"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Relationships in Heaven Are Enhanced, Not Diminished

During the resurrection, in that age where the earth is recreated and the curse is reversed by Christ, (i.e. when “the meek will inherit the earth”), recipients of eternal life will enjoy relationships with those we have spent a great deal time with during our earthly lives. These relationships will be enhanced in eternity, not diminished.

It is difficult for us to imagine eternal delight in relationships that are currently dysfunctional in this life. How does God remove emotional pain in heaven, particularly when it seems heaven is not a place of forgetfulness or unrecognition? We can’t be sure of the process, yet it is certain that Jesus “wipes away every tear" (Rev. 21:4), and somehow brings ultimate and final healing to fractured people and broken relationships. The beauty of heaven includes the redeemed finding their relationships eternally enjoyable.

But an even more difficult question is this one: What about married people who have really good relationships here on earth? What about spouses, for instance, who consider one another their "best friend"? How can a marital relationship be enhanced if there is no marriage in heaven nor any sexual expression of love  (Matthew 22:30)? For followers of Jesus, sexuality is the ultimate expression of covenantal intimacy, a belief contrary to the world's view of sex.  It is difficult for many Christian couples to see how a great marital relationship can be enhanced in heaven when the sexual intimacy in their lives is no more.

The brilliant C.S. Lewis addresses this very subject in his book Miracles. For those widows and widowers who have remarried in this life, for the husband and wife who consider each other their "best friend," and for other followers of Jesus who simply have questions about the absence of sexual intimacy in heaven, read carefully the words of C.S. Lewis below and remember that you and I have yet to experience the joys that await us in the resurrection, so it is difficult to imagine resurrection life in the earth's New Creation state.
“The letter and spirit of scripture, and all of Christianity, forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternative either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast.
As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer “No,” he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason that lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it.
We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it. Hence where fullness awaits us we anticipate fasting. In denying that sexual life, as we now understand it, makes any part of the final beatitude, it is not of course necessary to suppose that the distinction of sexes will disappear. What is no longer needed for biological purposes may be expected to survive fore splendour. Sexuality is the instrument both of virginity and of conjugal virtue; neither men nor women will be asked to throw away weapons they have used victoriously. It is the beaten and the fugitives who throw away their swords. The conquerors sheathe theirs and retain them.”
C. S. Lewis, “Miracles,” The Best of C. S. Lewis (Christianity Today Edition; Washington, D. C.: Christianity Today, 1969), pp. 357–58.
 
 

2 comments:

LoddieR said...

Wade,

You write “For followers of Jesus, sexuality is the ultimate expression of covenantal intimacy, a belief contrary to the world's view of sex. It is difficult for many Christian couples to see how a great marital relationship can be enhanced in heaven when the sexual intimacy in their lives is no more.” For sure the world’s view of sex has degenerated to almost nothing more than obsessively satisfying a base animalistic appetite. Countering that, “the followers of Jesus” have elevated, perhaps exalted, the sexual act between a man and woman as “the ultimate expression of covenantal intimacy.” I find the truth about sex in the Bible to be somewhere in between these two extremes.

With a plethora of “Christian” books and pastors teaching about sexuality these days the problems in Christian marriages are still no different or less destructive than that of the world. If sex is tantamount to a satisfying marriage then why didn’t Jesus speak to the necessity, intensity and frequency of sex in a marriage? There is nothing in the four Gospels where Christ ever addresses those issues. And if Jesus didn’t believe it was necessary to address the sexual needs of marriages then why are those who claim to be following Christ so caught up in and publicly emphasizing its necessity in marriage today? I think it was because Jesus wanted to deal with the root cause of all our problems and issues of life. That is the love of God or lack thereof.

I find the Word of God tends to downplay the connection between the physical pleasures of an orgasm with a Godly love towards a spouse. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is really the only place in the NT where sex in a marriage is considered. His advice in chapter 7 is down to earth, basic, and fundamentally about mitigating the strong sexual urges that build up in our fallen human bodies, including born again Christians. In his opinion the way to do that was to willingly help the other relieve the pint up sexual desires of the body. It is telling that he does not mention the love of God during this common sense treatment of sexual needs. When Paul proclaims the expressions of God’s love in chapter 13 a sexual orgasm is nowhere to be found. But he does write (13:5) “Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way.” And in chapter 7 Paul writes “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.” So being willing to give sexual pleasure to and not withhold from your spouse by relinquishing the right of one’s body to each other is, in and of itself, an expression of God’s “agape” love but not the pleasure of an orgasm itself.

I believe that sex in marriage has been so glorified and exalted by the Christian community that it has put an undue and even more so unnecessary burden on couples trying to find a level of satisfaction in their marriage relationship. You wrote “It is difficult for many Christian couples to see how a great marital relationship can be enhanced in heaven when the sexual intimacy in their lives is no more.” I understand your words to imply a couple cannot have a great marital relationship unless there is great sex. But I could have misunderstood what you were trying to say. My wife and I have been married for 46 years. Sex was intense and frequent in the early years of our marriage. But along came children, careers, families, grandchildren and the issues of age that all contribute to the decline in the intensity and frequency of sexual pleasure. At the age of 70 we still find some pleasure in sex but well understand that it is never going to be like it was at the beginning of our marriage. But to think that this means we can no longer enhance our marriage relationship is nonsense to me and I believe contrary to the true love of God.

Wade Burleson said...

Loddie,

You make an excellent point.

I appreciate your articulate comment and will reflect on it.

I feel a kindred spirit with what you write, and understand a wonderful Christian marriage may be deemed differently than the way I represented it in my post.

Thanks for writing!