How can a Christian live out sexual purity in a relativistic world? And what should Christians believe about issues like sex, gender, and marriage? We'll delve briefly into an array of issues, looking at how we can live out a holistic worldview of Christian purity.
The goal of living out the Christian ethic in this area is holy wholeness, of embracing healing, life, integrity, peace, joy, and truth in the areas of sexuality that we navigate through in life.
Sexuality is a gift from God to humanity. That much is quite certain from the scriptures. One need only read scriptures like the Song of Solomon, that depicts the intoxicating romance between Solomon and his wife to realize sexuality is a good and holy thing. God designed humanity in a basic format, as male and female from the beginning, which is shared with us in Genesis. And God commands the first humans, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful, to have children and fill the Earth with their descendants. Jesus himself quoted from Genesis, in the book of Matthew when questioned about marriage and divorce.
Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV) “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
God designed marriage from the beginning to be a bond between a man and woman that would never be broken in this life. But of course we know that things went terribly wrong in the garden, and humanity turned against God. Humanity betrayed God, embraced the lie of Satan, and as a result creation was cursed, human nature became fallen, and humanity was expelled from paradise.
Thus we face many situations where the good, holy, and blessed gift of sexuality becomes distorted, misused, and even used for evil. Yet in our lives as Christians we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out sexual purity. The gift of sexuality is still a free gift from God, and we can actively participate in it, assuming we are willing to navigate the world carefully.
First we consider marriage. Marriage is a sacred union of one man, and one woman, in which two people become one flesh. They join their lives together, and this joining cannot easily be broken. Sadly, divorce is a common occurrence in our society. The Bible says that God hates divorce, which is very strong language. But one can see easily the terrible effects a divorce has on a family, for the reasoning behind why God hates divorce. Divorce causes great sorrow, pain, and brokenness. Marriage is not a simple contract, but a permanent bonding. And there is only one biblical mandate that allows for divorce, according to Jesus, that is adultery. Leaving a marriage in divorce just because of disagreements, or stresses, or because we "fell out of love" is worldly madness of the most foolish kind imaginable. It's based in selfishness. Of course there are situations, like when abuse is taking place, when one should meet one on one with their pastor/minister and discuss reconciliation and intervention.
The act of sexual intercourse between husband and wife is a sacred act, by which male and female become one. This union is powerful and not only emotional, but physical in nature. This is why sexuality is meant to be practiced only in the context of marriage. You'll notice that those who practice sexual intercourse with many partners will often appear disgruntled and empty. When one unites with many sexual partners, one leaves behind pieces of themselves.
Often today we treat sexual intercourse as a try out while dating. This is not a wise or biblical practice for sexuality. While sex with multiple partners is harmful emotionally and spiritually, it can also be harmful physically. Many STDs are rampant throughout the human population, along with HIV.
Of course of utmost concern is the chance of becoming pregnant. It's ironic, that we as humans treat sex so cavalierly, as if it were some sort of sport, yet when the realization of pregnancy comes upon us, and the testing stick shows the red lines, we suddenly wake to the realization that sex is actually a sacred act, that produces a sacred God-given life, and we're shocked with the reality that we've treated God's gift of sex as if were some damp rag to be used to get our jollies off.
What about masturbation? Surely if a Christian must refrain from sexual intercourse outside marriage, and given that young adults are getting married at later and later ages, surely God must allow for masturbation as an antidote for those pesky lustful desires? Fortunately God is much wiser than us. And masturbation ought to be considered clearly outside the defined boundaries of biblical sexuality. And masturbation, far from being an act that drives off the lustful desires of youth, actually intensifies them, and as masturbation is practiced, the lustful desires become stronger and stronger. Interestingly enough, as masturbation is refrained from, the lustful desires lose more and more power. Eventually their power is defeated, and God's victory is declared in your heart and life. If your caught up in masturbation, pray constantly to the Lord about this issue, and He will set you free.
Obviously as we consider masturbation the issue of pornography instantly comes up. What you'll notice, and what I've noticed more and more over time is that these sexual issues in our culture are all connected to one another. Pre-marital sex to abortion, masturbation to pornography, pornography connected to human sex trafficking, and so on and so forth. It's all a tangled web, intricately connected.
Pornography is the act of watching pre-recorded materials of two or more human beings, created in the image of God, engaging in sexual intercourse. Pornography is obviously a destructive perversion of God's will for sexuality. Sexual activity is meant to be between two people, and when another person enters as an onlooker the sacredness of the sexual act is lost. Often times the argument for pornography is simply this: "Everybody is doing it, and if you say you don't, your lying." This is a lie. Many, many people don't use pornography in any form. This is a bandwagon fallacy, suggesting everyone is doing it (which is false) and thus you should do it (which is also false). Even if every single human does something, I still have a choice as to if I'm going to do it or not. And the truth is, many, many people don't view pornography. As such they shouldn't, because it's simply evil. Many of the actors and actresses in the pornography business may actually be sex trade victims themselves. Pornography fuels lust, pornography fuels the sex trade industry, pouring money into it, and thus those who view pornography inevitably end up supporting sex trafficking in some form. Don't be part of that. Cry out to God for freedom from it. Pray against it.
Human Trafficking is a great evil of our time, in which women, men, and children are kidnapped, coerced, or groomed into the industry of sex slavery. Women are used as sex objects, repeatedly raped, until they die, and all of this for the purpose of making money. Sex tourists travel, and use these men and women as sex objects for their own gratification. Human trafficking must be prayed against, spoken out against, and stopped worldwide. Human trafficking is evil. And victims must be rescued from the sex trafficking industry, and traffickers must be stopped, healed, and delivered to healing as well. Pray hard. Human trafficking is ultimately a consequence of the fall of humanity, and the desire of humanity to play god, and redefine sexuality to suit our own desires.
Abortion is another consequence of humanity's fall, and a consequence of seeing sexuality as a sort of sport arena for engaging in fun and conquest. Those pesky unborn babies end up showing up on the test, and humans are painfully reminded that sexuality is directly connected to procreation, not just entertainment. Abortion is a sacrifice of a sort, in which an unborn child is sacrificed on the altar of expediency, on the altar of sexual fun, and tossed aside as a non-human being, a clump of cells, to be discarded based on convenience. Abortion denies the sanctity of human life, and destroys a human life. Abortion very simply is murder, and on a larger scale, is genocide.
Next we consider the issue of homosexuality. What is a biblical understanding of homosexuality? Clearly, from a plain reading of the scriptures, we understand that to practice homosexual activity is sinful (Romans 1:24-29).
1st Corinthian 6:9-10 states, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now it's important to remember that this scripture says "the practice of homosexuality." To have temptations toward homosexual behavior is not blameworthy in itself. It is not sin to be tempted. All people are tempted in various ways, I may be more inclined to certain sins, others have their unique temptations, and that is the way of things on Earth. But one's willingness to abstain and resist temptation is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
If you struggle with temptations toward this sin, God is calling you to celibacy and abstinence from the practice of this sin. God may remove the temptations over time, or they may not be removed. It's same with any other sin. Sometimes we find we are no longer tempted through prayer and scripture study, other times our 'thorn in the flesh' remains.
There is never any excuse to treat someone who is homosexual, abstaining, or active, with any less dignity than you'd treat any other person. We are all made in the image of God. And we are called to love people, and help them to find the love of Jesus Christ. Of course we also can't encourage homosexuality as a positive good, for that would be encouraging sinfulness. And as teachers and leaders, and people of the body of Christ, we will not be held blameless if we lead others astray in this manner. So the equation is to show great love, mercy, and dignity to those who struggle in this area, while also guiding them toward the truth found in the scriptures and the freedom found in Jesus Christ.
More and more so, we find that those who embrace homosexuality, more so than just embracing a preference in sexuality, are placing their whole identity in that lifestyle. And we have to help people understand that their true identity is in Jesus Christ, not in sexual desire.
Lastly, we consider the topic of gender. There is an increasing amount of confusion about gender in our society today. Might you be wondering why this is? Well, one of the ideologies prominent in our society today is post-modernism, which brings with it relativism, and naturalism. These ideologies look to deconstruct in many ways preconceived notions about society and how we live. They are essentially working to overturn many of the assumed Christian beliefs that had informed western civilization in the past. So if the only basis for gender is found in the Bible, and in historic civilization, they look to deconstruct that, and change that if some people are being left out, and so on.
Thus we find ourselves with many new genders being created, seemingly out of thin air. I've read that something like 56 exist, with more being created over time. The basic idea is that "gender" is a social construct, meaning to them: It's not really real. Thus they believe since it's simply a social construct that they can take it and adjust it to fit the needs of less fortunate individuals. If someone thinks they are gender fluid, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming, then that must be true, because in post-modernism the desires of the individual are king.
As Christians we know that gender is not simply a social construct, but the way in which God created us, male and female, from the beginning. As it says in Genesis 1:27 (ESV) "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
As people are increasingly confused about gender and what it means, we as Christians can be a prophetic voice to the lost people of society, calling them to embrace the truth of God's word, and understand that gender is not simply a human construct, but a divine gift of God. Once again in gender confusion we find people are put their whole identity in their gender, in transitioning from male to female, or female to male, they place their whole identity their. And we must help people to see that their identity is rooted in Christ, in the divine image of God, and the hope of eternal life.
Thanks for reading, and please be in prayer for those who struggle in many of these areas, from families ruined by divorce, to those addicted to pornography, and those struggling with the results of human trafficking and pornography, and of course those who struggle with homosexuality and gender confusion.