I have never really had much interest in what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home; I suppose I share in a common liberal consensus. However, Christiana Emba, a columnist on the Washington Post, in a recent book, “Rethinking Sex, A Provocation”, has challenged the view that consensual sex is purely a private matter. More exactly she argues that even when the activity is consensual, it is not always good for individuals or society. The ethics of sexual intercourse has been largely forgotten, leading to a corrosive morality where it is regarded as simply as a matter for personal gratification, with no consideration of what might be the effect might be on others. The long-term effect this has on society may not be good. Interestingly, a recent survey in UK sexual habits has shown a sharp decline in “one-night stands” during Covid. A social commentator who was interviewed as part of the report suggested this was not just due to lock-down; there was a longer term decline in frequent, casual, sexual encounters. People now craved lasting relationships, not just a string of casual encounters without any commitment.
The early church placed significant emphasis on sexual morality, seeing it as more than something to be indulged purely for self-gratification. It recognised its importance in forming and shaping personal relationships which are pivotal for a healthy society. I am not about to start lecturing anyone on what they may or may not do in their private life, but it does seem to me that a renewed recognition of the importance of love in sexual relationships can only be welcomed and is entirely consistent with the values of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.