Some clever scholar somewhere first gave the world this brilliant assessment of the motivations behind sexual courtship. “Girls play at sex to get love, while boys play at love to get sex.” And whatever other truths flow out of this sentence, one thing is evident. Sex and love are not the same thing.
In fact, it is a complete misnomer to say that sex is “making love.” The fact is, you can’t “make love.” Love isn’t something you can design, draw up, and then manufacture. Love is a responsive engagement of the soul and not a commodity or a product. Love is a commitment of the heart and mind and yes, it can be expressed through sexual intimacy, body with body. You can express love through sex, but sex can’t make love happen. Our society might know this, but increasingly fails to recognize it, understand it, and act accordingly.
The great problem is that sexual intimacy can never be confined merely to the body. It always floods the mind and soul with the very emotional intensity that we crave. This craving is to love and be loved in a lasting, soul-connected bond that is the stuff of our earliest dreams. And while we try to disavow this reality through random sexual hookups, we can’t escape the brute fact that coupling without commitment erodes our hope and impoverishes our soul.
But it was never meant to be this way. Sexual intimacy was never meant to be a game, a sport to be played. And little by little some are waking up to the reality that sex apart from love actually kills true intimacy while greatly lessening the chances of knowing what real love is like.
One of the most troubling consequences of our supposed “sexual revolution” is that sexual intimacy outside of marriage actually hardens the heart toward emotional connectedness. Those who engage in serial sexual encounters must intentionally lock away their emotions in order to preserve the myth that “it’s only physical.” This actually erodes their ability to find true emotional connection. And, many are finding that multiple sexual encounters decrease substantially their ability to find sexual intimacy fulfilling when they finally give themselves in marriage.
The need for a re-examined sexual ethic has never been greater. As a nation we have abandoned the Judeo-Christian ethic in favor of no ethic at all, and we are paying the price. It’s time to see why the old ways are still the best ways.
I often hear parents lament that their children have gotten tattoos. The common fear is that, in the years to come, they will regret greatly having done something permanent to their bodies. But how much worse is the emotional, and often physical, harm that our children are bringing on themselves through unrestrained sexual hookups? I’ve counseled with so many who shed tears over their foolish sexual escapades of years gone by now that they have found a godly spouse and brought their own children into the world.
We certainly can’t change the past, and we may not be able to curb all the present, but we might be able to change the future our own children are heading for. Teach your children well about the emotional and physical elements of sexual intimacy. Explain that sex isn’t love, and real love waits to enjoy the delights of sexuality within the bounds of marriage. Do it for them. Do it for all of us.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.