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.|
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey, a professor of zoology, published the results of his research on the sexual behavior of men and in 1953, of women. Man's sexual behavior was extensively documented for the first time in history. These reports provide us with the "facts." However, we should be careful when using them. Who was actually questioned?
From the report, it appears that 57% of all men questioned remembered having committed certain sexual acts before puberty (the age of thirteen), for example: embracing, kissing, manipulating their genitals and uncovering them in front of other children. Further, it appeared that 85% of American men had indulged in premarital intercourse, as had 50% of the women. Of those questioned 70% appeared to have had sexual relations with prostitutes. 30-40% of the married men and 25% of the married women appeared to have extramarital relations. This investigation also indicated that 92% of the men and 62% of the women practised masturbation, or onanism.
A young sociologist, well acquainted with relationships among students in America, speaks of a "sexual greed" among American youth. With the exception of a few theological colleges, he hardly saw a student's room without a pin-up girl on the wall.
More recent investigations among 2, 100 students in and outside of America reveal an increase in sexual contact in comparison to the Kinsey Report: among those under 21 years of age an increase of more than 50%, and among the female students an increase of 60 %. The changes among the girls parallel the decrease from 22% to 4% of students having sexual relations with prostitutes. Relations with fellow students have replaced that. The investigation's conclusion: "The majority of the boys found premarital sexual intercourse completely acceptable if both parties were over eighteen and considered themselves more or less engaged. The girls were more conservative. The majority of the girls could agree with coitus before marriage only if both parties were over twenty-one and were 'officially engaged" (Packard).
Approximately half the males and females questioned thought that premarital sex with someone other than one's marriage partner was acceptable. That the partner had such an experience would not bother the majority very much, although a large number of men would be "a little annoyed."
Emphasis on the techniques of sexual relationships betrays a pragmatic approach to life. While behavior patterns are recorded and statistics are gathered, questions about motivation and purpose fall into the background. Do true sexual standards exist? Many students appear hard and indifferent when they speak of their sexual relations. Many contacts are purely sexual, impersonal relationships which kill the spirit. Many consume sex like a bag of candy, or brag about their many intimate contacts with ever-changing partners. Today we experience a strongly biological approach, in which the French aphorism -love is skin contact between two people -is extended to the most sensitive parts of the body- those parts and openings of the body where skin and mucous membrane meet.
A biological approach sees sexuality as lust for the sake of lust. Such an approach can be found in much literature which is distributed to students. The common approach we read in this literature is: "Every norm is debatable; everything is relative; and what can or cannot be done, may or may not be done, must or must not be done, in the final analysis has to be decided by every person for himself -but after having discussed it with those who might be affected." According to this advice, everything is permitted "as long as those concerned do not become noticeably manned or unhappy."
"Boys go after girls, girls after boys, boys after boys, girls after women, men after children, women after little boys ... Sexuality in certain cases is even diverted from man and becomes focused on visions or on animals." Everything is possible.
We won't go into the meaning of "not noticeably maimed" at this point. What does it mean for instance in the case of men who go after children? Think of the psychological trauma inflicted on these children. Apparently anything can be done as long as people ''live!"
An exceptionally high percentage of those questioned in the Kinsey Report admitted having indulged in "petting"-the stimulating of one another's body for sexual excitement without coming to the sex act itself. The Report regards such petting as being very "natural. " But, in fact it is unnatural and prohibited by Scripture. Petting results in restlessness, moodiness, nervousness, and the temptation to masturbation. Half of the girls who admitted to petting also admitted having disturbances of a physical and spiritual nature, while 25% of them experienced pains in the groin.
Love play for the purpose of sexually arousing one another is in itself not objectionable if it is reserved for marriage. Here it finds its natural and God-ordained fulfillment in the sexual union between husband and wife. The practice of petting is in conflict with God's Word and must be regarded as unnatural in the full sense of the word.
A psychiatrist in the Netherlands remarked that many students struggle with these normative questions. He pointed out that they visit prostitutes much less frequently than in the past. However, they now have sexual relations with girls of their own group. This psychiatrist is unfortunately right when he adds the following to his brief analysis of the present situation: "The quasi-marriage-for the partners prevent the birth of children-is the response to a new invitation. This invitation reads as follows:
1. Marriage is a sexual matter.
2. Here are our daughters. See how they are dressed. Notice that they fully possess the essential organs for marriage.
3. Choose one of them; they wish to be chosen.
4. Do not marry them.
Do not marry. While the first three points chase the daughters into the young men's arm, marriage is postponed. Does this not lead to a "relationship," an "affair," the "petting to climax," the "secret marriage without children"?
This is not an exaggeration. When the body is stressed more and more in fashion, and when in sports and ballet physique is regarded as the only thing of importance, young people draw conclusions from this "instruction" in theory
and practice. As someone once said, they become "consumers of sexuality."
As yet, nothing helpful has been said concerning the great problems this constant stream of sexual stimuli causes in the lives of unmarried young people. In passing we did mention a few "answers" which the present generation gives to such continued sexual provocation. These "answers" will be reviewed in order to clear the way for the answer which God gives us.
If we can believe the statistics, a great many young people engage in extra-marital intercourse. Unfortunately, there is no reason to doubt these statistics, at least if applied to the average population. In a city like Amsterdam, about ten thousand men have relations with a prostitute every night. In America, 70% of the men questioned admitted to such relations.
That male students visit prostitutes less can be explained by their regular relations with female students. This practice appears to be developing into a "custom" among young people of all classes and ranks. For young people, even more than for the older generation, the limits have fallen away. In England there are clubs where, after an evening out, the most intimate contact between a young man and woman is accepted as normal. "That is the custom," said a fifteenyear-old boy to a Dutch girl who expressed her astonishment about this.
The Dutch Society for Sexual Reform directs its publications almost exclusively to the sexual side of marriage. It does not object to extra-marital intercourse, and it distributes contraceptives widely.
In a brochure issued by the Society we read: "Every human being has the right to lead his life according to the principles to which he adheres." The immediate consequences one draws from this is that: "The prevailing morality ... still too often asserts that sexuality belong in marriage only. At the very least, this neglects to speak to the real behavior and need of the average human being and, therefore, it honors a point of view which is scientifically untenable."
In principle, therefore, the Society accepts premarital and extramarital sexual intercourse. Witness the Society's instruction: "Parents have the duty to instruct their child and to indicate the way in which a forced marriage can be prevented."
Whoever would think for a moment that this statement warns against premarital sexual intercourse is deceived, for the statement continues: "If you are not married, there is no way out but to seek your own solution for your feelings. And I do not believe that this lies in abstention." Therefore, the Society wishes "to alter the moral laws in such a way that a greater freedom of sexual life will be generally accepted." Man is considered to be autonomous in this field; he is a law unto himself.
A third of the deliveries in the hospitals in Paris are, at the moment, of unwed mothers from all classes and ranks. And how many people have been instructed by societies such as the one discussed above concerning the most modem contraceptives? One can rightly speak of sexual anarchy. Many young people untiringly seek to satisfy their passions. The union of bodies is nothing more than a short mutual pleasure which does not bind the participants in any way. Modem novels make this attitude very clear.
This prevailing attitude asks: Are desires not to be satisfied? Are the sexual organs not given to be used? Do they not have a function? Such rhetorical questions form the "rationale" of many people, and their response to the many sexual stimuli coming their way.
We must answer such questions by insisting that man's sexual desires are indeed created by God. But, we must also insist, the existence of a desire does not necessarily justify its satisfaction, at any cost, in any situation.
Although generally respected in other areas of life, this tenet is often forgotten when it concerns sexual life. For example, when someone looks into a grocery store window and becomes extremely hungry because of what he sees, he may not reason: "This stimulates my appetite; this desire exists to be satisfied, so I have the right to take anything I want of what is displayed." This kind of reasoning does not consider the limits and ordinances of God for satisfying this desire.
God gave sexual desire a place in the total love relationship. Whoever cultivates this desire outside of marriage will degrade it to "mere sensuality." Disassociated from marriage, sexual desire quickly becomes an instrument for disturbance and destruction, despair and grief. It becomes an expression of intense egoism. Although one may speak of "making" love, this has nothing to do with real love. Sexual desire isolated from marriage seeks a "body" not a "human being."
A boy does not take a girl's girlhood seriously if he cannot spend time with her without continually letting her know that to him she represents "the opposite sex." He degrades her to a "female" when he views her primarily in this way. And then he is not a "man" but a "male animal." Animals simply mate. So-called "free-love" operates on this level.
"Free-love" has nothing to do with love. In actual fact it says: "I demand something of you; not you yourself, but something of you. I do not have much time to wait; I want to have it immediately, without delay. I am not interested in what the consequences are; only this very moment interests me. I need you to satisfy my desires. To me, you are merely the means to reach my goal. Quickly, I want to possess you . . ."
This rendition by Walter Trobisch sharply depicts the egoism of extramarital relationships. Sexual intercourse without love is a superficial imitation of the real thing, an animal-like automatism. Only with a total love, encompassing all areas of life, can sexual love fully develop. When there is no meeting of the "heart" during bodily contact, the whole relationship becomes a caricature of what God meant the sexual relationship to be.
A definite "no" must be said to extra-marital relationships. This even applies to engaged couples who have tentatively given their hearts to each other. No argument put forth to justify premarital intercourse can stand.
Arguments for "trial" marriages are very popular today. Trial marriages -spending nights together to see if a permanent relationship would be satisfactory- usually end in pregnancy. Such pregnancy is evidence that the sexual relations were both satisfactory and fruitful. On this basis is the marriage solemnized.
Arguments for a trial marriage run as follows: "You have to know a girl before you marry her, don't you? And does knowing not include sexual relations? You have to know each other thoroughly, don't you, if you want to marry each other?" Especially today, when much emphasis is placed on the importance of good sexual relations as the basis for a successful marriage, many make the plea for a "trial." They Want to prevent unhappy marriages by experimenting beforehand.
(Trobisch used the word "amusing" to indicate the inconsistancy of such reasoning. He said: "All the young men I know want to marry a 'virgin,' and yet they all want to try it once first. Which of them who 'tries out' someone else's bride, can know, however, that the same thing has not happened with his own future wife?")
The big mistake in this reasoning is that the sexual aspect has been made the most important aspect of marriage. Because many of the problems, estrangements and conflicts in a marriage may be reflected in a disturbed physical communion, this aspect threatens to become the only one that counts.
Over against this must be noted that sexual difficulties in a marriage seldom have only a physical cause. Usually they accompany a spiritual cause. Sexuality is more than a matter of technique, despite the claims of books. Mere technique makes the partners "engineers of love," as someone has aptly remarked. In real love, however, one goes beyond himself to seek out the other person.
Real love is more than a moment's rapture. If sexual union is borne by love, then the end of orgasm is not the end of joy but, in the ensuing relaxation, the beginning of greater and deeper love. Otherwise a vacuum would remain.
Real love, then, cannot be "tried out." Those who want to prepare for marriage must above all become "spiritually attuned" to one another. Happiness in a marriage does not depend on the knowledge of sexual techniques. Of course, sound information concerning this is necessary. However, whoever has relations with a woman to get to know her forgets that just "the woman" does not exist. Every human being has his own mystery. One does not get to know another through a short, physical contact. Trobisch writes: "After spending five minutes with a girl in the bush-something which makes me think of animals-you know absolutely nothing about her, nothing physically and even less spiritually."
In Genesis 4:1 we read: "And Adam knew Eve his wife."
His wife. Not just "the woman." A man can only have intercourse with a woman when she has become his wife in marriage. Body and soul cannot be separated.
The woman experiences this with special intensity. She experiences a physical union, more than just the union of two bodies, in her innermost being. For this reason alone a "trial" is not possible. The two become one body, as the apostle Paul says.
That is why in Israel a man who had seduced a girl also had to marry her. One cannot seek a sexual union which leaves one free, because the very essence of sex is binding.
A trial marriage has no value then, for without the sustaining power of love, it is not real or genuine. One has to be married in order to experience real physical union. No matter what the arguments for a "trial" are, real physical union can never be known experimentally beforehand.
In marriage, the physical union takes place under completely different circumstances than in extra-marital relations. There is no fear of being caught. There is no fear of being left alone afterwards. There is no fear of becoming pregnant. There is enough time to become used to one another, to adapt and correct one another in true love, accepting one another for what they are.
Scripture warns against relations with a "strange" woman. The man who throws himself into sexual adventures with all kinds of women will not experience what belongs to marriage. Trobisch states (and correctly so): "If you have a sexual experience with a girl who is worthy of you, then you bring damage on her: if you have such an experience with a girl who is not worthy of you, you bring damage on yourself."
Another argument used for premarital intercourse is that it may determine whether or not the marriage can be fruitful. Only when it appears that children are forthcoming, has the time come to marry.
The answer to this argument can be short. Children are and will always be a gift of God. This remains true despite all medical and human knowledge. We shall see that medical science may give valuable help to the infertile. But when God in His wisdom does not grant children, the purpose of marriage is not thwarted since not procreation but being a help and support to each other is the primary purpose of marriage. Marriage finds its fulfillment in the loving union of husband and wife. A childless couple has been set aside by the Lord for tasks which husband and wife who have received children could not do.
In this connection, it should be pointed out that, with an increase in premarital relations, there is an increase in barren couples. Venereal disease may cause infertility in both men and women. The inability to become a mother or a father is one possible consequence of premarital experimentation.
Experts point with alarm to the increase of venereal disease. The health of nations is threatened by it. Not just a greater number of cases but their incidence in younger people, causes concern. Although the overall increase in the period 1961-1962 amounted to 9%, in the age group of 15-19 it amounted to 100%. The early age at which venereal disease occurs shows us how early and how often premarital sexual intercourse takes place in our society.
Today's holiday travelling arrangements must be mentioned here as well. How many boys and girls don't go camping together without chaperones? How many have not contracted venereal disease abroad? According to some reports, 25-50% have. The result is increasing infertility among soonto-be married young people.
There is much evidence to refute the argument that premarital relations are necessary in order to determine fertility. Precisely because of widespread "relations" is infertility on the increase.
A third argument sometimes brought forward to justify premarital intercourse is that abstinence is harmful. Here is part of a letter sent by a young man to his minister: "But you should also know that it was fear that drove me to it. 1 was afraid that 1 would become sick because of so much semen accumulating in my body. I also often have dream-induced ejaculations at night. My friends assured me that the only remedy for this was to have an affair with a girl. What is your opinion about this?"
The minister rightly pointed out to him that no one has ever become sick because of abstinence. Nocturnal emissions are not a sign of sickness but of normal bodily functioning. That happens to every sexually mature young man. Abstinence is not harmful. The claim of unbelievers, that controlling the body goes against nature and is detrimental to one's health, is not true.
Happiness and satisfying desires, sexual or otherwise, are not identical. That is evident in all areas of life. Many desires are satisfied today. The world's desirable things have never been within closer reach of everyone. But have people achieved happiness as they have fulfilled their desires?
Never have there been so many unhappy and dissatisfied people. Never have there been so many nervous disorders so many crimes, so many suicides. People have become blasi, oversatisfied, but not really happy. Those who oppose sexual abstinence with a hypocritical appeal to its harmfulness should take note of the unhealthy consequences of such morality.
The increase in venereal disease has already been mentioned. Unfortunately much greater spiritual damage results from promiscuity. Someone wrote about the situation in France - although it applies elsewhere as well - "Those who are enjoying the sexual anarchy are not in the least satisfied." That is why the pendulum may swing again to the other side.
In the French magazine Marie France of January, 1959, there is an article with the heading (freely translated): "Scandal! Unchastity! We've had enough of id Long live morality!'' On behalf of the contributors to this magazine, all of them young people, they declare that they rebel against all books, films, songs, plays, and posters dominated by the "feast of sexuality" and the "caricature of love" which try to outbid each other in shamelessness. The following statement is particurlarly striking: "Everything is becoming dull and insipid because everything is permitted." They want real values to emerge again, believing that even though it is much more difficult to be faithful to one partner, it is much more beautiful and more valuable.
Even sexual licentiousness becomes boring; breaking with abstinence doesn't seem to be a "solution." We will never come to deep, real joy in life if we yield to licentious sexuality. One who cannot deny himself anything and gives in to every wish has no backbone and is not a genuine person.
Self-control, and not self-indulgence, is a sign of true personhood. One who has learned to deny himself will discover the beauty of Godgiven life, the beauty of even such an allencompassing power as the sexual drive. One becomes a different person when he is able to sacrifice, say no or abstain. He will suddenly experience a new sense of liberty.
For the believer, this is the liberty in Christ. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). In this context "flesh" denotes our sinful existence, and sexual desire as such should not be looked upon as being sinful. However, since nothing in the world exists "as such" and since I may not let myself be brought under the "power" of God's gifts either (I Cor. 6:12), the big question is: "Within what framework do I put using God's gifts and giving in to my desires?"
The desires created by God become wrong passions when one becomes enslaved to them, when they dominate a person rather than the other way around. One's sexual power must also be exercised responsibly. Rather than exterminate it, one must use it within the liberty and responsibility in Jesus Christ.
Sexuality cannot be properly understood in isolation. All actions in life are related to each other. If one does not want to or cannot control himself in one area of his life, he will not be able to do so in other areas either.
Therefore I ask: "Is healthiness or physical pleasure really the goal in our life? Is the back-breaking work of the housewife, and are the academic's scientific risks, etc., bad because they may be harmful to the nervous system, digestive system, etc.? Does one really always have to avoid sacrifice and effort, problems and danger? Is the way of least resistance always the right way?" A true believer knows the answers, of course, because Christ has commanded us to ..strive to enter."
Striving is necessary and healthy for the young; indeed, healthy young people do not try to avoid it. But they must be assured that their striving is worthwhile, that it is purposeful, that it is a mandate. It can be very difficult to control the sexual desires which well up in youth. Yet, because the goal is beautiful and the calling clear, namely, the allencompassing two-in-oneness of a man and a woman, the gift of sexuality must be preserved.
When God's Word speaks about our imperfections and shortcomings, it teaches that we will suffer defeat from time to time. Even the holiest of men have only a small beginning of this new obedience. This will be discussed at greater length later.
If one does not fight the good fight according to the principles of the new obedience, one's marriage will fail. Even in marriage there will be times and even periods of time when abstinence is necessary because of physical or psychical illness or separation.
Far from being unhealthy, abstinence promotes life and also true love of life. A person who pursues joy at any price, wanting to enjoy life right down to the bottom, finds there
nothing but dregs. However, a person who is able to sacrifice and to abstain, not for the sake of these things themselves but because of God's calling to serve Him in all facets of life, receives life's real happiness -joy and freedom.
So far we have discussed several arguments for extramarital sexual intercourse. They are arguments that conflict with the entire Scriptures and can therefore not provide true joy in life.
We could summarize all of this in a brief, terse saying 1 found somewhere: Copulation without communion is fornication. In other words, sexual intercourse without the allencompassing communion of marriage is fornication. That is no small matter. Scripture says: "Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body" (1 Cor. 6: 18 RSV). Before the law-court of Scripture, not a single defense remains for sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
Statistics indicate that people seek another outlet for the tensions that build up as they live in a highly sexualized society: masturbation, sometimes called onanism.
The word onanism is derived from the sin of Onan which we can read about in Genesis 38:9. Onan was ordered by Judah, his father, to marry the wife of his deceased brother. The purpose of this marriage was to beget offspring for the deceased brother. These children would be the rightful heirs of Onan's brother. Onan did not want to fulfill his duty. Although he was not adverse to having sexual relations with Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother, he prevented impregnation by interrupting coitus so that conception could not occur.
What was his motive for doing so? Scripture tells us clearly: "But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother." The motive is clearly stated. Onan did not want to do his duty; he did not want to ensure descendants for his brother.
"And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38: 10 RSV).
Onan's sin was not what is today understood by the term onanism. Nor did the Lord punish him with death for the practice of coitus interruptus. If this were the cause of his death, it would be difficult to understand why Judah, who had intercourse with his daughter-inlaw as if she were a prostitute, was spared. Is fornication a lesser evil in God's eyes than coitus interruptus? I believe that the method Onan used was not judged but rather what he wanted to achieve-no descendants for his brother. The matter of descendants is in fact, the point of the story.
Let us leave the story. We want to concentrate on masturbation, the "answer" to sexual stimuli and drives, according to 92% of the men and 62% of the women questioned by the Kinsey Report. With masturbation, the climax of the sexual act - orgasm -is not experienced as part of the bodily union between husband and wife. At stake is the issue of "separate sexuality.
Masturbation begins during childhood in response to what the young child at first experiences as a vague urge and, at the same time, an overwhelming physical feeling of pleasure. Masturbation is very common during puberty, especially among boys. Masturbation does not disappear towards the end of maturation; it continues to be practiced and, according to statistics, among married people as well.
According to one expert, thousands of men and women experience masturbation as one of the biggest personal problems of their lives. For someone who masturbates, guilt feelings may be overpowering. A lonely person who feels thrown back on himself may not be able to resist this urge.
Whereas in the past masturbation was portrayed with alarm as the great evil that caused physical and spiritual ruin, today people tend to view it as innocent play. They are quick to point out that at least with masturbation, tensions are released which might have injured someone of the opposite sex. Indeed, one cannot deny that compared to extramarital sexual intercourse, the "neighbor" is not in the least offended nor injured by masturbation.
Still, there is more to the question. Even those who do not want to exaggerate this sin must admit that it divides something which God has made one. According to God's ordinances, the sexual drive seeks release which is to be experienced in the communion of love between husband and wife in marriage. A person must seek not the self but the other. Through masturbation, however, one withdraws into one's self. Therefore the aftertaste is one of defeat, of shame, of emptiness. The purpose of sexuality has not been achieved: the union between husband and wife encompassing body and soul. Sex without a partner does not provide the true, complete satisfaction God meant to give.
A distinction is sometimes made between masturbation which is not brought on by erotic daydreams but comes as a strong physical urge from deep within, and masturbation that arises from erotic musing and sexual fantasy. The solution given for the first case was that a purely physical urge might be satisfied if it had not been elicited by erotic musing. The argument goes like this: "When a river is too high and threatens to overflow its banks, an overflow is used to prevent more serious flooding."
In response, however, we must point out that sexual tensions that become too great find a natural outlet in seminal emissions during sleep. Besides, perhaps such a distinction cannot be made between one form of sexual urge and another, because nocturnal emissions are often accompanied by erotic dreams.
At any rate, it is clear that both our sexualized society and the long period of time between sexual maturity and the time of marriage are largely responsible for the increase of masturbation. For this reason, too, our advice about this must be made with Christian mercifulness. This means taking all circumstances into account. And, according to our confession, even the holiest man achieves only a feeble beginning of perfect obedience.
This imperfection is all too readily taken into account when the misuse of time or money is involved. But why is it often forgotten when it concerns the use of the body? We make this point not to condone what is wrong, but in order to place everything into proper perspective. We must keep in mind that all God's gifts must be used for the advantage and service of others. Using God's gifts for selfish pleasure is sinning against God.
The rule of obedience applies as much to those who use their money or time only for themselves as to those who exploit their sexuality only for themselves. God did not give sexuality for that purpose. God's sexual gifts should be used within lawful marriage to express shared love. It is strange that guilt feelings in the area of sex are stronger than in other areas, as if the wasting of time and money are less wrong than the wasting of sexual strength.
Our consumer society desires a maximum of pleasure for a minimum of effort. In this environment young people must struggle to reject satisfaction which is cheap and easy to obtain, satisfaction of all kinds of desires. And if there is widespread greediness for all kinds of pleasures, sex will not be exempt.
Roman 13:14 says: make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." The elementary actions of life such as eating and drinking should be governed not only by need, taste and nutrition, but also by moderation and selfcontrol. Today one must indict the overfed, vitaminized, painstakingly cultivated body of modern men.
When discussing self-indulgence, one must not speak only of sexual life. Whoever over-indulges personal desires for eating, drinking, smoking and laziness, will certainly not control his sexual appetites. Whoever points out the evil of the latter, but does not oppose pandering to other physical drives is one-sided and on the wrong track. He forgets that life is an integrated whole. Paul says that the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).
Whoever believes this will not consider the body to be as important as the modem world does. Modern paganism manifests itself in the worship of the superstar, the muscleman and the pin-up girl. The body is seen and worshiped, cared for and cultivated without regard to its spiritual source. It achieves the sensual attractiveness of an animal. In films and magazines the body is defiantly displayed. The exquisite ornament of a quiet spirit, something precious in God's eyes, is more and more forgotten.
Certainly people also talk about "spiritual nobility" and "strong personalities" in a humanistic and essentially heathen way, supposedly giving the "spirit" priority over the body. But the cultivating of the body -so strongly promoted today and so attractive to maturing young people -is nevertheless pure paganism. There is more beauty than that of the body and more satisfaction than in physical pleasure.
The battle against the evil of self-indulgence must, then, be fought on all fronts. It is only possible through faith in God who came to renew our lives. We must use God's world responsibly, but not use it up; we must not lead lives of always asking for more. Moderation and self-control must set the tone for our lives.
When a Dutch trade union director, visiting an American colleague in the States, asked him what the aim was of the actions of his trade unions, the latter answered: "We ask for more and more." When the somewhat baffled Dutchman asked what the aim would be if this wish were fulfilled, the laconic answer was: "Then we will ask for still more. "
The crude honesty of this answer might momentarily astonish us, but is this not the aim of the entire economy and of most of the country's political parties? Is life not becoming a matter of unthinking surrender to physical desires? Physical life is beginning to dominate everything. Snackbars and automatic vending machines springing up everywhere like mushrooms are symptoms of our illness. To undertake a wholesome change of attitude in the field of sex, we must not disregard these areas which at first glance seem to have nothing to do with sexual life.
Think of table manners. Someone who attacks his food "like an animal" will have trouble disciplining himself in any area. Physical hygiene could also be mentioned. Keeping the body clean and pure is a spiritual matter. Wholesome, creative engagement in music, sports and exploring nature directs our minds to matters which keep us from impure fantasies.
Spiritual hygiene is of great importance. We must be carefully critical as we read books and magazines, listen to music and watch television. Whoever really wants to shun everything that can lead to sultry fantasies -and this is only possible through Christ's strength-learns to control himself. He becomes inwardly stronger; he becomes free. He does not become enslaved to desires and longings perhaps good in themselves but which can lead to harmful excess.
Saying no in time is difficult, but not as difficult as saying no when you have already given in. Principiis costa said the Romans, meaning "resist the very beginnings." Not only does Christ demand that we break with everything that tempts us to sin, but He also gives us strength to do what He demands. What is impossible with man is possible with God.