Friday, March 09, 2007

Sex as an Act of Worship?

Every once in a while I'll hear a pastor give a sermon in which he (only male pastors have mentioned this thus far in my experience) will mention that sex is an act of worship. I've never heard this idea expanded upon, and a quick google search failed to turn up anything of interest.

In my marriage, sex has been used for many different purposes. Pleasure is the most common one, of course, but other reasons for it have included: comfort, bonding, relief of stress or anxiety, a release of sexual energy, etc etc.

I don't know that we've ever used it as an act of worship, though. I'm not even sure how one would go about doing so, and would be curious to hear anyone's experiences with it.

17 comments:

lisa said...

Everyone very quiet on this topic, eh?

Jemila Monroe said...

Lydia, thanks for posting this!

I will respond soon...I didn't see your post until today because I was just clicking on links to "new comments" in my in-box.

Hope you are well!

Amy said...

Lisa, that's funny!

I'd actually written a nice long response, but decided I sounded like a dork and deleted it.

All that to say, I've also heard the same message (from women as well as men). I'm not sure that I'm there about it being an act of worship, though. Although, I'm not totally against that thought either.

Nancy said...

Something potentially mystical, yes. And act of worship? Not so sure either.

Again, reading Rob Bell's book "Sex God" where he talks about how we can approach sex in an animalistic way...by treating one another as objects and a means to gratification (emotional, physical, financial...)or how we can engage in sexual acts as God meant it to be (more like angels than animals)...a mystical union of two into one. He says much more on the topic...and I guess we can save that discussion for the designated month on EW.

Lydia said...

Rob Bell's book "Sex God"

I may just have to read this book....I've been trying not to, as life getting busy and I'm trying to concentrate on the most urgent tasks at the moment.

But people keep mentioning it to me. Maybe it's a sign. :)

Lori said...

I can hardly wait to read Rob's book; I hope to find something more substantive than the standard marriage/sex fare.

This has actually been something my husband & I have talked about--partly because the concept of worship is one we have big questions about, and partly because sex is another concept that leads to a multitude of questions. Occasionally, the two overlap.

The one potential insight we've gleaned over the years actually relates to the "spiritual formation" question about feeling God's presence. There have been just a couple times during our marriage when, for one reason or another, one of us has specifically asked God to love our spouse through us, specifically through sex. It's not ever been something we've talked about beforehand, it's been a silent prayer before lovemaking. The amazing thing is that God has become present in really remarkable & unique ways during these times. Inviting God into this element of our relationship introduces a level of "giving" worship on the part of the one praying, and a responsive worship on the part of the "receiver".

I'm quite convinced that there are myriad ways in which sex can lead my husband & I into worship, and I'm grateful that we have years ahead to try them out! :)

Jemila Monroe said...

Lori, thanks for sharing your experience -- that's beautiful and I resonate very much with the idea that in loving sexuality we can experience through our partner's touch a bit of the tenderness, acceptance and passion of God for our essential, barenaked beings.

For me there is also a great analogy in sex to the longing we feel for God and the sense of participation/surrender that moving with both partner and God entail. There is also, in being present to lovemaking a sense of transcending self and becoming one heart, one body that has helped me worship God in a paralell/simultaneous way.

Lydia said...

Great conversation so far. :)

I'm quite convinced that there are myriad ways in which sex can lead my husband & I into worship

A question for you, Lori -

How do you define worship?

Or maybe a better question would be: How can a married couple worship God through sex if (I presume) they're not thinking about God as they make love?

Another question:

Can something be "true" worship if it's focused on something other than God during it? I've always thought of worship as something that, by definition, is focused on God.

Jemila Monroe said...

Who says you can't be Present to God/think about God actively during lovemaking? Surely we've thought about laundry that needs to be done or a work project hanging over our heads, or worried that the baby might wake up? Why not include God? But I think really God is best included more experientially than intellectually.

Lori said...

Lydia, as I mentioned in my post, worship is something we have big questions about. Over the years, I've grown "different" from the Christian culture in which I was raised, and "worship" is the point at which that schism is felt most deeply. The vast majority of church "worship" proves absolutely alienating to me, and I've been through a prolonged phase of all but rejecting the idea of worship entirely, simply because opportunities available just didn't "work". This has forced me to think, though, to pray desperately, and to try to access God (and worship) in different ways.

I think Jemila points toward something I've been thinking about worship--as experiential, as opposed to "thought-based". Don't get me wrong, I think a great deal of worship grows out of our mind, our observations, even our "epiphanies" about God and the realities he's created. But I think there may be another kind of worship, too, something we haven't been taught, but maybe that we intuit. For instance, a spectacular sunset might draw a deep, heartfelt response for just a moment, which is entirely free of any thought on our part. We'll of course in no time take it to the thought realm, and perhaps use it as an opportunity to worship God in the more traditional, accepted sense. But I've grown to believe that that first moment, a heartfelt "Yes!", without the accompanying thoughts, is my deepest experience of worship.

So in this sense, at least, worship is the response of my heart to the manifest presence of God. Ultimately, my mind will join my heart, but there's a "gut-level" experience of worship that can precede the mental one. In the context of sex, we invite God "into the room", and it is his presence that transforms a very physical, intuitive activity into an act of worship.

jazzycat said...

In your previous post you mentioned reading a devotional... Although I have no formal theological training, I am doing a photo devotional on Romans 8 one verse at the time at my blog. I invite you to take a look.

It would certainly add insight into what these pastors said.

Sensuous Wife said...

This is a concept very near and dear to my heart. I've been writing about this topic for years as I've spent the last fifteen years surrendering to Jesus and letting him heal me from sexual abuse and all kinds of junk. After fifteen years I finally have the courage to believe that all this journaling I've shared up till now only with God, my therapist, my husband and spiritual director that I could be unshamed and confident enough to share with other people. (smile) that's you! :) So all this journaling on sex and worship is shaping into a devotional book titled Erotic Mystic: Musings on God and Sex.

When you look at this topic from the perspective of an "old married lady" LOL who's been making love to the same man for ten years, this subject is common to nearly everyone. Why do you think most of us cry out the word "OH MY GOD" at the point of orgasm? It's because in the face of something so beautifully overwhelming we reach for God. To anchor us in the midst of such dizzying pleasure and to receive our thanks. I believe that crying out to God from the depth of our being is worship.

There is more to this subject than that-(I seem to think so anyway cause I've been wrestling with or celebrating the subject for 15 years)-but I thought the OMG cry at climax shows what a common human experience sex and worship often is. -SW

Jemila Monroe said...

SW Thanks for joining our conversation and bringing yourself! Your testimony is cool; I'm glad you're using your gifts and God's transformation in our life in such outside the box ways. Good for you!

Sensuous Wife said...

what a lovely affirmation, Jemila. Thank you. :)

Eleutheros said...

Having sex with your spouse is an act of worship. Always has been always will be.

Let me ask you a question:

Does marriage exist because sex exists? Or does sex exist because marriage exists?

In other words, what would be the point of marriage if sex didn't exist?

So, from the above questions, if you've now concluded that marriage exists because sex exists, then wouldn't the better question be who is being worshiped when a married man and woman engage in sex?

Jesus said this in John 10:33-36 quoting Psalms 82:6

John 10:33-38 (New International Version
33"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
34Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? 35If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the One whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

And here is the Psalm from which he quoted, in it's entirety, so you can get the context:

Psalm 82 (New International Version)

1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods: (human beings)
2 "How long will (all of) you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah.
3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 "They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations (of righteousness upon which human society were supposed to be founded on in) the earth are shaken.
6 "I (Jehovah) said, 'You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.' 7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler."
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

In this Psalm Jehovah is unhappy because the chosen ones, who received the Oracles of God, aren’t behaving any differently than men who did not possess these Oracles. Instead the Hebrews were behaving like any other men, upholding injustice and supporting the wicked. They were not choosing to do good among the unrighteous, despite having His Oracles. So Jehovah said, in judgement, that they would die like any other men because of their failure to do good.

I ask you then to consider this:

Was Jehovah merley referring to the Hebrews or did He have in mind all Human Beings?

Was it the giving of the Oracles that made the Hebrews gods or were they gods before the Oracles came to them?

Now Jesus is under attack from these very same people for making the claim that He was the Son of Jehovah. And in defense He points them to where Jehovah said that they were gods, With the tag being, “So why are you all giving me such a hard time for claiming to be the Son of God? And if you can’t grasp that you are gods and therefore understand that I can be and am the Son of God then at the least believe in Me for the miracles I’m doing! For you gotta believe that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father!"

So, we are gods. Just as Jehovah declared we were and His Son Jesus affirmed. So now I ask, exactly what is it that made us gods?

Well let me ask you this question first:

Was The Satan lying when He said to our Father and Mother:

4 "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of (the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."? (Genesis 3:4-5, New International Version).

So, if you don’t believe that The Satan was lying here, (cannot the truth be told with the purpose of misleading? And weren’t their eyes opened when the ate the fruit? Didn’t Jehovah say later that, “…they have become like Us knowing good from evil”?) then what was it that would make them them gods?

Nothing more than to know the difference between Good and Evil!

That’s all!

You are a god because you know the difference between good and evil.

And all of us are the son’s and daughters of the most High when you choose to do good.

Let that sink in a bit.

In summation marriage exists because sex exists. And sex is a very good thing according to the God who built it into us. And we are gods because we, like our Creator, Jehovah, know the difference between good and evil.

Let's then examine this familiar passage in the light of these conclusions:

Ephesians 5:21-33 (New International Version

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This is the begining thought that flows into what follows… Is not submission (Greek hupotasso {hoop-ot-as'-so} "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden") an act of Love? And if Love is present will not worship naturally follow?

And does Paul exclude anyone from submitting to anyone else out of reverence for Jesus?

Now, think back to the tender and powerful emotions you felt for your spouse as you were falling in love with them… Did you not want desperatly to have sex with him or her? To give yourself freely to the object of your love and worship him or her by both submitting your body to their desires and using your body and all its ‘members’ to please him or her in the myriad ways available to us as sentient, sexual beings?

Therefore Paul continues:

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ (which includes husbands), so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (Hummm… do you husbands like bathing your beauty? Jesus likes to bathe His! Would you women consider this an act of worship?) 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, (freshly washed and ready!) without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.(Marriage is honorable in all things [sexual] and the bed is not defiled!)

Does this passage now sound to you like the one way street it’s been assumed to be?

28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—

30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Here Paul, beginning to talk about how a man ought to behave toward his wife, loving her as he loves his own body caring for it and feeding it… suddenly waxes rhapsodic as he continues his parallel between the sexual union and the reality that we are united as a member of Jesus’s body in the same mysterious way that a husband and wife are made Echad *, through sex!

He then brings the thought back down to The Earth by getting back to the subject and concluding his thoughts with, “husbands love your wives as you love yourself and wives repect your husbands.”

So, in conclusion, we are gods because we know right from wrong, good from evil, just like our God, who created us desiring us to be just like Him, good always. And when we choose to do good always, we are indeed very much like our God who is always good!

And voluntary submission, a natural act of Love, is also an act of worship that follows naturally from Love.

So what happens when gods make love? Are they not worshiping?

One time the wife might like to worship her husband by kneeling before him and offering herself to his desire... One time the husband will worship his wife by lavishig her body with affection, using his kisses indulgently while she relaxes into his worship… One time the wife might desire to take control and extract her pleasure out of him letting him relax into her worship… One time the Husband might take her in his passion and give himself fully into her as she revels in her power to arouse him to worship her…

I think you get the picture.

Feel like engaging your spouse in worship now?

If so, give thanks to your God who made men and women submitting to their spouse in their own unique way, a very pleasurable act of worship in the Spirit of Love!

And be good. It’s what you were created to be!

*Echad is a Hebrew word which describes a‘ Compound Unity’. It is used in the Scriptures to describe the‘ One-ness’ in both the Plurality of God (Deut 6:4) and in the union of Husband and Wife as they become,“ One Flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Missy said...

Every time I consent to have sex with my spouse i always feel like I've just been raped. Even I I get off on it I still feel profoundly violated! Especially when my spouse asks for it like I'm some kind of sex servant or something. It doesn't matter if I was horny or not I always feel like I've been raped!

Setshego Mahlare said...

Thanks Eleutheros for sharing. My understanding of sex and worship is that sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife resembles worship. It is not worship in itself, but if one understands the beauty of sex, it is easy to understand the beauty of worship.

For one to get the most out of worship, we need to get close to God as we get close to our spouses.

In sex, the two parties get very close, they cannot get enough on one another. God is always a willing, ready and available partner in worship. When we begin to praise and thank God for all the wonderful things He does for us, that can be equated to foreplay. As in sex, sometimes we get very excited at foreplay and reach climax. Some people will be satisfied with "foreplay" for a long time in their lives without ever reaching the real worship. And they would think because they get the excitement, that should be worship.

As in sex, one needs to be familiar with their spouses bodies, so they know what the erotic parts are and when to touch them and how.

As in sex, you do not rush straight to penetration. When foreplay has been done right, penetration becomes smooth, flawless and not painful. When you reach that point in worship, words begin to fail you. You do not force out the oohs and the aahs, they just come out involuntarily. And when the release happens, spiritual conception takes place.

The church is not conceiving, the church is not giving birth, because our worship is shallow and it does not reach the point where God releases himself into us.

Again, as in sex, it is encouraged for one to have only one spouse (husband or wife). God would say to us, "you shall have no other God beside me" and go on to liken the serving of idols to adultery.

I just wish I was as eloquent as I would like to be, so that I could explain this better.

Stay blessed.