This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series: ‘A Better Story’ (Harrison)
- ‘A better story’ – intro
- ‘A better story’ – 1
- ‘A better story’ – 2
- ‘A better story’ – 3
- ‘A better story’ – 4
- ‘A better story’ – 5
- ‘A better story’ – 6
- ‘A better story’ – 7
- ‘A better story’ – 8
- ‘A better story’ – 9
- ‘A better story’ – 10
- ‘A better story’ – 11
- ‘A better story’ – 12
- ‘A better story’ – 13
- ‘A better story’ – 14
- ‘A better story’ – 15
- ‘A better story’ – 16
- ‘A better story’ – 17
Compared with the sensuous and graphic promises of Islam, the biblical vision of heaven seems positively chaste. See, for example, Matthew 22:30. But there is, perhaps, more to be said.
Sex as both a picture and a taster of divine love. Although people will not marry each other in heaven, marriage itself will be by no means absent: there will be the one marriage between Christ and his church. And this picture of heaven, although not the only one, is remarkable deep and powerful. The marriages of this life point forward to the one marriage of the life to come.
Born to love. We were made to experience intimacy, from birth onwards. The bond between mother and child, established within the first few weeks of life, will be a crucial factor in long-term well-being. The hormone oxytocin appears to play an important role in cementing this bond. Evolutionary theory will explain this by the need for the survival. The Christian will delve deeper, and say that such relationships are fundamental to our status as creatures made in God’s image.
The end of longing. [In this section, I part company with Glynn Harrison in terms of his biblical exposition. He follows the mythology popularised by Rublev’s famous icon, which suggests that the account of Abram and his three visitors speaks of the Trinity, and of a place for us at the table at which the members of the Trinity sit. Still, the more general point, that the Triune God invites us to enter into deep and intimate fellowship with him, is perfectly valid, but is better supported in other ways (for example, by reference to Ephesians 2:22)]
Sex life. It is all to easy for Christians to speak of sex (if they speak about it at all) with po-faced prudishness. But there is something about the sheer passion of sex which points to the passionate orientation that we should have for God himself.
Husband and wife. Scripture has many images of the relationship between God and his people. But the husband/wife image is inescapable. ‘The story of God’s love begins in Genesis with a marriage between two people, and ends in Revelation with a marriage between Christ and his bride, the church. In between these two marriages the pages of the Bible rustle with images of love, betrothal, sex and marriage.’
See, for example, Isaiah 54:5; 62:5; Jeremiah 3:20. See, especially, the explicit sexual imagery of Ezekiel 16:8. ‘Ezekiel invites us to look into the world of our own sexual feelings: contemplate the shuddering oneness of consummation that follows the ceremony of married commitment. This is what it is like.’
The metaphor continues throughout the New Testament. See Mark 2:19; John 3:29; Ephesians 5:30-32.
Looking at and looking along. The Bible, then, has no problem in comparing God’s love to erotic human love. So, when we consider our own desires, we should not only look at them, but along them. We should see what they point to. ‘It isn’t simply the case that God’s love for us is ‘like’ many aspects of our human sexual experience: our erotic experiences of being sexual point us towards God as well. They are a divine homing instinct for the glorious union that lies ahead. And he seeks from us the same faithful devotion, commitment, delight and joy that he, through Christ, now finds in us.’
Harrison, Glynn. A Better Story: God, Sex And Human Flourishing. IVP. Kindle Edition. Chapter 13.