Spark of the Divine
In our last post we learned that sex was created during the first week of creation. Sex isn’t something that came out of human invention, or from the fall of man. Sex was instituted by God, pre-fall, and in fact the first commandment God gives mankind is to go have sex! We learned that sex isn’t dirty, it is beautiful and to be celebrated as something God created with our enjoyment in mind. But we also learned that sex isn’t just the fulfillment of lust or a need to procreate. That sex is a holy, sacred act of unity to be performed in the context of a monogamous marriage that is to point two people to the Gospel.Today we're going to be focusing on a story found in 2 Samuel 11.
You Were Created in His image
One of my favourite TV Shows, is an HBO mini-series produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. It’s a mini-series based on the stories of the 101st Airborne Infantry that fought during the US’s involvement in the European Campaign during World War II. It’s a spectacularly accurate mini-series that is based on real people and real stories. It’s been a tradition of mine since 2010 to watch through the series every Remembrance Day Weekend.
One of the episodes, episode 9 always has me in tears. It chronicles the first time the 101st Airborne run into a concentration camp, and witness some of the horrors groups of people faced under the Nazi regime and their “final solution.” They find entire train cars filled with dead bodies, and thousands of shallow graves overflowing with Jews. As the allied forces begin to cross deeper into German occupied territories they begin to discover bigger, and more sinister camps.
A concentration camp was meant to dehumanized people. To strip people of their essence, of their humanity. They are anti-human. Even the cross that Jesus hung on was anti-human. It was designed to be the worst form of torture. The Romans would leave you hanging naked for days. The cross in Jesus’ times was often referred to as “the slaves death.” It was designed to humiliate and dehumanize those hung on the cross. For that reason the cross was only reserved for the absolute worst criminals and slaves. The Romans saw the cross as such a terrible death that they refused to crucify their own citizens. It was considered too barbaric to be used on their fellow Romans. The cross was anti-human.
In the Bible, anything that is anti-human is anti-God. There’s a reason the Bible equates anything anti-human to being anti-God. It’s because you are created in the image of God. When God creates Adam and Eve, He says “let us create mankind in our own image." God created humanity with consciousness. With self-awareness, and the ability to self-reflect. With the ability to determine right from wrong; to experience love as a choice, not merely a reaction or emotion. When God created you, you were created with a Spark of the Divine. God placed His spark in us when he formed us from the dust, and He placed a spark in you when He formed you in your mother’s womb. You were created in His image.
While Genesis makes it clear that we weren’t created divine, or to be gods, it is clear that God creates us with that divine spark. This is why Jesus says, “whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” This is why Jesus also says "love your neighbour as yourself" and "love your enemies." He says those things because it doesn’t matter how we feel about someone, or how they look, what they believe, or what they’ve done to us, nothing changes the fact that they too were created with a spark of the divine. I know this can be hard for some people. Especially if we’ve been hurt or abused by someone else. But God wants to redeem them too.
When we interact with other people, when we enter into relationship with them, whether it’s family relationship, friendship relationship, or a relationship for the sake of marriage, we are interacting with the spark of the divine that God has placed in them, that He’s placed in each and everyone of us. This is why how we treat sexual relationships is so very important. Sex isn’t just orgasms and baby making. It cannot be distilled down to the fulfillment of lustful desires, or the need to procreate. When we treat our partners as objects of sexual gratification, or as baby-making machines, we then are stripping them (in our minds) of the spark that God has placed in them.
Sexual attraction is natural. Our sex-drive is natural. Sexual intimacy is natural. God has created us with the capacity for love, the capacity for intimacy, and you better believe that all the nerve endings that make sex pleasurable were created by God as well. Sex is a God-given gift. But, if it is God-given, then it should be God-driven. When we strip a man or a woman down to physical feature and rate/base/evaluate them based on that then we reduce him/her to a “that”. We strip them of their essence, of their humanity and create them as an object. This is why pornography is so dangerous, because it removes true intimacy from the sex equation. Pornography is not an example of what sexual intimacy is, it is an example of what lust is. When we turn our natural sexual desires into lust we degrade the spark of the divine to a “that.” Lust in our minds turns the person created in God’s image, turns the spark of the divine into a “that.” Lust strips people down to sexual objects. Make no mistake, it is dehumanizing. It is anti-human and anything anti-human, is anti-God.
When God created you, you weren’t created to be an object of sexual gratification. He created you with hopes, and dreams, and thoughts. He created you with a brain and a soul. He created you as a whole being. Not to be split or fragmented. Men, and Ladies, I’m speaking to both genders here. If you are in a relationship that is having sex before marriage, you need to stop right now. While God created sex for your enjoyment He created sex in the context of a committed monogamous marriage. Do not allow the spark of the divine to be reduce to a “that.” You Were Created in the image of God.
How you treat creation is a reflection on how you feel about the Creator. When a human being is mistreated, objectified and neglected; treated as less than human these actions are actions against God. When I protect the image of God in others I protect the image of God in me. Lust, pornography, and adultery (including pre-marital sex) are not a part of God’s gift of sexual intimacy, and not only are we degrading the spark of others in our minds we are also degrading our own soul and the spark that God has placed in us. They degrade us so much so that we place ourselves in the position to do just about anything to satisfy our lust. This happened to David in 2 Samuel 11.
You are Inviting Heaven or Hell
1 When that time of year came around again, the anniversary of the Ammonite aggression, David dispatched Joab and his fighting men of Israel in full force to destroy the Ammonites for good. They laid siege to Rabbah, but David stayed in Jerusalem. 2 One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was stunningly beautiful. 3 David sent to ask about her, and was told, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 David sent his messengers to get her. After she arrived, he went to bed with her. (This occurred during the time of “purification” following her period.) Then she returned home. 5Before long she realized she was pregnant. Later she sent word to David: “I’m pregnant.” 6David then got in touch with Joab the commander of his armies and said, “Send Uriah the Hittite to me.”So Joab sent him.
David spots a beautiful woman, knows she’s the wife of another man, and has her sent to him for the purpose of having sex. He wasn’t trying to get to know her. He wasn’t trying to be a hospitable king. He saw her, lusted after her, and had her sent to him to satisfy that lust. Later we read that David tried to give Uriah some time off from war, and let him go home to his wife, but Uriah refused to go home. David got him drunk and tried to get Uriah to sleep with his own wife so that he would think the baby was his, but still Uriah refused to go. Uriah even says “How can I go home to eat and drink and sleep with my wife knowing that the ark of the covenant, your army, and my fellow soldiers are out there fighting a war. I could never do something like this as long as you live!”
David sends Uriah back with a sealed letter containing a plot to allow Uriah to die in battle. Uriah faithfully delivers the letter, unknowingly delivering his death sentence. David kills Uriah all to cover up the tracks his lust left behind. This is bad, lust led David to kill one of his soldiers, but if we read the Bible carefully we realize that things are a little more complicated than a king killing a soldier. Something you may not know is that in 2 Samuel 23 we have a few stories about some of David’s “Mighty Men.” These are 37 of the roughest, toughest, baddest dudes in the whole kingdom. We have a solider that killed 800 men with his spear. Another who remained alone to fight the Philistines when the rest of the Israelite army fled. He defeated the Philistine army single handedly, and fought so hard and so long that his hand was closed shut, gripping his sword. There’s another dude who jumps into a pit just to fight a lion. Another 3 who broke into the Philistine Garrison of probably over 30,000 soldier just to get David a drink of water from a specific well.
These “Mighty Men” are the elite of the elite, David’s most loyal, trusted, and respected men. Guys who had been with him when he was on the run from Saul. Guys who had sworn loyalty to him long before he was officially made king. Guys who would be willing to lay down their lives if David ever asked them to, no questions asked. These are David’s closest friends and Uriah the Hittite was one of them. The reason David could even see Bathsheba bathing from his balcony is because the house was close enough and in line of sight. This tells us that Uriah’s family was so honoured by David that he had a house right next to the royal palace. Lust didn’t just drive David to kill some random soldier in the army, lust drove David to kill one of his closest and most loyal friends.
Lust is slavery. It begins with the thought, somewhere in our hearts or mind, “if I just had that, him, her, it, then I’d just be happy.” But If I want something to the point where I can’t be content without having it then it owns me. Rob Bell says, "Freedom is often defined as being able to do whatever you want. But freedom isn’t being able to have whatever we crave, freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it." Our actions either invite Heaven or Hell. Let me explain that.
Jesus is commenting on the commandments in Matthew 5 and He says this in verse 27,
27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Jesus says that adultery isn’t just the act of having sex outside of marriage. He says that when we lust with our eyes, and in our minds fantasize of having sex with someone then we are just as guilty of adultery as the person who actually goes out and has sex with someone outside of marriage. Then He goes on to say if your eye or your hand causes you to sin, cut it off because it’s better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be cast down into hell.
Now let’s pause for a second here, because I need you to understand that Jesus does not mean this literally. If anyone takes this verse literal then they clearly aren’t understanding the message of the Bible as a whole. What we’re missing here is that we don’t see the what Jesus meant when He said our bodies are at risk of being cast into hell. The first century Jewish understanding of Heaven was far different than our own. Heaven wasn’t a fixed unchanging geographical location other than earth, Heaven was the realm where God’s will was done; where things are as God intends them to be, a place that was under the rule and reign of God; a place that can be anywhere, anytime, with anybody. So if there is a realm where things are as God intends them to be then there must be a realm where things aren’t as God intends them to be. That place is Hell.
What Jesus is saying isn’t that we should mutilate our bodies. What he’s saying is that when we lust after someone something terrible is happening. Something that brings us into a realm where things aren’t as God intends them to be. When we lust something hellish is happening. Jesus is using hyperbole (an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally) to compare the pain of gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand and living that way to the depravity and wretchedness of what happens to our souls when we lust after someone.
We were made for affection and the expression of love. We were made with sex in mind, and sex should be celebrated in its appropriate context. We were not created to deny and suppress our sexual impulses, but to express them in the appropriate time and in the appropriate context. When we give in to every one of our sexual impulses we become like animals. Enslaved by the instinct to satisfy urge and lust. Our actions invite Heaven or Hell
True freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it. Heaven and Hell are first and foremost present realities that have serious implications for the future. It’s possible for Heaven to invade Earth just as much as it is possible for Hell to invade Earth. Every choice that we make creates a reality where things are as God intends them to be, or a reality where things are not as God intends them to be.
Remember that Heaven to the first century Jews was the present space, anywhere, at any time, with anybody, where things are as God intends them to be, where God rules and reigns. But when things aren’t that way, then that present space becomes Hell, anywhere, any time, with anybody. When God first created the world he subdued the void, the shapeless mass, the nothingness, and brought order to the universe. He brought in systems, and laws and life. Every step in God’s creation is to bring order in to chaos. He creates humans with that intention as well. Sex was created in the context of bringing order to chaos and we are meant to continue the work of bringing order. Every action leads us in one direction. We either bring order to the world or we add to the chaos. We are Inviting Heaven or Hell.
You Are Being Redeemed
How we act determines the world we create. But check this out, Acts 13:22
22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Luke writes about how God called David a man after His own heart. And He is still considered one because we are being redeemed. What you’ve done or what someone has done to you will NOT get in the way of God redeeming you. When God placed His spark in you, it was placed permanently. There’s nothing that can change the fact that God created you in His image, and that He desperately loves you and wants to redeem you.
We can consider David a man after God’s own heart mostly in part because God forgave him, and restored him. David did some tremendously terrible thingsHe is guilty of bringing hell to earth through his actions, and yet God still loved him. Adultery, pre-marital sex, pornography, and lust are all sins, yes, but these things can’t get in the way of God’s mercy. When we deliberately chose to have sex outside of marriage it’s a sin. When we lust after a man or a woman it is a sin When we watch pornography it is a sin. Although grace doesn't excuse sin, grace can still redeem you in your sinfulness.
While God counsels us to abstain from sex outside of marriage, to prevent lust from entering into our mind, and to not entertain pornography, we also fully understand that we are all sinful people and do in fact make mistakes. Whether you struggle with lust and pornography, whether you have had sex outside of marriage in the past and are no longer a virgin, whether you are currently in a non-marital relationship and having sex, or whether you were a victim of rape and sexual abuse you need to know that you are worthy of grace; you are worthy of mercy; you are worthy of love.
Virgin or not, it doesn’t matter, the blood that Jesus shed for each and every one of us is enough to cover every guilt, shame, and regret. You are in no way any less worthy of love because you’ve "lost your virginity." I know sometimes the church makes it seem that we are less worthy. And I know as a church we sometimes misrepresent the way God views you. Sometimes good people with good intentions don’t say the right thing, and can make us feel used, and dirty. And while God’s plan is for us to experience the sacredness of sex within marriage God does not value you any less if your circumstances are any different.
You Were Created in His Image. God created you with His spark implanted in you. You are a bearer of God’s image and you deserve to be loved and respected. Because we were all created in His image it is our duty to respect each other, and not reduce other people in our minds to objects of sexual gratification. We need to see past the physical body and see a whole person with thoughts, feelings, and emotions; we need to see a son or daughter of God who is sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Remember that how we treat God’s creation is a reflection of how we feel about the creator. When we protect the image of God in others we protect the image of God in ourselves
You Are Inviting Heaven or Hell. When we degrade God’s image in others something Hellish is happening to us Jesus says. We risk inviting Hell into our lives when we strip people down to just the physical and value them on that. Heaven and Hell are present realities that we can invite down to earth through our actions. We invite Heaven, the realm where things are as God intends them to be, when we love and respect each other wholly and completely. When God creates He brings order to chaos and He created sex for us, in the context of marital unity to bring order to the chaos of our sex-drives. How we choose to treat and respond to our sexuality either brings order or chaos to the world around us.
You Are Being Redeemed. Even if we’ve invited Hell through our actions, or if we’ve been brought into Hell through someone else’s actions on us, God is able and willing to redeem you. There is nothing that can change the way that God feels about you. Nothing that can change the way God looks at you. Despite what you’ve done, or what someone may have done or said to you, God still desperately loves you, and sees you as nothing other than the Holy son or daughter He’s redeemed through His own blood. The very fact that David, a man guilty of lust, adultery, deception, and murder can be called a man after God’s own heart demonstrates the greatness of God’s love. This is what Matt Chandler says in his book the Mingling of Souls,
There is no sin—past, present, or future—that has more power than the cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever darkness from your past or trouble or guilt from your present is weighing over you right now, please know that you haven’t strayed too far that there is no redemption for you. Full reconciliation and healing are abundantly available for you in Christ Jesus. God has seen our unloveliness—the deep brokenness and rebellion in our hearts—and instead of withdrawing, He pursues us to the beautiful end.
God is pursuing you and He wants to redeem you in relationship. Sex is Holy, Sex is Sacred, Sex is about the Gospel.
Thank you for redeeming me, for seeing past all my mistakes and imperfections. I pray that you would work through me, that my actions bring Heaven all around me. Help me to remember that I am created in your image, that I am worthy of love and respect. Help me also to remember that every person is just as equally created in your image as I am, that everyone carries your divine spark. Help me to interact with others in ways that honour you, and help me to treat others with the respect and love that they deserve as your sons and daughters. Thank you for loving us in our mess. AMEN