I've been thinking about my last post because it's an issue that I think most married folks deal with at some point in their marriage. I tried to show how Jesus Christ can help us see the chore of sex from another perspective. But I wasn't satisfied with leaving it at that. I think we can get right to the root of this issue by looking at one human flaw - the human flaw, really - pride.
Of course, on a superficial level, we can say pride makes me feel like the center of the universe, worthy of my spouse bowing to my every whim. Most people are probably aware of that level of pride. But I think the pride goes deeper. And gets more hideous. Think about this event that happened when Jesus walked the earth.
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
This text is one of the sweetest stories in Scripture. Jesus is in control. The Pharisees are shown to be the self-righteous, evil jerks they were. The evil woman is given a free pass by Jesus, even though she sinned against him and her husband. This is a favorite text of preachers who want to show the amazing grace of God in forgiving unworthy sinners. I want to finish the story in a way the Bible doesn't. We don't know if the woman went right back to the arms of her husband, or her lover. We don't know if they ended up divorced. We don't know if she ran off and joined a convent (probably not). So let's give an uninspired ending to the story for the sake of the point I'm trying to make.
The thing that makes this story so sweet is that this woman is given a fresh start by Jesus. It wasn't as though she crossed the street outside a crosswalk. She was caught in the act of adultery. What condition was she in when she was paraded out for all the world to see? Ashamed and embarrassed are good guesses. Scared to death? How would you feel if you were her? How must her heart have been racing? And how must her fears have been relieved when her accusers began walking away without a word, heads hanging in shame themselves? How must her heart have calmed down, and her palms dried up when Jesus looks up, almost unimpressed by the whole affair, and asks, "Has no one condemned you?" What joy must have rushed upon her as she heard, "Neither do I condemn you."
Now suppose she went home and confessed her sin to her husband, told him of the whole ordeal and asked his forgiveness. He offered it freely, just happy to have his wife back. What would happen if every time she and her husband were about to be intimate, she'd get all weird and cold. When her husband asks what's wrong, she can't put her finger on it. Ultimately, they realize she still feels guilty for her past sin. This is the level of pride that many people have today, and it does affect marriages.
It is pride to think the world should revolve around us. It is greater pride to refuse the Son of God's cleansing blood. Yet we're all guilty of it to some extent. When we refuse to walk in newness of life, we're claiming a power of judgment superior to God's. That's not good. R.C. Sproul made this point before. If couples have a past of sexual sin before they get married, it is important to accept God's forgiveness if they ever want a healthy, guilt-free sex life.
So the first way pride makes sex a chore is by demanding to hold onto past failures, even when Jesus has said, "Neither do I condemn you." We want to condemn ourselves in an attempt to atone for our own sin. But miserable sex with your spouse won't atone for past sexual sin. It will only tick your spouse off. So dwell at the cross. Thank your Savior for his amazing grace. Don't just talk yourself into pleasing your spouse, all the while feeling guilty. Get happy in God by soaking in his saving blood.
Another way pride makes sex a chore is by judging a spouse who feels the guilt over past failures. Your spouse feels guilty and strange and not as free as you'd like. So you try to help out by reminding your spouse of the freedom you now enjoy in Christ. "He doesn't condemn you, so let's just get it on. It's not fair for me to be punished because you used to be a freak sinner." This is the kind of pride that sounds right - like you're just trying to give Christ the glory he deserves in salvation. In reality, it's probably more wicked than the other pride. This is the kind of pride the Pharisees had toward the adulterous woman. It's a strange irony when we boast of our freedom in Christ, and use it as a club to condemn our spouse.
So here's the deal. Pride is at the root of chore-some sex. Either we want our spouse to make much of us by being at our beck and call. Or we want our spouse to make much of us by leaving us alone for awhile. Either way, we're trying to build our own kingdom with ourselves at the center. That is pride. But there can be a deeper pride underlying this garden-variety pride. The only hope for overcoming all this pervasive pride is the gospel. Bask in the light of the cross. Accept his forgiveness and go and sin no more. Be patient with others in their struggle to believe the news that is too good to be true. Thank God that you and your spouse can freely enjoy an undefiled bed no matter how defiled you've been because we live in the age of grace.