A famous actress was recently holding forth on a popular TV show. She began happily dropping names as she regaled her audience with details of her racy lifestyle. Before I could find the remote, she must have mentioned at least a half dozen famous people she claimed to have slept with.
For those who share this viewpoint, it’s a brave new world, and they say that a “revolution” and great “liberation” have taken place, opening a doorway to boundless freedom and joy.
But they are wrong. They are wrong because the seventh commandment expresses a fundamental law of life—a principle etched deeply in our hearts and minds, based on the way we are wired—and we cannot break it without violating something deep inside.
One of the most famous passages in the Bible helps us to understand why this is so. I say “famous” because even people who have never opened the Bible in their lives have heard of Genesis 2:22, 23. Unfortunately, it sometimes gets used in the context of a joke. But if we can leave that aside for a moment and treat the passage with the respect it deserves, we will discover that it has a deep meaning.
It says: “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man”
(Genesis 2:21, 22).
Adam’s first words, the ones he spoke when he saw this beautiful creature walking toward him, show that he did get the point of what had happened.
With profound emotion Adam exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” (verse 23).
It is clear that Adams’ joy reflected the beginning of their sexual relationship, because the record immediately adds: “For this reason [that is, because woman was taken from man’s body; because she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh] a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (verse 24). It is God’s design that through sexual relation, flesh shall be joined to flesh and spirit to spirit.
A well-known term in popular psychology describes the concept taught in Genesis 2:22-24: “identification.” To “identify” with someone involves more than to feel for them or to care about them. It means that in some mysterious way we come to share their identity— as if somehow we are them. Through identification, we can see the world through their eyes, know their joy and their pain. This powerful force is at work when we cry at the end of a sad movie. Our tears flow because the actor has led us to identify with the character on the screen, so that his or her loss becomes ours.
As Adam saw this beautiful creature now approaching, he had an overwhelming sense of identification in his heart. She was a part of him, for she had come from his own body. This is the reason for the incredible impact of the experience as he exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Then what could be more wonderful and natural for Adam than to hold her in his arms, feel her body pressing against his and share with her the intense pleasure that God designed to accompany their glad rejoining?
God created and designed the sexual union to be a powerful instrument of identification and bonding. To say it another way: it is soul glue.
This is not merely a nice-sounding theory or a warm fuzzy idea. Science has discovered powerful chemicals that the body releases during sex. They intensify pair bonding. A hormone called oxytocin works directly on our brains to strengthen our relationship and identification, and its flow increases during intercourse. It means that God designed the physical aspect of the sex act to be part of the total intimacy of heart and mind that is marriage.
The apostle Paul also speaks of the bonding function of sex and says that it operates even when we may have no such intention. Contrary to what some might wish to believe, it is not really possible to have sex and then walk away, as though nothing has happened.
“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:16). You can climb out of bed, get dressed and leave—but something has happened. A bonding has taken place, and you are taking something with you. You are weaving a tangled web that, in one way or another, will come back to haunt you.
Jesus also referred to the bonding function of physical intimacy. “Haven’t you read, he replied, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6) Like Paul, Jesus is saying that the sexual relationship is a divinely designed agency to make the joining of two lives strong and permanent. It is heaven’s way of cementing together the two hearts, and they cannot afterward be torn apart without serious damage to both.
going too far
Jesus said that adultery begins where it ends: in the heart. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27, 28).
He recognised that sexual arousal originates in the mind, that the mind is stimulated through the senses—by looking “at a woman with lust for her.”
Mental sex—unrestrained sexual fantasies— may seem like a pleasant and innocent pastime, but it is not. Looking at scenes that excite sexual desire and hearing or reading stories and descriptions of sex strongly stimulates such fantasies. So that’s where the battle for self-control has to start.
We were standing on the top of El Pe