In a previous article, I wrote about some of the disheartening times when Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired words on sexual intimacy in 1 Corinthians 7 were spun so as to justify one-sided coercion rather than mutual consent.
Unfortunately, throughout history many husbands have taken a one-sided position to 1 Corinthians 7:4 and demanded fulfillment of their male conjugal rights. This is clearly contrary to Abba Father’s revelation to husbands and wives and ignores the second half of 1 Corinthians 7:4.
Equally depressing on the other end of the spectrum, are those husbands depriving their wives of sexual intimacy. How many wives have cried themselves to sleep at night as they repeatedly asked themselves, “What’s wrong with me? Why does he not want me? Why does he reject me?”
These unfortunate applications of 1 Corinthians 7 raise an important question. Is the message of 1 Corinthians 7 to be blamed for the abuse that some men have taken part in? Or, are the people who misapply 1 Corinthians 7 the abusive ones?
It is dangerous to suggest Scripture itself is to blame. Yet, there are those who have accused the Apostle Paul of being a misogynist. Others blame the Pastor who preaches on this text, wrongly accusing him of being one-sided even when he has preached accurately from 1 Corinthians 7 on mutual sexual needs and equal authority regarding sexual intimacy. In these situations, the problem is with the reader and listener, not with the message or the messenger who is “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
We as listeners, can be guilty of “selective listening:” only hearing part of the message, closing our ears and hearts to the part we fear. And, because one message, one blog or one book does not cover fully every detail in a single writing or message, does not mean the author fails to teach the truth. To ignore the entirety of the author’s teaching, within context, is damaging and deceitful.
Are there times when teachers, pastors, and writers are at fault? Yes, of course. But we must always carefully examine their words in their entirety, as well as examine our own hearts and biases. Furthermore, every pastor-teacher must make this commitment as an ambassador of Christ: “I will not fear preaching the truth for fear of those who will twist the truth.”
Even today, people twist the truth of Scripture. For the purpose of our discussion on marital sexual intimacy, let’s take the example of a Christian sexpert. There are sexperts out there who teach that women desire sex, which is a God-given truth in 1 Corinthians 7:1–5. However, the fact remains that there are still men married to women who want less sex than their husbands (just as there are women in some marriages who want more sex than their husbands). Does the Christian sexpert’s teaching (that women desire sex) mean that husbands whose wives want less sex than them, should denounce their wives by claiming, “Something is wrong with you! You are frigid…even the sexperts agree with me!”?
Of course not. These husbands misapply the clear teaching of the sexperts and are verbally abusing their wives. Should we blame the messenger for causing these husbands to verbally, emotionally, sexually, and physically abuse their wives? After all, one might say, if the sexperts hadn’t taught that wives desire sex these husbands would not have castigated their wives for being different; therefore, the messenger is liable.
I could attack the sexpert myself. I can gather a group of women—and there are many out there—who would claim, “My husband listened to these Christian sexperts and used that information to accuse and abuse me for desiring sex less than he did. These sexperts do not honor Jesus Christ.”
I could easily jump on this bandwagon and misrepresent the sexpert’s person, position, and propositions. Creating a strawman is so simple to do when others don’t know the facts. It is quite easy to denounce the sexpert by not rightly representing—as any good editorialist should do—the whole and healthy teaching of someone that I now deem an opponent and wish to demonize and discredit. But the problem isn’t with the message or the messenger, but with the husband or wife (or myself) who intentionally alters what they heard or read for self-serving, carnal reasons.
Obviously, the problem isn’t with the sexperts’ exposition but with the twisting of Scripture like Satan did toward Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:6).
In the exact same way, many have misinterpreted, misapplied, or even downright ignored God’s teachings on mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, equal sexual say, and mutual sexual agreement, as given to us in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. But does that mean the Scriptures are wrong? Does that mean that an accurately taught exposition of 1 Corinthians 7 is to blame for abuse?
Certainly not! I pray that we are all in agreement here. As married believers, let’s focus on the four beautiful truths that God has called us to in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. Only then will we experience pure sexual intimacy as God intended!
Again I ask, would you bless me and others by sharing your stories? Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you in advance, and God bless.