Now, About Sex… (Part III)

Posted by Roberta Grimes • December 12, 2020 • 25 Comments
Human Nature, Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.
– Joachim Neander (1650-1680), from the German “Praise to the Lord” (1680)

The only approach to morality that is consistent with the Godhead’s truth is based in divine love alone. From earliest prehistory, human-made gods have imposed various behavioral laws, but the genuine Godhead gives us no laws beyond God’s perfect Law of Love. Jesus makes that fact plain in the Gospels when He says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40).

It is impossible to establish a love-based morality while any written moral law exists, since the written law always takes precedence. While any moral laws are in place, love can be nothing more than the optional nicety it has become for us now. And all written moral laws are flawed, since there is no written law to which we cannot soon think of some love-based exceptions! We have never had a morality based on written laws that was right in all situations. So Jesus makes it clear in the Gospels that He is moving us beyond all black-letter laws by replacing the law-based Old Testament with the Godhead’s New Testament Law of Love. When we study the Lord’s Gospel words, and we then endeavor to follow His teachings, we realize that divine love is possible only when we are free of all other constraints.

But what about secular laws? We cannot live in civilization without obeying those! So Jesus tells us how to handle that conflict. When the Pharisees try to trap him into speaking against paying Caesar’s poll-tax, He says, “‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.’ And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then He said to them, ‘Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s’” (MT 22:18-21). Bravo, Jesus! We enjoy this little interplay as more evidence of His cleverness, but He is making an important point. We can – and we must – keep the things of this world, the human-made laws and the grubbing for survival, entirely separate from our sacred effort to ever better practice God’s perfect divine love.

But how do we actually go about developing a purely love-based morality? It is only when we ask the question that we see how very different a love-based morality is from one that is based in black-letter laws. We are used to laws. We find their certainty comforting. Our old way of doing morality – starting with the applicable laws, and then looking for possible love-based exceptions – felt easy and automatic. And a love-based morality will feel easy, too, once we have become more used to it. In fact, I think we are going to find that a love-based morality makes discerning the difference between right and wrong a lot easier! Of course, we might then be seeing that what is right to do in any given situation is not what we would prefer to do. But still, the moral choice will be clear! It is time for us to test-drive an entirely laws-free morality that is based in the love that Jesus taught.

This need to operate entirely from love applies to all our daily decisions. But the simplest way to illustrate the difference that a love-based morality can make in our lives is to consider how we would make entirely love-based sexual decisions. Our decisions about sex are full of ethical thorns, so they are a great place for us to begin to think concretely about a love-based morality. Let’s look now at three basic sex-related decisions, and consider them entirely from the viewpoint of a laws-free morality that is based in love. We’ve got to start somewhere!

Heterosexual Behavior

 The decision to be intimate with someone is a complex one. Since there are no longer black-letter laws, it doesn’t matter whether a couple is legally married to one another; but still, we have a lot to consider! Let’s look at the three core love-based questions that we will first have to answer in the affirmative:

  • Are we willing to rear a resulting child? To kill a fetus for the sake of convenience can never be seen as a love-based choice. So the decision to have sexual intercourse, even with contraceptive use, will always be the simultaneous decision that we are prepared to lovingly co-parent with this partner for the next twenty years; or alternatively, that we are prepared to find the resulting child good adoptive parents. For both birth-parents, that possible child’s welfare is their love-based responsibility from before its conception.
  • Are we sure that no outside parties will be harmed by our actions? If either party is involved with someone who would see what we mean to do as an act of betrayal, then that other relationship will first need to be comfortably resolved. And if either party is co-parenting a minor child with someone else, then the risk of disrupting that child’s life seems to me in a purely love-based morality to trump every reason that we might have for proceeding to be sexual with this partner!
  • Are both parties mentally and emotionally able to make love-based decisions about sexual activity? People who are mentally handicapped, too young, emotionally immature, or so deeply indoctrinated into a religion as to be unable to enter this particular sexual relationship without guilt and fear must always be protected by the healthier party from the emotional damage that can result if you proceed.

There may also be other considerations that we will come to see are mandatory for a sexual morality based in love, but these are the three that first come to mind. Few people even consider black-letter laws about intimate behavior anymore, so in thinking this through we are not only getting rid of the laws that nobody follows anyway, but much more importantly we are creating a healthier and entirely love-based morality that can much better take their place.

Homosexual Behavior 

Absent pregnancy, the same questions that apply to deciding on heterosexual activity are applicable when the intended participants are of the same gender. Here the thorniest moral issue is not for the participants, but rather it is the fact that so many Christians still feel free to judge and condemn people who are sexually attracted to their own gender. And it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus while you are presuming to judge anyone! It doesn’t matter how you personally feel about homosexuality. If you ever judge anyone for anything at all, then you are acting in direct contravention of the plainspoken teachings of Jesus. The Lord says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (LK 6:37). He says, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (JN 5:22-23). Then on a different day, with different Temple guards, He tells us that He doesn’t judge us, either. He says, If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him” (JN 12:47). The Lord cannot possibly have made any plainer the fact that neither God nor Jesus ever judges anyone! And those that we used to think were dead confirm this fact as well. The only judgment is by ourselves alone. And when there is no divine judgment, then surely Christians have no right to judge anyone for anything. Yes, in the United States you have a Constitutional right to refuse to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. But if you are calling yourself a follower of Jesus, just know that it is His frank request that you rise above judgment, smile, and lovingly bake that cake.

Non-Monogamous Sexual Behavior

 Sexual relationships among multiple partners seem to be more common now, to the point where psychologists are urging us to accept non-monogamy as a lifestyle choice. A surprising number of people are engaged in polyamory, or in open marriages, or even in stable households that contain more than two cohabiting adults. And without any black-letter moral laws in place, such alternative living arrangements can be perfectly moral. But they still pose some much-increased ethical risks! The decision to enter into any form of non-monogamous sexual relationship is compounded by the much-increased chance of jealousies and general instability that must be lovingly addressed, and by the fact that many more outside people are likely to be affected by it. At the very least,  every person involved will need to satisfactorily answer the three questions given above.

As you can see, a purely love-based morality can be simple to apply and seems to make more sense than does one that is based in rigid laws. It surely works a lot better than trying to live by behavioral laws that require us to always be on the lookout for all the possible love-based exceptions!

Next week we’ll pause to celebrate the Reason for the Season. Then we’ll resume this process of learning to ever better practice the purely love-based morality that Jesus taught.


Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.
– Joachim Neander (1650-1680), from the German “Praise to the Lord” (1680)


Sunset kiss photo credit: <a href=”″>when the sun sets</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>
Indian couple photo credit: Shreyans Bhansali <a href=”″>ठहरिये</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>
Seaside wedding photo credit: MohammadHasan <a href=”″>Eternal Embrace</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>
Lesbian couple photo credit: Shandi-lee <a href=”″>Megan & Jen</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>
Wading couple photo credit: Gareth1953 All Right Now <a href=”″>Wonderful West Wittering – June 2011 – Ain’t Love Grand</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

Roberta Grimes
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25 thoughts on “Now, About Sex… (Part III)

  1. This is an interesting article, but this is what I see as a problem. It is impossible to separate morality on love from ordinary secular laws. If a person who lives by the law of love steals money to feed a hungry child, he can offend a person who does not live by the law of love, owner of money, but all his life. What to do in this case? Morality based on love gives internal permission to violate any secular laws in case of need, but at the same time it can create a huge source of problems in relations with people who do not live according to the law of love. They are used to relying on ordinary secular laws and the presence of people who are ready to break any laws in case of need at any time should scare them greatly. How to solve this giant problem?

    1. Dear Dmitriy, Jesus answers this question by telling us to render unto Caesar (or the secular government) what belongs to it, and to render unto God what belongs to God (our spiritual growth). And in fact, this isn’t really a problem! We obey the traffic and property laws, pay our taxes, and in general satisfy the government, all without at all infringing on any sort of morality, whether it is based in religious laws or based in love. The fact that a child is starving doesn’t give us the right to steal! No, the love-based way to address the need of a starving child to eat is simply to give the child some (or all) of our own dinner.

      “Morality based on love gives internal permission to violate any secular laws in case of need” is simply not true, as Jesus himself lets us know in MT 22:18-21. And if we do need to obey a love-based moral imperative that breaks a secular law – for example, by killing an armed intruder in our home – then there generally is a love-based exception under the secular law. Or else we simply go to prison. Always doing the right thing under a strictly love-based morality might indeed mean that we break a secular law and then must pay the secular penalty, and so we do that. The boundary between secular laws and God’s love-based morality is not always going to be perfect, but still we seek God’s morality first of all.

    1. Dear Francois, this is absolutely right. There are lots of ways to feed a starving child that don’t require that we violate God’s law of love with regard to the owner of the money we might want to take!

  2. What is considered betrayal ? If you’re into an intimate relationship with someone, what prevents you from having another intimate relationship at the same time ? What is jealousy exactly ? Isn’t that a personal feeling we blame others for ? Who says intimate relationships have to be eclusive unless requested by both parties ? What’s the role of psychology in all this, is psychology playing the role of the law maker of personal relationships ? What is psychology based on anyway, love or morality ? Who decides what is moral ?

    1. Dear Francois, whatever the question might be, Love is always the only answer.

      To attempt to answer your questions here:

      1) What is considered betrayal? Considered by whom? I think we have to ask the question of the one that we are thinking about betraying. If we are in any sort of a relationship, then the loving thing to do is to try to understand our beloved well enough to know what he or she would consider to be a betrayal.
      2) If you’re into an intimate relationship with someone, what prevents you from having another intimate relationship at the same time ? If you are in an intimate relationship, then a love-based morality demands that you discuss with your beloved whether and to what extent you each might enter another intimate relationship at the same time without in any way harming the other.
      3) What is jealousy exactly? Who knows? Isn’t that a personal feeling we blame others for ? It’s a personal feeling, yes. And some are more susceptible to it than others; in fact, as I think about it I don’t believe that I ever have been actually jealous. But some people are susceptible to jealousy, and if you are in a sexual relationship it is incumbent on you to know your beloved’s needs! If you cause him or her to feel jealousy, that is the precise equivalent of kicking a broken leg. It is emphatically NOT loving!
      4) Who says intimate relationships have to be exclusive unless requested by both parties ? No one does. There are no rules. But when you are pursuing a love-based morality, it is up to you to make certain that your decision to be non-exclusive is fully and lovingly communicated to your beloved, and is completely mutual.
      5) What’s the role of psychology in all this, is psychology playing the role of the law maker of personal relationships ? I don’t see that psychology necessarily has any role in a love-based morality.
      6) What is psychology based on anyway, love or morality ? Neither! It’s based on the work of scientists investigating human behavior.
      7) Who decides what is moral ? The pure and selfless love of the Godhead that Jesus taught is the only possible moral arbiter. So if you want to abandon the old black-letter morality, you must first learn to love the way the Godhead loves. Then once you begin to do that, you will no longer think that any of these questions even needs to be asked 😉

  3. Roberta, I find your comments inspiring and in agreement with true Christian ideals. As a young woman, I went through great anguish due to the anti-gay sentiments and laws of that time. I’m happy for young people today who are much more open and accepting of homosexuality and who now have greater protection under the law. It has taken decades for this to develop, and still there are those who hate and fear those whose sexual preference differs from the majority. LGBQT hatred has been fueled by those who consider themselves to be Christians, using the Bible to justify their intolerance. They have weaponized God and use a few passages in the Bible to justify their own prejudices and misfounded fears. I know that one day society will see people as individuals, irrespective of sexual preference, and recognize our kinship to one another as God’s creations.

    1. Oh dear Barbara, I am so sorry you had to go through all of that! I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be a peaceful and mentally balanced person, certain about who you are and who you love and the fact that your way of thinking feels normal and hurts no one, but to be stigmatized and rejected for who you are by people who claim to be acting that way because they are acting for God! It takes someone very strong to be shamed that way, and still be strong. I am so sorry!

  4. As a physician I was totally with you down to multiple partners. Promiscuity in my medical opinion opens the danger of genitally transmitted diseases. If it is difficult drawing safe boundaries in relationships involving two people, it becomes even more difficult with three or more in communion. Many genital diseases become chronic and incurable, may touch off arthritis, cancer or infertility, and may require life-long or repeated treatments… herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, HIV, warts, etc. If one is going to consider pregnancy, and take into consideration others involved in relationships, then it becomes important to consider diseases and their impact.

    1. Dear Charles, you are entirely right! But this problem is not peculiar to only people who are non-monogamous. It exists as a risk for anyone who is not a virgin or who is intimate with a non-virgin, so the risk in the population of giving or receiving a venereal disease is close to 100% by the time we are middle-aged. Perhaps it should have been mentioned as another essential consideration to be addressed every time we are going to be intimate with anyone, and in fact I had considered mentioning it there; but this column was too long (we try to limit the length so as not to bore you). And as I thought about it, health considerations seemed to be assumed, so perhaps they need not be mentioned directly?

      “If you have a sexually-transmitted disease, then love requires that you inform everyone with whom you might become intimate” was what I likely would have said… but then I thought I was insulting the reader’s intelligence by saying something so obvious. What do you think? Should I add that after all?

      1. You can catch herpes from someone who doesn’t even know they have it, so STDs are inevitable at some point. There are risks in every things we do on a daily basis. The medical profession tends to be overprotective and pro-life extreme at times.

        1. Dear Francois, I know how how overprotective doctors can be: I’m married to one! But I find his fussiness about our trying to stay healthy rather endearing. We take all kinds of obscure vitamin, he himself cooks our meals and everything is organic… and we are indeed a lot younger than our actual ages.

          But I see STDs as of course a very serious problem, and yet one more concern that has to be dealt with based on divine love. I’m thinking about taking Charles’s suggestion. Since apparently it wasn’t obvious, the risk of STDs probably should have been mentioned.

  5. Hi Roberta, hi everybody — This blog entry is, I think, the pivotal one of the series. In terms of the behaviors discussed, it is perhaps more transactional — looking at the way assignations and relationships with others are formed and viewed — than I expected, yet this spectrum of intimate relationships in a Divine Love-driven morality makes total sense.

    In looking at these intimate decisions, another relationship is brought to mind as well. That is, the relationship we all have with our own sexual/gender roles in the personal stories we live for the sake of ourselves, as well as the way we fit into society’s stories.

    Especially for Christians, the traditional role of the woman vs. the man in a relationship — including not just a one-on-one sexual relationship, but family and community relationships too — are conflicting to personal identity.

    My family is Catholic and in the Catholic family tradition it is was supposed to be clear that male children had a certain “responsibility” to learn, and female children had their own specific responsibility to learn. In a large family, until recent times, it was still expected that at least one boy and one girl would respectively go into the priesthood and become a nun. That of course means celibacy. I remember a friend once telling me that husbands were the “spiritual heads” of their households.

    (And let’s not even get started on the “missionary position”!)

    All of these traditional roles are cultural artifacts that belong – if they ever really belonged at all — to a different culture and age, and yet we even have black-letter laws that reinforce them to this day.

    No wonder there is such pain and confusion intrinsic to our sexual identities — even if we believe ourselves to be society’s version of heteronormal. I don’t know why, but I feel that the physiological and biological function of reproduction affects our self worth and sense of purpose more so than any other element of this experience we perceive as incarnation.

    I wrote this next part in a comment about last week’s blog entry, but I think it bears repeating: So much of finding clarity depends on our truly coming to realize, what our Eternal Being means.

    We were never born. We never die. We are “taught” to long for the “afterlife” and our “reward.” We are not incarnations. There is only Eternal Life. It is important for us to come to understand ourselves in this way. Then the Creative Force and Awareness that we call Love—and can experience as an emotion, but is actually more fundamental than anything else we call emotion, including sexual or romantic love, which can aid or get in the way of our seeing ourselves as such Beings (our choice) begins to be understood.

    1. Oh dear Mike, I have read the first part of your comment three times, and still I wonder about it. Are gender roles really so troublesome for most people, do you think? I cannot remember ever having had a problem with them, and if they ever were a problem then I should have been exhibit A! Consider:

      I am nearly always male, in every lifetime. I was a textbook tomboy until I hit puberty, and I realize now that the luckiest thing of all for me was that I was born before the notion that I could have turned male even existed. Because I would have tried it. And ruined my life.

      I grew up in the fifties, when gender roles in two tracks were at their height. I was a member of one of the earliest classes at BU law that even had women in any numbers, and when I recently saw a photo taken of one of the classes there at the time, I was astonished to see that it was maybe 90% male. I was an attorney for 35 years, and I found throughout my career that my being a woman actually was an advantage in the sort of business-counsel law that I practiced. I was never even a little bit troubled to be a married mother in a serious profession. I’ve been married for nearly 50 years, have children and grandchildren, and find all the gender roles in families to be quite enjoyable.

      So I really am having trouble seeing what all the fuss is about gender, and especially now! Today in the West we all can dress as we like, do the work that we prefer, marry or not, have children or not, and nobody else bats an eye! There has never before been this level of gender freedom. And yet there has never before been such a high level of gender confusion and anxiety. Why on earth is that?

      1. Dear Roberta, I don’t know the answer to your last question. But people are literally killing themselves over this existential identity issue. Perhaps some of the other commenters can address your question.

        1. Dear Mike, I see it in the news but I don’t see it in my daily life. Gender is a spectrum, and there have always been people who were somewhere between – as I was, until my hormones kicked in – but that was simply accepted. I have a female friend who has always dressed and thought more male than female, but she has always dated men. I don’t think of her as a lesbian; I just see her as dressing and thinking like herself. It seems to me that we were heading toward a complete acceptance of everyone’s lifestyle as normal for them, and it would have happened naturally as the more extreme forms of Christianity wore away, but politics ruins everything. They have made it yet one more political test, so now it is highlighted absurdly, and effectively nobody is considered to be really normal!

  6. I know your on the correct track.. First I define “love” as Allowing. Why if you really love, care for another person why would you not allow them to be them to be free to do as they please,,. This decision is not put on them but on the person who has decided to define Love as Allowing.

    Second Point: What I have decided to follow for almost two decades is the following: Do as you want; however harm no one through 1. Thought 2. emotionally 3. any action…
    Sound easy, I’ll tell ya it it’s if you really think before you act. Isn’t that the purpose of a brain? Control the emotions and be responsible…. It works but one has to work at it every minute one’s awake… If you screw up, forgive one’s self and forgive the other person. No Judgement….

    1. Dear Skip, this is a pretty good description of a morality that can work. And if it works for you, that’s great! But the problem is that a personal morality like yours works well only when the people who are applying it are good, honorable, honest, and deeply loving. For most of us, the temptation to persuade ourselves that axe-murdering our husband’s lover and giving the children back their father actually is the right thing to do ;-)!

  7. Roberta, I think I agree with you, but so much depends on how one defines “love.” It is a very subjective word, one that can really be stretched to accommodate or justify any situation. I grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s, before television, i.e., the advertising industry and Hollywood, started spreading the gospel of hedonism and epicureanism — eat, drink, and be merry. Television programs like “Friends” seemed so innocent, but they influenced young people to believe that life is the pursuit of fun. The distinction between fun and happiness was lost. Compared with some of your readers, I may belong back in the Victorian era. We seem to be nearing the point where Nero fiddled as Rome burned.

    1. Dear Michael, it’s lovely of you to comment here! I agree with you that the whole crux of the matter is how we define love, and it feels to me from what people have said here that I haven’t been very helpful with that. We’ll give it another go after Christmas. And your mentioning the distinction between fun and happiness amuses me! That probably is the cultural divide, the fact that earlier generations sought a deeper and more complex state of happiness rooted in part in the love and companionship of other people, but lately the goal of many young folks has been fun, superficial pleasures, and other transitory delights that lack substance and therefore inevitably will disappoint in the end. But always and inevitably, love is the answer. I’ve just got to find some better ways to teach it!

      I’m sending you a big Christmas Aloha hug 🙂

      1. Roberta,

        Thank you for the reply. I believe you have been very helpful in defining love, but so many people stick to their old definitions for convenience sake. Something came to mind yesterday, but I couldn’t remember the author. I remembered it today, Alan Harrington, an atheist and a humanist. In his 1969 book, “The Immortalist,” he wrote:

        “…staged sexuality with props and fetishes has become commonplace. Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier. Similarly, the rituals of sadism and masochism can be viewed as pseudo-religious ceremonies….Each is trying to break through to lost immortality, and the same may be said of all our sexual experiences and outlaws.”

        Based on one or two of the comments above, husband-wife swaps can be justified by love. It would be very selfish of the person if he/she were not to share his/her spouse with somebody else. Perhaps that is the “enlightened” approach, but I’ll take the Victorian approach and remain “unenlightened.”

        1. Dear Mike, 1969 was quite the year! I was just out of college, young and hopeful. But I can recall thinking that, what with the Vietnam War and the youthquake rebellions and all the sexual craziness, it was going to be impossible for any of us to somehow find a way to live a normal life! Yet three years later, I was married. A career and children followed. Now my generation is the old fogeys!

          It makes me smile to see you speculating that perhaps refusing to spouse-swap would be selfish. Wow, I don’t think I would ever say that! I think you and I can agree to be Victorians together 😉

          And I still am struggling with the best way to help people readily see the difference between special loves and the elevation in vibration of God’s eternal love. It’s possible to learn to tell the difference easily. It really is quite a remarkable difference! But it’s like being able to appreciate music: it’s a somewhat rarefied skill.

  8. Roberta, I do not have the answers but really appreciated your comments on gender roles. For whatever reason it seems the younger generation struggles with many personal issues which we faced in our earlier years and sucessfully resolved on our own.

    1. Dear Thomas, you make an excellent point! All of us struggle with various identity-related issues as we grow through childhood and puberty, from status anxieties and worthiness concerns through gender issues (which I had, big-time). And we resolve them pretty much by the end of our teens and begin to make peace with who we are turning out to be. This natural process of growing up has worked well for nearly all of us through all of human history, until now. It seems to be a part of parenting now that we require our children to instantly resolve everything so we won’t have to watch them struggle.

      My husband is a retired physician. Something he often used to say if one of the children had a health complaint was that we should apply “tincture of time.” Of course, “tincture” is a way to talk about essences and extractions used in compounding medicines. What he was saying was, “Give it a day or two and your sore spot will go away.” Boy, if there ever were a situation in which simply letting things resolve themselves is a far better course than trying to force a solution, it is the natural process of growing up!!

  9. Hello everyone.

    Stepped away for a while, then came back and saw the post and the different comments.
    I am not going to respond to the specifics of the post, but simply ask how many people on here are actively practicing the cultivation of love and compassion, whether through the process described in Roberta Grimes’ book The Joy of Growing Forever, a Buddhist metta Brahma-Viharas practice, or something else?

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