watch above/read below
This Week's Teaching: "A Christian Response to the Sex Debate"
Why do Christians care so much about sex anyway? Why do we care so much about sex? It seems like we are anti-sex on everything. At least that's the sense outside the Christian faith, and maybe even some of us inside the Christian faith. We just feel like preachers just rant on sex and like we're so concerned about what everyone does in their bedroom.
And there's this sense of, "Just leave us alone. Let us do whatever we want to. Love is love. Stop speaking into our lives. Just stop correcting what you think is inappropriate behavior. Just leave us alone."
And I wonder why is it that Christians are so preoccupied with sex? Why do we care so much about what other people do with their bodies? It seems like we are anti unmarried intimacy, anti voyeurism (pornography), we are anti same-sex intimacy, we are anti transsexual, transgender, transvestite, all those things. We're anti. Why is it we're so anti?
And obviously we are against the prevailing culture in this. But we're also against forced intimacy. And we're also against intimacy with children, and with animals, and on that area, at least for now, like there's still a sense [that] we're with culture. We're pretty much all of us preaching the same message on that one.
But why is it on these other things that Christians and preachers feel so concerned to speak into it? I believe there is a valid reason, and I want to explain that today.
But I also have to say I feel like we've made ourselves obnoxious about it. Almost like in this culture, everyone has an opinion about everything. Is this just more opinion about everything?
Everyone's trying to win the war on opinions, trying to win some ground so that our opinion counts more than another's? Is it the same thing as sort of like opinions about politics or opinions about whether someone should have a beard or slurp their coffee on their YouTube channel?
I think it's more than that, but I do recognize we've made ourselves obnoxious in it. Part of that's unavoidable. If you tell a thief that it's wrong to steal, well that's obnoxious. But it's necessary.
I've gotta admit that as a teacher, as a preacher, I have pulled back from this for two reasons. I felt that it was obvious, like enough people were already saying it. I didn't need to add my voice. And also it just felt obnoxious in a sense that it would mute my voice.
But today I have to speak to it. And here's my reason. I know that people who disagree with me are gonna disagree with me no matter what. But I also believe that there are people who are inclined to agree with me, and the culture is winning the argument on this because people like myself aren't speaking into it.
And there are scripturally valid reasons for why we speak against what we would call sexual immorality. And so I have to speak against it, not to try to win the people who are adamantly opposed to me, but to help those of us who are in the same conversation have a thoughtful conversation, so none of us slip away just for lack of someone speaking into it. And so today, I want to speak about this gently, but directly.
So why is it that Christians are so concerned about sex?
First, we've decided that we don't judge God as good or evil. He judges us as good or evil. And we don't judge scripture as right or wrong. It judges us as right or wrong. We turn to it not to judge it, not to condemn it, not to weigh it against our values, but to allow it to conform us to God's values; to teach us, to mold us.
We come to Christ believing that left to ourselves we err, we go the wrong way. And so we come to him saying, "Save us!" Not just from Hell, yes, but also save us from waywardness. Save us from sin. Help us to live pure, righteous, holy lives.
And so my preacher's burden about this, my preacher's burden is to remind everyone: we don't judge God. He judges us. We don't judge scripture. It judges us. God doesn't seek our counsel or our approval or our permission. We seek his.
In the end, he will judge us because in the beginning he created us and he created all that is, and he decided what goes and what shouldn't go. He decided all this. This is his world, not ours. This is his call, not ours.
When we get that backwards and sit in judgment over his judgments, we condemn ourselves by the very act. He has told us already explicitly to choose life, not death. And he says, if you choose life, you will receive life. If you choose death, you'll receive death. And he says, this is what it means to choose life: follow me, do what I say. To choose life is to choose righteousness and to reject wickedness. To choose death is to choose wickedness and reject righteousness. And so we are those who are choosing righteousness and learning our way through it and turning our attention to what God has already said about it.
Now this includes every moral choice. What we do with our bodies is right or wrong. Whether it affects someone else or simply defies God, it can be judged as immoral. That's why we believe that it's wrong to lust even if you're not good enough at it to find another consenting adult. That's why we believe it's wrong to be greedy, even if you're not good enough at it to get rich. And it's wrong to nurture bitter envy, even if you're not good enough at it to do violence. It's wrong to hold those things in your heart and to act on them. Even if you're not good at it, it's wrong to do it.
Our moral choices are judged not by their outcomes, but by the decision to do them, by the direction of our heart when we engage in them. It's measured not by the finish line. It's measured by the starting line. If we choose to play the game of immorality, it doesn't matter if we score. There is no score. You lose the game by playing the game of immorality because it's wrong to give into the temptation to do it.
If you are a peeping Tom and you don't get caught, and if there's no one who feels violated by you, you have still done wrong by responding to the temptation of voyeurism, of lust.
If you shoplift and then almost get caught, and so you put the thing back, you have still done wrong. Even though you didn't follow through on it, you have still done wrong because you gave into the temptation to do what shouldn't be done, to steal.
And so that's where we come at this from. If the laws of the land are changed so that it's no longer illegal to do what God says is wrong, it's still wrong to do it. It's still wrong to do it. It's still wrong to do what God says is wrong.
And so our concern is pursuing righteousness and rejecting wickedness in our own lives. And we recognize, if I can go back to the Garden of Eden, the problem is not how much of the forbidden fruit you eat. The problem is taking the bite of the forbidden fruit.
And so, this is the first layer of why Christians are so concerned about sex.
The second one is a bit touchy. We believe that God has called some people to be watchmen, to stand on the wall, figuratively, and declare danger.
In Ezekiel 33, we read this.
"Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: When I bring the sword against the land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet, but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people, and the sword comes and takes someone's life, that person's life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood."
Then he says, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel." This is a prophetic watchman. "So hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, "You wicked person, you will surely die," and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
Son of man, say it to the Israelites: This is what you are saying: Our offenses and sins weigh us down and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?
Say to them: As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live! Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die people of Israel?
Therefore, son of man say to your people: If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person's former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person's former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person whose sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous. If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. They will die for the evil they have done. And if I say to a wicked person, you will surely die. But they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right; if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life and do no evil, that person will surely live. They will not die. None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right. They will surely live.
Yet your people say, The way of the Lord is not just! The way of the Lord is not just!
But it is their way that is not just. If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, they will die for it. And if a wicked person turns away from their wickedness and does what is just and right, they will live by doing so.
Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not just. But I will judge each of you according to your own ways."
And so this grabs me as someone who feels that call, and many others, whether we carry the call well or not, we at least have to say. We at least have to let people know.
I'm in conversation with strangers every day. It's just how I do life. And often in the morning, I reflect on the conversations I had the prior day. And my fear is that I have allowed people to believe, to be reminded, yes, there are good people in the world. There are nice people in the world. To be encouraged and all. But I always go, but did I leave them in their sin? Did I leave them to their sin? Did I sound the warning?
And it's against my nature, my personality, to cause the tension of that. And it is against my personality to even teach this publicly right now because I know that people are gonna jump on it. And I know that some people are gonna say amen to it with a certain sort of venom that I don't care for.
It goes against my nature to teach this, but it is my choice to sound the alarm. And along with a whole bunch of other people, because of what we read in scripture, we have to sound the alarm about sexual immorality. As much as that gets framed as bigotry or forcing our way into people's bedrooms and all that kind of stuff. As much as it gets played that way, it simply is a warning to reject wickedness and to choose righteousness, to turn from death and turn to life.
Sexual immorality is not giving you life. It gives you some moments of pleasure, but it is not life giving. It is death giving.
And so, I gotta say, sexual immorality is wrong. It will sap the life out of you.
Now what is sexual immorality? That's a part of the issue here because there are people saying that the rules have changed. Like culturally, it used to mean one thing, but now it means something different because we understand scientifically that this and that, and people are born this way and all that kind of stuff. And so we've redefined stuff. Culture has. And we've said things that were once wrong, that were once taboo, are no longer taboo because we have found freedom of sexual expression. And somehow we have said that freedom of sexual expression equates with life, with joy. But we don't do that with other things that the Bible calls wrong. And with the few things that we all have in common, we don't call that life giving.
And so this leads me to the third layer of this. If the first layer is that we don't judge God, he judges us. We don't judge scripture, it judges us. If the second layer is there is a watchman sort of appeal, it's like, Sound the alarm, judgment is coming, and God is saying, Choose life now while it can be chosen.
But the third layer of this is that there is such a thing as holy sexuality and unholy sexuality. There's sexual morality and sexual immorality. And I know that if you're not in the faith, if you don't even value the scriptures, you don't care what I'm saying and just listen to this as our perspective. I believe that it's what God says, like I'm not pulling back on that at all. I'm just saying if you don't value the same things, I value at least understand what I value.
There is such a thing as holy sexuality and unholy sexuality. In fact, let me ask you a question: Is there a line for you that should not be crossed? I'm talking about sexuality. Is there a line that should not be crossed? For you personally? Like is it, "No, anything goes. Absolutely anything and everything having to do with sex is permissible. Everything." There are very few people who would say everything. I mean, they might qualify it as, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else. But I'm just talking about, is there a line that most people would say, okay, there is a line between holy and unholy. There is a line, and I'm just asking you, what is your line? Because for me, and for those of us who follow Christ, those of us who hold to scripture, that line actually is something that God determines, not just what I determine.
Well, let me ask you this. Would you draw a line for someone else? Is there a line that you would step in and intervene with someone else if they actually crossed that line? And most of us can think of a scenario where we might do that. And so this is simply where we're coming at it, where I'm coming at it from.
And if we read in Leviticus 18 -- which I'm gonna read this, and then I'm gonna summarize it, and then I'm gonna categorize it so that there's no mistaking why we speak the way we do about these things -- but Leviticus 18, actually spells this out. And there's other scriptures too. It's not just an isolated thing. But Leviticus 18, it's what Moses is giving the Israelites, when he gives them the law, he says, these are the things that must not be done sexually. He just lists them all. So I'm just gonna read it for you verbatim.
"The Lord said to Moses, speak to the Israelites and say to them: I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord."
And then he says this.
"No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.
Do not dishonor your father by having sexual..."
Now let me say this, this is written to a patriarchal society, whether you like that or not, that's just what it was. It was written to the men and they were caretakers of the society. And so as went the men, so went the society. If you want to read this in a more Egalitarian way, then you can substitute some of the relationship equivalents. If you want to. I don't think that hurts the context at all. But I'm just reading it how it was put.
"Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother..."
Also, as I read this, does it make you squirm at all? Does it feel taboo? Like at what point do you go, "Blech! Ugh! Eww! Agh!." And is there any time you go, "Hmm. Well, maybe..." Like, just be aware of your own reactions to this.
"No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.
Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother. Do not have relations with her.
Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife. That would dishonor your father.
Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter. Whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
Do not have sexual relations with your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter. That would dishonor you.
Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father's wife born to your father. She is your sister.
Do not have sexual relations with your father's sister. She is your father's close relative.
Do not have sexual relations with your mother's sister because she is your mother's close relative.
Do not dishonor your father's brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations. She is your aunt.
Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son's wife. Do not have relations with her.
Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife. That would dishonor your brother.
Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter. They are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor's wife and defile yourself with her.
Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek. For you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman. That is detestable.
Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it. That is a perversion.
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways because this is how the nations that I'm going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled, so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.
But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Everyone who does any of these detestable things, such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came. And do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God."
So that is Leviticus 18.
Now, to summarize those, he's saying: Don't have sex with a close relative. Don't have sex with your mom, don't have sex with your stepmom, don't have sex with your sister, don't have sex with your granddaughter, don't have sex with your stepsister, don't have sex with your aunt, your father's sister, or your aunt, your mother's sister, or your aunt, your uncle's wife. Do not have sex with your daughter-in-law. Do not have sex with...
Again, are you cringing on these things to even have to say this stuff? And is there a turn in your heart where you go, " Well, maybe not that one"? Like is there? What's your reaction?
So don't have sex with your daughter-in-law, don't have sex with your sister-in-law, don't have sex with a woman and her daughter or a woman and her granddaughter. Don't have sex with two sisters, don't have sex with a woman during her monthly period, don't have sex with your neighbor's wife, don't give your children to be sacrificed to Molek, don't have sex with a man. (Again, talking to men.) Don't have sex with a man, and don't have sex with an animal. That's the summary way of reading that.
And we can categorize this as forbidding incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. Now, there's two things in here that are difficult. Admittedly, I'm not sure what to do with them. And some people would say that since we don't know what to do with them, we should discount all of it. And I just don't think that's the way you should read it.
Having sex with a woman while she's menstruating. Some people would say that has to do with cleanliness and everything, but it doesn't seem like the rest has to do with that other than some people would say this has to do with inbreeding and stuff like that. But "your neighbor's wife" doesn't have anything to do with inbreeding. So set that over here. Not sure what to do with it, and that's okay.
And the other one is sacrificing your children to Molek. And there are places in scripture that talk about having your children go through the fire. Most people would believe that to sacrifice your child to Molek was actually to have them burned for a god. Awful things. And we could force this into saying, so the whole thing is about sexual relations here, and we could maybe force read something there that's talking about child molestation. I don't know. There's nothing conclusive that would say that. But at the very least it is sacrificing children to a god. And you could also make a case -- and I know this is a trigger thing -- but you could also make a case that in the abortion conversations where we sacrifice our children for convenience or for consequence-free sexuality, you could make a case that this applies. I don't think that's what he's saying here, but you could make an application there.
But other than that, we're talking about incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. And God says, don't do those things. He says they are forbidden, they're wicked, they're wrong, they're detestable. They are a perversion. They profane God's name. They defile. Don't do those things.
And so that would be the view of those of us who turn to scripture, not to judge it, but to let it judge us. We turn to it and say, okay, I'm not gonna do those things. And as watchmen, we have to say, don't do those things.
What do you think? Was there a part when I was reading that where you went, "Oh, but that one's okay."
"Taboo. Taboo. Taboo. Taboo. Taboo. Taboo. Eh, don't know why that's a problem. Taboo. Boy, that really sounds really bigoted. Taboo."
And I'm saying that we shouldn't let the culture decide for us what is taboo. We turn to scripture and these are the things that we are not supposed to do sexually.
There's another one that I have to read. It's in a different book. Deuteronomy 22: 5. This is more laws given by God through Moses to the people. It says, "A woman must not wear men's clothing nor a man wear women's clothing for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this."
Again, you don't have to like that. That can make you angry, that can feel hateful, whatever. But that simply is what God has said about it. A woman shouldn't dress like a man in order to come across as a man. A man shouldn't dress as a woman in order to be presented as a woman. The Lord detests those who do that. And to be clear, the Lord detests people who make the decision to violate what's right by doing what's wrong.
There's other passages we could read. Leviticus 20 tells more. Galatians 5:19. Ephesians 5:3. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. 1 Corinthians 5-6. And it all says "Flee sexual immorality." "Flee sexual immorality." It doesn't go into the same detail, but it lists adultery, it lists homosexuality, along with greed and slander and all those things. And it says, don't do these things! Flee those things!
In fact, reading from 1 Corinthians 6, "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not..." So this is new covenant stuff. This is under grace. This is sins washed away by belief in Jesus. This is under grace and still Paul is saying, " Do not be deceived..." And as a watchman I'm saying don't be deceived, "neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God."
And he goes on and he says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. 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! Do you not know that he unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh.' But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in Spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own" -- and hear this -- "you are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies."
And so that's the appeal. That's why we care. That's why Christians care so much about sex.
Now, if you don't care what Christians believe, if you don't care what God has said, or don't believe this is how God said it or what he meant and all that, if you don't care, you don't care. That's on you. But I've at least told you what God says.
But if you do care, now you know. You know. If you care, now you know.
And so my appeal is this, for those of us who do care: flee from sexual immorality. Flee from it. You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
If you have opportunity to speak into the culture, if you have opportunity to give witness to others, let it not be a witness of condemnation, but a witness of life, that we can all choose life. We can all choose life, and you don't choose life by choosing death.
So choose life. Choose life. This is grace. And truth.
Mission Update & Prayer Requests