A Few Quick-ish Thoughts on Sexual Sin*

Hey, my friend, it seems as though you and I have been “running around and around the banana tree” on this particular issue to not much avail, typically generating more heat than light, so I thought it might be good – more for me, perhaps, than you – to put a few thoughts down in writing, maybe share a few life experiences. Conversations like this are best when they happen face-to-face, of course, but life being what it is, we rarely get time to talk at length anymore. Maybe these ideas can serve as a springboard for our next discussion?

Sexual Sin and SlaveryWriting as one who is in absolutely no position to judge or condemn, there is at least one thing that I do know for sure; I invite you to consider it as being wholly truthful (John 14:6) and consistent with everything we know about the battle waging war on our flesh: When you and I stand before the Revelation 20:11 Great White Throne of Jesus, our “spirited discussions” about what does or does not comprise sexual sin are going to seem pretty silly, perhaps even a complete waste of time.

As I have said repeatedly, and firmly believe, we have all fallen short of God’s glory in the realm of sexuality (Romans 3:23) just as we have fallen short in every other category of our lives. The problem, as I understand it, is not that my history of sexual sin is any “better” or “worse” than your present struggle, but simply that by making even one mistake in this realm, I have become polluted and unfit for entry into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 5:19).

While all sin is grievous, my experiences in ministry thus far have taught me that sexual sin is, in fact, more “serious” (at least in terms of consequences) for four primary reasons, though there are almost certainly others.

  • Because it disguises itself as love and acceptance, sexual sin is much more difficult to cast off than drugs or alcohol. The guy waking up next to a living room full of empty bottles and/or syringes has a much harder time telling himself that he is being “validated” than does the sexual sinner who, after all, is waking up next to another human being. We all crave acceptance, and what could be more accepting – we imagine! – than to have another person give themselves sexually? True love, however, is to be found in willing self-sacrifice, not in an agreed-upon conspiracy to move each other further away from God. The truly-loving individual seeks the best, ultimate good for the other. Gratification of self does not enter into the truly-loving person’s thinking, authentic gratification is instead a blessed by-product of a life lived to God’s glory.
  • Sexual sin “feels” more condemning to the Christian – Romans 8:1 notwithstanding – and therefore serves to drive a perceived wedge between us and God faster and more effectively than just about anything else. It’s kind of like fast-setting Quikrete designed for the hardening of the human heart. We sin sexually and then almost immediately buy into the lie that we have really blown it and can no longer come before God. Somehow, because our fleshly pleasures have been so deeply engaged, our minds become twisted by the belief that we need to put some “distance” between our latest sexual escapade and our next prayer, clean ourselves up in our own imagination, and then (and only then) can we journey back to the Throne of Grace. This thinking, while common, is actually pretty stupid when you consider that God lives outside of time (2 Peter 3:8) and that you can just about guarantee that your next sexual failure will happen before you arrive at that “magic point in time” when you finally feel clean enough to talk to God again. When we allow ourselves to go down this path, we are also forgetting that absent the work of Christ on the cross, any sin we commit, however “small” in our eyes, puts us squarely outside the common grace of God (James 2:10). It’s helpful, I think, to consider sexual sin and delayed repentance as one of Satan’s greatest spiritual Ponzi schemes.
  • For the Christian, sexual sin is a profaning of God’s temple. When you became a Christian, you invited Jesus into your heart (1 Corinthians 3:16) and He dwells there now by His Spirit, given to the saints at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Paul makes this pretty clear when he uses the imagery of joining the Spirit of God to a prostitute, and yet somehow this shocking imagery is dulled in our hearts to the point that our lusts somehow seem to take precedence over the holiness of God. I don’t know about you, friend, but when the Lord reveals to me all the ways in which I have personally profaned His temple, I’d like to at least be able to say that I “put down the can of spray paint” several years prior to our meeting. And again, it scarcely matters if my sexual errors look like yours or “worse,” I had better be certain that my acceptance of Christ also included a sincere desire to stop violating His will (Romans 6:12) even as I tell Him with my words how much He means to me (Matthew 15:7-9).
  • Sexual sin is a community act. (Please don’t over-interpret this to mean anything too weird, OK?) What I mean is that when we commit sexual sins in the privacy of our homes, behind closed doors, we are tricked into thinking that we are not hurting anyone. If we would simply bother to do even a little bit of digging into the statistical evidence about the break-up of the American home and the effect it is having on kids – not to mention the burgeoning trade in pornography and the human lives chewed up by that industry – we might stop to consider how my desire for this and your desire for that – acted upon – gives birth to all manner of destruction within families, between friends, with coworkers and even casual acquaintances. Other people know more about us than we think they do, pay more attention to how we live our lives than we might actually prefer and (most of all) draw their conclusions about Jesus based on the witness of our lives more than we would care to think about.

So is your sin “worse” than mine? No. The details are different, for sure, but in terms of how deeply our sin grieves God, you and I are on equal footing. But if you insist on playing the Sin Comparison Game, perhaps it is true that you missed the mark by 7,000 miles and I “only” missed the mark by 6,000 miles. You know what? If we both crash and burn, spending eternity apart from our Greatest Good, does any of this scorekeeping really matter? Again, we are fools to look at our sins and play the comparison game; we are better off by far to stop trying to reinterpret Scripture and fall on our faces in repentance.

*Please note that this letter was not written to anyone in particular; rather, it’s an amalgam of ideas expressed in countless conversations over the past 15 years. I have been both the recipient of and delivery boy for these ideas.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)
Flee Sexual Immorality
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 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.

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