The 21st century doesn’t have a monopoly on sexual sin. Sexual wickedness has haunted every age since the fall of man. God has used water, fire and the sword to scrub previous civilizations clean of their moral rot. The Greek and Roman cultures were both so morally corrupt that they finally imploded – weakened and destroyed by their own lust. But what does seem to be unique to our day is that professing Christians – Bible toting, Bible-believing Christians – have become quite at home in a culture deeply entrenched in all manner of sexual evil. It doesn’t shock us. It doesn’t upset us. It doesn’t offend our consciences. The truth is, that unless it is really bad, sexual immorality just seems normal – even entertaining to many present-day church folks! Many would even admit to telling dirty jokes, viewing pornography and watching sexually explicit movies! This, however, is not the biblical norm.
Sexual Immorality (porneia) is Sub-Christian
Sexual immorality (any illicit sexual behavior including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, rape, lust, bestiality, pornography, sexual touch with someone who is not my spouse, and voyeurism) is included on every list of “sins” in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus, Paul and all the Biblical writers understood and taught that sexual activity outside of marriage between and man and a woman was wrong. The first Jerusalem Council made it very clear to the new converts coming out of paganism and into the Church that sexual immorality is “sub-Christian” and is unacceptable. Sexual immorality is so incompatible with the Christian life that Paul tells the Ephesian church that it is not enough to just not do these sins, “but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place . . .” (Ephesians 5:3-4).
Sexual Immorality is a Sin Against the Body
The culture of our day insists that the freedom to express ourselves sexually in any way we choose is essential to our identity as human beings. But God’s Word plainly says that the body belongs to Him and immoral sexual behavior is a sin “against the body” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). Many sins bring defilement and destruction to the body but sexual immorality goes further and desecrates the body in the same mystical way that the temple is desecrated by bringing an idol into it.
Sexual Immorality is so Highly Contagious That We Dare Not Have Intimate Fellowship With People Who Are Sexually Immoral
Paul tells the Corinthians,
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world … since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 9-11)
Paul is quite blunt here. He makes it plain that we don’t “coddle” but rather “cut off” the sexually immoral person who claims to be a Christian yet chooses to persist in their immorality. The Corinthian man who pursued an incestuous relationship was to be handed “over to Satan.” This does not mean we do not show them love. It means we show them “tough love.” Love and grace are redemptive and transformative – not just accepting and tolerant.
Sexual Immorality has Irreversible Consequences
Proverbs 6:27-33 asks,
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
How does the church deal with Sexual Immorality?
1. Create a zero tolerance for all sexual immorality. This means condemning all inappropriate sexual behavior and all sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
2. When sexual immorality happens within the body of Christ, discipline should be administered fairly and without impartiality.
3. Preach the Gospel. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can free anyone from the bondage of sexual sin. Counseling has many good things to offer in the healing and helping processes, but only the power of the gospel and walking in the Spirit frees us from the “lust of the flesh.”
4. Lead – don’t just react. Teach people, especially young people, how to establish Biblical guardrails in their life. Guardrails are established in a safe zone to keep us from going into an unsafe zone. The idea is to help them choose behavior that keeps them some distance away from disaster.
5. Be redemptive. Create an environment that makes it easy to confess failure, seek help and find forgiveness.