Sex Sells. Or in the case of Fifty Greys of Hades – it gets people buying books and going to the cinema. To date this movie has taken half a billion dollars worldwide. Some people are going of course because they like the books, some because of the content. But I guess that some people are going because they are intrigued, fascinated, and curious. When Christian Grey meets Anastasia Steele he invites her into his world of control and dominance. He tells her he doesn’t do dating, he does other things.
At one point Mr Grey tells Anastasia that he is like he is because he is fifty shades of messed up, and when she confesses to falling in love with him he tells her she can’t love him. In spite of the extreme nature of this story at the heart there are two characters, one longing for love and the other afraid of it. Ultimately the love offered to all of us by God is neither manipulative nor controlling, it’s the healing love we all need, the love that can set us free, the love that can help us when we’re messed up.
The Old Testament prophets understood the power of sex to captivate an audience. They used it time and again as a metaphor about relationship with God. Hosea married a prostitute who later abandoned him, Ezekiel told two stories about women running around with an armful of lovers, Jeremiah likened the people to donkeys on heat chasing after anything for some quick satisfaction. These prophets were talking about sex, but were also talking about God, and the relationship available to people. When folks turned their backs and went looking for satisfaction, purpose and meaning in other things it was like running after a string of lovers who didn’t really care. People ran away from the good relationship to give themselves to other gods, other treasures, other controlling things.
Not all the sex in the Bible is bad of course. Adam and Eve, like so many couples in the Bible, bring their bodies together as one, and it’s a good thing. Song of Songs is a celebration, an erotic love saga, full of euphemisms and imagery. Not exactly the Fifty Shades of its day but certainly a steamy romance. When Abraham’s son Isaac is grieving over the loss of his mother, he meets Rebecca and takes her into his tent. Her love comforts him and they become husband and wife. Like people today, the folks in the Bible have passions and longings, and some are fulfilled for good, and some for bad.
God’s passion for people far outweighs any cravings we humans might have. Our desires for acceptance, satisfaction and fulfilment are merely shadowy signposts pointing to the full life offered by God and embodied in the life, compassion and sacrifice of his son Jesus.