A Working Document for Study and Dialogue

HUMAN SEXUALITY
in the
CHRISTIAN LIFE
 
 

Faith and Life Press
Newton, Kansas
Mennonite Publishing House
Scottdale, Pennsylvania


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Human Sexuality in the Christian Life
Copyright © 1985 by Faith and Life Press and the Mennonite Publishing House.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Number 85-81607

BIBLE TEXTS: The following abbreviations are used in the following chapters to identify certain Bible references: KJV, King James Version; AV, Authorized Version; NEB, New English Bible; NIV, New International Version; RSV, Revised Standard Version; TEV, Today's English Version; JB, Jerusalem Bible.

This report was composed on a Kaypro II personal computer using Perfect Writer and its Document Design for word processing and for the development of tables and indexes. Reproduction copy was prepared on a Transtar 130 printer.

0.1 FOREWORD  [go to Top]  [go to Table of Contents]

This study on sexuality was mandated by the General Conference Mennonite Church Triennial Sessions in 1980 and by the Mennonite Church General Assembly in 1981.

We commend this excellent study to the General Conference Mennonite congregations for their use in preparing for their triennial sessions in July 1986.

At Ames, Iowa, in August 1985, the Mennonite Church General Assembly took this action: "That the document Human Sexuality in the Christian Life be accepted as a working document for study and dialogue and that this study involve congregations in the process of biblical interpretation and application for the coming two years...." As a working document, it has not been developed as a position statement. It is rather a study to help the church reflect on the issues raised, the biblical material, and the Christian's Spirit-guided response.

The committee has worked hard during the past four years. We owe them special thanks for the excellent material produced and the fine example set for us.

We know that it will take effort on the part of congregations to work through this material. If we do this, we will benefit more than we realize because we face problems and issues regarding a healthy understanding and appropriate expression of our sexuality which is consistent with the Bible. Therefore, we urge that this study guide be used seriously in its totality.
 
WAYNE NORTH
VERN PREHEIM
Executive Secretary
General Secretary
Mennonite Church
General Conference Mennonite Church
3 September 1985

  [go to Top]  [go to Table of Contents]


Table of Contents

1 FOREWORD 3

2 PREFACE 11

2.1 Our way of working 12
2.2 How to begin your study 12
2.3 Begin with the Bible 13
2.4 Sharing your counsel 14
Chapter 1 SEXUALITY IN THE BIBLE 16
1.1 Basic Insights from Genesis 17
      1.1.1 Linked to earth and God 17
      1.1.2 Beings of unity 18
      1.1.3 A one-flesh union 19
      1.1.4 Life at its best in God 19
      1.1.5 For study and discussion 21
1.2 The Rest of the Old Testament 21
      1.2.1 Standards for conduct 24
      1.2.2 For study and discussion 25
1.3 Sexuality in Judaism 25
      1.3.1 For study and discussion 26
1.4 New Light and Life from Jesus 26
      1.4.1 Tempted in every way 27
      1.4.2 Sin in heart, not body 27
      1.4.3 Pleasures of the body 28
      1.4.4 Purity taken for granted 28
      1.4.5 For study and discussion 29
1.5 Paul's View of the Body 29
      1.5.1 For study and discussion 30
1.6 New Testament Guidelines 31
      1.6.1 Sex and personhood 31
      1.6.2 Two loves in one word 31
      1.6.3 Coitus and covenant 32
      1.6.4 Hazards of no covenant 33
      1.6.5 Newness in the kingdom 34
      1.6.6 For study and discussion 35
1.7 Freedom and Forgiveness 35
Chapter 2 SEXUAL EXPRESSIONS 37
2.1 Across the Life Cycle 37
      2.1.1 Sexual even before birth 38
      2.1.2 Sexuality in childhood 39
      2.1.3 Turbulence in teen years 40
      2.1.4 Young adult commitments 41
      2.1.5 Middle years and change 42
      2.1.6 Aging and later years 44
      2.1.7 For study and discussion 45
2.2 Femaleness and Maleness 46
      2.2.1 Words to name our nature 46
      2.2.2 Beings male and female 47
      2.2.3 Jesus and a new day 48
      2.2.4 Women and men as equal 49
      2.2.5 Traditional stereotypes 50
      2.2.6 Pressures to conform 51
      2.2.7 Freedom for human gifts 53
      2.2.8 For study and discussion 54
2.3 Intimacy 54
      2.3.1 The meaning of intimacy 55
      2.3.2 What intimacy demands 56
      2.3.3 Who should be intimate? 56
      2.3.4 Men and intimacy 57
      2.3.5 Intimacy of the spirit 57
      2.3.6 Our real need 58
      2.3.7 For study and discussion 58
2.4 Singleness 59
      2.4.1 Many kinds of singleness 59
           2.4.1.1 Entry to singleness 60
           2.4.1.2 Asserting control 61
           2.4.1.3 Single life honored 62
           2.4.1.4 Vocation for Paul 63
           2.4.1.5 Great new creation 64
           2.4.1.6 For discussion 65
      2.4.2 Celibacy--a gift 66
           2.4.2.1 Celibacy's story 67
           2.4.2.2 Reform for monks 67
           2.4.2.3 A future to give 69
           2.4.2.4 Living the ideal 71
           2.4.2.5 Biblical concerns 74
           2.4.2.6 For discussion 76
       2.4.3 Like couples engaged 76
           2.4.3.1 Sexual harmony 77
           2.4.3.2 choosing a style 78
       2.4.4 Affirming singleness 78
       2.4.5 For study and discussion 79
2.5 Marriage 80
       2.5.1 Forceful/fragile vows 81
       2.5.2 Marriage in man's world 82
       2.5.3 Marriage as covenant 84
       2.5.4 Penalty for fornication 85
       2.5.5 Marriage--a divine gift 85
       2.5.6 Sex within the marriage 86
       2.5.7 Marriage--a metaphor 88
       2.5.8 Servants of each other 90
       2.5.9 Covenant and contract 93
       2.5.10 The risks of intimacy 95
       2.5.11 Words for love talk 96
       2.5.12 Sex and faithfulness 98
       2.5.13 God's saving presence 99
       2.5.14 Study and discussion 99
2.6 Fertility and Infertility 100
       2.6.1 For family planning 100
       2.6.2 Artificial insemination 101
            2.6.2.1 Questions to ask 102
            2.6.2.2 For discussion 103
2.7 Homosexuality 104
       2.7.1 No agreement on roots 105
       2.7.2 A possibility of change? 105
       2.7.3 Myths born of fear 106
       2.7.4 Dialogue about people 107
            2.7.4.1 Leviticus ban 108
            2.7.4.2 Linked to idolatry 169
            2.7.4.3 An end to all bias 113
       2.7.5 Applied to sexual life 114
            2.7.5.1 Change of impulses 115
            2.7.5.2 Abstinence support 116
            2.7.5.3 Covenant minority 116
            2.7.5.4 Prayerful study 116
       2.7.6 Another way to explore 117
       2.7.7 Try mutual caring 117
       2.7.8 What can we do? 118
       2.7.9 Life in community 119
       2.7.10 Study and discussion 120
2.8 Masturbation 121
       2.8.1 For study and discussion 122
2.9 Other Sexual Expressions 123
       2.9.1 Improper object choices 124
       2.9.2 Deviation in sexual aim 125
       2.9.3 Improper sexual desire 125
       2.9.4 Measuring expressions 126
       2.9.5 For study and discussion 128
2.10 Exploitation 128
       2.10.1 Big exploit the little 129
       2.10.2 Signs of incest 130
       2.10.3 Healing for the family 132
       2.10.4 The violence of rape 134
       2.10.5 Healing for victims 135
       2.10.6 Degraded by pornography 137
       2.10.7 Pornography's imprint 139
       2.10.8 Response to pornography 140
       2.10.9 Sexual harassment 141
       2.10.10 Buying and selling sex 142
       2.10.11 Study and discussion 142
Chapter 3 ETHICAL DECISION MAKING AND CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE
3.1 Applying Personal Resources 143
        3.1.1 Use our intellects 143
        3.1.2 Moral/spiritual sector 144
3.2 Faith Community Resources 145
        3.2.1 Sexuality as a gift 146
        3.2.2 Health and wholeness 146
        3.2.3 Sexuality is us 147
        3.2.4 Sexual all the time 147
        3.2.5 Equality of the sexes 148
        3.2.6 Sound sex education 148
        3.2.7 Celebrate the gift 149
3.3 On to the Search for Truth 149
        3.3.1 For study and discussion 151
Appendix A FOR FURTHER STUDY 152
A.1 Introductory Reading 152
A.2 Bible and Theology 154
A.3 Human Sexuality 154
A.4 Maleness/Femaleness 155
A.5 Intimacy 155
A.6 Singleness 156
A.7 Marriage 156
A.8 Homosexuality 157
A.9 Persons with Disabilities 158
A.10 Exploitation 159
A.11 Sex Education 159
Indexes
Subject Index 160
Index of Biblical References 164