Sabbath Sex

Rembrant "Moses with the Tablets of the Law" from Wikipedia via Creative Commons

Rembrant “Moses with the Tablets of the Law” from Wikipedia via Creative Commons

Sabbath gets a lot of really bad press in the Gospels. Jesus often undermined social conventions of his day when talking about the Sabbath, practices so embedded in the religious practices of the time that his “blasphemy” against the Sabbath was one of the main accusations used against him during his trials.Which does make some sense, since observing the Sabbath is the most often repeated commandment in the books of the Law given to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Violation of this central practice was a constant source of accusation from Yahweh against the people throughout the books of the prophets. The Sabbath seemed to be a pretty big deal to God, yet Jesus sounded almost flippant when talking about the Sabbath.

Yet, a close read reveals that he never actually spoke negatively about the Sabbath itself. In fact much of what he said was intended to pull people back to the heart of the Sabbath as a time for God’s people to rest in their trust that He had all things concerning them under control. Their weekly respite from toil was a sign to their world that their God would take complete care of them as they rested in their worship of Him.

Several years ago I hit a rough patch in my life. Stress, bad coping, a breakup, and looming job/church changes flung me head-first into a wall of anxiety so hard that I couldn’t get my feet back under me. I decided to take a week to retreat to a hotel a few hours away, detox mentally and physically, and study the Sabbath. I knew all the negative stuff Jesus had to say about it, the ways it had been made a burden on the people. But what were the healthy practices? I knew what it shouldn’t be; now it was time to learn about what it should be.

I was amazed. Reading about candle-lighting ceremonies, great food, conversation, hikes, games, naps, I suddenly felt cheated by not having been taught to practice Sabbath sooner. One of the most surprising things I learned was that married couples were encouraged to have sex, in fact great sex, on the Sabbath. Not to procreate or out of obligation, but as a way to care for each other. Couples were commanded to enjoy each other sexually on the Sabbath. A lot of Jewish writing specified that husbands were to be sure to please their wives during this time.

This idea shattered some of my overly-prudish understanding of the role of sex in marriage. But more than that, it challenged some of what I understood (from all that youth group teaching) about different approaches to sex by men and women. I’d been taught that men only want sex from a relationship, and women only want emotional connection. Part of a wife’s duty was to be sure to be readily available for her husband sexually, and guys should try really hard to kind of pretend to feel stuff for their wives. Women want love; men want respect.

Except that I want love and respect, and I have the capacity to give both in equal and abundant measure. Except that a lot of us women have healthy sex drives and no qualms about it. Except that men I know actually feel past their loins and long for emotional connection. Those Sabbath-honoring Jewish folk didn’t seem to have our hang-ups about drawing black-and-white distinctions between the needs of men and women. The Sabbath was a time for emotional connection and great sex.

I read a post this week by a man who renewed some of my faith in Christian thought about men and women. His honesty and willingness to address what’s wrong in our thinking about love and sex were so refreshing. Take a look, and tell me what you think in the comments. I’m very interested to hear!

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2 Comments

  1. Adiel said,

    November 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I meet with a small group of women every other week so we can discuss books on marriage or child-rearing and encourage each other. We established early on that the myth of the male sex robot was a load of crap and has little to no basis in reality. One of the books we read (which I will never read again nor recommend to anyone) even stated that men are simple creatures who just want sex and a sandwich to be happy. Ugh. Made me want to throw my tablet across the room when I read that. I don’t know where that lie started, but it’s messing with the poor men and women who are getting married and expecting things to work like that. And it’s making for some confused, unhappy people.

    I think part of the solution is honesty from folks who are married and have figured this out. I can’t even express how helpful it has been for me to have built a trust with a handful of women so we can talk about everything from laundry to sex. How else are we going to shatter these lies?

    My husband is a complicated and intricate human and deserves my attempts at understanding him and my strivings to respect him as the amazing man he is.

    Keep on getting the truth out there, Mandy.

    • MandyK said,

      November 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Adiel 🙂 Really good perspective from a married person!


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