Our current generations are reaping the consequences of the whirlwind that started in the sixties with the sexual revolution. The Beatles wrote lyrics that referenced sex, Playboy and Penthouse pushed the boundaries of how much skin they could show, and it became acceptable and even encouraged to talk about and engage in lots of sex. Some people play the power game by forcing others into compromising sexual situations against their will, some people tempt others without taking any responsibility for their actions, and some people are just caught up in the time in which they live.
In reading the epistle of Paul to Corinthians again, I noted the great emphasis that Paul places on sexual sins. He wrote that sexual sin is sin against your own body. In fact, one can argue that Paul calls readers to avoid sexual sin above all others because it is the most dangerous and brings negative consequences not just to the individual, but to all people involved.
Sexual sin is often committed in a context where there is a power dynamic. In the book of Genesis, Joseph finds himself sold as a slave in the land of Egypt. He works for the house of Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife pressures him to have sex with her. Joseph’s answer has two parts –first, he feels that he will dishonor the person who has received him in the house and treated him well, namely Potiphar, but then he says, “How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” For his perseverance and commitment to sexual purity, he is placed in jail again. But God is with him; people who have integrity in all the aspects of their lives, including their private lives, will be used mightily by God.
Centuries later, David forces Bathsheba to have sex with him and then covers up his sin. As the king, he places her husband Uriah in a dangerous position on the battlefield where he is sure to be killed. Even though the palace covered up for David, God sent the prophet Nathan who said to him, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in your eyes? You have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt.” (2 Sam. Ch. 12)
David’s confession is recorded in Psalm 51. As he writes the psalm, he truly understands the plight and the strength of Joseph for the first time. David writes, “For I know my transgression and my sin is forever before me; against you, you only I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
When church people are involved in sexual sin, many of them tell me that they agreed to have this relationship. They tell me that no one has been hurt and thus, the biblical norms are not valid for them. Others tell me that I should see the good part of their relationship—the care and concern they have for one another. Yet sexual sin is destructive to the people involved. If we have a relationship with God as Joseph and David had, sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinful.
Because we have gone so far from the biblical norms, it will take us decades if not centuries to come back to original statements of the Bible. For many people in the church, statements such as “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” in Hebrews 13 appear ancient and irrelevant to modern life. Once we have return to proclaiming what the Lord requires of us in our churches and our society, we will experience the fullness of God’s riches again in our individual lives, our families, and in our societies.