Another Look by David Faust
Aren’t you weary of the vulgarity so common in American life? Rare is the comedian who tells jokes without peppering his routines with profanity. Rare is the coach who doesn’t shower his players with curses. Rare is the movie that doesn’t treat extra-marital sex as if it’s expected, harmless, and inconsequential. Our culture mocks modesty as prudish, ridicules virginity as the province of losers, and acts as if purity went out with the Victorian era. Something God designed to be holy and glorious has been reduced to juvenile humor and four-letter words.
Aesop said our passions are like “fire and water—they are good servants but bad masters.” Watch a couple of primetime TV shows and you could easily conclude that unbridled passions and bad manners rule the day.
Of all people, we who follow Christ ought to have a healthy view of sexuality. We know who made our bodies, who designed us for emotional intimacy, who wrote the Book on the joys and boundaries of sexual behavior. Churches need to teach about it plainly and honestly. Christians can laugh at good jokes, read the Song of Solomon without blushing, and engage in frank conversation with our children about sexuality. We don’t need to be prudes; but neither should we be rude, crude, or lewd.
Biblical authors speak in down-to-earth terms, but there’s usually a tone of reverence when the subject is sexual relations. Scripture uses poetry and euphemisms—agreeable-sounding word-pictures instead of crude vulgarities—to describe healthy sexuality.
For example, the expression “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) reminds us how God intentionally formed male and female bodies to join together in physical union. Since the body symbolizes the whole person, a truly “one flesh” relationship intertwines two separate personalities in a covenant commitment.
Some Old Testament passages use the phrase “lie down” (Hebrew shakab) or “sleep with” to picture a couple comfortably at peace in each others’ arms. A husband and wife who sleep side by side night after night for many years, who spend countless hours lying quietly next to each other, experience depths of intimacy that eclipse the fleeting pleasure of the sexual act itself—something a one-night stand can never deliver.
Genesis 4:1 uses the Hebrew yadah when it states that “Adam knew Eve his wife” (King James Version). The same word appears in Genesis 3:7, which says the man and woman “knew” or “realized” that they were naked. Far more than a physical act, sexual intercourse is meant to express intimate knowledge of body and soul—discovering and sharing the depths of personality.
The New Testament uses terminology like “came together” (Matthew 1:18;
1 Corinthians 7:5 NIV), “union with her” (Matthew 1:25), and “united to his wife” (Matthew 19:5). In 1 Corinthians 7:3, the NIV rather unromantically calls sexual relations the “marital duty” of husband and wife, while the King James gives it an entirely different connotation by translating the same verse, “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence.”
We may smile at the euphemisms, but God’s Word says to avoid “even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). Amid the polluted stream of coarse and irreverent language we’re swimming in today, a few thoughtful euphemisms sound like a good idea to me.