The Story we tell ourselves, or the Story in which we are living, or the Story in which we want to be living, determines everything. If you tell yourself the Story of Happiness, then everything you do will be determined by whether it makes you happy. If you tell yourself the Story of Naturalism, then everything you see will be judged by its naturalistic contours. If you tell yourself the Story of the gospel, everything can become gospel-shaped.
Therein lies the problem and the mystery. Both of these are addressed in J.R. Daniel Kirk’s Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?. How does kingdom of God reshape the story of sex? How does new creation plot sex in its story? Those are Kirk’s questions.
Here we go: What stories are told by our culture? What Story does the Bible tell?
The problems are many: by 18 most teenagers have had sex with at least one partner; sex is often removed from lifelong commitment; divorce is common. So what to do? How does the Bible’s Story fit in our world today? Or, how does our world fit into the Bible’s Story?
Kirk begins the plot where the Bible does: Genesis 1-2. What do we learn? I have enumerated nine themes that emerge from Kirk’s discussion:
1. The point is sexual oneness — and it is God who makes the two into one.
2. The context of sexual oneness is marriage in a new house and a new family.
3. Marriage is permanent, lifelong, and shaped by fidelity.
4. The gospel forgives and heals, so the church should be the community that invites the sexually broken into the grace of God’s work in Christ. Broken sexuality can be forgiven and healed.
5. The church needs to begin believing its Story — the 3 points above — is a better story than the problems our culture has created. There is a failure of nerve in the church.
He goes on further into Jesus and into Paul: Mark 12:18-27 and 1 Cor 7.
6. Our sexuality is not central to our identity because both Jesus and Paul teach that marriage is not eternal and that celibacy is good.
7. And, one more: Jesus connects all sexuality to desires, and wants a transformation of desires as well. Matt 5:27-28.
And then he observes two more themes about sexuality in the Bible’s Story:
8. Sexual union images the relationship of Christ to the church, and that relationship images sexual union.
9. The relationship of the man and woman is shaped by Christ’s cross of self-sacrificing love. Here the union becomes cruciform.
I have one criticism, and it is one I commonly see in “biblical discussions” of marriage and sex. Where is Song of Solomon?