himself has a firsthand experience of his spiritual and emotional changes. A sexual addict perceives sexual pleasure so differently that it would revolt and terrify a genuine lover. From the outside, the pursuit of sexual pleasure by a sexual addict—whether a “Don Juan” or someone less outwardly glamorous—appears desperate and all-consuming. How ironic that an addict’s desperate pursuit of sexual pleasure shows how little satisfaction and fulfillment he is finding.
God designed sex to be pleasurable, but the tremendous power of sex doesn’t flow primarily from pleasurable physical sensations of sex and orgasm. It flows from something deeper—a longing for genuine love and intimacy.
- The German legend of the Lorelei on the Rhine River, immortalized by the beautiful poem of Heinrich Heine is remarkably similar to the portrayal of the sirens in The Odyssey.
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Das ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
(I cannot determine the meaning
Of sorrow that fills my breast:
A fable of old, through it streaming,
Allows my mind no rest.
The air is cool in the gloaming
And gently flows the Rhine.
The crest of the mountain is gleaming
In fading rays of sunshine.
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wondrously fair;
Her golden jewelry is glist’ning;
She combs her golden hair.
She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
And sings a song, passing time.
It has a most wondrous, appealing
And pow’rful melodic rhyme.
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die Lorelei getan.
The boatman aboard his small skiff, –
Enraptured with a wild ache,
Has no eye for the jagged cliff, –
His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and man, by and by,
And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
Was done by the Loreley.)
Heinrich Heine (The English translation used above can be found in many different sites in the Web.) Back To Article
- Why else would sado-masochism in all its forms, promiscuity in spite the risk of AIDS and other STDs, and other such deviations from healthy sexual behavior occur? Back To Article