Rev. Wayne Mueller
What do the words crime, innuendo, molestation, bias, misconduct, discrimination, overtones, violence, and perversion have in common? They all follow the adjective “sexual” in today’s news reports. There is something especially repulsive about sexual sins. St. Paul gives one reason why this is true: “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). A nation’s wholesale surrender to sexual immorality is an indication that it has forsaken even the most basic, natural knowledge of God. It is a sign that an angry God has turned people over to the consequences of their own passions (Romans 1:18-32).
Christians are rightly grieved by the blatant sexual immorality of society. We know that “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:13). Yet the believer, too, struggles with his sexuality. Seemingly irrepressible urges occupy our thoughts and sometimes spill over into our words and actions. What do we think about our own sexuality? How can we witness to the world while we are still struggling with our own flesh? What help does God’s word give us for this moral dilemma?
God Made Us Sexual People
Sex is good. That bold, bald statement has the backing of Holy Scripture. It is true that God made us, first of all, human creatures. That is shown by Moses’ generic use of the word “man” (humankind) in Genesis 1:27 and by the use of the terms “man” in 2:7 and “woman” in 2:22. It is also true that God made his human creatures possessors of his divine image (Genesis 1:26,27). That image includes knowledge (Colossians 3:10) and sinlessness (Ephesians 4:24). But there is more. An essential part of our makeup as God originally created us is our sexuality.
In the same breath that the Bible says we are human and possessors of the divine image, it records that God created human beings “male and female.” These are specifically sexual words. God made us human, God made us possessors of his image, and God made us sexual. Think of what that means. A popular poster capsulizes the truth: “God don’t make no junk.” Since God created human sexuality — and God is good (Matthew 19:17) — then sex is good. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:16). God himself draws this conclusion. He declared his work of the first five days to be “good.” But his crowning work on the sixth day he pronounced “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That evaluation includes his work of creating human sexuality.
God’s perfect creatures in a perfect world recognized their sexuality as the good gift it was. Moses writes, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25). Adam and Eve could stand in front of each other and before God without embarrassment. They had a confident appreciation of what God had made them: human, sinless, and sexual.
If we and the world around us were without sin today, we would consistently view our human sexuality as a good gift from a good God. But that’s not the way it is. You have probably noticed that just about everyone today wears clothes. Even if the weather is very hot, we cover up at least those parts of our bodies which especially identify our gender. And it should be that way. Since the fall into sin, we all have the tendency to hide ourselves from each other and from our God (Genesis 3:7). The modesty which comes from being aware of our sinful nature demands that we cover ourselves. Where that modesty is lacking there is an inappropriate shamelessness. Wearing clothes is our way of admitting we lost something God originally gave to us. We have lost the image of God by which we could avoid sexual sins and recognize our sexuality as the Creator’s gift.
But wearing clothes doesn’t hide our spiritual nakedness. Only the Savior whom God promised in the garden can do that. Adam and Eve were not restored when they put on fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), but when God covered their sin with the promise of a Savior (v. 15). Only the white robes of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) can cover the nakedness of our sin.
Sexuality is an integral part of our personal identities. The ungodly seek to gain a healthy view of themselves by declaring that they are free from sexual inhibitions. The Bible says it works the other way. First God declares us free of our sins by the blood of Jesus. Then through faith we gain a healthy view — God’s view — of ourselves as human and sexual creatures in whom the image of God has been restored through forgiveness.
God Blesses Sexuality
When our stubborn, defensive old Adam is drowned by the blood of Christ, we are willing to hear what God has to say to us about his wonderful gift of human sexuality. If we go back to the beginning we can see how God wanted the intimate relationship of human sexuality to be enjoyed. God blessed intimate sexual union in Genesis 2:24 as an expression of the unity of the male and the female in marriage. This sexual union also has the blessing of God for bringing children into the world (Genesis 1:28). In the original, innocent world God needed only to tell Adam and Eve how to enjoy his gift of sex. God used no negatives when he addressed perfect people. He simply taught them two things: sex is good; enjoy it within the bond of marriage to express your loving commitment to each other and to bear children. You might say God has only one “rule” about sex: Enjoy it inside of marriage.
Our Lives Witness God’s Goodness
This is the part that the world just doesn’t understand. The ungodly certainly look at their sexuality as a “gift,” but they do not see it as a gift from God. Since they do not have God in their picture of sexuality, they are not willing to let God direct them in their use of this gift for his glory and their own blessing.
That’s where we come in. The best way we can witness against the sexual immorality of the world is to cover the nakedness of its sin with the clothing of Christ’s righteousness. Unless the sexually immoral are led to look to Jesus as their Savior, they will never be godly and will never listen to the God who gave them the gift. Getting angry and disgusted will not bring about the change God wants (James 1:20). Moralizing will only lead to the accusation that we are self-righteously imposing our outmoded Judeo-Christian ethic on an unwilling pluralistic society.
Sharing Jesus with others, however, does not mean we can avoid speaking the law sharply to an unrepentant sinner. This isn’t a perfect world. Negatives have to be preached to stubborn hearts. God’s command to enjoy sexual intimacy inside of marriage means that intimate sexual contact outside of marriage is sinful. Contact your catechism for countless clear statements to that effect. We will explore some of these in future studies.
One of the pagan myths we want to attack with God’s law is the idea that intimacy outside of the marriage vow can be a harmless pleasure, a “victimless crime.” The evil quality of every sin is that it is first of all an attack upon the holy will of the Creator. That certainly holds true for sexual sins which abuse a good gift God gave and blessed for all people. Joseph understood that truth when he was tempted to seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage. Joseph refused (Genesis 39:10). “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” he said (v.9). We want to emphasize that aspect rather than trying to force others to change their conduct with the threat of discovery, pregnancy, or disease. When we have led our neighbor to see that his sin is against God, we may have the opportunity to lead him to the cross of God’s Son.
Our own frame of mind is important when witnessing to others. Our own sinful thoughts (Matthew 7:28), words, and actions (Ephesians 4:3,4) make us want to grab for fig leaves. A moral confidence that we are good enough to speak to others is pure self-righteousness. But a gospel confidence that in Christ God has forgiven even our sexual sins and has restored his image in us will give us the boldness to say what has to be said. We will be God’s instruments to bring the sexually immoral to their Savior. We will unashamedly make the bold, bald statement: Sex is good. And we can be sure they will understand it the right way.