A column in the New York Times called The Ethicist gives readers opinions on a variety of topics. Since sexuality and marriage are a hot topic these days (actually everyday) they have covered the topic. It is like a Dear Abby approach where a writer genuinely wants to get advice on real life issues, “Do you tell a friend his daughter is sexually active?” or “I am a lawyer and had sex with another lawyer on our first date and later found out that she had herpes, should I report her bad sexual ethic?” The New York Times’ writers share their advice on sexual ethics and provide answers. The Bible has a sexual ethic that I thought would be informative as well. Do you think the Bible is right on or out of date as it relates to the topic of sexual ethics?
God is the author of all things that deal with sex, romance, dating, marriage, etc. An entire book is dedicated to the topic of attraction, dating, engagement, honeymoon, deepening a marriage, and working through conflict in a marriage relationship. God’s will in this area is a protection and a provision. A protection from painful consequences and provision of deep fulfilling relationships. There is a great deal of information on developing a sexual ethic. After a cursory perusal I found that the biggest difference between any old sexual ethic and a biblical sexual ethic was in the use of the word ‘your’. It is your body, your sex life, your life, etc. While that is true it may also be true that only thinking of yourself will lead to self-centeredness and not God-centeredness.
I don’t think the Bible is outdated. There are some clear differences between the Bible’s sexual ethic and some of the current secular cultures’ voices. Here are some broad stroke principles over-viewing a Biblical Sexual Ethic.
- Beware of Desires
- The Gateway is the Mind
- Sex in marriage is not the Holy Grail.
- Sex outside of marriage is never right.
- Sexual sins are forgivable.
Beware of Desires
Desires are tricky. They war against our minds. James, the brother of Jesus who also wrote a letter in the Bible, said, “Desires lead to sin” (James 1:13-15). He also connected our desires as the gateway towards becoming enemies of God (James 4:1-4). I said, “Desires are tricky” because they can be for good or for bad. Paul in Romans 8:5-8 shows the difference between good and bad desires. Bad desires are based in the flesh and good desires are based in the spirit. In marriage it is a great thing to desire one another (Song of Solomon 7:10).
The Gateway is the Mind
Sex is more than physical. The greatest sexual organ in our body is our minds. Paul draws three lines in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 that act as a guide to building our sexual ethic. Line 1- It is God’s will to abstain from sexual immorality (4:3). This means any sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage. Line 2- Do not “rip” your brother or sister off, that is “transgress or wrong his brother in this matter” (4:6). Guys should avoid strategic touching below the neck and whispering sweet nothings in order to lead a gal towards meeting his selfish desires. A girl should consider how they dress because guys are extremely sight oriented. Line 3- God is calling us away from impurity (4:7). Sexual immorality is the physical act. Impurity is the mental act. Sexual misconduct happens first in the mind. Another word that is commonly used for impurity in this case is lust. Jesus said lust, thinking about adultery, is as bad as the physical act of adultery (Matthew 5:28).
Sex in Marriage is not the Holy Grail
Many a man who has chosen a path of virginity before marriage jump into marriage and struggle with sex. They have made sex the Holy Grail of the relationship. Sex is more than physical in and outside of marriage commitment. It has a spiritual component to it. That is why when two consenting adults have sex inside a dating relationship, one without a commitment, and subsequently break off the relationship there is a great deal of pain. Our minds and bodies think we are married. God made us that way. Sex inside of marriage is great when each person is thinking of the other. This overlooks the pettiness of selfish sex. Any sexual act inside of marriage can be moral if selfishness is far away. However, any sexual act inside of marriage can be immoral if selfishness is the motive. Sex is not a weapon against your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
Sex outside of Marriage is Never Right
This is probably the biggest difference between a Biblical sexual ethic and popular culture’s ethic. This is where the Bible is seen as out dated and out of touch. How can we expect teens to wait? 10o years ago men and women were getting married in their teen years or early twenties. They did not have sensual music, TV, movies, etc. like there is today. Nowadays marriages are being pushed well into the twenties. We live in a sexually saturated society, how in the world can a man and women save themselves for their one and only? The Bible offers God’s blessing on sexual intimacy only when it occurs within the boundaries of marriage. It denies that sex outside of marriage is justified for any reason. It rejects the idea that sexual intimacy outside of marriage can be moral if partners are honest, consenting, or sufficiently committed. It opposes the portrayal of sexual sin as a way of enhancing the popular appeal of entertainment. It rejects the idea that sex between unmarried teenagers is acceptable if it is “safe.” (Exod. 20:14; Lev. 18:7-17, 20; Deut. 5:18; Matt. 5:27-28, 19:9,18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 1:24, 13:9; 1 Cor. 6:13,18; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Heb. 13:4; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Thess. 4:8; Prov. 5:3-14).
Sexual Sins are Forgivable
There is a difference between needing and getting a pure heart and a brand new heart. When a person comes to the place in their spiritual journey where they understand sin is a problem (Rom 3:23), separation from God and death are the consequences (Rom 6:23), the cross of Jesus is the solution (Rom 5:8), and faith is a choice (Rom 10:9-10), they are given a brand new heart. The old heart is gone and they are given a new heart (2 Cor 5:17). God offers incredible forgiveness, mercy, and grace to those whose heart are already His but they have chosen to walk outside of God’s plan for sexuality (1 John 1:9; 1 Cor 6:9-11). The challenge is to seek out folks who can encourage you to walk God’s path (2 Tim 2:22). Although a person’s relationship with God is fully restored there are often physical and psychological scars that must be dealt with that come from sexual sin.