Originally posted at: https://applyingmybeliefs.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/intimacy-and-human-relational-design/
This posting is part of what I am going to discuss in an “Intimacy in Marriage” class I am teaching at my church – The Fellowship, in Katy TX. (www.thefellowship.org).
Having a God-centered comprehension of intimacy is a key to having a good understanding of human design and relationships. This understanding, together with knowing what the fall of mankind into sin means, helps us to explain so many of the relational phenomena we see in human society.
The comprehension of intimacy starts with knowing some things about God.
We know from scripture that God is presented to us as a pre-existent uncreated being made up of three persons that are known as Father, Son and Spirit – sometimes we call them a trinity. Some of the things we know about God are:
John 4:24 – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
1 John 4:16 – So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
John 10:30 – I and the Father are one.
From these three things that God says about Himself, we can note that He is a highly relational non-physical being, with His relationships cemented together by love.
As we move forward from past eternity to the sixth day of creation we see this being said:
Gen 1:26-27 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God, the three persons, made us humans, to be like Him in some way. He calls us an image, a word that suggests that we look like Him, probably not physically because He is spirit, but more likely our soul is made in His image. This leads us to understand that our individual inner person is a representation of the trinity, although we may not know exactly what that means. He also says that we are made in His likeness; that we are like Him in certain ways. In the chart at the end of this document I have listed some likenesses and differences in a useful comparative table.
The next relevant thing that God said is this:
Gen 2:18 – Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
As we look at this we must remember that the original scriptures are written as continuous text, and our translators have added in grammar and most importantly punctuation. Verse 18 here probably ought to be considered as two sentences that we have connected. There is no indication that God spoke them as one continuous set of words without a pause. It is entirely possible they were separated by days, weeks, months or years. In the way we think, we would prefer to believe they were connected. For a moment though consider them as completely separated.
Gen 2:18(a) – It is not good for man to be alone.
The Hebrew word that we translate as “man” here is “haa’aadaam” which is often shortened to “adam.” It is found in over 500 places in the Old Testament, and is almost always used as a plural word for all of humankind. So when God spoke Gen 2:18(a) He was referring to all of us. Whereas in Gen 2:18(b) He was referring specifically to the man we call Adam.
This is the first true and direct reference to the designed-in reality that we (all humans) are created to be connected – to have intimacy with each other. Also note that God spoke this before sin entered the world, making our need for intimacy part of God’s original intended design.
As we move forward in the story we come to this
Gen 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
When scripture says “therefore” it is asking the reader to consider the words written before it. In this case the scriptures from Gen 2:18 to 2:23 that deal with the creation of the woman. The woman is called a “suitable helper” for the man – this is specific designation and excludes all other animals and also another male human.
So in Gen 2:24 we see God tell us that a man (iysh in the Hebrew, meaning a generic man) is to leave the parents of his family of origin, and hold fast to his wife, and become one flesh with her. This is a significant and formal intimacy statement from God that we ought to pay close attention to.
The words “hold fast” in our English translation (often called “cleave” in other translations) is one single word in the Hebrew, dabaq. This word carries the meaning that something is “fastened together.” One useful word picture here is that the man and woman become joined with each other using a relational bonding agent. God says to link together so that no other human can break the connection. Jesus put it this way:
Matt 19:5-6 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
The “one flesh” in Hebrew is basar echad (which we translate as “flesh one” and switch the order of words.) Our English translation is a convenience to help the reader of scripture understand what God is saying. But when we investigate what these words more literally say, we don’t get the simple “one flesh”; instead we get “collected together and united as a fresh unit.” This obviously has an entirely different slant than the physicalness of the word flesh.
Sex and intimacy
As we look at intimacy as a designed-in feature of all humans, we need to make another special note here. When God spoke these words about marriage, no human had ever had physical sex, and yet we, in our culture, use the term sexual intimacy. Intimacy and sex are not connected; consider that God the Father, Son and Spirit are intimate and yet sex is not part of that intimacy.
So then, an error that is often made by well-meaning believers is that they relate marriage and sex based on the “one flesh” words in the scripture. That is a stretch. The reality is that humans are a special animal, the only one created in God’s image, but we are still an animal and we can have sex without being married just like other animals. Physical sex does not need marriage, as many humans prove every day.
Physical sex is given to us by a loving God for two reasons.
- To multiply the human race.
- As a pleasurable reward for marital intimacy between two suitable helpers.
It is that second reason that needs to be focused on in this paper.
What we know as physical sex is only legitimate when it is conducted inside a marriage made in the sight of God, a lifetime covenant between two suitable helpers. Anything outside of that is an immoral act; and God says this about that subject:
1 Cor 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
This is well-known and a simple conventional Christian statement. However, there some other things that we ought to know about physical sex and intimacy.
Physical sex without intimacy can be fantastic! Many people would be able to say that, but it is not the whole story. When intimacy, relationship and true deep connectedness, is not present, the physical sex eventually fades into an animal-like routine. The result is that humans who engage in it go from sexual partner to sexual partner trying to regain the “feeling.” In the end it results in a kind of soul-sterility, and inability to connect with others in a designed-in way. Promiscuity leads to numbness inside a person – this is because sex cannot lead to intimacy; God has designed us so that marital intimacy (only) is to lead to physical sex.
Sex “experts”, those that advise and teach about how to have a great sex life, seem to be united in one basic idea. They almost universally tell us that the true sex organ is the brain, not the genitals. They go on to explain that a good sexual life, meaning high levels of physical pleasure on a sustained basis, is only achievable when you are thoughtfully, emotionally and willfully connected to a specific partner. Isn’t that an alternative description of intimacy in action? So then, even the world agrees with God, although they don’t admit it. Sex and intimacy go together, but intimacy is necessary for sustained pleasurable sex.
Another interesting aspect of sex and intimacy is what is reported by marriage researchers. Apparently, long-term (30 years plus) marriage partners that have high levels of connectedness report that sex got better and was more satisfying for both partners on a continuous basis. This was true for believers and non-believers alike. This may be the best proof that God’s designed-in need for us to be intimate, to be like Him, is real and tangible – and that it is a precursor to a healthy sex life.
Some final words
If one agrees with what has been spoken of above so many things can be looked at differently.
- Being hooked on pornography is not about sex, it is about intimacy.
- Visiting sex workers is not about sex, it is about looking for intimacy.
- Promiscuity will never lead to satisfaction, intimacy takes time and work.
- Extra-marital affairs are not about sex, they are about the need for intimacy.
- If a couple wants better sex, they ought to work on intimacy.
A Comparative Table of Likenesses and Differences
|Power & Strength||Omnipotent – All Powerful||Powerful|
|Knowledge||Omniscience – All Knowing||Knowledgeable|
|Reason/Rationality||Perfect reason||Imperfect reason|
|Feelings||Emotional being||Emotional being|
|Self-directed||Perfect Willfulness||Imperfect Willfulness|
|Singularity||One God||One Soul|
|Trinitarian||Three Persons||Heart, Mind and Will|
|Action Orientation||Acts through Jesus||Acts through the Will|
|The Heart||Perfect subjectiveness||Deceptive|
|Lovingkindness||Constantly loving||Capable of loving|
|Connectedness||Perfectly relational||Made for relationships|
|Depth of relational ability||Perfectly intimate||Designed for intimacy|