C. S. Lewis on Sexual Desire
Though dead, he still speaks. In fact, C. S. Lewis has been one of my favorite mentors since I was first introduced to his works in seminary. I quote him far more than I should (the quote below is from my sermon this past Sunday, Real Christians Change). He has taught me many things – love for British ale being one of them! One of my fondest memories is having a pint at the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, where Lewis and Tolkien used to sit and talk theology. I felt like I was drinking on holy ground! (Pardon the pun.) Growing up in a Christian tradition where “pleasure” somehow was the invention of the devil, I struggled for quite a while with the notion of “enjoying myself.” Lewis (and others) helped me read Scripture with better eyes. (I must have been wearing dark shades.) God created everything (Genesis 1), even pleasure! How did I miss that one? “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” Paul says to those who were wondering if they could enjoy a nice steak, even one that had questionably been “blessed” by a pagan priest! (I Corinthians 10:25, passim). “The Sabbath was made for man” – a time for personal rest, renewal, and conviviality. It was never intended to be a bore or a drudgery (Mark 3:27, passim). God has “richly provided us with everything for our enjoyment” (I Timothy 6:17). I could go on. But let me quote Lewis here, who on the one hand affirms “desire,” while calling on us to learn “self-control.”
It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses – say mother love or patriotism – are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct are bad . . . There are situations in which it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse and of a soldier to encourage the fighting instinct. Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Our problem is that in our sinful humanity we must “train ourselves to be godly” (I Timothy 4:7). We must train ourselves to play the right notes at the right time and in the right way. All the notes (desires) are good – and with God’s help – we should enjoy them fully the way he intended. The problem with our culture is not sexual desire (or any other desire). Sexual desire, and all the other desires God has created, should be enjoyed fully in the right way (with the right person). We should thank God for desire. We should rejoice in the goodness of His creation, and praise him for the delights he has given us to enjoy.