Check out Part 1 of this series by clicking here.
Sex and the Christian MarriageThe previous post of course leads to the question: what is healthy sexuality in marriage? A favorite text that seems to address this topic is Hebrews 13:4, which reads in the King James Version, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This looks like an endorsement of marriage itself and of married sexuality (take that, Jerome!), and I recall having heard a number of sermons that focused on this endorsement as an affirmation of the goodness and rightness of married sex. Not only that, but it was pretty much interpreted to mean that anything goes within the marriage relationship. Nonetheless, contextual indicators lead most modern translations and commentators to take the passage as an imperative: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (NIV). While this is doubtless the correct translation, it reopens the question of what keeps the marriage bed pure. Is an undefiled marriage bed one in which sexuality is restricted only to procreation? Is it one in which only the missionary position is used? Is there stuff that’s allowable and stuff that isn’t for a married couple?
Those looking for specific techniques and detailed strategies will have to go to other writers. However, the immediate context seems to spell out the intent of the author of Hebrews: what would defile the marriage bed is adultery and sexual immorality. That is to say, it wasn’t anything happening between the married partners, but rather when one of the partners committed infidelity of some sort. The kinds of things that defile the marriage bed are the same kinds of things that eventually lead to permissible divorce and remarriage, according to Jesus. When the author of Hebrews says that the “marriage bed [should be] kept pure,” he essentially means to keep other people out of it. (tweet this)