Sam Allbery is an Anglican pastor from Maidenhead, England, who also works with Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM), Cedarville University, and writes for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of a number of books, including Is God Anti-Gay?, and 7 Myths about Singleness.
One thing that is worth knowing about Sam is that by his own admonition, he has only ever had romantic desires and sexual attraction to other men, yet he has chosen to live a celibate life of devotion to God.
When I saw that Sam’s latest book “Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?,” was being released, I preordered a copy. Upon my return from my recent trip to Europe, I was happy to see that the book had arrived while I was away, and I used the first week of my quarantine to read it from cover to cover.
The Supreme Human Right?
Sam begins his book by answering the question in the title of the book:
Just fifteen years ago Christians like me, who follow the teaching of the Bible, would have been thought of as old-fashioned for holding to the traditional Christian understanding of sex being exclusively for marriage, but now, increasingly, we are thought of as being dangerous to society.
Who we sleep with is seen as a supreme human right. Anything that seems to constrain our choice in this area is somehow viewed as an existential threat.
God cares who we sleep with because he cares deeply about the people who are doing the sleeping. He cares because sex was his idea, not ours. He cares because misusing sex can profoundly hurt and damage. He cares because he regards us as worthy of his care.Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, pp. 9-10
Honoring Sacred Space
One of Allberry’s key points of argument is to show that the Bible does not take a low view of sex, seeing it as something dirty and unholy, but just the opposite: it takes a much higher view of our physical bodies and what we do with them than the secular world does, describing them as “temples” (1 Corinthians 6:19) and therefore sacred space.
It is precisely because of this high view of the physical body that God cares so much about sex, insisting that this powerful thing be used in the right ways, lest it cause pain and destruction.
He points out that when Jesus says that for a man to look lustfully at a woman is to break the commandment against adultery, Jesus is declaring that the sexuality of the person being looked at is precious and valuable: an integrity that deserves to be honored, and must not be violated, even in the privacy of another person’s mind, and to do so is to wrong that person.
Jesus’ teaching reflects something we see throughout the whole Bible: how we treat one another sexually matters a great deal to God.
Any sexual assault is a violation of sacred space.
The pain of sexual assault is not the pain of a grazed knee but the trauma of holy space being desecrated. Maybe our bodies are less like playthings and more like temples.pp. 19, 20, 30
The reason our bodies matter so much is because of the Imago Dei (the Image of God) with which we are endowed uniquely as human beings. It is for this reason that we believe that all human life, regardless of physical ability or disability, income or education level, is equal in value.
There is something sacred about human life.
We [all] know that human life matters in a unique way. When someone treats a pet life a human, we think it a bit odd. But when someone treats a human being like an animal, we know deep down that it is terribly wrong.
When we fawn over a baby, we’re not coldly observing a mere organism. We’re beholding one who bears divine finger prints. And because a human being is the sacred product of sex, the sexual process by which that person is made is also sacred.p. 35
Sam Allberry describes the power of sex with the metaphor of fire: where you do it matters. In the fireplace of a house it can create heat and light which brings warmth and life. Lighting one elsewhere can be dangerous, destructive, and life-threatening. The context matters.
Furthermore, he points out that the purpose of sex is unification and giving. To use it in a way which does not serve these purposes is to take it out of the life-giving context.
Not Just Physical
God cares who we sleep with because God cares about us as people. Sex deeply affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
When someone is sexually assaulted or when someone is sexually betrayed, it is not just their body that is attacked; they as a person are violated.p. 51
One of Sam Allberry’s emphases in this book is that while he wants to explain the biblical and theological reasoning behind the Bible’s sexual ethics, he also wants to communicate the Bible’s message of redemption for those who have fallen short.
He points out that not only are all of us sinners, all of us are sexual sinners – and the promise of the gospel is forgiveness, redemption, and new life in Jesus Christ.
This book is short, informative, and engaging. It answers several very commonly asked questions, which are only going to be asked more and more in the years to come, including questions about LGBTQ and co-habitation. Everyone would do well to educate themselves on the answers to these questions, and this book by Sam Allberry is an excellent resource for doing so.