The X-Rated Series

Last Sunday evening at 8 p.m. a major television network aired The Marriage Fool starring Walter Matthau and Carol Burnett. It is rated PG.

Speaking from the perspective of a counselor, it did many things well. A man's wife died after many years of marriage. The movie did a better than average job of depicting some of the major adjustments that the man and his children faced after wife and mom died.

After months of being a widower, the man met someone who was interested in him and in whom he was interested. The adjustments now intensify for the whole family. He had to adjust to dating someone without feeling like he was betraying his wife. His children have to adjust to their father dating a woman who was not their mother.

By mutual agreement, she moved in with him months before they definitely decided to marry. The adjustments intensify again for the children.

His unmarried son faced the greatest adjustment problems. He was a perpetual dater who kept a list of the women he dates. He had neither the desire to nor the intention of settling down. Yet, when his father began living with the woman he was dating, it freaked him out. The father and son genuinely loved each other, but they could not talk. They just reacted. And their reactions created a major crisis.

Sexually, the premise of the movie declares three things as fact. None of the three are explained. None of the three are defended. All three are "accepted realities" in the real world of the audience. People in our culture will accept all three as facts of life. Fact one: dating involves the couple being sexually active. Fact two: serious dating includes occasions when the couple spends several days together enjoying carefree sexual intimacy. Fact three: regardless of a couples age, it is perfectly natural to live together for a few months before marriage.

  1. Those three facts are commonly assumed in all recreational media.
    1. They are so commonly presented that most of us do not even notice them.
      1. All three are common in popular books.
      2. All three are common in popular movies.
      3. All three are common in popular television programming.
      4. Many popular songs are more explicit about sexual conduct than our popular books, movies, or television.
    2. What is your reaction?
      1. The reaction of some is "that is just entertainment--it really does not happen." There is a small group that live in such isolation that they think sexual activity outside of marriage is rare.
      2. The reaction of others is "that kind of thing goes on in the world where people are not concerned about God, but it is very rare the church." The dividing line is between those who believe in God and those who do not.
      3. The reaction of another group is "that is a real view of life everywhere--in the church and out." This group is quite astounded when they hear others pretending that we do not live in a sexually active society.
    3. The reason that so many books, movies, and television programs accept these three situations as fact is simple: in our culture, they are common.
      1. They are very open facts in our society.
      2. They are fact in the church.
      3. Being sexually active while dating is common; refusing to be sexually active is uncommon.
      4. It is more common for dating adult couples to spend a few days of sexual intimacy together than it is for adult couples to refuse to do that.
      5. It is common for people to live together before marrying.
    4. Why?
      1. Divorce, separation, hostile marriages, seriously dysfunctional marriages, spouse abuse, child abuse, and single parent homes have produced several generations who have few to no relationship skills.
        1. We have an enormous number of people in our society that are starved for relationship.
        2. They are starved for love, but they do not understand what love is.
        3. They have experienced so much rejection that they are starved for acceptance.
        4. They have experienced so much criticism that they are starved for appreciation.
        5. They have experienced so much loneliness that they are starved for a sense of belonging.
      2. Our culture is drowning in its ignorance about relationships.
        1. We do not know how to commitment constructively to another person.
        2. We do not know how to communicate.
        3. We have so much inward pain and insecurity that we either practice denial or control.
        4. We do not know how to accept responsibility in relationship.
        5. We do not know how to solve disagreements without destructive confrontations.
        6. We do not know how to be unselfish; our self-centeredness commonly results in some form of abuse.
        7. We do not know what healthy relationships are.
        8. We do not know how to build healthy relationships.
        9. We do not know how to nurture healthy relationships.
    5. So what happens?
      1. We do not know how to produce love, but we do know how to be sexually active.
        1. Since God's creative design combined love and sexual intimacy, we substitute sexual intimacy for love.
        2. Being sexually active creates the closest thing to love that we have experienced.
        3. For at least a little while, we feel close, accepted, appreciated, and valued.
        4. So we separate love and sexual intimacy, and we substitute sexual intimacy for love.
      2. The problem: when you separate sexual intimacy from the healthy love that responsibly commits to healthy relationship, you are left with an enormous sense of emptiness.
        1. But we like the pleasure and sense of acceptance that sexual intimacy brings.
        2. So we conclude that the sexual intimacy was on target; our partner was the wrong person.
        3. We find ourselves in that vicious search for love by being sexually active, and the value of the intimacy diminishes as the emptiness increases.
      3. The result: we have an enormous problem with irresponsible sexual attitudes and conduct in our culture, and those attitudes powerfully, successfully invaded the lives of Christians.

  2. "David, why do you want to discuss this on Sunday evenings?"
    1. First, I want to discuss this because I am tired.
      1. I am tired of seeing what this problem is doing to so many homes and families.
      2. I am tired of watching what it is doing to our young people while we pretend it is not a significant problem.
      3. I am tired of being limited to dealing with it one person at a time; many of the people we seek to help through counseling might not be in their problem if they had better information years ago.
      4. I am tired of watching the culture fashion everyday ideas and attitudes in the church about sexual intimacy.
      5. I tired of avoiding one of the greatest spiritual crises the church faces because we refuse to honest and openly help people with an every day reality.
    2. Second, I want us to begin to help people.
      1. The gospels make it quite clear that Jesus definitely helped people whose lives were in pain because of sexual problems.
      2. He did not pretend that the problem did not exist.
      3. He was not content to dismiss the problem by condemning it.
      4. If we are serious in our claim to be his church, we must help people.
    3. Third, Sunday evening is the best time to discuss the problems openly and honestly.
      1. After this evening, the children are in the Kids for Christ program.
      2. We can have adult considerations of adult realities that, unfortunately, have become a children reality.

  3. I want to state what will not be my approach.
    1. I will not make a list of things that are "evil," condemn them, and try to force people away from them by using guilt.
      1. Are there things that are evil that deserve to be condemned? Without a doubt!
      2. However, trying to get people to reject them through guilt manipulation is ineffective.
        1. In our culture, many of these things are not defined as evil or considered to be evil.
        2. In the church, many who have been baptized do not define these things as evil or consider them to be evil.
        3. Because I affirm that they are evil and read some scripture will not change their concepts.
      3. I want to make the same point that I have made so many times: I want believers to build godly relationships and reject destructive sexual attitudes and behaviors because of their faith.
        1. My priority concern is not controlling the behavior of Christians.
        2. I do not want Christians to alter their behavior out of fear of venereal diseases; I want them to alter their behavior because of their faith in God.
        3. I do not want Christians to hide their behavior in fear of the church; I want Christians to build their behavior on their faith in God.
        4. Faith behavior will build a living relationship with God.
        5. Faithless behavior, not matter how well controlled, will not build a living relationship with God.
        6. We can spiritually survive in a godless culture only through a living relationship with God.
    2. My approach will be this: I will seek to build an accurate understanding of why sexually irresponsible attitudes and behavior destroy us as persons.
      1. I want to begin by calling your attention to Genesis chapters 1, 2 , and 3.
      2. The first thing I call to your attention is the first recorded commandment in the Bible given to human beings: Genesis 1:27,28.
        Genesis 1:27,28 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Genesis 1 provides us with the general account of creation; Genesis 2 provides us the specific account of the creation of human relationship.
        2. In the general account, this is obvious to me:
          1. Man and woman were sexual beings from the moment of creation.
          2. Their sexuality was to be a part of their companionship before sin existed.
          3. They were not recreated to be sexual beings after sin existed.
      3. Second I want you to see that sexual intimacy was a part of their companionship from the beginning of the human relationship.
        Genesis 2:21-25 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. The statement, "They shall become one flesh," is a specific reference to sexual intimacy.
        2. They were to be helpful companions, and sexual intimacy was to be a part of that companionship.
      4. After they rebelled against God, God told Eve:
        Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Childbirth did not begin because of sin; it increased.
        2. Childbirth was painless prior to sin, and painful after sin.

What is the point? Sexual intimacy in the companionship of marriage is not evil. It is God designed, God given, and a God intended part of godly relationship and godly companionship. Sexual intimacy in a healthy marriage is good. The abuse of sexual intimacy is evil.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 2 January 2000
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