Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Ever notice how many song lyrics are about romantic relationships? Whether you’re tuned in to rock, pop, country, or jazz, the radio cranks out endless hours about love: love lost, love found, unrequited love, passionate love, perfect love, obsessive love, self-sacrificial love, messed-up love, time-tested love, longing for love… If you think about the popular songs you’ve heard lately, you’ll realize that most of them fall into one of these categories. It’s pretty clear that we’re in love with being in love.
This obsession shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God Himself declared shortly after creating Adam that “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Marriage was instituted to meet this human longing to love and be loved here on earth. Even more, marriage is a foretaste and picture of the eternal love relationship we ultimately (even if unconsciously) crave, the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church (Eph. 5:32).
We crave this meaningful union with the deepest part of our soul – a godly desire, but one that goes easily astray as we look for ways to fill the void. The evil triad of our sinful nature, the world, and the devil are all firmly against us in this matter, making it easy to rationalize little steps into sexual sins that quickly become addictive. If it feels good, we want to do it. If we’re able to resist those powerful feelings, we look around us and see that everyone else is doing it. And if we hold out even then, Satan is only too happy to pause and whisper suggestively to us. That’s why the sexual aspect of our being, created to be in marital union the highest witness to the union of Christ and His Bride, is susceptible to the basest perversions.
The Apostle Paul, who spilled much ink admonishing the notoriously sexually immoral Corinthians, probably wouldn’t be shocked to find today that sexual immorality is award-winning entertainment. Neither would Paul be less adamant in his message, which comes to us as the inspired Word of God with as much force today as it did for the Corinthians: Stop claiming Christian freedom and forgiveness as license for licentiousness. What you do with your bodies matters. It matters because “you are not your own; you were bought with a price” and washed in the waters of Holy Baptism. It matters because “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Like Paul, we shouldn’t be shocked to learn that close Christian friends (or, dare we admit, we ourselves) struggle at times with sexual sins of all sorts, including but certainly not limited to homosexuality, surreptitious pornography viewing, inappropriate thoughts, going too far with a boyfriend or girlfriend, acting manipulatively toward the other sex, withholding intimacy from one’s spouse, or addiction to “soft porn” romance novels. Displaying shock when such sins are revealed is not only nave, but may shame the person who confesses a struggle into withdrawing instead of reaching out for forgiveness, help and support.
Like Paul, we should take these sins seriously. The fettering power and addictive nature of sexual sins is such that individuals who become habitually ensnared in them can even endanger their salvation. We must train ourselves to flee from compromising situations, for “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity” (Eph. 5:3). Think of Joseph leaving his cloak behind in his haste to escape Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12). Staying behind to reason with her would likely have been disastrous. Think of Jesus’ advice to gouge out an eye rather than letting it cause you to fall into sin and possibly lose your salvation (Matt.
5:29). It’s foolish to think we can place ourselves in tempting situations and somehow prevail over the clamoring messages and desires of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.
Christians don’t deny or fear the good gift of sexuality, but know that it is good only in its God-appointed sphere. The purity of marriage’s one-flesh union is to be guarded jealously, not only for our own well-being, but because our bodies are to witness no longer to our own desires, but to the relationship between Christ and His Bride the Church, the deepest union for which we ultimately long.