Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Fig leaves

Why Are We Worried About Intimacy?

I wish to talk to you today about a sensitive subject that is at the center of much consternation in many believers’ lives.  The subject of this essay is physical intimacy.  There is a great deal of misunderstanding about physical intimacy in Christian circles and consequently people needlessly suffer because they feel that their intimate nature does not mesh well with the Holy God they serve.

God says,

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:7,8,

In the beginning it was very good

Originally, when God created everything in the world He said it was very good.  Therefore, if everything was very good this also included physical intimacy.  However, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, all of a sudden they knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.  The question we need to answer is, “Why were their bodies all of a sudden shameful?” Moreover, “Why did the knowledge of good and evil cause them to hide from view what God considered to be very good?”

I believe the answers to these two questions are at the core of what causes many believers to live in shame and condemnation.  We must, as it were, re-examine why the fig leaves were sewn in the first place in order to understand where our collective view of intimacy went wrong. It is only after understanding the origins of shame that we will be able to allow God to help us regain a proper perspective of human intimacy.

Do those who serve the Devil have all the fun?

In the eyes of the world the “best” intimacy is often times characterized as dirty, forbidden, and sinful.  If you believe the media, those who are evil have all the fun while those who believe in God are miserable, unfulfilled and limited in this area.  Unfortunately, this perception of Christianized intimacy is somewhat true, for while there are believers who have very fulfilling intimate lives, many do not.  Furthermore, there are conservative perceptions of what Godly relations should and should not be.  Often time’s people carry a lot of guilt because they think that their intimate nature is somehow sinful.  Many Christians still wish, as it were, to hide themselves from view because they think “they” are shameful.

The origins of shame

I believe that through partaking of the knowledge of good and evil, that which was once good became shattered and began to be viewed as shameful.  In the Garden of Eden I do not believe there was such a concept as the separation of body, soul, and spirit. Man, just like God, was one.  Moreover, there was no division of the human spirit and soul.  Mankind dwelt in perfect union with God and there was never any conflict between his soul and spirit.  Our bodies simply were an instrument through which our spirit/soul interacted with this present creation.  Whatever our spirit/soul did in union with God was pure and holy.

Unfortunately, when we sinned by disobeying God’s commandment, our souls became at odds with our spirits and thus our flesh obeyed not God but our own earthy desires.  There is conflict between our spirit and soul to this very day.  We are constantly torn between heavenly desires and earthly lusts.  This is the root of all conflict and every war we see in this creation grows out of this struggle.  There will never be peace on earth until there is peace between the spirit of man and his soul.  Until we come back into oneness with God and ourselves this world will never be at rest.

Body, soul, and spirit

Eve’s very act of reaching for the forbidden fruit broke that perfect unity of spirit and flesh.  What was in fact created good, Eve used to do something evil. Eve’s soul commanded her body to do something sinful causing her to view her own flesh as shameful. Likewise, when Adam also ate the forbidden fruit, he too became ashamed of his body.  This, in turn, resulted in Adam’s and Eve’s desire to hide their physical bodies behind aprons made of fig leaves.  We assume that Adam and Eve hid just their reproductive organs but the Bible does not say that. The act of using their flesh inappropriately is the root of mankind’s shame.  It is only as we again come back into unity with His Holy Spirit that the shame begins to lift.

In a more narrow sense, the root of sexual shame is the inappropriate use of our bodies.  When people act out in inappropriate ways, even though it “feels good”,  they are ashamed of using their flesh contrary to the way in which God intended. This is why sexual sin is so closely associated with drugs and alcohol.  Such substances make it easier to numb our consciousness so that we can use our bodies in ways we otherwise instinctively know are not proper.

To the pure all things are pure

In reality our flesh is neither good nor bad, but simply obeys either our soul or spirit.  Depending on which part of our shattered psyche we yield to, our “actions” are either Godly or ungodly.  Therefore, the same action can both be godly or ungodly depending on whether our flesh is obeying the will of the Spirit or the will of our soul.

Considered shameful, the church restricts most intimacy because they fear what “might happen.”  Therefore there is a kind of paranoia of the “intimate” which causes Christians to construct safety barriers around this troublesome area.  We feel the more rules we try to obey, the better we protect ourselves from immorality.  While this type of legalistic behavior often keeps us from sinning outwardly, it ultimately does not solve the underlying problem.

Rules do not help rule breakers

In fact, piling on rules and regulations merely compounds the inward problems of lust, condemnation, and self-hatred.  It is analogous to water building up behind a dam with no outlet.  As the water rises the pressure increases. There is nowhere for the water to go, thus the dam must be built ever higher in order to hold back the flood. Eventually something’s got to give.  Unfortunately, when the dam breaks, swift destruction follows and not just a simple release.

What is sexual lust except the desire to inappropriately express God given passion?  Many men and women lust simply because they cannot fulfill their passions in a godly manner.  Christian doctrine so limits physical intimacy that many men and women are literally driven to sin.

The Spirit of God gives true liberty

The common Christian looks at Catholic priests who repress their God given intimate natures and say to themselves, “that is silly, God does not demand that we deny ourselves in those areas and has made ways to express ourselves in a proper ways.  There is no need to be celibate”.  God looks at the Christian that looks at the catholic priests and says, “The freedom that I have for you is greater than the freedom you have in relation to that priest”.

Many times when rules and regulations fail, our hearts also despair and we lose hope.  We feel that we are weak and do not love God enough to overcome temptation.  We feel unworthy and instead of seeking solace and forgiveness in the presence of God we hide ourselves from Him. Many times Christians silently suffer these types of trials even while attending church. Even though they feel horrible inside, they smile to each other as they agree that God is good and all is going on well in their lives.  Truthfully, the shame of the garden is still with us in very real and powerful ways.

Don’t dam up  your heart

The solution to these sorts of problems is not to build the dam higher, but rather to release the pressure behind it in a Godly way. God never meant for mankind to be ashamed of what he created “very good”.  Our intimate nature and ability to bring forth life was in fact the crowning achievement of this present creation.  The re-integration of our intimate natures into our spiritual lives is the only way in which we can satisfy our God given desires while at the same time avoiding using what He made inappropriately.

How do we put this knowledge into practice?  Originally our bodies were obedient to our spirit/souls which were in total submission to God.  Thus, whatever we did was pure.  The solution to our need for intimacy is to learn to let the Holy Spirit guide us in all areas of intimacy.

What God created is very good

The Devil never creates anything, but only corrupts what God makes.  One of the chief areas Satan corrupts us is through physical intimacy.  To corrupt something means to degrade it. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that original Godly human intimacy was and still is far superior to what the Devil offers today.  Eve, being perfect, must have been a vision to behold. Eve was made primarily for love. Pure intimacy reigned in true freedom in the Garden of Eden.

The restoration of the Feast of Tabernacles historically has had an intimate component.  Down through the ages, when God’s people came back into alignment with Him, they also tended to re-integrate with their souls and spirits. Thus, their intimate nature, which they have denied for so long, also comes back into alignment with His Holy Spirit. This in turn allows them to express intimacy in ways that God originally intended, and fulfills the longing of their souls in a pure and holy way.

There will always be Pharisees

Unfortunately, those who disparage such moves of God’s Spirit incorrectly label these forerunners as immoral and hedonistic.  They cannot understand that these people, who are once again becoming one with God, are simply experiencing intimacy as God originally intended it.  Seeing such a degree of freedom in human intimacy, within a Christian context, causes many to assume that it must be of the Devil.  I wish we had writings from such groups to compare to what the Holy Spirit is revealing today. Perhaps a thread of revelation in this area, extending from just after the church was formed in Jerusalem to our present day, would emerge.

It seems odd to me that people freely agree that given the choice between denying Christ and death one should, however difficult, choose martyrdom.  Yet, when the Holy Spirit goads them to do something as natural as holding another human being of the opposite sex, they resist.  If God asks martyrs to sacrifice their very bodies cannot He ask you to hug another human being?

I feel Jesus in your touch

People need human touch.  We all learned to receive love and assurance this way from the time we were infants.  People desire to be held and comforted.   Touch equals love. There are times when those around us are hurting and need something as simple as a hug, yet in many churches this simple form of expression is discouraged or even forbidden.  Yet, does not even Paul say to greet one another with a “holy kiss?”

To the pure all things are pure.  If you are motivated by the Holy Spirit, hugging someone, even of the opposite gender, is by definition also pure.  Therefore, if the Holy Spirit in you desires to show intimacy towards a person there is nothing inappropriate in the action.  This is the basic principle that should govern all intimate interactions between Christians, regardless of marital status.  If people actually “walk in the spirit”,  the body of Christ will flourish in holy love with every need met as the Spirit leads.

Oh no! Where are your fig leaves?

Many church leaders fear human intimacy. From experience, pastors know that many people are motivated by selfish desires.  For instance, many pastors restrict hugging (if it is allowed at all) to a friendly side hug. An embrace must be of short duration because some in the past have used this freedom for inappropriate behavior.  Therefore, the sin of a few restricts the freedom of many.  Consequently, many lack the physical reassurance that they came to expect and rely upon as children.

For example, many single women in our churches faithfully serve God year after year.  Married women consider single women something of a pariah. Married women keep single women under strict observation and gossip about them.   At all costs, single females must not stray into inappropriate behavior with bachelors or married men.  Married women become the intimacy police while they go home to their spouses.

People have real needs

What about single people’s needs for intimacy?  Is God not sympathetic to a woman’s or man’s desires for closeness and affection?  If there are no suitable single men in the church are a single woman’s needs to remain unfulfilled indefinitely? Through lack of opportunity are we forcing people to be nuns and priests?  Under our present system of rules and regulations single women cannot engage in male friendships unless  under strictly controlled conditions. Men can not be around single females unless done properly too.  Greet one another with a holy kiss except if you are single.

Such “Holy Cows” abound in Christianity. However, these are the specific areas where people are most in need.  Let the Holy Spirit lead us into His understanding  and stop listening to our natural minds.

Looks can be deceiving

We have all focused too long on what is outwardly holy rather than what is inwardly pure.  We have judged too many by a set of doctrines that have, as their origin, a skewed view of intimacy. A legalistic and fearful church condemns others for merely being human.  As the saying goes, “Looks can be deceiving”. Don’t judge the flesh by the flesh but rather allow God to illuminate others through the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit says it is good then trust His decision.  Remember, Pharisees look outwardly pure but Jesus Himself said they were full of all unseemliness.

Back to the Garden

In conclusion, those who love and serve God will soon begin to remove their fig leaves. Mankind will stand before their Father as originally intended.  Shame will begin to leave us as we yield to His Holy Spirit.  Rather than using our bodies to reach for the forbidden fruit we will lay hold of the tree of life.  Our actions line up with God as we begin to walk in the Spirit, thus regaining our innocence.

God meeting our needs through the Body of Christ

The move of Tabernacles will have many and varied consequences which may confound those who do not walk in the Spirit.  Christ meets, through the leading of the Spirit, many of the desires which we thought were sin.  The boundaries which generations of well meaning (yet misguided) leaders mandated simply melt away. No one lacks because the body of Christ supplies what each member needs. What the world judges as inappropriate will, when led by the Spirit, become holy.  Our deepest desires, though now strenuously hidden, are fulfilled by God as He flows through us.

No Longer Slave by Jonathan and Melissa Helser