1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
This whole passage (1-16) is very real and down-to-earth. Paul isn’t embarrassed to talk about sex, but he doesn’t get too graphic with it. These days, the climate is such that a statement by a public figure that he was a virgin until well after high school was taken as a laugh line on a late-night TV show. One thing that stands out to me about Paul’s comments is the mutuality that is taken for granted. The first half of this verse probably causes a strong adverse reaction in some feminists, but it is followed with the second half, which probably comes as a surprise to many men. The Japanese translates this as the husband and wife each “not having authority over” their own body, because it belongs to the spouse. The implication is that each is expected to desire the other, and each is to be a source of pleasure for the other. When that becomes imbalanced, it is both a symptom and a cause of problems in other areas as well. God designed sex to be pleasurable for both partners on many levels, but when the physical is focused on to the exclusion of the emotional and even spiritual, everything falls apart. I do a lot of marriage counseling, and one thing I tell couples is that a wife who is emotionally fulfilled is going to fulfill her husband physically, and rejoice to do so, without exception. There are occasionally medical issues that interfere, but they are just a factor to be dealt with. Likewise, a husband who is respected and honored by his wife is going to have far less “performance problems” than someone who feels put down. Those factors aren’t at all limited to the bedroom! The thing is, God designed sex as “marital glue,” something to bind the husband and wife together in far more ways than just the physical. When sex is exercised outside of marriage, as it so often is today, that causes far more problems than even those involved realize. It’s not “politically correct” to say so, but studies have shown that the marital relationship is the single biggest factor in perception of happiness, for both men and women. “Sharing your body around” absolutely destroys that.
This is as close to home for me as it is for anyone. God in His grace knew how He had created me, and allowed me to marry at 20, for which I am deeply grateful. Cathy and I each had parents who exemplified both respect and romance, and that made us eager to have the same for ourselves. These days, many of our friends are amazed at the relationship we so obviously have: both respect and romance. In relation to this particular verse, I go by Cathy’s preferences in regard to my facial hair, for example, and I do my best to stay healthy, not for me but for her. She likewise makes it clear that she takes this verse seriously, which makes it all the easier for me to do so. I think all of this is what gives weight to the marriage counseling I do: I know what works, by personal experience. Personally, I am very thankful not to have been given the gift of celibacy that Paul had!
Father, thank You for Your incredibly gracious plan. So often we fail to believe Your plan is good, or that You even have one. I pray that I would be an effective channel of faith to those around me, enabling them to open their hearts to You to receive all that You intend for them, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!