Our new agony aunt column ‘Dear Maggie’ starts this month. Margaret Ellis is an experienced psychosexual therapist, which combined with her years as a church leader, makes her well qualified to speak into this sensitive area and help us think, discuss and develop a theology of good sex.
Writing in her final ‘Love Laughter’ column last month, Maggie outlined that the goal of sexual purity is what this new regular feature aims for, with the grace of Jesus as our travelling companion. Whether we find ourselves alone, with one partner, or a history of many, our desire as Christians is to honour God and each other with our bodies, to live in beauty and purity, aspiring after our Maker’s creation ideal.
We’ve already had a steady stream of email questions for Maggie to address about sex and relationships. They require frank and honest answers, which some readers might struggle with. But the church has not got a great track record on providing relevant, practical and real advice on sex. This is despite the presence in Holy Scripture of an erotic love message (Song of Songs). Over the years various biblical scholars have attempted to pass this Old Testament book off as an analogy of how God loves Israel and/ or the church. Often these teachers are the very ones who argue for a very literal understanding of scripture – for example that God created the earth in six 24-hour long days – and yet when it comes to a verse describing a man and woman kissing and fondling each other – suddenly it becomes a picture, a metaphor, not to be taken literally! This characterises 2,000 years of church prudery. But sex is God’s invention not Hollywood’s. To misquote Larry Norman’s classic song: ‘Why should the devil have all the good sex books?’ So it’s time we reclaimed this gift and defended this holy, fun, marriage-enhancing, pleasurable, life-giving blessing, instead of acting like it is something to be ashamed of.
Our sex-saturated society surrounds us with images and words which distort and damage this wonderful gift from God – so I felt it was important and overdue to give space in the pages of Christianity magazine to consider a biblical and holy approach to sex and sexuality. We begin with 50-year-old Barry, who feels frustrated that his wife has time for Sunday School, looking after his ageing mum and a zillion other things - but has gone off sex – turn to page 28.
The aim is not to shock or titillate, far from it, but to shed God’s light into dark corners. Sadly many Christians struggle with sexual sins, habits and fantasies. This causes much distress and damages the relationship between the believer and God. Shame, fear, embarrassment and a host of other emotions means some Christians feel unable or unwilling to share their problems with their pastor or a trained counsellor. But these problems don’t go away when hidden – quite the reverse, so both Maggie and I hope and pray this series brings hope, release, healing and the grace of God into many lives. John Buckeridge is the senior editor of Christianity magazine.