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Do Christians Make Better Lovers?
Some thoughts for Valentine's Day, or any day

I attended a church service recently in which the preacher made a surprising claim. One result of his sermon might be, he suggested, that members of the congregation would become better lovers. No, he was not making that claim in jest. Since that is probably the last result one might think about when contemplating going to church on a Sunday morning, however, the preacher's claim merits some further thought, not only on Valentine's Day, but any day.

Consider this. One of the words that comes closest to defining the nature of God is love. Many Christians will tell you flat out: God is love. Well, if that's the case then it seems only logical that those who know God know something about love ... indeed have access to the very source of love insofar as they have a relationship to God. Still, many will find that logic difficult to grasp, for there is such a strong distinction in popular culture between spirituality and sexuality, and the love that ties a community of faith together is understood to be qualitatively different than the love that ties husband and wife together, not to mention the passion that is shared by two people who are "in love." Further, religious leaders seem preoccupied with manifestations of love that they disapprove of, while spending all too little time discussing the joy, beauty, and, yes, the spirituality of love making. For these reasons the good news contained at the very heart and center of our faith is lost.

Popular impressions aside, there is strong biblical warrant for the view that genuine faith can contribute to satisfaction and fulfillment in one's love life. Consider the creation story in the opening chapters of Genesis. Note the crucial verses in chapter 1 (27-28): "God created humanity in the image of God, male and female, God created them. And God blessed them and said: 'Be fruitful and multiply!'"

There are two aspects of this passage that bear closer scrutiny. First, humanity is created in the image of God as male and female. Our gender differences and our sexuality are right there from the get go, and in some deep way our sexuality flows from our being created "in the image of God." Second, one notices the very first commandment that God gives Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply." Make love! Multiply! There is nothing here about caution or restraint. There are no words of warning. The Bible states it clearly and explicitly: we are created as sexually active beings. "And God saw everything that was made, and behold, it was very good." There could be no stronger endorsement of human sexuality than this, and it is contained in the very first chapter of the very first book in the Holy Bible. 

To be sure, the complications and problems that arise in human sexual relations are well documented in later passages of Scripture, but the essentially positive view of sexuality communicated in the opening verses of the Bible is never contradicted. In wrestling with the problems associated with sexual behavior, biblical writers sometimes did come off as sounding negative about sex itself. This is especially true, for example, of the letters of St. Paul. The reasons for this are too complex to be addressed here, and even Paul is more positive on this point than is generally understood.

But Paul aside, the words of Jesus about love provide a more specific reason to conclude that Christians, in fact, have sufficient motivation to be better lovers. Note what Jesus had to say about love: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.." Loving God and loving another human being are thus equal in importance and in kind.

It strikes me that this double love commandment lays the groundwork for a renewed understand of what it takes to be the very best lover you can be. The starting point for all Christian ethics is the profound sense of self worth that flows out of an awareness that one is, in fact, a child of God, reflecting the goodness of God in one's own nature. Ideally, a Christian moves about in the world fully aware of being loved by God, and empowered by God to enter into a loving relationship with others. 

In the act of making love, nothing leads to satisfaction more reliably than the conscious effort to satisfy one's partner. Hence, the secret of being a better lover can be condensed into a single phrase, spoken by Jesus Christ himself: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Further, when a person of faith enters into such a mutually satisfying relationship with another human being, giving and receiving love, in the manner suggested by Jesus, then one also becomes aware that in the depths of one's love for another person one feels closest to the God of love.

So it should not seem strange or unusual at all to suggest that Christians make better lovers. Rather it is both tragic and surprising that this is not commonly understood. For if it were, you can safely bet that our churches would be packed to overflowing and our faith revitalized well nigh over night! Happy Valentine!

For further reading: The Paradox of Valentine's Day

For more on the relationship between sexuality and spirituality


Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.