Tag Archives: immorality

All sins are not the same? [False ideas Christians believe about…Sin. Part 4]

28 Feb
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This week we have been fact-checking Christian statements about sin. In part 3 yesterday we looked at the phrase “all sins are the same.” Today we’re investigating its opposite: sins are different. There is an important sense in which sins are very, very different, and they are not the same.   In part 3, we saw how this statement is true in the claim the person made when they said that they are not a sinner because they haven’t committed murder or rape.  They are correct that there is a major difference between, say, shoplifting on the minor end, and human trafficking on the major end. 

As I already said in part 3, sins are equal in God’s eyes only in the sense that all humans are sinners.  But God’s word also gives evidence that all sins are not equal.  There is no doubt that some sins have much more devastating consequences, and are thus treated much more seriously by God.

Look at 1 Corinthians 6, for example, in verses 9-11 where Paul is talking about the equality of many sins.  He lists out a whole bunch of sins saying that they are equal in the sense that people who are engulfed in these sins cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  But look at his flow of thought as it continues in verses 15-20.  There he singles out one sin in particular and shows how deeply damaging it is to a person: the sin of sexual immorality.  He says in verse 18, that all other sins are committed outside the body, whereas sexual sins are against one’s own body!  What is so egregious about sexual sin is that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Paul is saying, therefore, that sexual immorality is not the same as other sins!  But hear me, he is not saying that sexual immorality is the worst possible sin.  He is simply saying that it is different and should be seen that way, as it affects a person deep within.  How many of us have seen sexual immorality wreak havoc on people and relationships?  There is such a better way!  The way of Jesus.  That’s exactly what we saw last week when the writer of Hebrews quoted Deuteronomy 31:6 in Hebrews 13.  He said that Christians should be committed to keeping the marriage bed pure. 

That means that sexual expression should be between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage only.  When you are married, Christians are not to have sex with people other than your spouse.  Before you are married, you are not to have sex at all.  Why?  Because it is an intimate gift and when handled outside of a marriage commitment it hurts, it damages and can cause lasting effects.  God of course can forgive, but there are always effects to sin. He wants the best for you, so he sets up guidelines for that purpose. You can follow that standard for disciples of Jesus because God says that he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Why am I saying this?  Not to elevate sexual immorality as some super special category of sin.  No.  I am bringing it up because in the Bible we see that sexual immorality is not the same as other sins.  Think about the damage that sin does.  This is why Paul makes a big deal about sexual immorality, it does damage in relationships.  There are other sins that do massive damage as well.  Obviously, murder.  It is right for Christians to view murder as altogether different from other sins because murder is the taking of a life.  This is but one example of many.

Another is when Jesus taught, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  He was pretty serious about protecting children.

So sins are all equal?  Or sins are different?  Both are true.  While we all have equal sin in God’s eyes, there are sins that are way worse than others in God’s eyes.  All are forgivable.  Redemption is possible in everything.  He can teach us through it all.  Some sins, just by their nature, have more effects, more ripples on more people and on His temple, our bodies, on his body, the church, and on his creation.

Why we have had four sermons about sex in less than two months

7 May

relationshipstatusDo you realize that we have talked about sex in four sermons in less than two months?  Take a gander:

  • March 30 – 1 Cor. 5:1-11 – Paul mentions incest and sexual immorality
  • April 13 – 1 Cor. 6:9-11 – Paul mentions sexual immorality and homosexuality
  • April 27 – 1 Cor 6:12-20 – The whole thing is about sexual purity
  • May 5 – 1 Cor 7:1-9 – Paul talks about sex in marriage

I’m slightly embarrassed about this prevalence of the topic of sex in these sermons.  But there it is.

So why did this happen?  Going back to the historical situation in the city of Corinth, we hear how Paul describes it in 1 Cor 7:2 “there is so much immorality”.  I can’t tell you how many people, since we started this series, have remarked that it feels like Paul was writing to the church in America in 2014.  We live in a world where the expression of our sexuality has moved from a private thing to a public thing.

Paul’s advice in 1 Cor 7:1-9, then, is very timely.  I said something in the sermon on Sunday that I think bears repeating: while Paul was single and will make a case for the value of singleness (which we’ll get to in a few weeks), he says clearly that marriage is a very good thing. That is true for many reasons, none the least of which, in a sexually open culture like ours, is that marriage is God’s wonderful design for the expression of this incredible gift that we call sex.  Paul says that Christian husband and wives should not be withholding sex from one another, except for mutually agreed upon periods of fasting, where they devote themselves to prayer.  Simply put, Christian marriage should be marked by husbands and wives having lots of sex.

There is much more that could be said about sex in marriage.  Particularly, husbands and wives need to talk about it.  Often we do not. And I get it.  Talking about sex can be awkward.  But we need to bring it up.  If you feel it isn’t happening enough, talk about it. If you feel you’re being pressured to have sex too much, talk about it.  Like Paul says, come to a mutually agreed upon decision about how often you have sex.

And here’s where Paul opens the door to the secret of marriage.  Not just by saying that couples should have lots of sex.  Instead he says that “your spouse owns your body”!  Just as he said in the previous chapter (for which Phil Bartelt had a powerful sermon on sexual purity), your body is not your own.  God owns your body.  Now in chapter 7, he goes on to say that your spouse owns your body.  Doesn’t that sound weird? In our hyper-individualized culture the thought that you don’t own your body seems wrong.  Twice, though, Paul says others own our body.  God and our spouse.  This is the secret to marriage.  When you embrace the idea that you don’t own your body, you know that you can give yourself lovingly and generously on behalf of your spouse.

That you do not own your body does not mean that you allow others, including your spouse, to treat your body with disrespect.  If your spouse is abusing you emotionally or physically or in any way, you should get to place of safety immediately.  Paul’s conveys his understanding of our spouses owning our bodies in a mutually beneficial way.  What he says is actually quite radical for his culture!  In the Greco-Roman era wives were considered possessions of their husbands.  So when Paul says “wives, your bodies belong to your husbands”, the people would have understood this as the norm for their culture.  But when he goes on to say “husbands, your bodies belong to your wives” a hush would have gone through the room.  That was radical stuff.  That kind of mutuality in marriage was unheard of.  It’s why our treatment of each other in marriage must be a practice of mutual loving-kindness (the kind of love Paul will go on to describe in 1 Cor 13).

So in summary, we learned what it means to give yourself away to your spouse.  If you cultivate that kind of attitude, you’ll be creating furrow ground in which a fruitful marriage can grow.