Let's Talk About Sex: How Culture and Scripture Differ Part II, with Dr. Jon Lunde
Mandy [00:00:01] Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.
Alisa [00:00:11] Hey, welcome back. We are here for another awesome episode of The Art of Relationships podcast, brought to you by Biola University and the Center for Marriage and Relationships.
Chris [00:00:23] It's brought to you by. In and Out and Chick fil A and. Well, there's really not.
Chris [00:00:30] No, no. But we love those.
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Chris [00:00:39] The reason I said that too, is Lisa, because we have done some work with both of those organizations. And just recently we got to speak with some in and out executives and the owners.
Alisa [00:00:50] And oh, that was fabulous in Hawaii last.
Chris [00:00:52] Summer. Yeah. So we talked about marriage and relationships and how to have healthy relationships and in and out asked us to come and what an awesome thing that was. And, if you want to go, yeah, if you want to go check out our podcast with the owner of In and Out. Her name is Lindsey Snyder. We've done a couple of podcasts with not just Lindsey, but even with her husband, Sean. And based on that, they said, Come on out, talk to our people. And so we are sponsored in some ways by.
Alisa [00:01:20] I don't think you could actually say that.
Chris [00:01:22] We we love that organization, man. They they do some amazing things and they even have a partnership with Biola University in many respects. Alisa [00:01:31] So very.
Chris [00:01:32] Great. Hey, we've been talking about sexuality. We've been talking about cultural views of sexuality. We've been talking about where we're at today. And three different views, right?
Alisa [00:01:42] Yeah, that was our first podcast with our really special guest, New Testament theologian, an expert all around Dr. John Lunde. He's not only a very renowned professor here at Biola University at Talbot School of Theology, but he's our friend. He and his wife Pam, are very dear friends and they actually teach a class with Chris and me called Christian Perspectives on Marriage and Relationships. And we've had over 1200 students go through that class over the last I don't know what, 12.
Chris [00:02:18] Years and years. We usually have about an average of 200, or 150 in there at any given time. I think the first time we had four or 500 and they're incredible.
Alisa [00:02:26] It's a great.
Chris [00:02:27] John. I have probably been one of the premier, I think, mentors in your life. I think I think most of what you've learned I know you have said it comes from me and I don't I don't expect you acknowledge that right now. I can tell by your look that you feel just too embarrassed to even sometimes sit here. But John, as I have taught you all of these things, you have really expanded. You've gone even beyond what I initially poured into you. Congratulations on such fine work.
Jon [00:02:59] Thank you, Chris, for recognizing that.
Chris [00:03:02] Yeah. Thank you for also recognizing that. John Kidding. I'm not really a side, but it's kind of a John you kind of a writing in this area as well. So so last podcast we talked about these views and you present a very fascinating idea of a biblical perspective on sexuality and marriage. And I know you're going to put that out here soon. It's some of your research. We look forward to sharing that with our listeners. I'll tell you, as soon as you publish this material, would you let us know and we're going to have you on here. We're going to go through it one more time. That sounds.
Jon [00:03:38] Good. Sounds great.
Chris [00:03:39] All right. So, John, where you leading in your research? What what are some of the cool things that you have found.
Alisa [00:03:45] And we've got to have you start with your anniversary story.
Jon [00:03:50] Oh, okay.
Alisa [00:03:51] Yeah. Tell that tell our listeners that story about your anniversary because this is awesome.
Jon [00:03:56] Well, my wife and I, we've now been married 39 years, but at that time, I think it was I think I was either 20 or 25 and Pam's from Seattle. And so we were up there the at the beginning of August, our anniversary is in August, and it was our anniversary. And I and I thought, boy, I'd better I better get her something nice. I'm not really good with jewelry. And so I thought, I miss this. So I went to Jared and I and I asked.
Chris [00:04:30] That that's a diamond star for all you people. It's easy to. Alisa [00:04:33] Introduce Chris to your friend Jared. That would be awesome.
Chris [00:04:37] Lisa, please. I've known Jared since. Well, anyway, as a child, but keep going. John With meeting Jared.
Jon [00:04:44] So I went into this jewelry store and I told the lady I want an anniversary ban. So she took me over to the counter and showed me a variety of them. And I kind of had my my price limit and I looked and found one that fit sort of within that. I said, I'll take that one. So she said, Would you like me to wrap it up for you? And I said, Oh yeah, that'd be great. So she took it over to the counter and began doing her little frilly thing there. And I was just standing back with my arms crossed, thinking about what else I needed to do. And as she was bent over the package, she said, So this is an anniversary band. And I said, Yeah, it is. And she's continuing to look down and and work. And she says, How many? I said, Well, 25. She stopped and slowly looked up at me and she said, What did you say? I said, 25 years. She said. I don't know anybody who's been married 25 years. All my friend's parents are divorced. My parents are divorced. Some of my own friends are divorced. And then she said something that I was not prepared for. She said, What's the secret? And I really didn't do well. I kind of fumbled around and just kind of I don't even remember what I said, but I know I didn't do a very good job. So fast forward another five years and now I'm back down here in Southern California and it's our 30th. And I thought, well, I'm going to I'm going to get something that would go with those with with that ring. So I decided I'd go and get I think it was some earrings.
Chris [00:06:24] You are an amazingly good husband. I wish you would stop talking right now.
Jon [00:06:27] Well, these are the only two highlights I have.
Alisa [00:06:29] So are you taking notes over there?
Chris [00:06:31] You're making it hard for the rest of me.
Alisa [00:06:34] I'm getting some pen and paper, so you should be taking notes. Chris [00:06:38] All right, Continue. I'll deal with the shame in a little bit here.
Jon [00:06:43] So I go to this another Jared store, but now in Southern California, not in Seattle. Told the lady what I wanted and she showed me some earrings. And I said, Yeah, we'll take those. So she started going over to the counter and as we're going, she said, So these are for your anniversary? And I said, Yes, it is. And we got to the counter and she said, How many years? And I said, 30. She didn't even pause. She turned to me, looked at me just with a with a very serious face. She said the very same thing. What's the secret? And what this? Well, I was I was more prepared for it this time. And so I was able to do a better job of testifying to the work of God's grace in my relationship. But what this told me is that it doesn't matter who you are, that humans desire, the kind of relationship that Scripture actually describes, what Scripture describes as the one flesh union, the culture describes as the soul mate. They may not necessarily be the same thing, but at least they overlap in terms of the concept.
Chris [00:07:50] Hmm. So soul mate for them can mean about the same thing as it can for the Christian who says, I'm doing this in a way that is going to ultimately bring glory to God and I'm committed to this person. So what commitment is and grace and it's hard work. So that led you, John, Right around that time you begin teaching in our classes. You've been writing and working on this idea. So what is it? What what is the difference? You know, if you kind of expanded what you told the ladies there at the store that sold you that wonderful jewelry, who are just shocked that you've been together, you know, for what is, you know, at that time, just 30 years? What what what did you tell them or what would you say to them if they were listening this podcast?
Jon [00:08:45] Well, fundamentally, it's going to be the grace of God. Fundamentally, it's it's the grace of God that empowers the kind of relationship that we're talking about here.
So that's what we really need to talk about today. What we're talking about is how does the One flesh union actually come about?
Alisa [00:09:01] So when you start, where do you where do you even start to unpack that? Where do you go to first?
Chris [00:09:07] I know. Let's start with this. What does one flush mean? Where does that come from? I don't get at one flash. That means sex. What is. Where's all. What does that mean? If I'm not, I don't know, Biblically literate.
Jon [00:09:18] Well, it comes from Genesis and the description of what's going to happen between a man and a woman where these two individuals come together and they become joined together. They they they cleave together to the to use the old King James version to to actually become one entity. Now, obviously, they never stop being two separate bodies, but the relationship becomes so intimate, epitomized in sexuality where the two bodies are actually joined together. But that's simply of a physical declaration of what's really happening in all areas of your life. So we're really talking about a permanent, intimate, enduring, thriving relationship that brings about a oneness that's mysterious.
Chris [00:10:07] Oh, man, that's a good definition for marriage. A permanent, intimate. I've already maybe it may have hit replay, but what is it, John? One more time. I mean, that's a great insight.
Alisa [00:10:21] And I think it's so important that we're saying that it's permanent, it's intimate, It tries to pardon me. It thrives. It thrives. And it's between one man and one woman in in the the joining together of marriage. That. That's Genesis right there. The Genesis account of one flesh. Right. Very good. So talk a little bit about human nature. What is it in our human nature that that is driving this that makes us want this one flesh?
Jon [00:10:55] I think it's really important to think about what is the impact of us being embodied spirits. So we all have bodies, but we also have this nonphysical aspect of who we are. I'm going to call the the physical, the physical. And I want to call the nonphysical, the personal. I don't know what else we could call it. We could call it several different things. But we're we are spirits that are embodied. And therefore, when we think about intimacy, both of those things have to be taken into account. When we. When we experience. Physical intimacy. We're we're we're doing so in a variety of ways, whether it's eye contact, whether it's speaking, whether it's physical touch. All of these things are physical. And if we're going to express personal intimacy, it has to go through the physical. We can't just touch and telepathically communicate with each other that we have certain feelings. We have to communicate it, whether it's going to be verbal or nonverbal, it's going to have to be physical. So that's a really important place to start so that you realize these two things are together and the physical is the vehicle through which the personal is actually communicated.
Chris [00:12:18] And then I assume, John, at this point, it also has to be received as such. Right. I mean, in other words, let's say in a in a horrible situation, somebody, you know, is coming out of surgery or they're, you know, unconscious, I can reach down and touch and talk. But but if they don't receive it and here there's something into in the both touching of that extends my personhood but it then has an impact on their personhood. Right. They're different because of it. That's what psychologists, by the way, are really fascinated with is that no single interaction between two people leaves each of you the same. Every time we have an interaction with somebody, something changes in our brain, something happens. And the more intimate, the more emotional or emotional, the more sexual, the more physical, the greater the transformative effect on the individual's brains and on our souls, our minds. So that's a cool part. So this is pretty profound.
Alisa [00:13:22] I love what you just said, Chris. You're talking about that aspect of intimacy. And John, you talked about what are some of the characteristics of intimacy, Like when we're talking about that, what kind of qualities or characteristics are we are you talking about?
Jon [00:13:38] Well, let me first of all summarize intimacy. And this is reductionistic. I'm not a I'm not a professional psychologist or counselor like like like you guys are. But I think you can summarize intimacy between two humans according to three very, very fundamental realities. One is commitment. One is commitment to the other. That the person is is really committed to being there, to remaining in the relationship. And obviously, as biblical commitment goes, it ends up being permanent if we're talking about marriage. But then you also have trustworthiness. In other words, this person is going to actually follow through on the commitment. And then the third is trust that you are actually trusting that that person is trustworthy in the commitment that that person has made. So when you have those three things together, I think you have the characteristics of of of intimacy, human intimacy across the board. So what qualities that fosters intimacy are things like kindness, things like patience, things like empathy, things like forgiveness for things like lightheartedness and empathy. These are the kind of characteristics, the qualities that then are fostering the kinds of trustworthiness that other people learn to trust. And that commitment then is just sort of binding all of that together. When you when you think about that, then now those qualities and those commitments and those aspects of our of our relationship are always going to be communicated physically to each other, whether it's, again, eye contact, conversation, touch, whatever. Physically, we're communicating those things. But we realize that when we start talking about sexuality, that you start divorcing those attributes and those qualities from the sex act. There's nothing that's actually being communicated, and that's why you eventually have such emptiness.
Chris [00:15:50] He is so done when there is a sex act without the three things commitment, trustworthiness or trust. You really are left with nothing more than a physical act. And that can be an answer to why the hookup culture has none of those. I mean, in fact, it has the opposite commitment. It has the opposite of trustworthiness, it has the opposite of trust. It has none of those.
Jon [00:16:20] That's exactly right.
Alisa [00:16:22] Can you talk a little bit more about that, John?
Jon [00:16:24] Well, when you when you try to make sex completely impersonal, completely meaningless, now you've got you've got physical contact that we are all geared. And you as a psychologist, Chris, knows this to to experience the the connection between two different individuals that now is being demonstrated in in both in physical and in hormonal ways. And yet if there's no commitment, if there's no trustworthiness, if there's no trust, it eventually does what you were talking about in our last podcast. And that is that numbing, that sort of coalescing that happens because nothing is actually happening. So any time you start trying to base a relationship and especially a marriage on the sexual, it's going to eventually cave in because it's only going to be as meaningful as the experience of these deeper personal qualities. And if that's not there, eventually it'll become absolutely puny.
Alisa [00:17:26] So you're saying that the hookup culture there really is a complete lack of those three qualities that you just talked about in the hookup culture? There is no commitment, there is no trustworthiness. There is no trust.
Jon [00:17:41] That's right.
Chris [00:17:42] And commitment. Real quickly. John, take it back. Somebody might go, oh, well, maybe they don't understand. I mean, that's not a fairly robust word. I mean, to base everything on that one word. So the word commitment. Give me what. What does that mean in all of its deepness? Like, I think, okay, I'm committed to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Right. I really am. I'm committed. I like to watch them. I I'll turn on games. I'm committed to the Denver Broncos right now. That means if someone says, oh, what's the best team, I'm it's the Denver Broncos. What's the best MLB team has it Los Angeles I'm committed as long as you're talking it's an element of what you're talking about and so commitment though I think a lot of people in the modern, maybe even listeners and some of our friends out there, maybe some of the world that maybe doesn't understand that it's actually a pretty profound word. Commitment is it's not just that I identify with you. I, I like you, identify with you. I will follow you in good times and bad. I guess the problem is I used to be committed to the Lakers and then they made some really dumb moves, in my opinion, and all of a sudden my commitment went, You know what? Maybe I'm not committed to the NBA anymore and whatever, and I can walk away. We're talking something that is both and I identify with, I connect with. But in my heart of hearts, there is nothing that can separate me from them. Is that is that what you mean by commitment, that this is long term? Are we talking about length of time or even more than that? Is it Not only will I stay there, but there will be. I will do everything in my power and there will be nothing that will separate us neither. And that may be maybe, John, I guess what I'm getting at is this what we say at our vows and our vows that we take at our wedding? That's commitment, isn't it? They're saying if you're in sickness or in health, if you're in good times or you're in bad times. Yeah. And again, the the probably the Dodgers Broncos, like they don't always fulfill that. And if it's bad and I don't like it, I can kick it out of it, but I can't. In this idea of commitment. Is that right?
Jon [00:20:20] I think I think you're hitting it right on the head. Chris, when you think back to Genesis one and two, you see that. Humanity is created in the image of God that that we as humans, in some mysterious and multiple ways display who got it. Obviously, we're not God, but we are stamped with his character. Now think about who God is. According to the Biblical teaching, the Biblical teaching is that He's Triune. That means he's multiple personal. He actually has different persons within the one Godhead. And so when you think about how we display that, we display that in personal, interpersonal ways, because God is infinitely and eternally interacting with itself with himself in these in these personal relationships. So if we are then reflecting who God is in the marriage relationship, it has to be permanent because God is eternal. And those relationships between the Father, Son and the Spirit, they're not ending. So when you ask what is biblical commitment in the marriage, we're talking about the vows and we're talking about a commitment to be with that person to the very end. Now, it is true in our broken world that there are biblical exceptions for a marriage to actually cure.
Chris [00:21:46] Adultery in particular.
Jon [00:21:49] So that is that is sort of a condescension to the reality that we are marrying people that could absolutely fail. But in terms of the ideal, when we talk about commitment, we're talking about a human relationship that is actually beginning to reflect the nature of the relationship in the God.
Chris [00:22:06] Yeah. Thanks for taking that little aside there, because I think I think we misunderstand sometimes that the importance of this. We hear it every wedding we attend. You know, sickness and how rich or poor till death do us part. And I think we all say, Oh, yeah, great. But most of us go, Yeah, yeah. Or they don't put in the vow until you no longer make me happy. They don't say that it's not there. So I love that those three components, John, that makes up for intimacy. What do you got for us? Or at least are going to get a question first.
Alisa [00:22:39] Well, you talked about in our last podcast those three cultural options for sexuality and relationships. And one, we just talked about hookup culture. The second one you talked about was serial monogamy. So talk about how does what you're talking about with one flesh, how does that compare to the serial monogamy?
Jon [00:23:03] Yeah. It certainly would be wrong to say that every serial monogamous relationship is completely bad. It's completely failing. In in reflecting any aspect of the biblical ideal. There can be tremendous trust. There can be tremendous caring and interaction between two people in a serial monogamous relationship that may or may not end. But what is lacking in the serial monogamy relationship is that commitment that Chris was just talking about, that commitment that, no, I'm not going to go looking for my soulmate soulmate beyond you. I'm with you for the long haul. I'm with you. For better or for worse, as the as the traditional vows say. So the big thing that's different is, is that commitment. And if and if you don't have that deep, deep commitment one to the other, then you don't have this this awareness that it's going to be through the entire life, that I'm going to communicate my love, I'm going to communicate. And I want to I want to learn who you are throughout life so that even as we get to our last years, I'm still discovering who you are and you're still discovering who I am. And if you have that kind of commitment, the safety, the safety of that relationship allows both people to thrive in a way that I don't think serial monogamy. Enables.
Chris [00:24:28] I love that, John, because if you go into a marriage not only committed to the person they are today, but what you have to realize is you're committing to the person that they're going to be. And we change every day. If we have an interaction with somebody, we're different. If we get a job, we're different. If we have children were different, if we have experience. And so we're different. And that's what commitment is, is I'm committed to you to the day, just like I was for who you were yesterday and into the future, whoever you might be, because we all we all change. And yet that commitment says that's where we're going to stay together. Iron sharpening iron. And I'm committed to you.
Jon [00:25:11] That's right. That's right. Now when we start thinking about the purity culture, that was the third one. There clearly is a commitment to physical sexual purity. So again, that's wonderful. That's good. But where this option really does fail is the lack of emphasis on the personal the lack of emphasis on what it means to actually grow together personally in all of the arenas of human life. And so that. Young people who end up getting married. Having come out of that kind of culture oftentimes are just shocked by the fact that sex isn't the best thing in the world. And we really don't know each other very well. And there's there's a there's a lot of these relationships that really struggle and in some cases even end because they've not been prepared during the premarital time.
Chris [00:26:07] John, just as a quick aside, what's a good word? I mean, I love your word, personal and psychology. I think we you know, some people have landed on the word soul and in not the, you know, kind of spiritual way, but who it encompasses, who we are, all of us, our whole being, our mind, our heart. Right. Our emotions, our thoughts. And so when you use I just want to clarify, you said this already, but just for listeners, we some people might translate that. When you say the personal, it really is that whole being that soul that we are inside and the New Testament. I mean, I don't think. Is that the right word, soul or is there even a good word? The spirit? Is that a whole new controversy?
Jon [00:26:56] Yeah, different scholars will argue different things. But yeah, when I say personal, I mean the intellectual. I mean the emotional. I mean the spiritual. I think you could even throw in recreational, you know, the humor part that. Yeah, all of those nonphysical dimensions of who we are. Yeah, that's what I mean by personal. And I don't know if that's the best word, but.
Chris [00:27:16] No, it's a good word. I love it. Jon [00:27:18] Yeah.
Chris [00:27:18] Okay.
Alisa [00:27:19] So go ahead. Now, we've looked at the how this applies to the hookup culture, serial monogamy, the the abstinence or purity culture. So let's really dig down deep into that. Very. God. Perspective. Biblical perspective of what God really meant for this to be like. Can you just really start unpacking them for us?
Jon [00:27:48] Okay. Well, we should probably start in Genesis in terms of the the statement regarding God's creation. So let me just read a verse here. God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God, He created them male and female. He created them, God bless them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. That's Genesis 127 and 28. So clearly you're seeing both men and women are equally bearers of the image of God, and it does include childbearing, which takes both, but it also extends to the stewardship of the earth so that this goes way beyond sexuality. This this this is now a coal raining in the earth where men and women together are to are to image God in the stewarding of this of this creation. So it is a an all encompassing relationship that is way beyond sexuality. You also have the permanence of the relationship. And for this, we can go into Genesis two, where it talks about God creating the male and female. And he says that they will become one flesh, that the man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. And they become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. And Jesus picks that up. And Matthew is you, as you know. So that there is this this reigning this this co displaying of God's image, but it's also this intimate relationship that is going to be permanent that in so many different ways. Brings the two together in a in a unity that you could even say there, there one flash. So what does that look like then? Let me then go back to this notion of of of being created in the image of God. If it is true that we bear his image and we are then interacting with each other as in a sense, living parables of who he is, then you can start looking at the kinds of things that are said between about the father and the son, and about the father and the spirit, and about the spirit in the son. And you see, Oh, that's actually how we are to be living. So the whole notion of of interpersonal love, interpersonal knowledge. Well, those verses are actually stated in Scripture about the Godhead things about mutual sacrificial love. Obviously, the son demonstrates this in a way that's eternal and infinite, but that is also going to then be true of my relationship with my wife. Mutual kindness then, is implied by all of this. And of course, then that involves no violence. That involves an encouraging relationship that fosters all of these things. And, of course, this mutual commitment, mutual service, mutual forgiveness, and then faithfulness for life. All of these things then are reflective of the divine relationships that go on for eternity. In the Got it. This is why when we think back to the to the Enlightenment, where. This world had become disenchanted where all of the physical was disconnected from anything higher. That was devastating to who we are as humans. But when you start thinking about humans burying the image of God, then all of our relationships become very parabolic. And then not only do we display who God is, but but who He is, then begins to dictate how we are to interact with each other.
Chris [00:31:30] I hear you talk and I just think I did such a good job in training you, John. And I'm just not all to you. I do. And when you know what? I'll tell you what I know. I should be first author on the book. But if you you know what? In academia, sometimes the second author is as much as the first John and the Lundy Gray thought hypothesis. Then an idea that you're expounding on it is there's something deep there, at least. I mean it. It's like, I wish people could hear this. I think people out there listening to this, whether they're single, dating, engaged, newly married. I don't think they hear this enough. I don't I don't know if they are or if they do. They don't grasp it because, you know, what you're saying could be a little bit slippery if you don't pay attention. And that's the point, right? It's there's something profound about this that. Awesome.
Alisa [00:32:33] Well, I mean, what you're talking about, John, the way you're describing it, I mean, listen to this. You're talking about that this this kind of relationship is interpersonal love and knowledge, a deep awareness and acceptance of each other. It's you talked about mutual kindness and sacrificial love. You talked about no violence, no relationally angry words. Right. There's consistent encouragement. There's commitment, mutual service, mutual forgiveness, lifelong faithfulness. I mean, who wouldn't want this? Who wouldn't want this? I think anybody in their right mind would want this. So what that tells me is that they don't really understand what marriage was meant to be.
Jon [00:33:28] That's right. That's right. And there's this assumption based basically on this notion of the soul mate that is going to just happen automatically, that that they're going to find the right person. It's going to be a seamless connection and everything's going to just develop beautifully. But I always try to tell students that we aren't declared one flesh at the altar. But we become one flesh through life. And that really that that notion takes it way beyond the wedding night.
Alisa [00:33:58] So what do you mean by that? How do you become. Chris [00:34:01] Or are you always in the process of becoming?
Jon [00:34:03] You're always in the process. I mean, what what my wife and I are experiencing now is is really the maturing of the one flesh union that I didn't think would ever be possible. I had these ideals when I was, you know, my early twenties before I got married, but I never thought they would happen because I didn't see it. I didn't see it in the relationships around me. But I am experiencing it now, and it really is. It's not rocket science, but it is living what I call covenantal. So that if you understand how to live covenantal.
Chris [00:34:37] Let's tell us that word. It's a one word. It means a. First of all, you're in that second kid. Oh, she was a piece of work. And I know she's probably listening, but holy cow, she was hard. But the marriage starts, and I'm thinking becoming what? Becoming? You know, not in the same conversation. Not not hearing each other in pain. It's hard to become. But there's something that I knew. And I know you knew this, too, and something Alisa knew. And that is there was a commitment to each other. There was trust and trustworthiness. We were in the process of becoming and it wasn't easy, but that word covenant meant something. And tell us, tell listeners what? What does it mean, John? I mean, I know you know a lot about this because I taught you it. So tell us what you learned. At my at my feet.
Jon [00:35:40] Well, I'm so grateful you're here. So I step out of line.
Chris [00:35:43] You can correct me. Oh. Oh, trust me, I will. I can assure you.
Jon [00:35:49] Most people, when they think about covenant and everyone talks about marriage as a covenant, and it's appropriately called that. But most people think of covenant as really sore, solemn promises. That's what we call them, the vows. But that's that's it's really what most people think it is. It's a really important commitment. And it is it's not I'm not denying that. But I've spent much of my life studying Scripture and trying to figure out how the covenants actually work in Scripture. And I want to simplify this at this point. I mean, I. The book I wrote on On Discipleship unpacks it more. But basically every covenant you find in Scripture is grounded in prior grace. God is always first. He's always the one who initiates. He's always the one who promises. He always is the one who who supplies. He's always the one who redeems. He's always first. So covenants are grounded in grace, but when covenant partners receive that grace, they are always covenant fully obligated to respond with faithfulness to the covenant making God. That's not legalism. That's covenant. I've received God's grace. And now, because I'm in a covenant with Him, I am now to respond to who he is and to his character and reflect that that's covenant. So if you then apply that to marriage. The way to live Coven mentally to get back to your question is to learn how to live daily in the prior sustaining, redeeming, empowering grace of God so that daily I am inclined not only to God, but to my spouse, not only to my my moral obligations as a Christian or whatever you want to say, but also in my responsibilities as a man. So when I think about receiving grace, I'm as a Christian, going to be receiving it in multiple ways, but certainly I'm going to be receiving it through the word. I'm going to be receiving it through the promises of God, but I'm also going to be receiving it through my wife. And so I need to start paying attention to what I'm receiving through my wife on a daily basis and receiving a disgrace. Because if I actually receive a disgrace, as opposed to taking it for granted, that Grace will incline me to respond with faithfulness to her.
Chris [00:38:18] I think that's so amazing and it tells me, Be careful who you marry. John, you and I married the two most amazing grace for women in the world. I know you took second in this because I married the best, but Pam is. You know, she's good, but she's not, you know, she's. She's great. But to live with a grace filled wife, to live with a husband that says, I'm committed to you, I. I look for you. I honor my vows to you. There's nothing better. But because they honor their vow to God that they're committed to him first, they they recognize grace they've received from him. And it is through them that they apply that grace to their partner. And it's V to them. Often times that the other person can best see God is when they're treated through them. And that just goes to show how powerfully important choosing a partner is whose first commitment and love is to God and recognition of His grace. And then through this idea of covenant. Having that flow through them to each other.
Jon [00:39:38] Right. I mean, this is this is not to say that non-Christians can't have good marriages. They can. They're they're stamped with the image of God. They have the characteristics of of kindness and justice and mercy. So you can see that sort of thing happening without being Christians. But when you have relationship with God now, you have not just human grace, you actually have divine grace. So when we start thinking about the kind of qualities that you just mentioned, Chris, we start thinking about the fruit of the spirit so that if both spouses are actually living in relationship to God, in a covenantal relationship of receiving grace and responding, the spirit is actually shaping their character. And so the fruit of the Spirit, Lovejoy, peace, whatever those characteristics then are shaping the individual. And if both people in the marriage relationship are taking on those characteristics, then that natural flow of those characteristics from God are flowing through each other to the other. And as a result, you're experiencing divine grace through your spouse.
Alisa [00:40:47] That divine grace you're experiencing that deepening sense of commitment and trust and trustworthiness that you talked about at the beginning. Right. And what's the result of that is that you have a deepening sense of safety, that where someone is consistently kind, they are consistently forgiving. I am consistently loving Chris in a self-sacrificial way.
Jon [00:41:17] Yes. This is this is why, you know, it's so important for young couples especially to recognize how important it is to walk carefully with each other so that they learn how to argue in a way that isn't wounding because you can destroy the kind of trust in a moment. You know, when when when the words and and unprepared anger and even physical interactions that can destroy all of what you just described. But if you live together this way for year after year after year, decade after decade, you rear children. If they come along you whether physical issues that you've had to deal with, financial issues, larger family issues together, the loss of parents, the loss of and you actually live that way with each other. The kind of trust that you're referring to, Elissa, it deepens in a way that you didn't even realize was happening. So now my wife and I are our empty nesters now. Our boys are now on their own. Yeah, it's. It's wonderful. We missed them for about three days. But what's happened is that as now, we're living in this stage of our life now with just mainly relationship between ourselves, we have found again, not only that we love each other, but that we trust each other in a way that we never knew before because that person has been there through all of it, as demonstrated the kind of trustworthiness you were talking about. So now that commitment that we made at the altar has been absolutely demonstrated and we are now abandoning ourselves to each other in a love that I never knew was possible. Because we feel safe with each other like we never did.
Alisa [00:43:04] So, John, let's go. Let's let's bring it home. Now. We're talking about how how this how do we navigate this kind of sexual intimacy, given the perspective of the one flesh union, that commitment, the trust, the trustworthiness, that one flesh that's now emerged.
Chris [00:43:22] You know, and I think, John, you've used the word gift in a lot of this, which is just it's my favorite word of all time. But if there was one author who wrote a book, he said this, if if I could give one word and just take it with me to eternity. And that's the one word I can hold on to, he says, That would be the word give now. And I think he was thinking the idea of a gift. There's something there, I think. Is that right?
Jon [00:43:54] Yeah. I think if you go back even to when God brought Eve to Adam, he gave her to him. It was a gift. And obviously, we're not just talking about sexuality. There was the whole person. But when you think about sexuality, then you must. We must always look at sexuality as a gift to be given and a gift to be received. Our culture, obviously, as we've been talking about, have has has destroyed that sort of thing. It's something to take. It's something just simply for my pleasure or whatever, at least in its worst form. But if you then put sexuality into the context of the covenant, then you're always understanding that the the gift of my wife's sexuality to me is something that only she can give to me. I can't take it, and I must receive it as a covenantal gift. Now, if I'm receiving it, then I must receive it appropriately. And that means it. It summons me to respond to her gift, her grace with faithfulness, with commitment. And if if you actually enter into sexuality that way, it's a constant giving and receiving from both spouses to the other. And then sexuality starts mirroring the larger relationship.
Chris [00:45:14] Lisa, I think you said it right, that society has this so backwards that it is, as John said, a taking. What can I get? Now, what can I give to someone? As far as, you know, the ultimate of a gift. I think that's that's just a powerful way of looking at this. John. So.
Alisa [00:45:38] Yeah, I think what's what's really robust about this viewpoint that that you're extolling, John, is it really is so expands the idea of what is meant by air quotes here one flash and that really that one flash. Takes place in that deeply personal aspect before it takes place in the physical aspect.
Jon [00:46:07] That's right. I like to use the word epitome to describe what sex does in a marriage. Epitome is the consecrating, concentrated example. It's the summary of something, right? So I didn't understand this when I got married.
Chris [00:46:24] Like ours is the epitome of marriage. Or Lisa and I years this, like second or. Exactly. Or like, you're the epitome of many of professors. I mean, if you look up definition of professor, you're going to see us right there, and it'll be on as the epitome. Exactly. Okay. The best state like we have the most Yelp reviews, right? I mean, I'm.
Alisa [00:46:44] The epitome of humility, right? There is.
Jon [00:46:47] Correct. That is right. That's like that's a great example. Chris [00:46:51] Of of truth speaking to. Okay.
Jon [00:46:54] So when I first got married, you know, my wife and I, thankfully by the grace of God, we were virgins when we got married. But for me, it was okay, I'm married now, I can have sex. And it was it was sort of just the. The physical freedom that two people have when they get married. I didn't understand this deep communication of all of the personal through the physical that we've been talking about here. But, Alisa, as you said, if if two people are are growing together intellectually so that you actually sit down, have conversations about significant things, it doesn't necessarily have to be biblical. It could be political. It could be having to do with the environment. It could be having to do with what they're learning in their profession. But they're having very substantive conversations about whatever you're you're knowing the other person. You're you're appreciating their way of thinking and you're becoming one. When you have emotional things, whether it's highs or lows and you come together and you share these things, you are you are knowing each other emotionally and you're becoming one. They're you're becoming trustworthy. They're spiritually. I mean, as my wife spends her mornings oftentimes in the word and she just shares with me what she's getting out of the word. I'm just listening to her heart. I'm listening to her spirit. And we're becoming one flesh in all these ways. So if all of that's happening outside of the bedroom, and then I come into the bedroom with my wife, now it makes sense. Now what we're doing is, is in a physical way, in the most intimate, physical way, all of all all of this stuff that's been going on everywhere else. And our relationship is now epitomized in the sex act, where now physically we're becoming one. And that's matching what's happening in all these other dimensions of our lives. Now all of a sudden, sexuality makes a whole lot sense. Now it's teaching me that life is multidimensional and I get this remarkable freedom to be intimate physically with my wife, where this is all finally culminate. Now it makes sense.
Chris [00:49:15] You know, we have at least I think, so much of this. It makes so much sense and has been so profound.
Alisa [00:49:25] Very profound.
Chris [00:49:28] What would you give how would you summarize this for our listeners now? What's what's the important points? You know, that you would say based upon this, here's how to live based upon this. Here's what to pray for based upon this. Here is your purpose. Here is your goal. You know that that idea of contentment, but the idea of commitment, the idea of compassion and passion, the idea of purpose and meaning, what is it? What do we aim for based upon this biblical world, this biblical idea of sexuality and of marriage and intimacy? It's that integration. It's that idea of who we are. John, What, what, what where does all of this lead to? If you had to tell that lady at Jarrett's. What does it mean? What am I aiming for?
Jon [00:50:29] I think the most important thing to really become convinced of is that we don't have enough. We don't have it in ourselves to have a good relationship. We don't have it within ourselves to be faithful in all the ways we need to be faithful and to be forgiving and to be compassionate and everything else. We just don't have enough. And once you realize that enough.
Chris [00:50:50] You know, moral fiber.
Jon [00:50:52] Grit, grit and commitment, I.
Chris [00:50:55] Can't bring all that I am to bear to do this without. Jon [00:50:59] We're just not going to do it.
Chris [00:51:00] Okay?
Jon [00:51:01] We're just not going to do it. And so that's why so many marriages fail, because they're trying to do it in their own strength. Covenantal living tells me that. God knows we're weak. God knows that we don't have what is needed. We have a traitor in our hearts. We have a narcissist in our hearts. We have a bitter person in our hearts, an unforgiving person. So if things don't go my way, I'm going to. Whatever. The most important thing is to be convinced that I don't have what it takes. So that means that I'm going to have to receive grace. I'm going to have to receive grace every single day of my life if I'm going to become a person in whom the image of God is becoming more and more clear. And if I'm actually going to live in a covenantal relationship with my spouse, I'm going to have to learn how to receive grace every day. Because grace doesn't just motivate. I hear that all the time. That's the motivation. No, Grace does way more than motivate. Grace enables. Grace empowers grace and clients. And so what is it that's going to make me serve my wife when I just want to watch football? What is what is what is it going to take to make me get up and do the dishes or the laundry or walk the baby or or clean up the vomit of the of the son or daughter that left it? What is it going to take for me to actually love my wife the way Christ loved the church? It's not going to come from just my own strength. It's going to have to be that the grace of God is increasingly precious to me. The grace of God is increasingly capturing my heart and inclining me toward my wife. And that means then that it's not just through Ephesians and Romans and Matthew, it's also going to be through my wife so that I, I develop a way of looking at my wife where I pay attention. I mean, it's dawning on me now that I'm in my we're we're in the middle of our 40th year of marriage. That my wife has linked her life to me and has gone with me wherever the Lord has led us. So her her presence with me is great. And when I think about her creativity, her humor, her her servant heartedness, her whatever, to be able to identify those things and receive them as grace. Well, if I've received them a grace, no longer am I taking it for granted. And that grace inevitably is going to incline my heart. It's going to move my heart. It's going to enable my heart to respond and then to recognize governmentally, if I'm receiving grace, I need to respond in kind. And so that commitment that that the kind of trustworthiness so I cannot receive her sexuality or her presence without now recognizing, oh, it's also summoning me to respond in kind and faithfulness. But now I'm not alone. It's it's it's the kind of relationship that God has with me in the kind of relationship I have with my wife that is actually empowering the whole thing.
Chris [00:54:08] I don't know if we can end in any other better. Alisa [00:54:11] Brotha might.
Chris [00:54:12] Drop the mic, which.
Alisa [00:54:14] We can add to that. John That's beautiful. I just, I think one of the things that, that I just love about this is that when when you give this lecture in class, it's just like you see this look, come on. This. The faces of our students were there when they captured that vision. They actually see you and Pam together up there as a couple, as the epitome of what you're talking about, besides Chris and me as the thing. But they're watching you guys and they have that that thought of That's what I want. I have not seen it. Some of them have not seen it at home. Some have, but not many have seen it at home. They're certainly not seeing it in our culture, but they're seeing it lived out in in person right in front of them. When they watch the way you to interact together, they listen to the way you talk about each other. They watch you outside of class, the way you are with each other, where you are the epitome. And I think the beauty of this class is that it gives our young people hope. It gives them hope. And may the God of hope filled you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him until you are overflowing with hope. By the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jon [00:55:42] Amen.
Alisa [00:55:43] Amen.
Chris [00:55:43] Amen. Thank you for joining us on this Art of Relationships podcast with Dr. John Landy, who will be able to read more about this hopefully in the near future and we'll let you know. And his book comes out. It's going to be amazing, the idea of covenantal love and how we deal with marriages and sexual.
Alisa [00:56:08] Yeah. So thanks so much for joining us on this part two of The Art of Relationships. And we are so glad that you joined us. We hope that you'll be back for the next one. But I'm Elisa Grace, joined with my beautiful husband.
Chris [00:56:23] The epitome of Chris. Yeah. Chris thanks. Yep. Lisa It's awesome. Just, I feel loved right now. I think you're going to nickname me Epitome. I know. Yeah, I know.
Alisa [00:56:37] Your new nickname, The Epitome. The weekend. The answer. Chris [00:56:42] The answer. Yeah, I could imagine.
Alisa [00:56:43] You're kidding.
Chris [00:56:44] Me. Good to see y'all. Thanks. See you next.
Alisa [00:56:45] Time. John.
Mandy [00:56:48] Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at CMR dot viola, dot edu and make a donation today.
Jonathan Lunde (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of biblical studies and theology at Talbot School of Theology of Biola University. He has contributed articles to The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels and The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Jon and his wife, Pamela, have three children and reside in Brea, California.
The Art of Relationships podcast, hosted by Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace, is centered on helping you build healthy relationships and marriages. In this podcast, Dr. Chris Grace and Alisa Grace weigh in on how to navigate the complexities of relationships in our culture with biblical wisdom and scholarly research. Listen to get practical insights on relationships, dating, and marriage.