Monday, August 03, 2020

Anonymous Asks (104)

“Why is sexual purity so important?”

This is an excellent question for young Christians to resolve in their hearts and heads before it becomes emotional and personal, especially in a cultural climate where we are repeatedly told that pre-marital sex is not only not sinful, but healthy, normal human behavior. Chaste teenagers are currently considered more than a little defective. Heaven help you if your dedication to sexual purity lasts into your twenties.

So why have Christians always taught that sexual purity is so important?

Lawful, but Not Helpful

For the Christian, the answer “Because God says it is” really should be enough, shouldn’t it? But perhaps it would be a bit of a cop-out for me to simply leave it there. After all, there are one or two verses we could cite out of context in an attempt to suggest that what we do with our bodies is not really all that important to our spiritual state. For example, Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Sure, he was talking about food, but couldn’t we argue that the same principle might apply to sexual experience? I mean, “To the pure, all things are pure”, right?

However, the Bible doesn’t leave this question hanging. Apostolic interpretation of the Lord’s teaching forbids us from using what he said to declare open season for behavior that has been considered sinful for over two millennia. In 1 Corinthians, Paul starts out with much the same question the Lord was considering — the appropriateness of eating foods that had once been considered off-limits for Jews — and he says essentially the same thing Jesus taught, “All things are lawful for me.” Then he adds this: “But not all things are helpful.” I could do all kinds of things with my Christian freedom, says the apostle, but some of them are damaging.

Damaging to my testimony. Damaging to other people. Damaging to my relationship with the Lord. Damaging to me.

A Question of Ownership

From here he moves quickly on to the question of what is sexually appropriate for the Christian, and he says this: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” The first problem is that when we sin sexually, we are acting against our own design. It may be possible to use our bodies for evil, but that is not what they were intended for. Neither the human body nor the human mind respond well to repeated misuse, which is exactly what sexual immorality involves.

But more importantly, Paul makes the point that as Christians we are under new ownership. Our bodies are not ours to do with as we please. Having been redeemed from certain death by the blood of Christ, we are obligated to consider his claims in everything we do, including who we sleep with and when. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”

These verses establish beyond question the Lord’s right to call the shots about how we behave. We can like it or not, but if we claim to be Christians, that’s part of the deal.

The One-Flesh Principle

But we might well ask ourselves what would make God forbid something which we are constantly hearing is one of the most wonderful experiences two people can have together. In the same passage, Paul tells us why: “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

Sinning against our own bodies is not some distant, lofty spiritual principle that has no immediate consequences in the real world. Sexual sin is transformative. It changes you in ways you can’t imagine unless you have lived it. If you happen to catch a nasty STD or two, it can also be physically transformative, and not in a good way. But that’s far from the most important change that occurs. When you unite your body with that of another person, something is going on that has major significance. Paul says that when man and woman come together, they become “one flesh”. This is true in every case, even if the sexual encounter seems relatively unimportant to the people involved. It remains true even if you are having sex with a prostitute, which is about the most emotionally-detached, meaningless sort of encounter one can possibly picture.

Bring on the Baggage

The ongoing problems that result from being sexually experienced are not obvious to people who have never tried to establish a life-long partnership. If that is what you plan to eventually shoot for down the road, there is no worse possible foundation for a Christian marriage than a whole pile of meaningless sexual experience ... or, even worse, sexual experiences with a number of different people that seemed meaningful at the time, but did not end in commitment. In those situations, somebody is always hurt, and that hurt has a domino effect in every future relationship.

In any ongoing relationship that does not last for life, one of two things is usually happening. For at least some part of it — at least the last few months, but in many instances the entire relationship — you are either using another person or you are being used by them. The “friends with benefits” thing is really a bit of a myth. It may start out as uncommitted fun, but someone always gets hurt in the end.

Using ...

Let’s consider the user first. The Christian who deliberately uses others knowing he has no permanent interest in them is acting wickedly. There is nothing loving about taking advantage of people for your own gratification or even to pass the time until the right person comes along. Having a lot of sexual relationships may initially build your confidence with the opposite sex, but that confidence evaporates with age and experience, especially as you see how many other people out there are operating just like you.

Moreover, we can all do the math, and we all tend to project. Liars think everyone else is lying to them. Users become paranoid that someone is going to pull their own trick on them someday. Imagine trying to live as man and wife when you both have a history of infidelity and dishonesty (and yes, they always go together). The level of paranoia and insecurity that results is truly staggering. You may have “settled down” now, and are committed to the relationship. But how do you really know for sure that your wife has settled down if she has previously been involved in multiple sexual relationships? You might just be the “bridge” guy until she comes across a man she really wants to make things work with.

Moreover, consciences tend to get seared the more we repeat the same sort of sin. Fidelity is not something we can turn on and off like a light switch. If we have not learned to practice it when we are young, we will find it very difficult to develop as we age. After all, if you have committed the same sin 150 times, what’s one more sin of the same sort going to do? That’s how we think. The person who imagines he can do what he wants with his body in his teens and twenties, then will suddenly be able to control it perfectly in his thirties when he wants a family and children, is hallucinating.

And really, do you imagine it’s a good time to crawl into bed with someone every night knowing you are being consciously or unconsciously compared to the performance of ten, twenty or fifty other people? (And, yes, I know these days it’s frequently a whole lot worse than that, or at least so the media wants us to believe.)

... and Being Used

Then let’s consider the person who is being used. Being hurt is no fun. When you end up on the losing end of a relationship you hoped would last, you have given your ex-partner something you can’t get back for your next attempt at a relationship. Your virginity maybe, sure, but I’m really talking about trust. People who can’t trust are miserable to live with. They are unhappy people who make everyone else unhappy. A man or woman who has been burned four, five or six times makes terrible marriage material, almost as bad as the people who did the damage to them. They become self-fulfilling prophecies of relationship failure by driving away everyone who tries to love them so that they can “control” their exit from the relationship rather than be caught by surprise.

For the Christian, sexual purity is huge. With God all things are possible, and I’m not saying that nobody with a checkered sexual history can ever become a good life partner if they are truly committed to changing in obedience to Christ. It’s just much, much harder. And a Christian teen who is looking for reasons to experiment with sex does not sound to me much like the sort of person for whom repentance comes easy.

The Lesson of Solomon

King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He had sexual experience on a par with NBA players and bassists in hair metal bands ... again, if we believe the media. So let’s let one of the most well-traveled bodies in Bible history have the last word about the importance of sexual purity:
“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.”
With all his worldly experience, what does Solomon recommend to the world when given the chance to say his piece? Loving monogamy.

That settles it for me.

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