Romans 14 as Applied to Marital Lovemaking
Let’s say that one of us wants to do something together sexually that our partner considers dirty or gross. This does not apply to behaviors that are unsafe, painful, forceful, or degrading (such as spanking, vulgarities, or verbal insults). If one of us has prayed about it and believes this activity is a gift from God to us both, the other would be spiritually delinquent to avoid offering this activity up to God for our healing and blessing. Some scriptures may shed further light on this situation, and help us determine if something might be for us a gift God wants to give us now:
The third commandment not to take God’s name in vain says not to drop God’s name on our game. This warns us not to lie about having received a red or green light from God when all we got was just a human emotion of fear or desire.
I Timothy 4: 3-4 teaches that an activity might be consecrated as we receive it from God with thanksgiving.
Acts 10: 9-16 tells of Peter receiving a vision from God. A sheet was lowered from heaven with various foods and activities he had been taught by the elders to regard as unclean, dirty. He was commanded to eat, enjoy, and “not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (v. 15)
Spiritually, most Christians consider romantic touch a matter of individual conscience. The Bible doesn’t give one set of behavioral guidelines here for everybody, so the principles of Romans 14 should certainly apply. Let’s each read this chapter devotionally, letting it and God read us as we do. To see how it applies to our romantic touching, we would need to try replacing the words brother, eat, vegetables, and food or meat with the words partner, enjoy, kissing and touching. If our consciences agree for us to do this and to translate the all-male pronouns neutrally, we could read it this way, and the NIV would then teach us the following, with italicized words changed as suggested:
[verses 1-3] Accept anyone whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One mate’s faith allows him or her to enjoy all touching, but another mate, whose faith is weak, enjoys only kissing. The one who enjoys all touching must not look down on one who does not, and the one who does not enjoy all touching must not condemn the one who does, for God has accepted them both. . . .
[verses 13-15] Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your partner’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no act of touching is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your partner is distressed because of what you enjoy, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your touching destroy your partner for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. . . .
[verses 19-23] Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. It is better not to enjoy touching or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your partner to stumble. So whatever you believe about these things, keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they enjoy touching, because their touching is not from faith. And everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Insights from Romans 14
The more liberal partner is considered having stronger faith.
Yet that partner is called to sacrifice for the sake of the other’s spiritual growth and well-being.
Any activity that has not been put under the direction of God is troubled by sin.
In short, when either is in doubt or conflict about an act of touching, hold off. This gives the Holy Spirit
time to grow patience and compassion in one of us, and stronger faith in the other.
[For further insight and encouragement, I Corinthians 10 is a chapter that reads much like Romans 14.]
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Perhaps one of us has suffered previously traumatic experiences while doing the activities in question, either with our mate, or with a previous partner. [Given the greater physical vulnerabilities, the better memory for physical details, and the greater emotional awareness and expressiveness which most women have, more often this abused, mistreated partner is female. Therefore we men especially might need to work at being understanding of our partners here.] If our fears have not been healed and turned yet into stronger faith, we may rationalize our fearful avoidance as moral purity. But at a deeper level, we will also feel ashamed and defective. Partners in this predicament will do well to read the blogpost here on Anxiety, “Healing from Trauma and Abuse.”