Once again, sex is in the news (isn’t it always?). In the state of California, the governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday asked a federal judge to allow same-sex marriages while the case for it’s legalization is on appeal. Lindsey Lohan is playing ex-porn star Linda Lovelace in the new movie “Inferno”.
Over the last 40 weddings I’ve performed, the vast majority of couples are already co-habitating before they get married. Interestingly enough, I find little difference in this lifestyle choice between professing followers of Jesus and people who profess no Christian leanings.
Even in my home city of Denver, Colorado, “evangelical” churches are emerging that bless the varied sexual lifestyle choices of any believer.
Are society and the church finally coming of age? Are we finally shedding ourselves of Victorian sexual mores that no longer fit?
Please join me as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Ezra 10:1-44. As the people follow Ezra’s lead in repenting for their sins, we read in verse 3 that all the men who married foreign women decided to send away their foreign wives and children.
This seems pretty extreme—and it seemingly undermines the marriage commitment we’re called to uphold. So where do we go with this?
The Quest Study Bible offers an interesting observation:
The relationships Shecaniah referred to were not acceptable marriages, nor were the women innocent victims of the men’s wrongdoing. The word translated marry in 10:2 is not the usual word for marriage, but means give a home to. Some think the words foreign women implies harlots.
This wasn’t the optimal situation, but it may have been the best choice among a host of difficult ones. The people realized that as long as the foreign women were around, the foreign idols that accompanied them would be around, too. The gravitational pull of idolatry was too great for them to withstand.
1 Corinthians 6:1-20. Paul’s words in verses 1-7 probably don’t go over very well with certain people because he criticizes believers for engaging in lawsuits against each other. While some lawsuits are unavoidable, I can’t ignore Paul’s pointed words: “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (verses 7-8)
Being right is a high value in our society. More than that, rights are a high value in our society. When our rights are violated, we try to even the playing field by suing the offending party. But Paul writes, “What’s the big deal about being wronged or cheated?” If this life is all there is, then I can understand why people would engage in lawsuits. But if there’s more to this life, if heaven and eternity exist, then forfeiting our rights isn’t a big deal.
Psalm 31:9-18. The faith of the psalmist is pretty amazing. After he describes his distress, anguish and dire situation, he makes an about-face and writes, “But I trust in you, O Lord.”
Trust is most evident (or non-evident) in our moment of crisis.
Proverbs 21:3. “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. ” Here’s the Klassen paraphrase of this verse: Walking in obedience to God Monday through Saturday is more important than worshiping God on Sunday. Obviously, God wasn’t saying that people shouldn’t offer sacrifices to him—nor am I saying if people walk in obedience that they don’t need to go to church. But obedience is abundantly important to God.
When Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples and the church, he told his followers to make disciples, “teaching them to obey” everything he commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
We live at a time when sexuality is being redefined. Anything goes as long as it takes place between two consenting people (they don’t even have to be adults).
Believe it or not, modern society shares a noticeable resemblance to Roman society in Paul’s day.
The city of Corinth was a port town on the east coast of Greece. Because of the amount of traffic that journeyed through the city—many of them sex-starved sailors—sexuality was viewed as nothing more than a physical act, hopefully between two consenting people.
Into this context, Paul gave some pretty rigid instructions. People who wouldn’t inherit the kingdom of God included:
- Sexually immoral people
- Male prostitutes
Then he urges the people in Corinth to “flee from sexual immorality.” The Klassen paraphrase of the first part of this verse is “RUN LIKE HELL from sexual immorality.”
Over the last hundred years or so, the evangelical church has singled out sexual sin as an almost unpardonable sin. Yet Paul doesn’t treat it that way. After naming various sexual sins, Paul says,
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Sexual sin isn’t the unpardonable sin, but it’s still sin.
So what’s the big deal about sex?
Space constraints won’t allow me to explain it adequately, but I will say this: Our sexuality is a gift from God. Best of all, this gift is intended for our pleasure. Praise God!
Not only that, but the sex act is also a spiritual experience. Paul alludes to this in verse 15:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
Then he concludes this section by explaining that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t understand how it works, but deviating from God’s purposes for sex affects our relationship with him. “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (verse 18).
So how do we determine what constitutes sexual sin? For starters, look at the list that Paul gives in verse 9. But let me also add that the list includes people who are greedy, drink too much, and slander others. And, if you define adultery according to Jesus’ definition–lusting after someone–then I must stand before you guilty as charged.
The good news is this: Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and acceptance are so much greater than our greatest sin. And his people (and church) must extend that same love, forgiveness, and acceptance to everyone, because they need it as well.
I’ve concluded that a permissive view of sex devalues it while a restrictive view of sex gives it value. It’s kind of like the law of supply and demand in economics: when the market is flooded with a particular item, the value of that item diminishes. But when an item that is in demand gets scarce, it’s value increases.
God has given us a wonderful, enjoyable, sacred gift. In order to preserve its value, we need to treat it as more than a physical or sexual act.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Do you agree that the sex act is more than a physical (and sexual) act? Why or why not?
- What spiritual overtones are present in sexual intercourse?
- What is the value in placing restrictions on our sexuality?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.