24Apr

Is Sensuality Bad? Not If You Believe in an Incarnate God

It’s been said by some Christians that sensuality is bad. I challenge anyone to read Song of Songs and tell me that sensuality is bad. SoS is the most sensual, erotic love poem ever written, and it’s in the Bible.

We don’t like to think of SoS that way in modern Western society because “sensuality” and “erotic” have been hijacked by the Devil and made to be seen as dirty words. Why? Because the Devil knows that the sexual union between one man and one woman in marriage and the {product} of that love—their child—points humans better than anything else to the eternal love of the Trinity.

The train of though for this post started when someone I follow on Twitter (who actually does great work sharing the lesson of modesty to mostly young girls, so this is not a knock on her at all) quoted Mark 7:21–23 where it said that sensuality comes from a wicked heart. From my readings of Saint John Paul The Great (and my intuitive sense of this) I knew that could not be the case.

Part of the problem is the dizzying array of translations of sacred scripture, some taking a more literal approach, others not. This is one of the many problems the the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, that the Bible alone is the source of God’s truth. The fact is, unless you’re reading scripture in the original language, you’re reading someone’s translation of it, and that always introduces subjectivity.

With regard to Mark 7:21–23, I check in the four translations of the Bible I personally own. Among them, they used three different words between them, and only one used sensuality. Pursuing it further, I checked BibleGateway.com, which has dozens of English translations alone. I tried hard to find translations that actually used sensuality in this verse, but I found only a few. Among them a translation called The Voice:

“It’s what grows out of the hearts of people that leads to corruption: evil thoughts, immoral sex, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wicked acts, treachery, sensuality, jealousy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from within, and these are the sins that truly corrupt a person.”

New American Bible:

“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Revised Standard Version

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

New Living Translation

“For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Good News Translation

“For from the inside, from your heart, come the evil ideas which lead you to do immoral things, to rob, kill, commit adultery, be greedy, and do all sorts of evil things; deceit, indecency, jealousy, slander, pride, and folly— all these evil things come from inside you and make you unclean.”

Most translations use words like lustful desires, indecency, and licentiousness.

Sensuality is a divine gift given to us so that we would be attracted to one another. And, like all divine gifts, we need to honor and protect it, in this case with modesty. We’re not called to modesty because sensuality is bad, we’re called to modesty precisely because it is so good that we ought not share it with just anyone.

As Christians, we are an incarnation all people. Our God took the physical body of a man—becoming fully human in every way but sin—and walked among us. Think about oh crazy that is in relation to every other religion. God became man. Crazy. But by doing so, Christ redeemed our bodies, which will be resurrected, glorified, and joined to our souls on the last day.

Christians need to redeem sensuality.

Any Christian who says our bodies, our sexuality, or our sensuality are bad doesn’t have as full an understanding of their faith as they think.

23Apr

Freedom or Slavery? | The Challenges of Being Single

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” (Gen 2:18)

Let’s admit it guys, being single can be fun. Outside of work, we pretty much get to do what we want, when we want, without anybody telling us otherwise (unless they’re the sorts of things that interest Johnny Law or our confessor). Outside work, there’s no one that we’re really responsible to and no one who depends on us for anything.

Many single guys just fist-pumped, “FREEDOM!” Pretty sweet, huh? Well, I’m here to tell you that being single can actually be (wait for it…) emasculating. OUCH! Yes, in a very real sense, being single* prevents a man from truly living out his calling as a man, which is to lay down his life for those he loves.

And therein lies the peril of being single: there is precious little opportunity for self-denial. It is generally a very selfish life. Outside of work, I have no need to deny myself of anything (within the confines of law, morality, and finances of course). A selfish man (or woman for that matter) cannot grow spiritually and cannot be a true follower of Jesus, who commanded:

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

That is where married men have the advantage over us single guys. As I’ve learned from both married men and women (and saw in my own parents), marriage (especially in families with kids) demands daily sacrifice in large and small ways. A husband cannot spend every night out with the guys or doing all the things he did as a single man because he is responsible to his wife who depends on him and wants him to, you know, actually be in a relationship with her. Without these unique checks and balances that a relationship provides, there’s a tendency (at least in men, or at least in this man) toward being a slave to our whims, desires, vices, and bad habits—a.k.a., a slave to sin. More importantly, though, we miss out on all those wonderful opportunities for emotional and spiritual growth that can only come when we deny ourselves for love of another, especially love of a woman.

Taking it a step further, the mission of a man—the mission stamped right into our hearts and souls—is to honor, protect, and defend our bride. While it is true, as Pope Saint John Paul The Great said, “It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman,” I think a man sees this calling most instinctively and strongly when directed at his bride. Men instinctively hear the call of Saint Paul:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27)

What man—deep in his heart and soul—isn’t drawn to that ideal, even if we (because absent the stain of sin) don’t fully engage it?

Paul is talking about sacrifice. There’s no room in Ephesians 5 for selfishness. Without sacrifice and self-denial, there is no growth. We sacrifice our time and money to go to school and learn. We cut back on tasty junk food to stay healthy. We inflict pain on ourselves in the gym to get stronger. Growing spiritually is no different.

So what’s a single guy to do? We need to create opportunities for self-denial and sacrifice. We need to build relationships where we are responsible to others. Work is a clear avenue here, but we need it in our personal lives too. A great option is to verbally commit time and energy to someone or some thing. Sign up for a responsible role in a ministry at church. Tell a charity that you’ll commit time to them. Whatever. The important thing is to promise yourself to another so they depend on you for something and that not fulfilling your commitment will cause some discomfort or inconvenience for them. In other words, there needs to be consequences to our not living up to our commitment.

Another great thing to do is practice personal sacrifice. My friend Arleen Spencely once wrote in her Life in the Gap Profile about year-long challenges she gives herself during her single life. She gives up something she likes for a year to aid her spiritual growth because, “following Jesus always requires self-denial.”

I’m in! I decided to take up this challenge from Arleen and make my own personal sacrifice. Who’s with me? Want to know what I decided to do? Well, you’ll have to wait for my next post. I think they call that a “tease” in The Biz.

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