Let me begin with a warning. I don't have the answer to the question I'm about to ask. It's a question that kept me awake at night as a young, single man; and a question that haunts the students in my ministry as a youth pastor. It's one who's answer ought to be found clearly laid out in scripture. Sadly, however, the keys to unlocking the mystery of my question seem to lurk in the grey areas or our Bible. But before I give you the question… some lead in is necessary.
Navigating adolescence is a dangerous journey and it's not made easier with the introduction of sexual attraction. I vaguely remember the first time I thought to comb my hair and wear clean clothes not because my mom told me to but because of a girl in my youth group. It was weird. She was a girl, she had cooties, why did I want to look nice so she'd notice me. As time flew by I, much like any other hormone drenched adolescent, struggled to figure out what God's plan was for my sex drive and my sexuality. I've been married now for 3 years and have a daughter who just learned to walk and I'm still trying to figure out God's plan for sex.
In this post I'd like to start by looking at what scripture has to say about sex. I feel like I'd end up with a book if I tried to go through each passage, so I'm just going to try to summarize what I've found.
There are numerous places in the New Testament that forbid and condemn sexual immorality. (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7) Several of these texts also condemn sensuality. Unfortunately scripture really doesn't give us a great definition, at least in these texts, for what sexual immorality encompasses. It's possible that sexual immorality could include everything from intercourse outside of marriage, to a quick kiss, holding hands, or even something as harmless as a hug. It's possible though that sexual immorality has limits within this scale, but where do we draw the line. Hopefully we can all agree that child prostitution is sexually immoral. We could probably also agree that pornography would qualify as sexually immoral. But what about those less clear issues. Do we draw the line of acceptable behavior at holding hands, hugging, kissing, making out, hand jobs, blow jobs, or actual intercourse. In my experience different people have drawn the line in different places but where does God draw the line? What is His understanding of Sexual Immorality?
The key question that must be answered in order to find God's plan for our sexuality is, "what is the best definition for sexual immorality". Like I said in the beginning… I don't have a good answer but let me put forth a couple possible answers for your consideration.
- Could sexual immorality be limited to casual sex? It seems to me that two people who love each other and plan to be with each other for a long time might be able to enter into a sexual relationship in good conscience but it's conceivable that when the bible talks of immorality it is speaking of the type of sexual relationships that involve repeated one night stands with different partners.
- Could sexual immorality be limited to adultery. In several of these passages it would make sense that marriage is sacred and cheating on your spouse is wrong. However there are passage where a reader would have to assume that sexual immorality means pre-marital sex in order to get that from the passage.
- Could sexual immorality not have limits? Could these verses be speaking of everything from a side hug or casual glance to polygamy and sexual addiction. The more important practical question in this regard is "how are we supposed to survive our current society if this is the case." The only way I can see a person possibly avoiding sexual immorality (as it's defined here) is moving to the mountains and living as a hermit.
- In many Christian circles intercourse is really the only thing that is completely off limits. Other things are looked down on but if you have intercourse we can officially announce that "the end of the world" is here. But is intercourse the best definition for sexual immorality.
I'm going to stop before the post get's way to long, but before I do, I'd like to briefly touch on 1 Cor 7:2. The thing that interests me most here is that Paul tells those who are tempted by sexual immorality to get married. Paul is speaking of celibacy and explaining that not all have that gift. He then says if you don't have the gift of celibacy ,or, put another way, if you do have a sex drive… get married! The problem for me with this passage is that marriage doesn't seem to be a cure for any type of sexual temptation that I'm aware of. There are married men who continue to view pornography, masturbate, lust after women they aren't married to, cheat and do a host of other things that are traditionally deemed "sexually immoral". While Paul seems to talk about marriage here as the answer to an out of control sex drive, marriage in real life is rarely the answer to an out of control sex drive.
I feel like I could keep going but I'd like to hear what you think so far. This will probably not be the last post on this topic.