The Way Forward for Christians Talking about Sexual Ethics

fgbfhIn light of the recent Duck Dynasty fiasco where one of the actors was let go for voicing his evangelical commitments concerning sexual ethics, I thought it wise to briefly mention the reason why Christians are against various sexual practices in our wider cultural milieu. We are not against those practices because we believe God is a cosmic killjoy. There is a more nuanced reason for why such a practice is demeaning or destructive to human beings. What one thinks about human beings is of determinative significance for his or her program of action. For the Christian theist, essence truly precedes existence (contra the existentialists). We are not our own soul-makers or creators of destiny. Human beings are contingent, finite persons who live in another’s domain. Humanity is specially created in the image and likeness of God himself (Gen. 1:26-27, 5:1-3, 9:5-6; Psa. 8:3-8; 1 Cor. 11:7; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:8-11; Jas. 3:7-9). Persons reflect God’s nature in their substance and also in their actions—people are spiritual, relational, moral, free, and intelligent creatures who rule and reign on God’s behalf. Because of this reality, humanity has tangible and objective worth, value, and dignity. Any activity that destroys human life and diminishes human dignity is to be shunned and opposed. Homosexuality, pornography, adultery both inner and outer, bestiality, polygamy, and any other illicit sexual practice fall within those categories and thus are to be rejected. The Christian has good reason to reject any demeaning sexual activity because not everything is kosher and befitting for such dignified, representatives of God.

Why is sex outside of marriage beneath image-bearers? A discussion concerning adultery would be underdeveloped without mentioning the biblical view of human sexuality. Immediately following God’s pronouncement that humanity is made in his image, the Sovereign “…blessed them and said to them, ‘be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gen. 1:28). In Genesis 2, the command finds a fuller articulation when God says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). As a result of being created in the image of God, we have not only a relational capacity that all humans share, and a sexuality shared by all as male and female, but in marriage a physical union through sexual intercourse. In the act of marriage, sex is the covenant-sealing union of two embodied-souls into one body. The act is intricately and necessarily linked to the institution in such a way that any deviation from that form is improper and wrong (1 Cor. 6:15-20). Christian ethicists have remarked that marriage fulfills four main purposes: it is the context for sexual intercourse and expression (1 Cor. 7:2, 8-9), it is directed towards child-rearing and procreation (Mal. 2:15-16; Eph. 6:2), it is the main focus of life-long companionship (Gen. 2:23; 1 Cor. 9:5; Eph. 5:21-33), and it serves as a spiritual metaphor for the inner-trinitarian community and God’s union with man. The covenantal profundity of marriage and its divine stamp upon it has led Christians throughout the centuries to reject any type of illicit sex outside of that ordained institution.

gfbfgxhThe dangers of sexual licentiousness are that it separates one from God (because it is sin), it creates inordinate desires within a person that ransacks and truncates true intimacy, and it is harmful to those around the person involved in the act. The misuse of sex is a rejection and a distortion of the knowledge of God. Vice lists in Scripture commonly link sexual sins with ignorance of God’s will (Rom. 1:23-28; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:14-15; Eph. 4:22). This is a terrible problem for humanity is meant to be in close communion and fellowship with their Maker. Sexual sin (and any sin in general) ruins such a relationship. J.I. Packer remarked, “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself.” Practices that mar and reject such purposes are not trivial but tragic.

I’ll offer at this point a few admonishments concerning how Christians ought to engage in discussion with those who disagree with our position.

1-We ought to always be faithful to God’s word concerning sexual ethics. To confess Christ as Lord is to admit the Lord’s personal rights to absolute supremacy in the universe, the church, and our individual lives (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12, 14:8; 1 Cor. 8:6; Jas. 4:15). Christ is Lord over all things including our bodies. Francis Schaeffer once noted, “Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.” Take a principled stand on God’s word. If Christ has truly been raised from the dead, he has every right to make claims on our lives.

2-Be loving with those who disagree with you. One writer said, “The truth that can serve God as the mightiest of his archangels is robed only in love, her weighty limbs unfettered by needless weight, calm-browed, her eyes terrible with beholding God.” He is most certainly correct. We can neither afford to be loveless in our truth nor truthless in our love. There’s a right way to tell someone they’re wrong and there’s a wrong way to tell someone they’re right. We are both accountable to God for what we say and also how we say it. Bind the fetters of the Gospel with love.

bgfbfhh3-Emphasize not only what we are against but also what we are for. We are against whatever demeans and diminishes human beings. But, and even more importantly, we are for whatever enraptures and enhances image-bearers. We are for the beauty of a man loving his wife as Christ loved the Church and for a woman joyfully submitting in reverence to his headship. We are for young men and women courting each other in holy and happy ways sharing inside jokes and spending quality time that echoes into eternity creating joyful noises in the midst of the angels. We are for singles wholeheartedly and profoundly magnifying the worth of Jesus while they’re on mission for the kingdom. We are for adoption which vividly pictures the gracious acts of God in the Gospel wherein he takes children not naturally his and brings them into the fellowship of his joy. We are for those sanctified moments of grace where everything is as it should be and the pleasure of intimacy is not bought at the price of dysfunction. This is God’s world and he does not desire us to live unfulfilled lives. Our hearts are restless until we find rest in him and his world can be enjoyed in recreation and rest. We are for the good brothers and sisters.

4-Open the Church to all who need the Gospel.  Because of the redemption provided by Christ, a mending and union has occurred which results in a people who were once alienated from God, lacking hope in the world, ignorant of the person of God, and a people basically without spiritual blessings (Eph. 2:11-12) being a part of a glorious new society that honors and worships the Lord. The new union of Jew and Gentile is a glorious manifestation to the powers that God’s wisdom exceeds all others (Eph. 3:10-13). God graciously blesses this body with spiritual gifts so that each member can obtain their full maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). The ministry was given not only to enable the church to grow but also so that it would be able to resist any forces that might corrupt or destroy it. Francis Schaeffer again dropped some truth when he said, “Christian Community is the final apologetic of the Gospel.” The Gospel is not only to be protected but enjoyed together in a community of faith.

5-Refuse to be silenced in the name of tolerance. Tolerance ought to mean that we are accepting of all persons. You know, love your neighbor as yourself. It sadly has come to represent the idea that all positions are equally valid. For the Christian, this can never be true. Not all ideas are equally valid. I am required to love my neighbor but not ideas that my neighbor has. Ideas that led to Dachua are not in the same playing field as those that lead to human dignity. There’s a world of difference between a personal “right” to abort and a duty to adopt. Believer, do not cut off the branch you’re sitting on by arguing that tolerance means we accept all ideas as equally valid. There may be some gray areas here or there but there’s a world of difference between midnight and midday. As Nancy Pearcey argued, “Christianity teaches that because all things were created by a single divine mind, all truth forms a single, coherent, mutually consistent system that’s unified and universal.” This is a glorious truth that has implications for every aspect of life. Don’t abandon it in the name of “tolerance.”

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