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What is the Coptic Orthodox Church’s view on Sex and Sexuality ?

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April 5, 2017

What is the Coptic Orthodox Church’s view on Sex and Sexuality?

This is a loaded question and many people will shy away from it due to the sensitivity surrounding the subject.  Sex has, unfortunately, become something that is extremely misunderstood and poorly portrayed in mainstream media.  Because of this the average Christian would rather treat the subject as an elephant in the room and act that it isn’t there.  Sex and sexuality however is a topic that needs to be addressed.

We need to clarify that the Bible and the Church teach that Sexuality is one of God’s blessed gifts to humanity.  We often deal with sexuality as if it is evil. In reality, when properly expressed within the mystery of marriage, sexuality becomes something beautiful and an intimate expression of the love that God has placed inside of us.

The Orthodox Church clearly says that sex and sexuality serve three major purposes within the marital relationship between a husband and a wife:

1) To express the intimate and passionate love to one another

2) To help the believer fight the passions of lust that we face in a very sex saturated society

3) To give way to the gift of procreation

In this video we will tackle the first two points and we will leave the subject of procreation to another time.

[It is important before going further to understand the two terms passion and lust.  The viewer needs to watch the previous videos discussing those terms, before this video.  This will help the viewer properly understand what is meant by human sexuality vs the passion of lust.]

Before we attempt to tackle the first two purposes of sex (mentioned earlier) we need to ask two questions.

Why do some people have such a negative outlook on sexuality? And if we think that sexuality is something bad and sinful, then how can God be the author of human sexuality?

Let us make something clear.  Everything that is created by God (specifically those attributes that relate to the image of God which all human were created on) is not just good but is very good (Genesis 1:31).  This means that when the human being uses and expresses all the God given faculties in a proper way as intended by God, in the proper time and proper place, these things lead to edification and even to salvation.  This includes the expression of love through the means of marital relations and sexuality.

This is not where most people face a problem.  The debate really happens when we speak of sex outside of the marital covenant without any selfless acts of love or intention of eternal commitment to another person.  It is outside of that where we have an issue.  In other words when we take God’s gifts and we direct them towards the self rather than towards God, they become destructive, they develop into passions and can lead to eternal death.  This is where the Church cries out and warns us.

To make matters clear, let’s take an example.  If we were to take a big sharp chef’s knife and place it in the hands of a toddler who runs around and bumps into everything and everyone, the knife in this case is considered extremely dangerous and a hazard.  However, if we place the same knife in the hands of a world class Chef, the knife becomes a tool to create a wonderful meal.  The problem is not the knife; it is the person that will hold the knife, the context and the purpose of its use.  Extrapolating the example to the subject of sexuality we can see where the confusion comes from.  The Church does not condemn sex or say that it is bad! The Church’s stance has always been that sex outside of what God has intended for us is not just bad but destructive.  Within the boundaries of what God has intended it to be, sex is wondrous and a beautiful thing. 

We read in Genesis 2:24 after God created Eve from Adam’s rib; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Our Lord Jesus Christ quoted that very passage in his response to the Pharisees on the subject of divorce: “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9).

Some people interpret this union between man and woman (‘becoming one flesh’) as strictly allegorical but the Church has never limited it to the spiritual meaning of union.  Clearly, as per God’s design, the union of one flesh also involves the physical intimate nature of marital love. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ also adds to the text of Genesis in His own words ‘so then they are no longer two, but one flesh’.  He even highlights that it is God who has joined them together.  This reveals to us the deep and mysterious beauty of the union between husband and wife. 

There was a time in the early Church when many thought it was appropriate to attack both marriage and marital relations. In the 4th century, many believed that it was best to remain celibate and await the coming of the Lord.  It was believed that marriage may even cost a person their eternal life.  However, in 340 AD, after the first council of Nicea, a local senate assembled at Gangra (a city of modern day Turkey) and the senate of bishops there made it a point to defend the honor of marriage and marital relations and they came out with the following Canon.

“If anyone should condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of Heaven] let him be anathema.”  Anathema here means ‘excommunicated” (Canon 1 of the Synod of Gangra).

This tells us that the Church has always seen marriage and marital relations as something that is honorable and worthy of the mystery of matrimony.  If that wasn’t the Church’s view how then would the Church tolerate its priests being married and establish families of many children.

In conclusion, we should note that the Church has never been ignorant to the fact that society has turned human sexuality into something that is depraved and a source of great evil in our lives.  Tragedies like human trafficking, child abuse, addiction to pornography and addiction to a whole variety of sexual activities and sexually transmitted diseases, are all on the rise.  The church encourages everyone to realize that part of the solution to those lusts and manifestations of evil is to embrace the proper and noble understanding of what God intended for sexuality to be amongst us.   It is when we aspire to patiently endure and fight these lusts for the sake of embracing a greater gift in the future (sexuality in this case) that we can find the courage and the support of the Holy Spirit to preserve us without sin until the appointed time that is set by God. 

                                Remember know your faith, live your faith and

                                                          teach your faith

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