Marriage in Honor - Dr. W.G. de Vries
|Dr. W.G. de Vries (1926-2006) wasa minister in the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.He received his doctorate from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches in Kampen.He was also editor of Petahja, a monthly publication for the Reformed Men's Societies in the Netherlands.|
Explanations of the Song of Solomon are many, but that should not worry us. We can be sure that the Holy Spirit inspired it. It comes to us as the song of a bridegroom and bride, who are the "king" and "queen" of the feast. We hear their voices alternately in the Song.
It is impossible to discuss the entire Song of Solomon here. We will deal with some typical moments showing marriage created and restored by God. Christ's redemption of marriage is central in the Song. According to Christ's own Word, we should search the Scriptures because they testify of Him. Discussing the Song of Solomon is appropriate here because it deals with marriage in the light of Christ.
In the Song, as at most weddings, memories are recalled. In chapter 8:5 the bridegroom recalls the first encounter. He says: "I saw my bride for the first time when she lay sleeping under the apple tree by her parents' home. Then I woke her up." That is a cheerful memory. Then the bride speaks: "Yes, that is when our love began. Let it remain that way: Set me as a seal upon thine heart." A signet ring, worn about his neck or on his finger, was the most personal possession a man in the Middle East had. The bride wants to be as inseparably joined to her husband as his signet ring. These beautiful words follow: "For love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the flood drown it" (8:6,7).
No one can ultimately resist the grave; love is just that irresistibly strong. From death and the grave imagination rises up as warm, darting flames. Her flames are flames of fire. We also speak of burning love or the flame of love. Our way of speaking about love is vastly different from the Scriptures'. The Hebrew poet says: "The very flame of the LORD" (NASB) or "A most vehement flame." Many waters cannot quench this love.
The vehement flame of the Lord is tremendously strong. just think of Efljah on Mount Carmel. Water had been carried laboriously, bucket after bucket, to fill the trenches around the altar he had erected. The altar was drenched. Yet the blaze of fire from heaven licked up the water and struck the offering aflame. Such are the vehement flames of the Lord!
This figure of speech is applied to true marital love. We might say: "Love is a flame of passion; it is earthy, natural." God says: "Genuine love is a vehement flame of the Lord; it comes from above and is wrought by Me."
The love of a couple who do not fear the Lord is quenchable, sometimes quickly quenchable. When a young husband and wife do not love each other "in the Lord," their love may be an easily extinguished "natural" flame. When you are young and looking for a spouse, love can kindle quickly and fiercely. If it is not supported by faithfulness to the Lord and to each other, the flame sputters out after only a few years of marriage. Almost daily we see such flames dying.
When the flame of true love is extinguished, marriage failure, divorce, and adultery occur. To many people, after a hopeful start and great expectations, marriage becomes an unbearable burden. The first passion of youth disappears,
and the flame dies. When the beauty of youth withers, love withers with it, for this love is based on outward things. Beauty fades and charms vanish. Singers may warble songs about everlasting love and eternal faithfulness despite the bitter reality of broken engagements, unsuccessful marriages, and unfaithfulness. Meanwhile, many couples live side by side, quietly, secretly cold to one another.
Only those who truly love the Lord can truly love a husband or a wife. Adam first recognized his fellowman-flesh of my flesh"-in the woman whom the Lord gave him, and then he saw her as his wife. So should the love be between husband and wife: the bridegroom first addresses his bride as "sister" and thereafter as his "bride" (4:9).
Who can understand the emotions of the human heart? Why does one fall in love with a particular person? Is it a glance, a gesture, a tone of voice or conversation? If a proper love is kindled, we receive that person not only as husband or wife but as brother or sister. When a brotherly/sisterly love is not present, marital love holds no promise of lasting. How many have experienced this too late?
Indeed, the first desire within every marriage is to possess each other more personally. In a sound marriage, the partners give of themselves completely. They belong to each other. The Song of Solomon expresses this in the beautiful imagery of the vineyard.
Actually, two vineyards are mentioned. One was in Baalhamon, a crown domain in the North (8:11). The wealthy King Solomon had a large staff to maintain this vineyard, to hoe the paths, prune the branches, pick the grapes and chase away the foxes.
Now the bridegroom says: "I also have a vineyard." Does this not sound as if he is boasting, comparing his possession to the King's? What does he actually mean?
In 1:5, 6 the bride says: ". . . but mine own vineyard have I not kept." She was suntanned after working outdoors keeping vineyards. Today women desire suntans, but in the ancient East brown skin evidenced humble labor. Distinguished ladies avoided the sun to keep a fair complexion. Here the bride admits: I have had to perform so much hard work and humble labor, that I have not kept my own vineyard." By "vineyard" she means her own life.
The recurring Biblical image of vineyard often points to a woman-married or unmarried-whose life is blossoming before the Lord. Or the image may refer to the life of a man. In 2:15 the bride says: our vineyards are in blossom" (NASB).
We know that when the bridegroom says. "My vineyard, which is mine, is before me," he is speaking of his bride! He compares her to Solomon's vineyard, certain that with all his wealth Solomon is not as rich as he. For Solomon cannot deeply know and possess his wealth. Take his northern vineyard, for instance. Rarely does Solomon go there. Never has he picked a grape or pruned a branch. His servants do that. There are too many intermediaries; his possessions have grown beyond his personal care. Even the proceeds are not entirely his own. Of one thousand pieces of silver his employees receive two hundred.
"But now look at me," says the bridegroom. "My vineyard is before me. 1 actually 'possess' her." In this we hear resounding praise for monogamous marriage -between one man and one woman.
The lives of husband and wife are vineyards blossoming before the Lord. Psalm 128 says: "Blessed is everyone that feareth the LORD . . . Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine . . . I" This special blossoming is the mark of a Godfearing marriage.
Solomon's vineyard will soon fall into the hands of jeroboam and the exile will follow; Solomon's trunk will be cut off. But one day a shoot will spring forth from this stump -the Messiah. Solomon in all his glory was poor, for his kingship still cried out for the coming of Christ.
Christ, too, has His own vineyard. But He is richer than Solomon, for He will never lose His Church. What is more, His Church is His most personal possession; it belongs to Him without intermediaries. Marriage is an image of this intimate unity between Christ and His Church. The light of Christ who reveals the mystery of marriage illuminates the meaning of the Song of Solomon.
Through Christ love stands firm. Love between a husband and wife is a mandate as well as a gift. Love is more difficult thin romance. The Song of Solomon is realistic about the difficulty of loving when it speaks of little foxes "that are ruining the vineyards" (2:15, NASB).
Why are foxes mentioned? The larger and craftier the foxes become, the more seriously they threaten the vineyard. The bride has exclaimed, " . . . our vineyards are in blossom," speaking of love. At the same time she knows that this love can be threatened and even destroyed.
Many dangers-little foxes-threaten a marriage, as routine and boredom begin to take over. Many marriages, started in boundless idealism and fed by romantic fantasy, have come to grief. In marriage we learn to know each other as we really are, for everything is shared: living room and bedroom, garden and kitchen, habits, likes, dislikes, the sweet and the bitter. Conflicts and tensions arise. Acting egotistically, without concern for the -nther partner, puts the marriage in jeopardy. One must deal with those innumerable "little foxes" that threaten a marriage; one must catch them.
The struggle to keep the marriage sound begins the day after the wedding. The Song of Solomon says to both partners in marriage: if you are not a vineyard before God, then you are not a vineyard for each other either. If you do not want to bear fruit before God, then you also become unfruitful for each other. "Catch the foxes ... that are ruining the vineyard" (NASB). One partner cannot blame the other, for a sound marriage is a joint task. And without Christ, even the best of intentions cannot guarantee a good marriage.
In 4:16 we read the bridegroom's call, "Awake, 0 north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." The bride replies: " . . . blow upon my garden . . ." Such is her life as wife to her husband. In order to be fragrant in love and faithfulness, both north and south winds must blow, the north wind to bring a pleasant coolness and the south for warmth. It is God who directs those winds.
If a husband and wife sincerely wish to bear fruit for each other, they must acknowledge their mutual dependence upon God. Together they must confess, "Our help is in the name of the Lord." In the context of this two-become-one, Paul later writes: 'The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (I Cor. 7:4). Since we can only be vineyards for each other because Christ has made us branches of His own vineyard, we must marry "in the Lord." We shall return to this point.
Man's life may be divided into three periods: the growth period lasts from birth to about twenty-five years; the second period, from twentyfive to fifty, is known as the prime of life; and after fifty, the symptoms of the period of decline appear.
The apostle Paul spoke of life's phases: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11). Over the centuries, the age for laying aside childish things has changed considerably. Apparently children of former centuries reached adulthood much earlier than they do today. Children dressed as miniature adults reflect this fact. J.H. van den Berg speaks of "an almost innumerable multitude of early maturing children; children who at a very early age were found to be ready for studying and who successfully handled advanced adult material. "
Comments from former centuries about the period between childhood and adulthood are hard to find. The whole period of puberty is not mentioned. Children lived so closely to adults that their transition to adulthood was simple and matter-of-fact.
Today's children become adults much later than their ancestors did. One proof of this lies in the difference between contemporary textbooks-at all levels of education-and those used fifty years ago. Professors lament the simplemindedness of their students. Education is becoming childish; it must cater to immaturity.
Children are not encouraged to mature; rather, they are being more completely restricted to their own small world. In the past, young children were involved in the world of labor. With his grown-up sons, a father practiced his trade in and around the house, within sight and sound of his growing children. As they grew, the children were allowed to help according to their ability.
Today, however, a father's occupation has become practically invisible. In the morning he leaves for office or factory. For the child, not only the dangerous machines of the factory, but also the speeding traffic on the highways is a strange, grown-up world. For his own safety, the child must be shut up in fenced playgrounds.
Since our technical, motorized and ever more mechanized world pushes children into their own world, they remain children longer. The problems of puberty are directly connected to this delayed maturation. Often the gulf between childhood and adulthood is so wide that crossing it becomes hazardous. Neuroses, sexual problems, and the difficulty of bringing up children are the results of this gulf.
Puberty begins for girls at eleven years of age and at thirteen for boys. Although physical maturation will then continue normally, much can impede spiritual maturity.
Physical maturation brings with it all sorts of new emotions, and children are often troubled by the unknown. A parental talk about the "facts of life" might allay their fear, but such talks are not always easy. Reluctance and embarrassment may arise between parents and children which would not be present in discussions with peers or other, adult friends.
If parents are to inform their children about this serious subject, they should do so soberly. It is astonishing to read the foolish answers parents give to questions their children ask about sexual matters. When information concerning sexual life has been scrupulously hidden from growing children, they are often unable to cope with the situation when they reach puberty. The Bible is not silent about these matters; believing parents will be able to give their children sexual guidance in relation to the children's ability to understand.
Psychology has lectured much about the "vulnerable soul of the child." It suggests that in order to handle his child correctly, a parent should read through manual after manual and consult one with every difficulty.
The well-known psychiatrist, J.H. van den Berg, has this to say: "How unfortunate is the child whose parents have so much 'understanding' of puberty that they do not give the child sufficient opportunity to use them as a starting point towards the desired adulthood. The complaint of the adolescent that his parents, especially his parents, do not understand him, proves that the parents should listen to him in the right way, that is, as parents, and not as quasipedagogues."
The difficulty with maturing youth is that although they become sexually mature, in our complicated society it is often a long time before they can marry. During that period it is important that adolescents are helped and cared for at home. This is difficult when they express complaints and grievances about parents who do not "understand" them. Like young birds who will shortly leave the nest for good, they too must be able to use that nest as a launching pad in their first attempts at flying.
It is at this time that adolescents have their heroes and hero-worship. They need someone with whom they can identify. The walls of their rooms are covered with pictures of their celebrities. Parents need not take this too seriously as long as certain limits are heeded.
An awakening eroticism occurs at this time. We must distinguish, however, between eroticism and sexuality. Eroticism refers to an admiration for the opposite sex and desire for companionship whereas sexuality refers to the seeking of direct bodily contact.
Usually the phase of eroticism comes first, followed by that of sexuality. Experts point out that the erotic phase has become considerably shorter than in the past. Physical maturation occurs much earlier than spiritual maturation, and, of course, special problems and tensions result. Early sexual interest is blamed on the influence of movies, television, advertising, and a greater openness concerning sex.
Consciously or unconsciously, these tensions are expressed by contrary, rude, and daring actions. Beneath them lie insecurity and the inability to find one's niche in life. An adolescent tends to view all things rather awkwardly, including his or her own physique.
Family life is very important for the maturing child. Are the parents interested in what their children are doing? Do they ignore them spiritually? If father and mother are only interested in their own activities, their children will look for their pleasures elsewhere. Then they may form groups or gangs, find their own bars and end up making the streets unsafe.
Parents must help their children during this period. This is not always done by splitting hairs, however. Parents should not overreact when their child plops into a chair indifferently and acts rudely. Understanding is vital to the relationship.
Someone once wrote: "Where children cannot fall back on a harmonious family structure or on a spiritual background, they will reach out to unripe forms of 'love' which are offered in abundance, while they are not yet capable of bearing the responsibility for them. " Young people are needy because of spiritual neglect in the home; they do not need sex.
Wholesome family life can never be too highly valued. just as the unborn child needs the protection of the mother's body, so the growing child needs the protection of his family, the training of his parents and the association with brothers and sisters.
Sexual maturation also takes place within the family. Experts differ as to when sexuality actually begins. Some say it starts before birth while others place it much later. In any case, the command of Genesis 1 -"Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" - teaches us that in the state of perfection, sexuality belonged to all "that was good." Young people must hear and understand this. Sexuality should not be denigrated or treated as shameful.
It can be said that with the fall, shame entered man's life, not because of sexuality as such but rather because of the sin which entered this aspect of man's activities as well as others. All of man's life since the fall has been crippled.
This crippling effect was already apparent when they knew that they were naked" (Gen. 3:7). Genesis 2:25 says: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." But after the fall, Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made aprons to cover themselves. They felt ashamed before each other. God acknowledged the validity of this sense of shame when He made clothes for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21).
Because the personal relationship between a husband and wife is most intense in sexual relations, the break with God is more evident in the physical-sexual sphere than in any other, After the fall, Adam and Eve first experienced their guilt toward God in their changed attitude towards each other. Shame arose in the man before his lawful wife and in the woman before her lawful husband. The Lord Himself has sanctioned this sense of shame by giving them clothes.
Since the Lord has given shame as a safeguard, young people may not shamelessly suppress it. In bringing up their children, parents must remember and foster this sense of shame. It shouldn't be dismissed as nonsense or disqualified as a physical defect. On the contrary, parents must ensure that it develops properly.
Sexuality itself develops in an almost completely biological manner through the development of the gonads, testes and ovaries. From the tenth year on, these organs suddenly develop much more quickly than the other organs of the body. A sense of shame, however, does not develop naturally. It must be actively nurtured by parents and other educators. To begin to foster this sense of shame when children are becoming sexually mature is to begin too late.
Whoever permits his children to run around completely naked in the garden or at the beach has already made the wrong beginning. It is a sign of the times that at certain camping areas parents have to be requested over the publicaddress system not to allow their children to run around unclothed. It may also be unhealthy to allow adolescents to shower together in gymnasium facilities. This may be in conflict with the sense of shame God has given as a safeguard.
At the same time, children should not get the impression that anything sexual is dirty. Parents must teach them that because sexuality concerns utmost intimacy, it is not to be exhibited freely. Do we not feel embarrassed if someone, in the presence of a group of people, openly reveals his most intimate feelings-sexual or otherwise. Even spiritual exhibitionism provokes intuitive revulsion in us. We should not allow shamelessness in either spiritual or physical matters.
As children mature sexually, a certain amount of "sexual curiosity" arises. Seldom is such curiosity completely pure. The well-known questions about birth, and about the difference between boys and girls are asked. Although these questions are often quite innocent when asked by young children, in older children they are usually accompanied by questionable fantasy.
Moreover, adolescents often ask their father or mother questions which have already been answered by their friends on the street. Parents must not let the wool be pulled over their eyes. They must patiently and carefully find out what lies behind such questions and answer their children according to their ability to comprehend.
Nowadays good sexual instruction is stressed. But it is quite possible that a child does not ask for instruction because he does not feel the need for it. In that case, leave him uninformed. There need be no objection if an uninformed girl is courted or if a young man is in love, even though the first principles of sexual instruction are unknown to him.
Many people plead for greater openness. From high school down to elementary school, teachers strive to give young people a good sexual education. Movies, magazines, and television also contribute their share. However, it is doubtful whether their boisterously hailed "openness" will bring any improvement.
It is all too deliberate. Some plead for instruction at eleven or twelve years of age or even earlier, arguing that because such children have not yet reached the age of puberty and hence are not yet emotionally involved, they can approach sexual instruction with innocent curiosity and admiration. It is especially difficult for teachers to talk with children who have reached puberty, and who, having lost their innocence, blush with embarrassment when sex is discussed.
But children of eleven or twelve are not so innocent. Listen to their conversation sometime. It could be that educators and parents look silly to children when they deliberately speak about sexual matters. It even seems somewhat unnatural when a parent has to take his child aside for a while to give him sexual instruction.
Naturally, mothers should give their daughters timely information about menstruation, but it does not always have to be accompanied by technical details. Likewise, sexually maturing boys must know that the vague urge they experience which sometimes leads to ejaculations is created by God to lead to marriage. They must be told that this is not cause for shame and that they will learn to use it properly later. Again, there is no need for detailed, technical instruction.
It has been said that it is difficult for parents to find the right words. For example, which term should be used: sexual organ, penis-or something else? This problem illustrates the difficulty underlying the discussion of intimate things. A person does not easily speak about them, not even with his own children.
While reading the technical description many elementary school pupils are given about "cells," "seed," and "eggs," the question arises: Is this really necessary? Is this not one area that children, after a brief instruction by their parents, learn to discover in a more natural way as they grow up? Should this not unfold itself as part of the development toward adulthood?
When a child asks a question concerning sexuality, it is part of his natural curiosity about the world. He asks hundreds of questions. Parents should neither become secretive nor delve more deeply into a question about sexuality than into any other question.
It should be reiterated that sexual nurturing cannot be separated from the nurture of the whole child. All nurturing is sexual because children are reared from birth as boys and girls to be men and women.
Children who grow up in a happy, harmonious family unobtrusively and often incidentally receive the best sexual education. Warm, loving family life is the greatest contribution parents can make to the future happiness of their children. This is sexual instruction at its best!
In an important sense, sexual instruction in schools and on television comes too late. It should be woven like a thread through a child's entire upbringing. It is not something that can be accomplished quickly on a rainy afternoon. Meaningful instruction cannot be given to a class of twenty or thirty students who have forty to sixty different parents. From a medical point of view it has been rightly said: "A child finds it strange if a teacher tells him how things are at home, or how he grew inside a mommy who herself remains silent about it."
Similar objections can be made more strongly against sexual instruction on television. Its "openness" is often so crude that even many adults switch it off. No parent should allow his children to be exposed to such instruction.
Sexual upbringing, like all upbringing, is primarily the task of parents, a task not accomplished by taking the child "aside" for an hour. Such an artificial, deliberate manner strains the parent-child relationship. A child must be instructed casually, according to the degree of his understanding.
A mother of eleven children once remarked: "It is like washing hands and brushing teeth. You do not take your children "aside" at a certain age to tell them seriously that they must not poke in their noses, and that they must brush their teeth every day. So with sexual matters. Parents speak about it and children understand as much about it as their age allows them. We do not make an issue of it."
One's approach to sexuality influences the rest of life. Boys should not be brought up as girls, nor should girls be brought up as boys.
Parents should not allow their youngsters to become excessively attached to daddy or mommy, lest the attachment become permanent, with homosexual tendencies. Nor should parents caress their older children excessively. An unhealthy self-love in an adolescent may make it difficult for him or her to give love. And giving love is what marriage is all about.
It may he necessary at some point for parents to give their children a book to read and say: "If you have questions about it, come and ask." Here too, a healthy sense of shame must be respected, with the knowledge that in previous centuries too much silence proved to be an unhealthy extreme as well.
This is not to say that people living in the Victorian era-noted for its prudishness- were obsessed with repressing sex. What seems to us an unhealthy repression took place, in fact, in an era when everyone worked hard, received meagre incomes and had little spare time.
Today a reaction to repression leads to increased sexual licentiousness. In some sectors of public life, in certain forms of entertainment, literature, advertising, movies and television, all shame has disappeared. For fear of being prudish, people accept anything, telling themselves that this is reality; they can't do anything about it.
C. S. Lewis, a one-time atheist turned Christian, once wrote: "People try to tell us that sexuality has become a hopeless mess because it has been suppressed. However, it has not been suppressed in the last twenty years. It has been debated day after day, and yet it still is a hopeless mess. If the suppression of it had been the cause of the misery, its liberation would have made everything well. However, that has not happened. I believe it is the other way around. 1 believe that humanity originally suppressed sexuality because it had become such a mess.
Someone might argue this point and say: "But sexuality is not something of which to be ashamed." Unfortunately there is every reason to be ashamed of the state of sexuality today. There is no reason at all to be ashamed of enjoying a good meal. However, if half of mankind made eating the main purpose in life and spent a great deal of time watching, with drooling and smacking lips, film presentations on good food, there would be cause for shame. This is what has happened to sex.
A highly sexualized society surrounds our young people. We must not take lightly the effect of these stimuli on young lives. Even when a person has grown up biologically and sexually, he is not necessarily spiritually mature, nor able to handle his physical maturity.
If a young person does not encounter a single sexual stimulus, a strong sexual urge may not arise, though an unknown restlessness may. According to the neurologist, J. H. van den Berg, a young man can grow up completely asexual until he is past twenty. But this is impossible in our western society, saturated with sexual stimuli. A problem arises when one assumes that maturity accompanies sexual arousal. Many typically western sexual difficulties result from this dilemma.
Another expert assures us: "The sexual stimuli working on the young organism have almost certainly caused an earlier physical maturation." He believes that physical maturation takes place about two and a half years earlier today than it did fifty years ago. It even seems probable to this expert that increased height is also connected to this, although better quality foods contribute as well.
While physical maturation is occurring earlier, spiritual maturation lags behind. The many problems and obstacles on the modern path to adulthood can be blamed for this.
Although physically mature, a young person is rarely able to enter into a responsible marriage. "Student marriages," when they function as an institution for the alleviation of sexual needs, flounder and fail. Of course, there are also responsible student marriages. But the point is, that being a student is not synonymous with being an adult.
Sexual problems are not peculiar to our time and society. Those who know the history of the decline of the Roman Empire know that immorality was especially responsible for its fall. Often the Bible itself points warningly to immorality as a precursor of downfall.
In Colossians 3:5, the apostle Paul speaks of "fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence," in which his readers formerly walked. Of the heathen he says that they "work all uncleanness with greediness" (Eph. 4:19). Speculating on all sorts of unclean passions was even then an enormous source of gain. That old sin which poisoned the pagan world is very much alive today; greediness and uncleanness are still twin henchmen of the devil.
Think of the myriads of books in which adultery is presented as the most natural thing in the world, or is psychologically "explained" and even excused. The satisfying of the sexual urge, regardless of how and where, is portrayed as being as normal as eating.
How much filth is sold under the guise of art today? It is sometimes even awarded a government prize! Unnatural sins are glorified in pocket books openly displayed in every book store. Publishing houses earn fortunes by appealing to unhealthy sexual curiosity. The apostle Paul says about this: "Kill such uncleanness; it must die off through the power of Christ.
A great deal of uncleanness is rampant underneath a "decent" surface. How many high school students don't walk around with contraceptives? A look at some police reports is like standing on the edge of an abyss. Often we know little of the uncleanness that is poisoning our nation.
Our young people must learn to fight this uncleanness. Parents needn't be afraid their children will laugh when they speak to them about their wrong inclinations. After all children are also infected by sin through Adam's fall.
It seems a bit risky to comment about clothing when fashion seems to rule the world. We do not suggest that we have any chance at changing what those who lack Biblical norms do.
We must not forget, though, that our growing girls have much to guard and protect for the sake of Christ. For good reasons are they called "guardians of morality!" Many young girls dress naively, unaware of how their thoughtlessness can arouse members of the opposite sex.
Someone once said that men look at things and at women in order to see beyond the visible. Whatever he sees leads a man to guess farther. Modesty must be expressed in a woman's dress. Yet, although the main purpose of clothing is to cover, clothing should not attempt to hide the difference God made between man and woman.
Clothing can serve to enhance and emphasize the grace of. the body. Our clothes indicate our personality. When one is stripped of his clothes - as in the concentration camps -he feels degraded. To a great extent we are what we wear. Sedate clothing often produces a sedate manner, and frivolous attire may encourage a frivolous state of mind.
Unfortunately women's fashions tend to emphasize the shape of her body, and too many concessions are made to the man who attempts to "see beyond the visible." It is difficult to set fashion guidelines. In past ages, even showing the ankle was considered inadmissible. Much has changed! Rather than a measuring tape, one must use sensitivity. A girl who knows how to attract the attention of men in an easy, coarse manner and who prides herself in her body lowers herself to being "merely female."
Not that a woman must hide her charm and be dully and unfashionably dressed. just as clothes make the man, so too they make the real woman. She will not yield shamelessly to bold glances nor allow her womanliness to be a merely physical phenomenon. She will observe the limits of God's Word concerning what is lovely, pure and healthy.
Rather than subject herself slavishly to the prevailing fashion such a woman will choose her dress conscientiously.
Only a continual study of God's Word will help develop a Christian's sensitivity for dressing. Such sensitivity will help one find a way between what is dull and boring and what is sensational and shameless.
Music can have a strong influence on a person for good or for evil. Why were soldiers sent out to battle amid the sound of trumpets in earlier days? Experts say that such music causes the body to secrete adrenalin which, when absorbed into the bloodstream, increases one's aggressiveness. All ages have known that music affects people. It even accompanied the Spirit of prophecy when Elisha summoned a minstrel. We read in II Kings 3:15: "and it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." David's harp calmed King Saul (I Sam. 16:16).
Music and rhythm are a large part of life. Think of the ecstasy primitive jungle tribes experience as they dance +Go the dull throb of drums. At such times religious and erotic ecstasy are mingled. Likewise, in "civilized western society," certain types of music can arouse and stimulate.. the dark passions of the blood. Such music makes us think the jungle is reviving among us. Passions can be aroused to such a pitch that people smash things in their hysteria, and the police must come and calm them down.
Music is not "neutral." All styles of music -sentimental music, cheerful marching music, ballet music, dance music -do something. Sultry music sung by tremolo voices affects a person's sensuality.
Music is closely related to dancing. Ballets were performed in ancient Greek tragedies and in Roman pantomimes. In the empire's later years, they were prohibited because of their often wanton character. Heathenism lay hidden in such erotic forms of culture; often Venus and gods of love were passionately worshiped in dance.
There is, of course, a great deal of difference between classical ballet and the many forms of modern ballet. Experts predict that the ballet of the future will show the influence of modem dance. Modem dancing intends, above all, to glorify the body. Dancers expose their bodies shamelessly, presenting what is sensual and erotically stimulating.
Modem partner dancing, though not as obviously, also makes a strong appeal to the sexual urge. Music and dancing together cause elementary impulses for movement to degenerate into a game of erotic advances which raise tensions to an irresponsible pitch.
John Calvin remarked that dancing can be an introduction to fornication. An American writer of our time writes: "Not a single man will dare to claim that he is so cold and free of passion that his sexual feelings are not noticeably stimulated by coming in close contact with a woman, while she is under the influence of the dance."
Our aim is to illustrate the sexualization of life; it is particularly evident in music and dancing. Broadcasting networks work hard to bring open sexuality into our homes. Let no one mockingly say that it is only a matter of a little more nudity on the screen. Part of the fatal development of a sexualized society is that more and more stimuli are directed at its people. A radio speaker once answered a young man who wrote that he was not at all bothered by such stimuli, by saying, "Either this young man is not normal or he is lying!'' Was that answer wrong?
Much more than music could be mentioned. Think of the danger of the excessive use of alcohol and its consequences in sexual matters. Think of the shamelessness of swim wear for which fashion ignores the simply functional in order to produce increasingly provocative styles. One must be blind to not see implicit danger in the way many sunbathe on beaches and move about in camp grounds. In all these situations, the sexualizing of life becomes clear.
Is it any wonder that sexual tensions, aroused in so many ways, seek an outlet? It cannot be said that these are primarily tensions originating within us, purely the result of biology. No, our society has become so sexualized that it will hardly allow a child to reach maturity in asexuality. A person of any age is overwhelmed by sexually suggestive advertisernents in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and in kiosks, and by radio and television.At the same time, people are expected to express little or nothing of aroused desire; they must not draw the obvious conclusion and seek sexual contact. For those who want to listen to the Scriptures, there is only one answer to all these sexual stimuli. The Scriptures forbid sexual relations outside of marriage.No one will deny that this creates particular difficulties for growing young people. How must they respond to the stimuli coming their way? In practice, statisticians tell us, they respond with increasing licentiousness. We cannot simply blame the young people, for, as we have seen, the whole of western society contributes greatly to such licentiousness.He who knows what Scripture says about being in the world understands that a Christian must not evade the many problems and questions life in a sexualized society can bring. At the same time he realizes that the answer to this intense challenge cannot and indeed may not be the path of least resistance -being of the world and living as the masses live.It is important to remember this, lest the sexual behavior of the "world" become our measuring rod of good and evil. Sometimes the sexual behavior of certain animals is used to provide a measuring rod for what men may or may not do in this respect. Man's "natural" tendencies become the final and greatest measuring rod. But believers will know that animals cannot be a norm and measure for man because God has purposely created man as lord over the animals.Experts give us detailed statistical material showing how the "average person" reacts to sexual stimuli. Such a report allows our society to state without shame that its conduct conforms with general practice and therefore must be "normal. " According to the Bible, however, not even man can be our norm and measuring rod.