Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Romans 1:24-25).
One of the strongest natural impulses of human beings involves sexual desire. This desire is not inherently wrong; it is a God-given desire, provided with the intention that man and woman will come together, become “one,” and to bear children (Genesis 1:26-29, Genesis 2:24). Nevertheless, the sexual impulse is easily abused and misdirected. Sexual immorality is a constant concern for the author of Proverbs (cf. Proverbs 1:1-7:27), and when Paul provides lists of sins, he begins with sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, etc.).
It is evident, therefore, that challenges in the sexual realm are nothing new. According to Paul in Romans 1:24-27, sexual deviancy is a clear consequence of idolatry: when people no longer believe the truth about God, but go and serve gods of their own creation, they dishonor their bodies among themselves, and give into the lusts of their hearts. Sexual immorality follows (Romans 1:26-27). This was certainly true for the pagans of the first century. Greek and Roman mythology is full of stories of adultery among the various gods and goddesses. When a group of people believe that their own divinities are engaged in such behavior, who is surprised when the people themselves engage in the same behavior?
Most people today do not believe in Aphrodite or Cupid. Nevertheless, sex has been greatly idolized in modern American society. In fact, Americans may even “worship” sex more than money these days!
Our culture has been thoroughly sexualized. Advertisers have learned that sex sells; if a product can be advertised in some sexually provocative or alluring way, it will be, from clothing to chewing gum! Since the sexual desire is a universal desire, one that transcends racial, ethnic, and even religious boundaries, it has great appeal. It is nearly impossible to go anywhere without being bombarded by highly sexualized images!
The “sexualization” of culture, however, goes far deeper than advertising. Over the past few generations, sexuality has all but become a religion in America. The sexual union is one of the most intimate and “mystical” experiences that people can enjoy; even the Scriptures use that intimacy as a metaphor to help understand the intimate connection between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). In America today, however, it is no metaphor. People are encouraged to consider the sexual encounter as a mystical, religious experience. Our culture “evangelizes” with the message of sex: everyone is having sex, sex is so wonderful and natural, and if you are not having sex, you are not living a full or fulfilling life. Sex is considered so natural and fundamental to existence that there can be no condemnation for homosexuality in culture, because if certain people have the desire to have sex with people of their own gender, it would be a serious violation of the “religion of sex” to tell them to deny or re-direct that desire. This is why we now hear that people are “born” homosexual or heterosexual. Sex is that deeply ingrained in our society and culture.
As we have said, God created the sexual impulse, and He has directed its proper use: between a properly married man and woman (Matthew 19:4-6, Hebrews 13:4). God never intended for sex to be the basis of a relationship; instead, it was designed to cement an already present relationship (Genesis 2:24; one “clings” to his wife before becoming “one flesh”). This is why all other sexual relationships (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pederasty, etc.) are condemned (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21)! But it is not enough for us to just stand against sexually immoral actions– we must also stand against the way that our culture views sex!
Our society all but teaches that we are slaves to our sexual desires. We must fulfill them. To live a sexually repressed life is cruel and unnecessary; any life that does not involve sexual behavior is “sexually repressed.” The New Testament teaches no such thing. Our Lord Jesus Christ, from all evidence, was unmarried and never engaged in sexual behavior. The Apostle Paul also was unmarried, and encouraged fellow believers who could have such self-control to remain in the same condition (1 Corinthians 7:6-9). Marriage and proper sexual behavior are allowed but not mandated in the New Testament. This is because believers are to maintain self-control in all things (1 Peter 4:7), including the sexual realm!
Sexuality is a choice. No one is “born” sexual. Human beings instead are born, and as they mature, they begin to have sexual impulses. They then choose whether they will act on those sexual impulses or not. Those who worship the god of sex would tell us that we must have sex to be fulfilled, but who has ever really been truly fulfilled through sex (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)? It is only when we have rejected the Creator that we have to seek such “ultimate” fulfillment, and the physical act of sex is a poor substitute. True fulfillment of the gaping hole within us is found through a restored relationship with our Creator (1 John 1:1-7), not sex. Let us keep sex in its proper place and serve the true and living God!
Ethan R. Longhenry