Like many who love a good relationship drama, I adored watching Netflix’s To All The Boys I Loved Before. Armed with snacks and my best friend, I indulged in the sweet and quirky tale of high school romance between Lara Jean and Peter complete with a bubblegum color palette, fun music, and loveable supporting characters. I couldn’t wait for the sequel, and then, finally, the final chapter in this story which came out a few months ago right around Valentine’s Day.
It’s senior year, and Lara Jean is in a tough position. She didn’t get accepted into Stanford, her dream school that she and Peter had planned on both attending together, and now she has to figure out what to do. Attend college across the country at NYU, or choose a “safe” option and a college closer to home (and Stanford, and Peter). The ending of the movie was slightly predictable, but that’s not why I was upset.
I was yelling from my couch because Lara Jean and Peter, in an act of true love and commitment to one another, celebrate getting back together by having sex. Not an un-typical action in most teen movies/relationship dramas/movies at all? but what bothered me so much about this one was how sad it was.
My sadness about this scene lingered long after the credits rolled (obviously, because it’s three months later and I’ve thought about it enough to write something about it). I was sad because, to the world without Christ, that is the limit of what sex means and is. Apart from knowing the theological meaning and purpose of sex, the best the world can do is Lara Jean and Peter: an expression of affection (albeit fairly high) and some form of commitment (at least for a while). There is no greater, sacred meaning, no small participation in playing out the epic drama of Christ and the church, no cementing of the lifelong commitment of a fellow image bearer in marriage who has pledged not to abandon you and creates a safe, loving environment to know and be known.
It’s just something to do in a natural progression of a dating relationship.
It is only Christians who can truly know and experience the beauty of sex within the marriage covenant that reflects the intimacy of the Trinity and the undying love of Christ for His bride, the Church. Only those who have been washed clean of sin and now have transformed hearts can vow to love and play out the love of our great Lover. Without Christ, sex’s highest ideal still falls massively, sinfully, and cheaply short.
What happens when Peter and Lara Jean fall out of love? What does their sex mean anymore after that? My heart breaks for those who don’t and cannot know. A holy gift that was intended for so much becomes reduced, in our fallen world, to something much lesser.
It’s certainly not bad; by any means! How else are we designed to express our fullest sense of physical love to another being of the opposite sex? But what makes sex such a joyous gift is knowing the instruction manual for it – why it was made, what it means, how to enjoy it best and most, how to use it in a way to yield its intended purpose. The binding and mingling of souls, playing out as shadows the eternal sacrificial love between our Savior and His Bride through a good and wonderful act kept safely between the covenant of marriage – who wouldn’t want that kind of sex?
Truly, the highest ideal of all things is found in Christ.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:25-32).