From copywriters on Madison Avenue to teen-agers in the junior-high locker room, everybody is talking about sex. The copywriters sell it big, offering it as a bonus with everything from cigars to mouthwash. The kids play it cool, swapping half-truths with a titter or a smirk. But truthfully or twistedly, blandly or blatantly, directly or indirectly, everybody is talking about sex.

Television commercials, billboards, and magazines assure us endlessly that some sort of sexual reward comes with every wise purchase. Mass man soaks up the message, unabashedly approves, but all the while suffers a growing sense of disillusionment. In spite of their prattle, neither Madison Avenue nor the locker room can give man what he needs to make sense out of sex. It is a theological perspective that is needed, one that considers sex in its ultimate relationship, and this can come to us only out of the Christian Scriptures.

Not surprisingly, that theological word confronts us at the very portals of the Bible. Of God’s creation of man, Genesis one says, “Male and female created he them.” In the first chapter of the Bible we have the first reference to sexuality, and the second chapter elaborates it with the story of Adam and Eve. Those who are tempted to think this account naïve should remember that both Jesus and Paul referred back to it as in some way normative for the human race (Matt. 19:3–9; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31). Five guidelines in chapter two are helpful today.

First of all, human sexuality is the result of God’s fatherly concern. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper fit for him’ ” (2:18). Eve was God’s benevolent provision for Adam, and Adam, in turn, for Eve. Sexuality is therefore a feature of God’s creation, bearing his approval. Pride and self-will may trick us into yielding it to evil ends, leading to results that are often unbelievably twisted and gross. Nevertheless, far from being evil, sex is God’s provision for the good of mankind, and every Christian discussion of the subject must begin here.

Do not underestimate the force of this theological point of view. Recently I listened to an anguished young man confess that he was aroused by the presence of men but completely indifferent to girls. Even so, he was not ready to face his problem seriously until a few days later he heard a sermon on the biblical theme of creation. He then returned to say, “If that’s the way it is, I’ll pay any price to be God’s man.” He had caught a glimpse of God’s purpose behind every feature of life, including his sexuality, and this had motivated him to seek help in earnest.

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Secondly, sex belongs to the Christian mysteries, and its ultimate meaning is known only by revelation. The Lord God caused Adam to be in a “deep sleep,” and therefore Eve’s origin could be known only as God chose to make it known. The new relationship was beyond Adam’s rational powers to comprehend. He knew only that Eve was God’s gift to him and that her coming had made all of life different. Sexuality is still beyond rational explanation but can be accepted in faith for what it is, a feature of God’s creative concern.

Adolescents who are given extensive biological information about sex as though this were the whole of it are deprived, however sophisticated they may appear. If they are not given a sense of the ultimate meaning of sex, if they are led to view it only as a biological function, they are likely to become what Grace and Fred M. Hechinger have called “little old technicians.” This is a sure path to disillusionment. On the other hand, adolescents who are taught to accept their sexuality as an endowment from God have a framework within which to place the biological facts, and they are more likely to manage those powerful impulses wholesomely.

In the third place, the account of Adam and Eve confronts us with what Helmut Thielicke has called the “wonder of recognition.” When God presented Eve to Adam, Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bone …; she shall be called Woman.” He recognized in Eve both likeness and dissimilarity: she was bone of his bone but needed a name something like “she man” to mark the difference between them. Here is the polarity of the sexes, the ground of Adam’s sudden awareness that in Eve he had found his other half.

It is wise to remember that the story of Adam and Eve answers questions people ask today. It speaks cogently to youth who marvel at the idea that somewhere in the world lives their “other half.” Why not tell them, then, on the strength of this account, that their moment of recognition can come under the watchful eye of God, that finding a life’s partner can be a theological experience for those who will make it so? Is not the Lord God as concerned for the welfare of his creatures today as he was for Adam?

In the fourth place, the term “one flesh” reflects the unique nature of marriage. The current notion of marriage is strong on romance but weak on commitment, as shown by America’s nearly 500,000 divorces a year. By contrast, the Scriptures consistently hold that marriage is a relationship so profound and enduring that only the term “one flesh” can adequately characterize it.

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“Flesh” in Hebrew thought stands for the whole of a man’s mortal life, including his feelings, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses. Much more than the merging of two bodies, “one flesh” implies the merging of two persons, and no human relationship is more intimate. Within this intimate relationship, sexual intercourse becomes a sacramental act symbolizing the union’s completeness. Apart from the totality of a “one flesh” relationship, it leads only toward disillusionment, and no amount of glib talk can refute this. Only yesterday I listened to the confession of a modern sophisticate who had scrapped the “one flesh” conviction and had tried intercourse for kicks. Her grim countenance bore the strain of several months of self-loathing, and she is still far from regaining her emotional balance.

Finally, we are told that Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. If this account is to stand as a paradigm of marriage at its best, then marriage is to be a relationship of complete openness between husband and wife. Later, after Adam and Eve had rebelled against their Maker, they tried to hide from each other. Not uncommonly, spouses today reflect this same state of affairs. “We just can’t talk to each other,” they say. “We’re like two strangers in the same house.” Openness nevertheless remains the ideal to be sought after. When Jesus answered questions about the collapse of marriages in Moses’ time, he reminded his questioners that “from the beginning it was not so,” thus affirming for all time an ideal never to be forgotten. The closer spouses come to this ideal of openness, the nearer they are to marital fulfillment.

In a word, the account of Adam and Eve teaches that sex is sacred and that marriage is the normative relationship for one man and one woman. That is, God has created man as a sexual being and has ordained marriage as the institution within which that sexuality can be fully expressed.

But what about those who agree with this theology but whose marriages are nevertheless racked with destructive tensions? Often a person brings to marriage the causes for such tensions: strong negative feelings from his childhood, fears that have never been aired, confusion about his marital role, inadequate commitment to the relationship, serious immaturity, and sometimes personal guilt. These, not unrealistic theology, place stresses upon marriage. Often pastoral counsel and sometimes the best psychiatric services are needed to resolve the tensions and strengthen the bond.

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Nevertheless, those who hold a theological view of marriage are in the best position to face their problems. Their conviction that marriage is for keeps gives them a steady foundation on which to work. Their conviction that it is ordained by God orients them toward the source of aid and forgiveness. In a word, Genesis 2 is a backdrop against which they can work out the implications of their own marriage under the watchful eye of God.

The idea that marriage is the normative relationship in human life may seem to be disproved by a new group of free, affluent, “swinging” single people, sometimes called the “swingles.” After describing them, Time, in an essay on “The Pleasures and Pain of the Single Life” (Sept. 15, 1967), put its finger on their loneliness: “Ultimately, the singles devoutly wish that they weren’t.” But they are, and many will remain so. Our ministry to them, besides understanding their loneliness, is to help them find personal fulfillment through surrender to a worthwhile cause. It is also to help them acknowledge to themselves the reason for their not marrying, a reason more often related to fear than to the unavailabilty of a mate.

In a culture that is rapidly losing the conviction that marriage is ordained by God and in harmony with man’s nature, how can Christians be helped to implement a wholesome theology of sex and marriage? The Church can perform a powerful ministry, first of all, by making the theological view of marriage a part of the fabric of congregational life. There is no better place to start than with the Christian wedding. Every congregation should be led periodically to take a hard look at all the features of weddings performed within its facilities. Are the songs sentimental or Christian? Is the focus of the event on the bride or on Christ? Does the ceremony express Christian convictions about marriage in a lofty way, or has it become corrupted by merely romantic sentiments? The congregation that takes its responsibilities seriously at this point is likely to find the same high views of marriage coming to permeate all other areas of its corporate life.

Christians must also be helped to cultivate wholesome feelings about sex. The frightened, confused, and guilty in every congregation should hear the subject discussed in a wholesome way, much as Paul discussed the matter with the troubled Corinthian church (1 Cor. 7). There is all the more reason to do this when secular voices like Playboy seem to be issuing the same call for open discussion. The difference is enormous, however, for Playboy regards sex as an impulse of nature related to nothing ultimate, while the Church sees it as a gift from God to be expressed according to his laws. Wholesome feelings about sex can exist only where the Church makes its theology clear and Christians align their lives in accordance with it.

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Above all else, the Lordship of Jesus Christ must be declared over the realm of sex as over every other realm. After I began writing this paragraph, a young couple appeared at my door seeking help. They confessed that their relationship had become “much too physical,” and their story was one of lust breeding confusion and hate. Both were from Christian homes and were sincere in their appeal for help. They were in immediate need of forgiveness, to be sure; but if they are to cope successfully with their problem, they will have to reckon with the Lordship of Jesus and work their problem through in terms of this allegiance. The Lordship of Jesus is the alpha and omega in solving the problem of lust.

This tormented couple are only two of a faceless throng both inside and outside the Church who are caught in a sexual crisis. The embarrassed silence of the Church only deepens their guilt and confusion. They will get no help from the propaganda of Madison Avenue, and the word from the locker room serves only as seeds of confusion for the next generation. What they need is a clear, patient biblical word—a word that bites into the contemporary situation with authority, realism, and compassion. The Church that speaks that word will be speaking a relevant word for Christ.

Break The Time Barrier!

Time is the scarcest resource for ministers. A minister continually feels that there is simply not enough time for him to do everything his people demand of him. Business executives face a similar problem, and one student of executive behavior, Peter D. Drucker, has developed a set of simple guidelines to help solve it. These guidelines, presented in The Effective Executive (Harper & Row), apply as well to the time-squeezed minister as to the business man.

In applying them to a minister’s use of time, however, there are a few important principles to keep in mind. First, a minister’s time is not really his own; he is just the one appointed to manage it. It does not even belong to the people he serves. In the final sense it belongs to God.

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Second, God gives a man enough time to do everything He wants him to do. This includes fulfilling his responsibility to his family and to his own health. For Him to do anything else would be illogical and inconsistent.

The third principle is stated by the Apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Paul meant simply that God would give him the strength to do everything He wanted him to do.

Here then is the framework: God gives us time; he gives us enough time to do all that he assigns; and he has promised us the strength we need. What we are left with is the problem of how to become a good steward of that time.

Drucker’s guidelines are simple to apply:

1. Record your time.

2. Prune the time-wasters.

3. Consolidate your discretionary time.

4. Build a flexible schedule.

To manage your time better you must first know where it is going, and the only way to know is to keep a written record. This may seem like a needless suggestion; most people think they already know where their time goes. However, tests have shown that usually they do not. Not even the highly paid executives know. Tests of dozens of these men at this very point reveal that almost without exception, though they think they know how they are spending their time, they really do not.

Once you know where your time is going, then you must prune away activities that simply waste time. For the minister, these are the things that do not contribute to the real work God has called him to do—that is, his work of preaching and teaching, visitation and counseling, and so on. You must be ruthless with these non-essential activities that clutter up the day and simply stop doing them. This demands boldness. On the surface most of them seem important; if they did not, you would not be doing them. The best way to decide is to ask this question about every item on your time record: “What would happen to the work God has called me to do if I stopped doing this altogether?” If the answer is “nothing,” then stop doing it.

Pruning the time-wasters will not really create free time; no minister has that. However, it will give you more time over which you can exert some control. This “discretionary” time comes in small blocks, and the more of these you can consolidate, the better chance you will have of really getting something done. Most ministerial activities demand fairly large blocks of time; a minister needs to be alone for long periods to prepare a sermon or lesson, to plan his future program, to keep himself spiritually refreshed. The way to get these large chunks of time is to put your scattered bits of discretionary time together.

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These steps lead directly to the last one: Build a flexible schedule. A good schedule is a pathway, not a prison. There are good reasons for breaking a schedule; but without having one in mind, you will be unable to remain on a sound course. You will fall back into time-wasting without knowing it.

All this does not imply that you must turn your service for God into a mechanical process. Our Lord himself gives us the best example of balance in this matter. He always had time for the important things, and to him the important things involved people. Their souls and their well-being were his great concern. He had time for people because he made time for them.

Ministers share Christ’s objectives. To accomplish them they must, like him, be careful stewards of their time—LAWRENCE H. MERK, assistant professor of economics and management, University of Idaho.

Milton D. Hunnex is professor and head of the department of philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Redlands and the Ph.D. in the Inter-collegiate Program in Graduate Studies, Claremont, California. He is author of “Philosophies and Philosophers.”

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