By Steven Tracy, PhD, Themelios
I still identify myself as a religious woman, but I feel that the Lord has a big world out there to take care of, and I take care of my sexuality. I feel that some of the proclaimed [sexual] rules that the churches have were made and interpreted by men, and they have no right to try to control my body.
Surely one of Satan’s most wide-spread, persistent lies is that one must go outside of God’s commandments to find welbeing because God’s interests and our best interests don’t always intersect. This misconception lay behind the very first recorded sin in Genesis three. In fifteen years of pastoral ministry working with adolescents and university students, over and over again I heard young adults express the misconception that if they scrupulously followed biblical sexual guidelines, they would have a diminished life. They assumed they were infinitely more concerned about their emotional and sexual well being than God was. Thus, I want to frame this essay around the concept of sex as a divine gift—not to promote an anthropocentric, feel good theology (“trust Jesus and you will be healthy, wealthy, and have better orgasms”). Rather, I want to exalt the goodness of God in an area of life where his character is most frequently maligned because his commandments are so frequently misconstrued.
The creation account in Genesis 1-2 makes it very clear that God is the gracious creator of everything in the universe, including humans and sexuality. God made humans sexual beings, not as a begrudging afterthought, but as a deliberate way to manifest his own character. We see this in Gen 1:26-27: "then God said, 'let us make man in our image, according to our likeness'…and God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created him."  Since God does not have gender, the obvious question here is "how does creating humans as sexual beings (male and female) reflect the image of God? The answer is suggested in the very grammar of the passage, for plural pronouns are used of God ("us," "our"), suggesting that God is not a solitary being, but rather that God is in intimate relationship with himself. Further biblical revelation fleshes this out, for Scripture teaches that the divine being has three equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are in perfect intimate union with each other (John 17:21). Thus, human sexuality is central to humans being made in the image of God, for our sexuality gives us the longing and the capacity for intimate relationships. For this reason, some have said that our sexuality is the most God like part of who we are as humans.
But if the creation account affirms that God designed our gender, does it follow that the sex act itself is a gift from God?