A sacred space. So very different from the way 99% of our culture views the physical relationship between a husband and wife, a man and a woman in covenant, but I awoke literally to that understanding. When I spoke my covenant promise 45 years ago, I meant it and intended to keep it, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, for better or for worse, forsaking all others keep myself only unto him so long as we both shall live.” Many churches in the Christian community consider marriage a sacrament, right alongside communion and, for some, baptism.
Full Definition of SACRAMENT according to Merriam-Webster:
1a : a Christian rite (as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality
directly from Latin sacramentum “a consecrating”; from sacred directly from Latin sacrare “to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate,”
This I know is true from Scripture: when I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, God’s Spirit then lives in me.
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8: 10-11 NIV
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-10.
In its whole context, this passage reads:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20
I’d been Christian a long time before I recognized the truth that, when we are joined with Jesus, our body becomes the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. In truth, our heart becomes a type of the Holy of Holies, the place in the physical Temple where God’s Spirit dwelt, the place where only a consecrated priest could enter at specified times to meet with God.
This lives, alive in spirit and I think in real, tangible truth, in marriage between two Christians. Even for two human beings who aren’t Christian, physical union creates a spiritual reality:
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 NIV
Married to my husband, when we came together in the physical bond of intimacy, we created a spiritual bond as well, and a oneness in spirit even truer than the physical union. If our bodies were the Temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, then that union creates a sacred space where the Holy Spirit in him joined the Holy Spirit in me – a consecration, held dedicated, set apart, a means of divine grace – expressing a spiritual reality in physicality. That was God’s intent for marriage from the beginning of creation.
God’s Temple was meant to be and remain undefiled, a holy space set apart for man to meet with God. Nothing unclean was allowed in the Temple, particularly in the Holy of Holies. But enter the Greek Antiochus IV, the 8th ruler of the Seleucid empire centered in Babylonia and covering the eastern p[art of Alexander the Great’s former empire. He gave himself the surname “Epiphanes” which means “the visible god” (that he and Jupiter were identical). He acted as though he really were Jupiter and the people called him “Epimanes” meaning “the madman”. He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion. This led to the Maccabaean revolt, one of the most heroic feats in history.
What in the world does Hellenistic history have to do with marital intimacy? Simply put: no pigs on the altar. We bring pigs into the sacred space of our covenental union when we bring in corruption and loose standards from popular culture, when thoughts of being with anyone other than our marriage partner enter our minds, when we set any “unclean thing” before our eyes other than our spouse and the sacredness of that person’s body and spirit.
I always wanted to write, and decades ago I began composing a romance novel in my mind. I set out the slot, the setting, and the characters … until I saw the trap I could easily have fallen into. I could have created a male character, a hero so perfect in my eyes that the value, worth, and person of my own husband might have begun to diminish in my thoughts and eventually my heart. A pig on the altar. Immediately I dropped the idea. No one and nothing was going to take the place of my husband in my thoughts, affections, or body, period. He was God’s gift to me, God’s Spirit lived in him, and bringing anything else into our relationship was, to me, tantamount to bringing a pig into the Holy of Holies.
My husband regarded our bedroom as a space off-limits to our children. Even more off-limits were both of our bodies, reserved for each other alone, held apart, sacred, meant to be consecrated to each other alone.
Yes, sexual intimacy is meant to be pleasurable, enjoyable, even fun, but above all and surrounding all, sexual intimacy creates a sacred space between two people. I’ve found few in the world of online dating who believe this is true, but I know in the core of my being that it is meant to be so – a sacred space – by the One who created our sexuality to begin with. All you have to do is read the Song of Songs in the Bible to know that god didn’t create sexual intimacy to be something stuffy and ethereal; he meant it to be physical and spiritual at the same time.
Pigs in the Temple? Pornography: A pig in the Holy of Holies. Thoughts straying to anyone else: a pig in the Holy of Holies. Selfishness, or bitterness toward your spouse: a pig in the Holy of Holies. Sleeping around casually because that’s the way to know if you’re “truly compatible” with someone else: a pig AND a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, your own and the other person’s heart and spirit as well as body. Adultery, or “just” an emotional relationship with someone of the opposite ex when you belong to someone in covenant: a herd of pigs, the swine that should be run over the cliff carrying the demons of ” okay if it isn’t touching and feeling” with them.
I need to learn to regard everyone I see as a repository for the image of God, every heart as a holy place, but I must reserve the Holy of Holies in my heart and body for the Holy of Holies in only one other vessel, exclusively. One sacred space, one place of consecration, held apart, honoring the God who created this place for two to meet with Him as one, out of honor for the Spirit in us each and both. together
Are you bringing pigs into your temple? Confess it as sin, cleanse the altar, dedicate yourself to God, keep your space sacred, and hold it as consecrated until you enter the sacred space of lifelong covenant.
A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh, Holy and righteous God, you created my body, my heart, my mind and spirit to be a vessel for your Spirit, sanctified, holy and set apart for you through Jesus first of all. Show me where I may have brought pigs into my temple by _____________________________. Show me where I may have desecrated my husband/wife by bringing ____________________________ into our union. Help me/us to consecrate this part of our lives again to you, give us joy in the holiness, and help us to ___________________________ to honor you, Holy Spirit, in the center of our union. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!No Pigs in the Temple.