Sex before marriage is automatically bad and that sex after marriage is automatically good. That’s what the Bible says, right?

Actually, the Bible says a ton of different things about sex.

In the Old Testament, sex is decidedly good thing. There’s even a whole book of erotic poetry smack dab in the middle of it.

In the New Testament, Jesus is mum on the topic while the Apostle Paul advises Christians to keep their zippers zipped if at all possible.

So how do we make sense of all the Bible’s contradictory views on sex?

Even though the Apostle Paul was down on sex, he managed to come up with some pretty progressive-for-his-time wisdom on the topic.

Here’s what Paul had to say about how he thought spouses should treat each other:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…. For wives, this means submit to your husbands…. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.

Do you see what Paul is doing here!?

What he’s doing is tying the the relationship between spouses (in his mind the least bad relationship in which a person could have sex) back to the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

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In other words, what Paul is starting to get at it here is that the same rule that governs our conduct as Christians everywhere else also applies in our bedrooms: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

And when the guiding principle of our sex lives is an ethic of mutuality, reciprocity, and love like that all sorts of things flow from it:

Is consent going to be important to us? 

Yes it is!

Is mutual satisfaction and enjoyment going to be something that we care deeply about?

Yes indeed!

Are we going to pursue sexual relationships only with those who have an equal amount emotional investment in that relationship? 

Absolutely!

Are we going to treat others not as objects for our gratification but as human beings made in the image of God?

You better believe it!

Rather than cordoning sex off as something to be ashamed of or something that needs to be governed by a whole different set of norms and values LOVE should be the standard, the measure, and the guide… of our SEX lives and of our WHOLE lives.

May it be so!

Ephesians 5:21-28 (New Living Translation)

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.