THE GIFT OF MARRIAGE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
The most famous twins in history were Chang and Eng, born in Siam in 1811. They toured Europe and America repeatedly. They became so well known that all twins whose bodies are physically connected have ever since been called Siamese twins. By their early thirty's they had traveled the world, and amassed a fortune. They decided to settle down in North Carolina and become farmers. One of their neighbors, David Yates, was a Quaker, and a part time clergyman. He had a 19 year old daughter Adelaide, and a 20
year old daughter named Sarah Ann. Believe it or not, these two girls started courting Chang and Eng. Everybody thought it was insane, and both families were threatened by town folk who were sure it was evil.
Nevertheless, there was a double wedding in April of 1843. Naturally they moved into the same house, and unbelievably, they had happy and fruitful marriages. Eng fathered 7 boys and 5 girls. Chang fathered 7 girls and 3 boys. All 22 children were normal except for a son and daughter who were deaf mutes. Chang and Eng lived to age 63, and they were buried in the cemetery of the Baptist church of White Plains, which they helped to build, and where they and there family worshiped for many years. Many of their descendants still attend this church today, and over one thousand people trace their descent from these original Siamese Twins.
You would think if anyone should remain single it would be people like this, who had such an enormous handicap. But the fact is, Frederick Drimmer, in his book Very Special People, reports that 90% of human oddities, who use to be called freaks, marry normal people, and have normal children, and very few of these marriages end in divorce. How can these people make it, and have happy marriages, when so many people without their handicaps cannot? We can only conclude with the Apostle Paul, these people have the gift of marriage. In verse 7 Paul states that each person has a special gift. His is the gift to be single and satisfied, but if one does not have that gift, then he has another, and that is the gift to be married and satisfied.
Just as some people can be happy and fulfilled single, so others can be happy and fulfilled married. Paul no where forbids marriage to anyone, for he writes to Timothy that it is heresy and the doctrine of demons to forbid marriage. Paul's concern is to prevent those with the gift of singleness from entering marriage. We will see why as we continue our study.
Since the key element in each of these gifts is the sex drive, there is no way Christians can escape examining their sex drive, and still be obedient to God. One's sexual motivation, or lack of it, is a gift of God. If you have the gift of self-control, and can abstain from sex, you have the gift of singleness. It is foolish to be intimidated by all of the clamor of the world that life and sex are synonymous. Consider yourself gifted to pursue other goals for the kingdom of God. If, however, you have a strong sex drive, consider yourself ungifted to remain single, but gifted to make a happy marriage. The rule here,says Barclay, is, "No man should attempt a way of life for which he is naturally ungifted."
The key theme of this whole chapter is prevention. Paul's advice here is to prevent those with the gift of singleness from marriage, and to prevent those with the gift of marriage from staying single, and to prevent in all cases the immorality that the sex drive can lead to, if not brought under self-control. Paul is no ivory tower mystic who responds to all problems with the pious advice that Christ is the answer. Of course, Christ is the answer, and obedience to His will is the key to all of life's problems, but the question is,
what is His will, and how do I submit to His Lordship in specific cases? It is to general to say Christ is the answer, or pray about it. Paul is getting very specific, and actually deals with the issues of sex so practically, that it has taken centuries of study to bring the world up to the point where they recognize this old bachelor knew more about sex than most of the married people of history.
Most of the blunders of church history were caused by Christians not taking Paul seriously as a sex counselor. This one paragraph could have prevented centuries of darkness and heartache in millions of Christians lives. When Christians do not walk in the light that God gives, they are condemned to walk in darkness, and make the same mistakes over and over. If we are going to let the light of God's Word guide us, we need to lay aside a false spirituality that tries to hide the reality of lust. A retired pastor was once asked by a friend, "How old do you have to be to stop struggling with lust?" He responded, "Why ask me? I'm only 70." That is realism, and Paul was a realist.
Paul is trying to help Christians to be moral people in a very immoral world, and to do that he has to focus on the sex drive. In chapter 6 he makes it clear that the Corinthians were still visiting prostitutes. He writes in verses 15 and 16, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who gives himself to a
prostitute becomes one body with her?" Prostitution was a way of life in Corinth, and Paul is fighting to change the lifestyle of these pagans who have become Christians, and who did not realize all of the implications of what it means to be a Christian. This is why Paul is not dealing with marriage on the level of the mystical union of Christ and the church. He is on the level of lust and the sex drive, because that is where the people are he is trying to help.
If it seems unspiritual to you, it is because you have a limited view of spirituality. True spirituality is being able to deal with people where they are, and to help them bring every aspect of their lives into conformity with the will of God. Sex is a major part of life, therefore, to help people deal with their sex life is being spiritual. The question is often asked, how do I know if it is God's will that I marry? Paul says the answer may be very simple, as simple as this: Know thyself. Examine your makeup. Do you have a strong sex drive that is constantly pushing you toward fornication? That is a sign you are made for marriage. If the temptation is easy to handle, that is a sign you may be gifted for singleness.
It may sound like a very low motivation to get married, just to satisfy the sex drive. You find a wife or husband just to prevent your sex drive from leading you to prostitutes and others outside of marriage. This makes marriage a sort of corral to tame and limit the wild horses of passion. That may seem like a low motivation, but the fact is, the difference between ordered civilization and anarchy is the control of the sex drive. Marriage provides men with a means by which they keep their power under control, and thus maintain a stable society. There can be no orderly moral society without marriage, which limits the sex drive.
Every time a civilization has tried to ignore this God-ordained principle, that civilization has lost its foundation, and crumbled. Sex is not a mere side issue. It is vital to regulate it for survival and success in any society. Doctor J. D. Unvin, of Cambridge University, studied 80 civilizations covering 4000 years, and he concluded that any society which chose sexual promiscuity declined, and those that chose sexual discipline developed creative energy. Sex is like fire, under control it is a wonderful resource of energy, but out of control, it is a most destructive power.
Paul is saying, if you can regulate your sex drive, do not feel the pressure to get married. So many young people panic because they see their friends getting married, and they feel left out. Their family and friends add to the pressure by suggesting they may not be normal by staying single. This kind of social pressure forces many to marry, who ought not to. They marry out of the desire to conform to a public image, and not because of sexual passion. This lack of passion leads to a cold and mechanical relationship that often leads to an affair or divorce. Paul is right, and one should not get married just because it is the popular thing to do. You should get married when you do not see how you can live a normal life without a mate.
The question of the Corinthians was, how can we live in a sex saturated society, where the sex drive is constantly stimulated, and not be immoral? Paul says, get married. Doesn't that make marriage a sort of legal lust? Yes it does, but legal and controlled lust is far superior to illegal and uncontrolled lust. It is the only way to build an orderly society, and the only way to develop a Christian life style in a pagan world. But notice, Paul is not so superficial as to assume that marriage would end the problem of lust. He did not say, get married and all your problems are over. On the contrary, he recognized that married people still struggle with the temptation to be immoral. He goes on to give married people advice that will help them prevent lust and promote love.
Here is the Pauline sex manual, written almost 2000 years ago. If modern Christians would heed it, it would take care of their needs. This is just what all the modern books are saying. If you want to prevent sex outside the marriage, make sure there is so much within the marriage that there is no left over energy for Satan to work with. No Christian can be effectively tempted to get into an affair if all the sex energy he or she has is regularly released within the marriage bond. Marriages may be made in heaven, but their upkeep is done here on earth, and sex is the oil that keeps the machinery of marriage from breaking down. This gives us a clue as to why Paul did not want those with the gift of singleness to get married. They have little interest in sex, and, therefore, they make their mate a target that Satan's fiery darts cannot miss.
Imagine one of these Corinthian young men who has grown up following the pagan custom of going to a temple prostitute. He now becomes a Christian, and decides to marry this sweet Christian girl he met at church. She became a Christian at a young age, and has been pure sexually. In fact, she has no interest in sex at all. She is, in other words, a gifted single. These two get married, and very quickly the husband begins to feel rejection, because he is very active sexually, and she is trying to avoid it as much as she can. You can see the tremendous tension this puts on the marriage. That man is going to go through enormous conflict as to whether or not he will go back to visit the temple prostitute. In other words, the act of marriage, or merely becoming husband and wife, is not the cure for immorality. The cure is in sexual satisfaction, and if a person marries who does not have this gift, it only makes matters worse. Those gifted to be single are a curse to their mates, who are gifted for marriage, and need sexual satisfaction.
So you can see why Paul urges people to stay single if they do not have the gift of marriage. Lacking this, if they get married, they just change the sphere of temptation from fornication to adultery, and this is hardly an adequate motivation for marriage. The principle is simple: If you can't carry to tune, don't join the choir. If you faint at the sight of blood, don't become a nurse. If you can't add, don't become an accountant. If you don't life sex, or don't feel the need of sex, don't enter a partnership where sex is basic to its success.
Paul knows a lot of problems can be prevented if gifted singles stay single, but this is hardly the end of the complexity of the issues involved. Paul is as up to date as books rolling off the presses today. The first thing he deals with in marital sex is, the equality of the sexes. For centuries the church ignored Paul's insights, and developed the view that only males have sexual rights. The male is the aggressor, and female is the passive vessel designed to meet his need. Wives were trained to believe it was wrong for them to enjoy sex. Millions of Christian girls were warned by their mothers that sex was a necessary evil, and they should be prepared to endure it, but not enjoy it.
The sex revolution broke us out of that prison of man's own making, and has revealed what Paul was stating centuries ago. Sexual satisfaction is the equal right of the wife as well as the husband. They are mutually obligated to satisfy one another. Women have looked down on Paul, assuming he was a male chauvinist, but they failed to see that he is really the father of women's equality in marriage. There is not the slightest hint in this passage that the wife is secondary to the husband. Equality is all you see, and if mates will honor that equality, they will experience the full joys of married life. The more you know about the history of sex in the church, the more you can appreciate the Apostle Paul's realism. Never once in this passage, dealing with marital sex, does Paul even mention reproduction.
I am amazed as I read Christian history, to see how many Christian leaders were afraid to admit that sex had any other function than that of producing babies. The thought that it had psychological values, and could even be a means of entertainment, was never allowed to enter Christian theology. The Catholic church refused to let Paul play a role in their theology of sex. They said sex was for reproduction, period! This being the case, any form of birth control was a resisting of the will of God. They said it was unnatural to prevent child birth. Of course, it is unnatural to cut your grass, and your whiskers also, but grass and whiskers never became a theological issue like sex. Because of this limited view of sex, millions of Christians have had to endure all kinds of guilt.
All of it could have been avoided by listening to Paul. Paul says sex is an appetite, and like hunger and thirst, it needs to be satisfied. Mates do not decide we want to have a baby, and so lets engage in sex. Mates have the hunger for sex hundreds of times more frequently than they have a desire for children. The sexual appetite has no connection with the number of children you hope to produce. Animals are built to have a mating season in which the sex drive functions for reproduction. Man is not made like this at all. There is no mating season for man. He has a sex appetite all the time, and the sexual function of mates is not just to have children, but to satisfy this perpetual hunger. If children are the only reason for sex, then after you have the children you want, sex should end. Unfortunately, some mates feel this way, and it destroys the marriage. Sexual pleasure is meant to be enjoyed just as long as the pleasure of eating is meant to be enjoyed.
Paul says there are occasions when you can interrupt the regular release of sexual tension. He gives the example of devoting yourself to prayer. In our day it would be for the sake of going on a retreat, or visiting loved ones, or being in the hospital, or being in a job situation that demands separation. Even so, Paul says let this be by agreement. In other words, Paul expected mates to talk about sex and their needs in terms of frequency. The only time it is legitimate to refuse sexual satisfaction is by mutual consent.
One of the major problems in marriage is the tyrannical role of each mate over their own body. They developed a dictatorship, and say, I alone decide what happens with my body. Paul says this is the wrong form of government in marriage. Marriage is to be a democracy with each mate having an equal voice in what is done with each others body. Marriage not only makes two into one, it makes each one into two. You can lose 50% control over your body when you marry, for now it belongs, not just to you, but to your mate equally. Refusal to submit to this arrangement has hurt millions of marriages.
Those who give heed to Paul, however, find in this old bachelor's advice the key to marital bliss. They are those who can live in a sex saturated society and not worry about the stimulus to lust all about them, for they know they have a mate that will release all tension, and eliminate the dangers of temptation. Mates, like Paul's ideal, will be like two scientists who worked together in a laboratory to seek a solution to a problem. They will be open to experiment to keep the sexual flames alive in their marriage, knowing they have an obligation to each other to prevent Satan from getting a foothold in their lives through lack of self-control. Mates who give heed to Paul will be aware of sexual needs, and will take the necessary steps to meet those needs.
Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to sex. The only cure for bad sex is good sex. To avoid doing it wrong, do it right. The whole history of the church could have been different, and history can yet be different, for those Christians who will listen to Paul's wisdom, and look upon marital sex, not as dirty, but as duty-delightful duty that provides mates escape from the enticing power of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Those who do so demonstrate to the glory of God the blessedness of the gift of marriage.