My only motivation to pursue marriage is sex. Is this OK? Or do I need to wait until my faith develops to the point of having more virtuous motives? I know God cares about our motives (Proverbs 16:2). Therefore, I am having difficulty reconciling 1 Corinthians 7:9 (it is better to marry than burn with passion) with James 4:6 (when you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you might spend what you get on selfish pleasures).
Any thoughts on the appropriate role of sexual desire as it relates to pursuing marriage?
There are many desires that move us toward marriage: the desire for children, for help and support, for companionship, for sex, for protection, for security and a thousand other desires. All of those individually are great reasons to get married, and God uses all of them to move us toward marriage, but none alone should be the only reason we get married.
The fact is, whether Christ-followers or not, most of us desire marriage for reasons that revolve around us and our own personal happiness and self-interests. Few of us are drawn into a relationship for its tremendous opportunity to become more Christ-like by laying down our lives in sacrificial love to meet the needs of another person. But that is exactly what happens, if we yield that relationship to the Spirit’s transforming power.
So whatever the reasons that draw us to marriage, many will be self-oriented — not all, but many. We all enter the institution immature about it and quickly discover how clueless we were, but God begins immediately to use it to transform us into the person He made us to be.
If we yield ourselves to that process, we will soar to heights of satisfaction we had never known before. If we resist, our marriage will be one frustrating disappointment after another. I speak from experience on both of these routes, and I can assure you that soaring beats frustration any day of the week.
The desire for sexual intimacy is a God-created desire. He wired us for it. He has multiple reasons for wiring us this way, some we know about and maybe some we don’t, but it is ultimately God’s doing.
To want to be married because you desire sexual intimacy is not incorrect; it is incomplete.
Let me illustrate with the desire to eat. A disclaimer: this illustration breaks down quickly since you have to eat in order to stay alive, and though sexual intimacy has many levels of physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits, you won’t die without it.
God wired the human body to function by eating and drinking. Let’s say that after you graduate college you become so hungry and thirsty that you decide you need a job in order to pay for food so you can satisfy your desire to eat.
So you get a good-paying job because you’re tired of eating Ramen Noodles. You get this job solely for the benefit of eating. You start getting paid, and you eat and drink very well. Your hunger and thirst are satisfied. This is a good thing.
The only problem is the job you took is for a company that is in the business of sending emails to people posing as “Miss Nina Nijaro, from Sierra Leone, but now in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, the only Daughter of Engr. Peter J. Nijaro, who was a contactor with ministry of works and housing both in Sierra Leone and Cote D’ivoire before he died some time ago after being involved in a motor accident.” And you tell the email recipients that you want to share your inheritance if only they would give you their bank account and routing number.
In other words, your company scams and steals money from little old ladies. But you’re getting paid on commission, and you’re really good at it and you’re eating well. The job is helping to satisfy your physical hunger and thirst.
So is it wrong that your only desire for working there is to eat? Working because you want to eat is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. There are other critical factors that have to be figured in to the mix: where you work, what the job is and whether the job is criminal are just a few thoughts that come to mind.
God uses the desire for food to move us toward work. He similarly uses the desire for sexual intimacy as at least one of several desires to move us toward marriage. But just like we can’t rush into any job so we can eat, we also can’t rush into marriage just to have sex. There are other factors that have to be considered.
Don’t beat yourself up for desiring marriage for the sex, but do ask — and expect — God to expand your motivations from being self-centered to Christ-centered. I’m still asking God for that in my own life and marriage and will keep asking until He calls me home.
Copyright 2008 John Thomas. All rights reserved.