Why Are Christians So Preoccupied With Sex?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
The transition from Ephesians 5:2 to Ephesians 5:3 can feel like whiplash. One moment, we're asked to imitate God's love, remembering Christ's sacrifice that shows us what love is all about. The next moment, we're confronted by a call to avoid sexual immorality. The Greek original accentuates the whiplash because the inspiring phrase, "fragrant offering," is followed immediately by the word "sexual immorality."
As I reflect on this strange juxtaposition, I hear echoes of a complaint I have heard throughout my life: Why are you Christians so preoccupied with sex? In sermons and campfire talks, in Sunday school classes and public pronouncements, it seems like Christians are always talking about sex, mostly from a negative point of view. We're rebuking those who engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage. We're warning young people about the dangers of premarital sex. We're fretting about our culture's widespread rejection of traditional sexual morality. We're complaining about the presence of graphic sex on television and the Internet. Sex. Sex. Sex. Why is sex such a big deal for Christians?
We might answer this question by pointing to the Bible. In fact, Scripture has much to say about sex, right from the beginning of Genesis. You may recall that God's first words to human beings were "Be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 1:28), a command which, if taken literally, leads to sexual intimacy. The Ten Commandments include two prohibitions related to sexuality (no adultery, no coveting of neighbor's wife; Exod. 20:14, 17). We find sex mentioned in virtually every genre of biblical literature, including the teaching of Jesus. So, if you're familiar with the Bible, you won't be surprised that Paul brings up the subject in Ephesians. And if Christians base their lives on Scripture, it makes sense that we talk about sex.
Of course, none of what I've just written defends the peculiar preoccupations of many Christians. It in no way commends the self-righteous judgmentalism that infects the hearts of so many believers today. When we Christians talk about sex apart from God's love and grace, when we focus on the negative without the positive, we misconstrue God's truth and miss God's own heart for humanity, including our sexuality.
It's no accident, I believe, that Ephesians 5:3 comes right after Ephesians 5:1-2. What seems like thematic whiplash actually makes good sense. If we're going to talk about sexuality, including behaviors we should avoid, we need to do so in light of God's matchless love incarnate in Jesus Christ. God's love isn't just an idea or a wish dream. It is something that touches our everyday existence, every part of life. Moreover, God's love took shape in and through a human body, a body sacrificed on the cross. Thus, the connection of love and a body almost invites a conversation about sexuality.
We'll reflect further on Ephesians 5:3 tomorrow. For now, I'd encourage you to consider whether in your life you make a connection between God's love in Christ and your embodied reality, which includes sexuality.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways does the love of God in Christ, demonstrated in the cross, inform our understanding of sexuality? Is it possible to talk about sex in a way that is truly loving?
PRAYER: Gracious God, once again, I thank you for your amazing love, expressed and demonstrated in Christ. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for taking on human flesh, for saving us through your body.
Help me, Lord, to think about all of life—including sexuality—in light of your cross. Help me to be one who speaks the truth in love, real love, cruciform love. Amen.
How to Share Your Faith at Work
Let’s admit it: It can be awkward to share our faith at work. The fear of damaging relationships and making the workplace that much more difficult (we do, after all, have to deal with these people on a daily basis). The fear of repercussions from those we work for. The fear of coming across as, well, just weird. In the stories found in the series, How to Share Your Faith at Work, we find practical ways to naturally share with people the thing that is most precious in our lives – our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Image above by Sean McGrath. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.