Ramifications of Hebrews 13:4 – Free [Indeed] Sex

couple cuddling

Previously, I wrote about the precise language used in Hebrews 13:4 that offers a clearly-drawn line in how we as married couples can honor or defile our marriage bed or the collective sensuality within the marriage. We saw how the juxtaposition of “adulterers” (moichos) and “fornicators” (pornos) put a clear and rigidly strict picture of what God judges as defilement: a sexual partner that is not your spouse. This is a fixed line that is not to be crossed under any circumstances.

Free [Indeed] Sex

In our rule-averse culture, any such strictures imposed on us are typically portrayed in an unflattering light. “Religion hates free sex!” Well, judging from the explosions of STDs in the latter third of the twentieth century, I think nature hates free sex, too. But I would argue that these boundaries are in fact more freeing than not having any.

Like a child placed in an endless forest, the lack of boundaries can be daunting. There’s no foundation of safety, no certainty, no familiarity. A truly open would is a brutal, lethal place with unforgiving consequences and no guarantee of success. Or survivability. If that boy in the woods climbs the wrong tree, eats the wrong mushroom, plays with the wrong bug, game over.

And what’s scariest of all, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Either he’s smart enough to be highly cautious, fearfully experimenting at every juncture, or he’s reckless, oblivious and short-lived. What kind of life is that? What kind of freedom is that? “You’re free to die at your convenience. Or inconvenience.”

But if you give that exact same boy free reign in a fenced-in portion of that exact same forest, and inform the boy that this area is free and clear without anything to fear (short of falling out of a tree, of course), it’s a completely different scenario. He’s free to do as he wants, within the borders. He’s safe, he’s certain because the fencemaker is certain, and as for familiarity… You can bet he’ll have the whole place explored in no time. The narrower scope provides freedom.

He may wonder from time to time what’s on the other side of the fence, but if he’s wise, he’ll realize he already knows the answer: something unsafe.

(Now, for those of you who dig deeply into metaphors like this, you’re thinking as he grows into a man, the need to conquer, adventure, and face fears becomes predominant, and the metaphor proceeds to break down. But if God is our Fencemaker, we’re never going to outgrow Him, so the metaphor can assume perpetual boyhood.)

Free sex isn’t free at all. It’s just slavery of a different sort.

The point is that free sex isn’t free at all. It’s just slavery of a different sort. God cleared a section of the forest of sexuality of all danger and called it marriage, then put a fence around it. Sex within marriage, within His fence of moichos and pornos, is truly free. There are no other boundaries, nothing to fear.

Jesus might call it “Free Indeed Sex”.

Liberated Sexuality

Inside the undefiled marriage bed, we’re given free reign. Sure, there are still risks, and we can still sin in other ways (I can lie to or abuse my wife, for example) just as the boy can still fall out of a tree. But the marriage bed itself remains clean, kosher, and safe so long as it remains undefiled. How liberating!

There are no limitations within the fence. All the adventure, fun, and enjoyment we can imagine within the fence is free for the taking. There are no arbitrary requirements. It’s all good.

Stop for a moment and think about the far reach of this fundamental truth. Do you see the ramifications?

Dropping the Ball

Unfortunately, the church hasn’t for much of history.

For whatever reason, the church has consistently seen cause to impose its own ascetic ideas on sexuality within marriage — in the name of God, no less — upon its congregants. Rather than embracing “free indeed sex”, they’ve adopted a general attitude of condemnation for the whole of it. Intercourse is a necessary evil to propagate the race, which unfortunately God commanded us to do.

So, we’ll have sex, but that doesn’t mean we’ll like it.

Or we’ll feel really guilty if we do.

We’ve done everything we can to make the only viable sex vanilla sex, and only to do our duty as breeders.

As an example, Philip Yancey wrote about how the church had “issued edicts forbidding sex on Thursdays, the day of Christ’s arrest; on Fridays, the day of his death; on Saturdays in honor of the blessed Virgin; and on Sundays in honor of the departed saints. Wednesdays sometimes made the list too, as did the forty-day fast periods before Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost, and also feast days and the days of the apostles, as well as the days of female impurity. The list escalated until, as John Boswell has estimated, only forty-four days a year remained available for marital sex.” I’m glad such restrictions have since been discarded, but their existence for centuries (really, until the Reformation) tells of the spirit that ruled the church’s attitude about this gift from God.

The Jews weren’t so off base, and still aren’t today. Whereas organized Christianity created rules for preventing sex on certain days, organized Judaism did the opposite, saying that a Sabbath just wasn’t optimal without a little somethin’ somethin’. How God must mourn seeing so much of the church dishonor, neglect, and negate the gift He gave us in the marriage bed.

Breaking Free

Personally, I choose to break free from any tradition, cultural influence, or other strictures that do not line up with the truth revealed in Scripture, reason, and experience (applied systematically in that order). Much of the drive behind this site is to reveal how we can lay aside these arbitrary regulations and remember that only the fence matters.

With two specific limitations, the marriage bed became limitless, tethered only to the imagination of the husband and wife and restricted only by the basic requirements assumed by the Christian life.

We hope to show how we can embrace liberty, how we can experience this “free indeed sex”.

The ramifications are far reaching. I can dig any hole, climb any tree, play with any creature, eat any fruit or nut or mushroom, throw any rock, break any stick, swing on any vine, so long as I honor the fence. In real-world terms, my wife and I can have any kind of sex, in any position, in any location, in any context, with any instrument, for any purpose, on any surface, in any clothing (or lack thereof).

The permitted options are so broad; it’s easier to say what is not permitted. Literally everything else is.

With two specific limitations, the marriage bed became limitless, tethered only to the imagination of the husband and wife and restricted only by the basic requirements assumed by the Christian life — love for God and others, honoring the boundaries of other people, supreme respect for the spouse, raising children to become healthy men and women of God, that sort of thing. As Christians, such things are part of our life already, and most of us have found God’s expectations here to be as freeing as His demands in the marriage bed.

Against the Grain

Still, we live in a society with lots of ideals about decency, sexuality, and marital love that aren’t remotely based on Scripture and tend to be rather capricious.

We encourage promiscuity in movies, endorse homosexuality in government, and wink slyly at rampant pornography watched by teens and octogenarians alike. We have a token appreciation for marital fidelity, as long as something better doesn’t come along or your feelings don’t change. We see divorce as undesirable because of its financial expense, and we protect ourselves with prenuptial agreements; “what’s mine is yours forever, except this stuff if I change my mind.” We find saving oneself for marriage silly at best and foolish at worst — after all, how will you know what you like unless you’ve tested the field? Our culture is full of just what they want, and yet they’re miserable and keep trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

The church has the opposite problem. We teach all these extra rules that leave the everyday believer looking at the other side of the fence, wondering if God is holding out on them. “There’s fun stuff I can see, but God [the church] says I can’t have it. I’m confined in this tiny space.” The problem isn’t God; it’s the church, the church culture, weighted down by millennia of extrabiblical philosophy and conjecture. Of course you’re confined; that’s not God’s fence; it’s the church’s. God’s fence is far bigger.

The world doesn’t like our faithfulness, and our bothers may condemn our adventurousness in the undefiled marriage bed. Both worlds are uncomfortable and resistant.

Christians enjoying sex in marriage to the full is countercultural in both contexts. The world doesn’t like our faithfulness, and our brothers may condemn our adventurousness in the undefiled marriage bed. Both worlds are uncomfortable and resistant.

You may even feel the same as you read this. That hesitation? That friction against your comfort zone? That’s not freedom; that’s a yoke. You’re settling for a cut-rate imitation of the real thing, and you might just be missing out. Read through this site. See what you think.

If you’re a Christian, listen to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Stop listening exclusively to the overzealous sticks in the mud that don’t put God’s Word first.

If you’re not a Christian, I enjoin you to also set aside your perceptions of boring Christianity based on what the media portrays and what the church sadly depicts and instead see what God Himself has to say. Perhaps you’ll “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). You might be surprised not only by what He allows, but along with many Christian readers, you might be shocked at what His Word actually endorses.

Originally posted 2015-03-09 08:00:41.

Photo credit: inertia_tw / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
About Phil (250 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.