You Can Live Without Sex, but You Can’t Live Without Intimacy
In the modern age, we are sex saturated. God calls Christians to be in the world but not of the world, but without careful examination and the renewing of our minds, we will ingest falsehoods about sex by default. Some of the most pervasive lies are that sex is necessary for true fulfillment and that we can’t experience intimacy apart from sexual expression. For brothers and sisters in circumstances like unwanted singleness, divorce, or widowhood, this issue is practical; it’s vital that Christians share God’s vision for the unmarried life.
Sex vs. Intimacy: Defined
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines intimacy as “marked by warm friendship developed through long association; suggesting informal warmth or privacy.” A secondary definition states, “engaged in, involving or marked by sex or sexual relations.” The closeness and intimacy that sex can cultivate was God’s idea (Gen. 2:24–25). However, intimacy does not depend on sex. True intimacy can exist in godly friendships; sex and intimacy are not identical.
Even within the church, sex can be spoken of as a peak life experience or a prize for the faithful. It can be explicitly taught or merely implied that marriage is the answer to loneliness and longings for intimacy. To be sure, God gives the gift of marriage to many, in part, as a grace in this life for those who “burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9) and desire sexual intimacy. Considering God’s high calling of faithfulness to one’s spouse as the only God-honoring context for sexual expression, a significant question emerges: Can you have intimacy without sexual expression? What are the implications for singles, widows, and those who will never marry?
What Are You Really Seeking?
When men and women pursue sex outside God’s design, it’s rarely just about sex. We bring our whole selves to everything we do—body, mind, and spirit. Have you ever considered that your longings for sexual expression may be masking your longings for a much more profound intimacy—one only found in God? Have multiple partners, endless pornography pursuits, and the emptiness of solo sex left you feeling numb and empty?
What if the remedy for your longings is not to quell them but to long for something much more extravagant?
What if the remedy for your longings is not to quell them but to long for something much more extravagant? Unmarried Christian, your sexuality points to a greater reality about God’s love for his church. Yes, we’re called to obedience. But don’t settle by living in the “don’ts” of your sexuality as if God has not provided abundantly more than we can imagine. God designed your longings so he can satisfy them—not always with what you desire, but with what he, as the lover of your soul, provides.
The Intimacy That’s Yours in Christ
Many books and sermons about singleness neglect God’s bold and glorious vision for his people, instead majoring on the “don’ts:” Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t cross boundaries. Don’t covet. Don’t lust. Don’t waste your single years selfishly. Consider these two passages where Jesus speaks of his intimate heart of love toward his people. If you’re in Christ, these words are for you!
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:11–12)
Jesus does not say he always gives the gifts we desire. He gives something far better—his Holy Spirit! If you’re in a hard battle in singleness or feel overlooked, you may be thinking, Come on! You mean to tell me that Jesus is supposed to fulfill my longings? I still sleep alone every night. Jesus simply is not real to me in this area of my life. Yet in all the ways you suffer, even in unwanted singleness, loneliness, and temptation, Jesus is compassionate and tender toward you. The lie is that the life, joy, and peace you long for can be found outside God’s design and ultimately outside God himself.
Unbelief is a shape-shifting sin struggle. It tends to hide within other sins and often hides in plain sight.
Psalm 16:4a wisely reminds us that “the sorrows of those who run after other gods will only increase.” This passage puts a sincere question before you today: Do you believe in the good heart of your Father toward you, his beloved child? Unbelief is a shape-shifting sin struggle. It tends to hide within other sins and often hides in plain sight.
If your relational pain, temptation, and disappointment has caused your heart to turn away from God, he invites you today to run to him with your deepest longings, fears, and pain. Psalm 62:8 exhorts us: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (my emphasis).
Relational Intimacy with God
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
Jesus expressly says that he desires to be with his people to show us his glory! Don’t miss the profound riches in these words of Christ. The Holy Lord of all, the God of the universe, desires that you abide with him for all eternity. Believer, his heart is inclined toward you forever, desiring fellowship and oneness with you as his beloved. We see the beautiful image of God’s love in the covenant intimacy of marriage, but it’s only that—an image, a dim reflection. Don’t be deceived. Single Christians are, by no means, missing out on the main thing—God himself!
Both married and single brothers and sisters must look to the ultimate fulfillment of their longings not in the blessings of this life but in heaven (1 Peter 1:13), where Christ is.
Imagine you’re on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. You see a sign that says, “Grand Canyon National Park, 14 miles,” and you pull over. You jump out of your car and take photos of the sign, sitting at its base, marveling. Foolish, right? This is precisely what happens when we focus our hearts and relational pursuits on good gifts apart from God. Marriage, and the relational intimacy it provides, are merely a signpost. Both married and single brothers and sisters must look to the ultimate fulfillment of their longings not in the blessings of this life but in heaven (1 Peter 1:13), where Christ is.
Samuel Rutherford said, “Our little inch of time suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” Are you longing for home? Me, too. Look to Christ, in whom all the deepest treasures of intimacy, love, and rest are found.