By Thom Mollohan
Controversy pervades attitudes toward sex within and without the church today. It’s natural but risky; a gift from God but prohibited by God outside of marriage; it’s a sin to have sex before marriage, but foolish to marry young. Such conflicting commentary has sadly created nothing but confusion about a matter on which the Bible actually is very clear and has much to say. Indeed, the Bible paints sexuality with brilliant colors—a very strong and persuasive power at work in the human psyche—and as a beautiful expression of love when observed within the boundaries laid out by the One who created our bodies, minds and souls.
The Bible declares sex to be a beautiful, sacred consummation of a unique covenant between one man and one woman who have joined their lives together becoming one flesh (see Matthew 9:5-6, Mark 10:7-8, Genesis 2:22-25). The author of Hebrews adds, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4).
The nature of sex makes it somewhat unique among human interactions. No matter how hard we may try, we cannot isolate or compartmentalize our sexuality. When we connect sexually with another, we involve our whole selves—more so than in any other activity. The Apostle Paul asks the question, “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 who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). Sexual union isn’t just a matter of gratifying natural urges. It is much more than this. It is an investment of a certain amount of our essence as spiritual and emotional beings.
Tragically—really tragically—our culture simply fails to see the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality. Muddying the water even further is the fact that participation in sexual activity outside of marriage causes two undesirable things to happen. Such a person becomes a “taker” by degrading his sexual partner—no matter how consensual the act. So then, sexual intimacy amounts to no more than a means of temporarily satisfying one’s lust. Additionally, when one submits himself to another outside of God’s acceptable parameters, he fails to realize the esteemed purpose that God has planned for him. In a sense, he damages himself. As Paul goes on to say, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
A man who takes sex lightly misses out on what God intended him to be. This is the case in adultery, casual sex or cohabitation. Adultery waters down the holy union that a man has with his spouse. Casual sex renders his partners mere things, rather than sacred beings created with divine purpose and value. Cohabitation is an attempt to obtain the privileges of marriage without taking on its responsibilities. Further, trying to justify homosexuality, pornography or other sexual immoralities is like saying, “Here, God, is an area in which You have no say.”
When we run from under the lovingly protective limits given to us by God, we run headlong into self-destruction—emotionally, physically and spiritually. As individuals and a society, we suffer various degrees of family disintegration, fathers and mothers become confused about their roles; and children get caught up in the moral tempests that rage across the societal landscape.
Sexual sin is a sin among many, but it is still sin. To play it down as anything less does the world no service, and does nothing to remedy an area of human life that is deplorably ill and corrupted. Our post-modern world has made a travesty of sex, leaving countless millions with spiritual millstones tied around their necks, unaware that it hampers a fruitful and joyful relationship with God.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
If we find ourselves ensnared by sexual “improprieties,” we can take great comfort in knowing that God can bring healing and cleansing to our hearts. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). As we are willing to admit that we have left God’s ideal for our lives, and place our confidence in the power of His grace, which led Jesus to the cross of Calvary, we can experience a fresh start and a new beginning.