The news of the PC(USA) denomination essentially approving of ordained ministers who engage in homosexual partnerships and other relationships outside of wedlock has been big news in over the last week. Ironically, many stories about homosexuality have appeared over the last few days. From the admission of being gay from a president of a professional sports franchise to a former hoops player declaring he was secretly a homosexual, the issue of homosexuality in the public square has hit the press the same time that a major ecclesiastical body has made a major decision on a related issue.
It’s difficult to look at this as a conservative, Bible-believing Christian. I know that it is only a matter of time before the culture war takes a turn and gay marriage is finally legalized perhaps in the next five years. In addition, I wonder if, as a future minister of the gospel, there will be coercion of ministers to marry homosexual couples even if it goes against their vows and their commitment to the Bible. Never say never.
Yet, another difficult matter comes to my mind. How do I, a young mosaic, function in a society where well over a majority of people in my demographic have an entirely different view of sexual ethics than me? Most older traditionalists on marriage don’t understand the great pressures involved with a young conservative who feels more and more alone as the months go by.
However, if I as a Christian want to take the Bible seriously, I need to take sexual ethics seriously. As a Christian who simply wants to love Jesus and remain faithful to Him, there seems to be no other option available than to believe the traditional teaching about marriage and the exclusivity of sex within God’s created boundaries.
If we start with the back end of the Bible and look at Christ speaking to the seven churches in Asia Minor, two churches are threatened with judgment. In Pergamum, Christ rebukes the church for merely containing people who hold to a teaching which permits sexual immorality (Rev 2:14). Thyatira merely tolerates a woman named Jezebel who is teaching Christians to practice sexual immorality (Rev 2:14). Meek and mild Jesus won’t even tolerate a church which merely tolerates a teacher with a loose view of sexual ethics.
None of this means that God doesn’t want Christians to love and relate to those who live such lifestyles. Any type of sex outside of marriage (whether heterosexual or homosexual, including pornography) is wrong, but the Apostle Paul says Christians should show hospitality to such people and minister the gospel in love. BUT, Paul tells the Corinthian church not to associate with the sexually immoral if they claim to be a Christian and are members of the church (1 Cor 5:9-11). Obviously Paul has in mind those who profess the faith, yet aren’t repentant or sorrowful over their sexual immorality. This is why Paul states that these people (including those who are greedy, robbers, or slanderers) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
At this point, a skeptic (who perhaps claims some religiousity) may ask why sexual practice has such a high place in the ethics of the Bible. Why does Jesus insist that only one man and one woman equal marriage (Matt 19:4) and that officers in the church must be faithful to their wives (1 Tim 3:2)? Why does Paul exhort, even beg, for us to FLEE sexual immorality (1 Cor 16:18)? I believe the answer is twofold, and even the skeptic may be gripped by the weightiness of these indicatives.
First, sexual immorality debases the Creator. Now, all sin is ultimately a sin against God (even David’s sin of murder and adultery were against God, Ps 51:4). But why does sexual immorality matter more than some other sins? I think the reason is similar as to why murder to taken seriously by God. God takes murder seriously because one person is taking another individual, who is made in the very image of God and destroying that image (Gen 9:6).
Imagine a thief breaking into the Louvre and approaching one of the most grand (and expensive) paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa. This thief, instead of stealing the painting and leaving it in tact, decides to degrade and graffiti the painting by throwing red paint all over it, drawing on it with a sharpies, and punching some holes in it. While doing this to any old canvas wouldn’t be a crime, and perhaps doing such an act to some elses personal property would require restitution; but this act is so heinous that no earthly punishment would seem just enough for this criminal. This person has defaced and virtually ruined the greatest piece of art in the world.
Now, imagine compare the defacing of human artistry to the debasement of Divine artistry. Human beings are Divine artisty, the crown of creation. God, in coming to earth, took on the form of a human, not an animal. Yet, with both murder and with sexual immorality (and even things like greed and slander), such artistry is ruined. I want to say it’s the equivalent to what the criminal does to the Mona Lisa, but such art pales in worth to God’s Divine artistry found in creatures made in his own image.
This is why Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body,” is important. According to biblical theology, one doesn’t just sin against one’s own body. We sin against the Lord himself, the Divine Artist.
Second, sexual immorality debases Jesus. The climax of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6 is found in verse 19. Here Paul declares a radical statement that would have thrown any Old Testament character for a loop. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Now, why is our body called a temple? Wasn’t the temple a physical structure where Jews brought sacrifices to atone for sin? Indeed. But, in typological fulfillment of the Old Testament, Jesus was the true temple, the true tabernacle who tabernacles or dwelt among us (John 1:14; 2:19-21). And, in the Christian’s mystical union to Christ by faith so that we have solidarity with him, the church is also called the temple (Eph 2:19-21; 1 Peter 2:4-6). It is also when we realize that the purpose of temples in the Ancient Near East was to do be a dwelling for God and also a meeting place between God and humanity that we see the importance of these statements by Paul. For the Christian to sin against the human body, called God’s temple, is to sin against Jesus himself. And this is why Paul says that such a person should be destroyed (1 Cor 3:17).
Again, this is hard teaching to swallow in our culture, especially if you are in your 20s or younger. We’ve grown up with Will & Grace,Queer Eye, and Ellen Degeneres. A worldview which claims that there is a difference between normal and abnormal sexuality doesn’t compute with our cultural artifacts and language. The notion of Divine artistry is foreign to us. But, if those of us who want to call ourselves Christians want to remain faithful and not have Christ speak to us as if we were in Pergamum, Thyatira, or Corinth, we need to take sexual ethics seriously.