Sexual Idolatry and the Beauty of God

In case you haven't noticed, people think sex is awesome; literally, awesome. Sex fills people with awe and wonder. Pop radio never fails to underscore this point. Katy Perry longs for an intergalactic sexual encounter. Bruno Mars sings of being translated into heaven via intercourse, and thereby converted from his former life of sexual agnosticism.

Such acclamations shouldn't surprise us. Scripture teaches that sex is awesome. Sex offers whole-person connection; body and soul (see Gen 2:24; 1 Cor 6; Eph 5). We experience oneness in the context of embodied otherness. This unity within diversity is patterned after God's Trinitarian existence. The essence of God's beauty is the self-giving love which unites Father, Son and Spirit. Sex is a signpost to this reality. Hence, it is beautiful and pleasurable.

But, of course, there's a problem. All created beauty reflects the beauty of its Creator. Sex - like all created things - points to a greater reality; a greater pleasure. God is the ultimate pleasure; the ultimate satisfaction. In creation, we find the trail of breadcrumbs that leads us back to the feast; communion with God himself. As Steve Dewitt says,

...all things are from God and to God. Beauty boomerangs from God into created beauty, then through the senses and soul of the image-bearer, and finally back to God with praise and glory.

Tragically, beauty often fails to boomerang. As Paul says, we choose to worship the creation instead of the Creator (Rom 1:25). We long for transcendent beauty, but we mistake reflection for substance. Our cultural obsession with sex takes the form of religious devotion. The number of articles on sexual technique in popular magazines boggles the mind. These magazines promise orgasmic transcendence through various rituals.

We put the weight of our expectations on created things. But such things cannot bear the weight. We have infinite cravings. They will not be satisfied by finite pleasures. The law of diminishing returns takes effect. Things that once satisfied begin to fail us. We engage in a form of spiritual tail-chasing. Our idols fail to deliver.

Charles Simeon said that every Christian must learn two lessons; to enjoy God in everything, and to enjoy everything in God. In order to overcome sexual idolatry, we need discipline. We also need to enjoy sex within God's appointed confines (i.e. marriage). But, fundamentally, we need a fresh glimpse of glory. We must see sex as a gift from God that leads us back to God. And we must pray for a renewed appreciation of the beauty of God in face of Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can grace us with such vision.

There's much more that could be said as to practical implications (maybe I'll touch on these in a future blog post). I'll close by saying this; when you are overwhelmed by sexual desire (or any desire for that matter), remember who created you. Your longing for beauty, transcendence, and pleasure seem insatiable because God has created you with God-shaped desires. Our longing for sexual union is - in part - a longing for communion with the members of the Trinity. And our deepest longings will be met when we are swept into their self-giving communal life for all eternity (Rev 19-21).