September 22, 2008

    Being Sexual in the Image of God
Pastor George Van Alstine

This is the third in my series of essays about how we, as Christians, can develop a positive Biblical approach to sex education. In the first, “Locker Room Sex Education,â€? I reminded readers about what happens when we don’t educate our children about sexuality, but let them discover these things on their own. In the second, I came up with four principles of “Biblical Sex Education,â€? which will be further discussed below.

In the second article, I wrote that “the sexual behavior of adolescentsâ€? was not directly discussed in the New Testament. I knew that would raise some eyebrows, and it did. Some readers pointed out that there are a number of  warnings against fornication that can be applied to young people. I think some of these texts may be applied in a secondary way to adolescents, but their main reference is to something more dangerous and sinister. The word used is porné, from which we get the word pornography. It is the word used to describe prostitutes and prostitution. It is often used of marital infidelity. So porné refers to illicit, often criminal sexual behavior by adults, not to “discovery sexâ€? by adolescents. This is why I don’t believe it is helpful to use these as prooftexts in teaching youth about sexuality.

Here is the first of the four principles I mentioned in the last article:

(1) A person is created in the Image of God as male or female. Theologians have argued for centuries about what the author of Genesis meant by “the image of God.â€? Suggested answers include a number of ways in which we, as human beings, differ from the animals: intelligence, moral sensitivity, creativity, esthetics, etc. But if you read the text, there’s only one specific thing that’s mentioned as part of the image of God:
“So God created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.â€? (Genesis 1:27)

Surprisingly, the thing mentioned about humans, in which God’s image can be seen, is something we have in common with the animals: our sexual nature as male and female.

How does our maleness or our femaleness reflect what God is like? How do we rise above the animals in a part of our nature that can be quite beastly? This is an intriguing question, and one that should be continually asked by each of us.

What an opportunity this perspective gives to parents, teachers, and pastors in their work with emerging adolescents! It can be exciting to discuss with a teenaged girl or boy how their new feelings and sense of self can be ways of knowing God better. From this point of view, their growing sexuality can be seen as an enabling spiritual process, rather than as a fleshly enemy of the spirit. Christian parents, teachers and pastors can be catalysts for this understanding of sex, if they have already come to appreciate it in their own lives.

I guess it’s obvious that I’ll need at least a fourth article to discuss the other principles I’ve suggested:

(2)  A person’s Mind is the primary processor and definer of the way life is lived.

(3)  A person’s Body is an essential part of who the person is and the arena in which life is lived.

(4)  A person’s Spirit is the creative and dynamic expression of the person by which life is given its ultimate significance.