Just because St. Paul had no time for sex back then, it does not mean you shouldn’t make the time right now

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 88 (Morning)
Psalm 91, 92 (Evening)
2 Kings 9:17-37
1 Cor. 7: 1-9
Matt. 6: 7-15

Just because St. Paul had no time for sex back then, it does not mean you shouldn’t make the time right now

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians should be read in the context of his expectation of the Second Coming. For him, it was “any day now.” He was constantly on the go trying to win new converts for Christ while preserving the honesty of previous converts’ commitment to live a truly Christian life. Paul felt that his urgent mission gave him no time for a wife and a sex life, and recommended to others sublimating such libido as they may have had, so that they could ceaselessly pray, and show others by word and by example, that they too should become Christians, “before time ran out.”

But Paul realized that very fine Christians had as much of a sex drive as any other healthy adults of that time or any other, and that the wonderful mutual release of erotic tensions would best be accomplished between married couples. He was remarkably matter-of-fact in telling us that the overwhelmingly most likely alternative is not a world where everyone is consistently sexually abstemious, but rather a world where everyone was having sex with everyone else all the time. He encourages married couples to have sex whenever either partner asks for it, and should they decide by mutual agreement “to take a break,” they should take particular care not to make that break too long before enthusiastically returning to sexually satisfying their partners and themselves.

Now, in some Christian dispensations, Paul’s words are often overstretched to promote the idea that remaining a perpetual virgin, or even renouncing sex after one’s marriage, is almost a surefire guarantee of becoming a future “saint in heaven.” But if such an extreme decision is made solely by one of the parties to a marriage–something that Paul explicitly warns against– you may or may not make a new saint in heaven, but you will surely make an unwilling martyr on earth!

Written by Tony Stankus, an Episcopalian for less than a year.

Tony is a Distinguished Professor and Librarian at the University of Arkansas. He says he joined St. Paul’s at age 66 because he could no longer resist the surpassing joy of its liturgies and the radiant warmth of its priests and people.

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