Today’s lesson focuses on the topic of intimacy. “Love” is in the title – but the real topic is intimacy. Human beings have been created in the image of God. We all know that is a profound concept that has kept theologians busy for centuries. We don’t know all that the “Imago Dei” means or implies. However, we have enough understanding of this truth to make sense of it.
For example, God is a Person. He has the qualities of Personhood. Consequently, human beings are persons. We have an awareness of our existence. We have a certain depth of awareness and consciousness that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We also have the abilities of reason and decision-making. Further, we have a sense of purpose and significance.
We also learn from the Scripture that God exists in eternity in community. He is a relational Being. So – we are relational as well. We have both the capacity and need for relationships. We are social creatures. We are not designed for total isolation. We are born into a family context and relationships are a part of our natural existence.
All of this is connected to the concept of being created in the image of God. And – as we mature, we have the capacity for developing significant and meaningful relationships. As we initiate and manage these relationships, we learn there are appropriate levels of intimacy to be experienced that enhance these connections.
For example, there are different types of physical touching that reflect intimacy. A brief hug, a slight touch on the shoulder or pat on the back is indicative of a friendly relationship. A full body hug, a deep and passionate kiss and sexual encounters signal a much deeper relationship than just casual friendship.
God has created us with a desire for all levels of intimacy. With most normal, healthy human beings there are appropriate expressions of intimacy experienced regularly. Most cultures have certain generally accepted practices that tend to govern both public and private behaviors of the overwhelming majority of people.
Greetings are a great example of what I mean. In some cultures, it is customary to shake hands when a greeting occurs. Some cultures are more expressive and people will kiss the other person lightly on the cheek. Other cultures don’t permit physical touching in greetings – just a verbal acknowledgment. These are all examples of appropriate expressions of physical touching associated with levels of intimacy.
Now, let’s explore this a bit more. Across the human family there are appropriate ways to experience the deepest expressions of intimacy. God has designed humans to both express and receive intimate exchanges. These deep expressions are physical, emotional and spiritual in nature. They require vulnerability and trust for the experiences to be most meaningful and healthy.
Obviously, sexual intimacy would be regarded as an expression that is reserved for the deepest level of intimate behavior. However, in many Western cultures, there are various opinions concerning what is appropriate sexual behavior in relationships. In the American culture specifically, there is a tension between freedom and restriction that plays out across modern society. While there is almost universal acceptance that consenting adults can engage in sexual activity of their choosing, there are strong differences of opinion about how appropriate it may or may not be. And – the freedom of expression inherent in our free society allows for the dehumanization of sexuality to be produced through pornographic material. Again – there may be broad acceptance of the freedom of the press, but there is strong disagreement about the availability, distribution and morality of pornography in particular.
All of this serves as the backdrop to our study. We live in a free society. While there are generally accepted behaviors, there is wide latitude on numerous issues with respect to intimacy. This broad societal context can prove challenging to Christians who are seeking to understand and obey the Biblical admonitions concerning intimate behavior. With that said, let’s look at today’s Scripture passage.