Answering "How far is too far?" "Is it a sin?" and "Can I look at porn?" with a Biblical Sexual Ethic

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Christians are going to keep getting weirder in our culture.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage and sweeping popularity of transgenderism in America, orthodox Christians are going to stick out like sore thumbs because God calls us to be holy as he is holy.

Just like following Paul’s sexual ethic to the Corinthian church would make the Christians unpopular in Corinth, so too does a biblical sexual ethic make American churches unpopular in the ever-shifting tides of American culture. Don't you have sex with prostitutes? Do you even Corinth, bro? 

To that insatiable, popular, crowd-pleasing desire, Paul says the hard words, "Flee from sexual immorality." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

“Sexual immorality” is the translation from a Greek word porneia (where we get the word pornography from). This word is a catch-all for any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage.

This covers not just sexual intercourse, but any activity of a sexual nature. It even includes, as Jesus tells us, sexual feelings that stir up in the heart and sexual thoughts that you kick around in your mind. God does not just want us to flee from one type of sexual immorality.

God says through Paul, flee sexual immorality.

He wants us to be holy, and that means fleeing pre-marital sex. It means feeling from homosexual sex. It means fleeing from oral sex. It means fleeing from adultery, and pornography, and mental images of people who are not your spouse. All of it.

The only kind of sex that God is pleased with is married sexual activity between a husband and a wife. That’s it. If it doesn’t fit that bill, it’s sexual immorality and God will not march for it, vote for it, approve of it, or support it. God clearly calls it a sin, and he tells us to run for the hills whenever we encounter it.

Our sexuality is a wonderful gift from God. It was made to start and sustain a comprehensive union between one man and one woman—a union that is made to reflect the spiritual union God wants us to have with him. That’s why it’s to be enjoyed only within the lifelong bond of marriage. Anything else is a misuse of this great gift and is a distortion of the story sex is meant to tell.

Moralists view sex as dirty, or as dangerous, so it must be forbidden.

Relativists see sex as a biological function; it’s no different from eating or going to the bathroom.

The gospel, however, shows us that our sexuality reflects the self-giving of Jesus.

Jesus gave himself completely to his beloved bride, the church. He gave himself for her (and us) body and soul, in life and in death. What this means is that if we want to give away a part of ourselves with sex, then we are also to give ourselves to another person legally, socially, and personally. Sex is shared in a committed, permanent relationship of marriage.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

The Greek philosophers, like Plato, taught that the body is a prison. God says to you today, if you are in Christ, your body is a temple! Your body is beautiful. He bought you so you could give it all back to him. “You are not your own, [v. 20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

The world is telling you every day: you are your own. YOLO ("You only live once."). Wrong. YODO. You only die once.

You have every day to live, so how are you going to live each of those days? Who will you ultimately be living for?

Either you can live as if “You are your own,” but then you’re going to have to pay for all of your sins on your own—which is death. Or “you are not your own” and God is going to pay it all for you. Which do you want? Do you want to be on your own or do you want to belong to the one who made you and can redeem you?

If you “were bought” by God, then it’s not even a question. Questions like “How far is too far?” and “Can I have sex before I’m married” or “Can I look at porn?” are not even questions anymore. You were bought.

That means you don’t belong to you anymore. You were once a slave to Satan and to death, but now you’re set free and you belong to Someone Else. So, glorify God in your body, with your time, with your money, with your love, with your life.

The Christians in Corinth said, mimicking their world around them, “I have the right to do anything with my body.”

But God says, “You are not your own. So glorify me with your body.” 

Nicholas Davis

San Diego, CA

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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