Sex: A Demanding god

Posted: July 7, 2010 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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By Matt Horan

I wonder how any of us would respond in Joseph’s sandals.

He was young, good-looking, and successful, and he’s got this beautiful and influential woman throwing herself at him.  If that wasn’t enough, the Scripture says, “No one else was in the house.” It was an explosive intersection of motive and opportunity—the kind of moment that summer blockbusters don’t just include, but also put on the movie trailer.

Today, however, it seems like we live in that intersection, don’t we?  God designed us to have the sexual desire.  We’re supposed to have it, and to have it is good.  Granted, men are far more frequently so motivated, but if we all had a male level of sexual desire nothing would ever get done.

The new development seems to be increased opportunity.  Movie companies try to get R ratings because PG or PG13 movies don’t tend to win as many Oscars and make as much money.  Pornography is readily available in anybody’s home via the Internet or Netflix.  The revenue from the pornography industry exceeds that of the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined.  The revenue from the pornography industry exceeds that of ABC, CBS, and NBC combinedOver time Americans have increasingly approved of sex outside of marriage, including sex before marriage and extramarital affairs.

More and more of us are looking for people to satisfy our sexual appetites without having to care for or take responsibility for the people that satisfy them.

There’s no need to take care of the performers in pornography.  No need to care for people on the other end of a phone sex hotline.  No need to care for the people that we flirt with by email or instant message or comments on Facebook.  No need to care for people that we gawk at.  No need to care for the people that are tempted to gawk at us because of the clothing we wear.  There’s even a growing practice of being “friends with benefits,” which are people who have an agreement to have sex without the burden of any responsibility or commitment to each other.  We’re in the market for satisfaction without responsibility, and we live right in the intersection of motivation and opportunity.

In Genesis 39 we find Joseph in this same intersection.  This desirable woman wants to have sex with him, a woman who could influence his future as the wife of his master.  She propositions him, and to top it all off, no one else was in the house.  Motivation and opportunity.  He could have had sex with this woman and no one would ever know.  Satisfaction without responsibility… without any consequences.

However, Joseph turns and runs.  Some versions say that he “fled.”  He’d said to her previously, “How could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”  Why on earth would he say that?  He called it a sin against God.  We call it an average Tuesday.  Why do we see this so differently?  If he says it’s totally wrong but we say it’s just right—who’s mistaken?  To answer that, let’s go back a generation or two.

Joseph’s grandfather was Isaac.  You may remember that he was almost sacrificed by Joseph’s great grandfather, Abraham.  When someone has a god (lower-case g), they sacrifice for it.  It is our instinct to give and give and give to our god (lower-case g).  We will sacrifice increasingly valuable things to our god in order to satisfy the god in hopes that it will give us what we crave.

By Abraham’s day, people had been sacrificing things to the gods for many thousands of years.  They began by sacrificing leftover crops, then better crops, then the firstfruits.  Eventually they began to offer their livestock—first the less desirable ones, and then the choicest, the firstborn, the best of the flocks and herds.

But when the gods didn’t deliver all that they wanted, they wondered what else they could offer.  Eventually, child sacrifice became commonplace, because after all, what could be more valuable than offering your own child?  Surely that would please the gods, and the gods would bless them for their sacrifice.  In the story of Abraham and Isaac, when he thinks that his God wanted him to sacrifice his child, he didn’t debate, didn’t think about it, and didn’t hesitate.  He marched right up the mountain with Isaac, a knife, and some firewood; because people will increasingly sacrifice more and more valuable things to their god in hopes that it will satisfy them.  As people’s sacrifices to the gods became increasingly valuable, it was only a matter of time before child sacrifice began, and a little more time before if became commonplace.  Turns out that, in the day of Abraham and Isaac, this was not unusual.  The story didn’t get unusual until God stopped him.

So how does this ancient story about sacrificing children to the gods help us see the difference between us and Joseph?  Maybe the difference is that Joseph hadn’t forgotten who his God is.

Did you know that, at the moment, there are approximately 10 million children around the world that have been kidnapped or sold into the sex industry?  Did you know that child pornography generates $3 billion every year?  Sex might make you feel good, and it might make you feel even better when you can have it without taking any responsibility for the person you’re getting it from.  But it is a demanding god, and little by little, the sacrifices we’re making for it are getting larger and larger.

What is so sad to me is that sex is a wonderful gift from God, yet we have made it something cheap and meaningless.  I liken sex to a nuclear power plant.  It can light up an entire city.  But at the same time, there can be a meltdown.  Do you remember the Chernobyl Nuclear Meltdown?  No one has lived in that town for 26 years, and they won’t for another 50, if ever.

Sex can be such a gift when two people work together to give each other the joy that God intended it for.  But it is a community effort.  It means that we will not dress in a way that will get someone elbowed by their spouse for looking at us.  It means that we will not flirt with people who we’re not married to, and that we will flirt with the people we are married to.  It means that we will give people the freedom to ask us about our souls and our purity in the area of sex, pornography, etc.  It means that we will keep sex within the context of commitment, covenant, and responsibility for each other.  Men have a great desire to be admired, and women a great desire to be connected.  Rather than seeking to have those desires met elsewhere, teach each other how you can help make them a reality in your relationship.  You can’t read each others’ minds, so talk about it!

We all live in the intersection of motive and opportunity.  It seems like a great place to live, but the call on our lives is to protect our families while we live in that intersection.  Sex can become a god, and like any god, the day will come when it demands that you sacrifice your spouse, your family, your children–everything.  Stand firm at the door and keep your family safe.  Just like Joseph did, do not allow anything or anyone replace the God that created you for great and important Kingdom things.

This story has an interesting finish.  The author draws a parallel between Joseph’s effect on Potiphar’s household with his effect on the jail.  Both people do not worry about anything because Joseph was in charge and the Lord caused everything he did to prosper.  But you know what?  He was still in jail.  He did everything right, but he still ended up in jail.  Maybe that’s you—you have done the right thing, but you haven’t seen any benefit from it.  Or, perhaps you have things in your past—sexual experiences—that you’re not proud of and wish you could erase.

Either way, it helps to remember where the Hebrew phrase “Yahweh et Yosef” appears in the text.  It says this at Joseph is sold into slavery and enters Potiphar’s house as a slave, and it’s said when he’s put in jail as a prisoner.  At those low points, the story reminds us, “The Lord was with Joseph.”  No matter where you are or what you have done, God calls you to more.  God calls you to repentance, to a new path, to something better.  Remember that no matter who you are or what you have done, just as he was with Joseph, the Lord is with you as well.


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