III. Trust and human sexuality
God loves human life so much that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). We know, therefore, that God’s love embraces us totally, including our sexuality. We also know that God created each of us not only as individuals, but also as people who live in a variety of social communities and contexts. In response to God’s love for us, we seek life-giving relationships with others and create social structures and practices that support such relationships.
The complexity of human sexuality
God created human beings to be in relationship with each other and continually blesses us with diverse powers, which we use in living out those relationships. These include powers for action, reasoning, imagination, and creativity.
Sexuality especially involves the powers or capacities to form deep and lasting bonds, to give and receive pleasure, and to conceive and bear children. Sexuality can be integral to the desire to commit oneself to life with another, to touch and be touched, and to love and be loved. Such powers are complex and ambiguous. They can be used well or badly. They can bring astonishing joy and delight. Such powers can serve God and serve the neighbor. They also can hurt self or hurt the neighbor. Sexuality finds expression at the extreme ends of human experience: in love, care, and security, or lust, cold indifference, and exploitation.
Sexuality consists of a rich and diverse combination of relational, emotional, and physical interactions and possibilities. It surely does not consist solely of erotic desire. Erotic desire, in the narrow sense, is only one component of the relational bonds that humans crave as sexual beings. Although not all relationships are sexual, at some level most sexual relationships are about companionship. Although some people may remain single, either intentionally or unintentionally, all people need and delight in companionship and all are vulnerable to loneliness.
The need to share our lives with others is a profound good (Genesis 2:18). The counsel to love and care for the neighbor is not a command that is foreign to our created natures; rather, reaching out in love and care is part of who we are as relational and sexual beings. Even if we never have sexual intimacy, we all seek and respond to the bonds and needs of relationships.
Sexual love—the complex interplay of longing, erotic attraction, self-giving and receiving defined by trust—is a wondrous gift. The longing for connection, however, also can
render human beings susceptible to pain, isolation, and harm. The desire for sexual love, therefore, does not by itself constitute a moral justification for sexual behavior. Giving and receiving love always involves mixed motives and limited understanding of individual and communal consequences.
The sharing of love and sexual intimacy within the mutuality of a mature and trusting relationship can be a rich source of romance, delight, creativity, imagination, restraint, desire,
pleasure, safety, and deep contentment that provide the context for individuals, family, and the community to thrive.
Though sexual love remains God’s good gift, sin permeates human sexuality as it does all of life. When expressed immaturely, irresponsibly, or with hurtful intent, then love—or
its counterfeit, coercive power—can lead to harm and even death. Too often lust is mistaken for love, which in turn becomes the rationale for selfish behaviors. When infatuation, lust, and self-gratification take the place of the responsibilities of love, cascading consequences result that can be devastating for partners, children, families, and society.
In recognizing the many ways in which people misuse power and love, we need to be honest about sin and the finite limitations of human beings. We also recognize the complexity
of the human and societal forces that drive the desire for companionship, for intimate relation with another, for belonging, and for worth. The deep interconnectedness of the
body with the mind and spirit suggest the complexity of such situations. The biblical narratives both rejoice in the splendor
of sexual attraction (Song of Songs 4) and are candid about the harm that can result from human sexuality (2 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 13; Matthew 5:27–30).