UnComfortable: “That is what some of you were”

A series discussing topics that we’d rather not.


Uncomfortable topics. Out of all of them, today is one I am probably least comfortable with. Perhaps you are in the same boat. You know about this topic, you have beliefs about this topic, and perhaps you wouldn’t mind discussing it…but not in a church setting. That changes today. Today we talk about human sexuality. This uncomfortable topic is very important to the fabric of Christianity. Why? 

  1. Because many different people who say they follow Christ have differing opinions on the topic of Human sexuality. 
  2. As originally designed by God, it is a reflection of God’s relationship to mankind.            
  3. Because it’s a reflection of God’s relationship to mankind, we can’t afford to get this wrong. We can’t be divided on this.

That’s why we’re covering it. It has eternal significance. We will look at Jesus’ stated and implied belief on human sexuality. We will search out the Old Testament and see what it has to say on about sexual immorality, then return the New Testament and check out some very clear writings about the topic of human sexuality.

Last week we identified that our baseline or measuring stick is the Word of God. The written word and lenses through which we see it: Christian history and tradition and the leading of the Holy Spirit in the here and now unlock our understanding, going deep with him.

Because we begin with the Bible when we address these topics, it can be a challenge when it seems the bible is silent, or more specifically: Jesus.


Jesus Didn’t Say Anything on that, did he?

Perhaps you are racking your brain, trying to locate the place in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and, hey! We’ll even skim John to see the specific passage where Jesus condemns homosexuality. You’ll be looking for a long time. While it is true that Jesus doesn’t take a pause break in the middle of the Beatitudes to say…”Oh yes, anyone who has sexual relations with a person of the same sex is committing sin.” and then goes right back into “Blessed are the poor in spirit…:” 

And for many folks who want to justify their opinion by bringing Jesus into it…they use the 

  • “Permission by Omission Fallacy”
    • This fallacy relies on the idea that if Jesus didn’t say anything specifically forbidding it then he must have permitted it.
    • However, Jesus didn’t explicitly condemn a lot of things. He didn’t always call out sinners for their sin.
    • He did condemn sexual immorality (specifically lust)  

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matt. 5:28 ESV

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  

Matt 15:19 ESV

But to our point

He affirmed the classic definition of Marriage as one man and one woman.

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Gen 2:24 NIV

(initially stated in Gen 2:24, repeated in the NT: (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7–8)

In some instances He did call out sinners for their sin. Then called them to “go and sin no more.”

The woman caught in adultery comes to mind. She was about to be stoned by self-righteous people and Jesus told them if any of them had no sin, cast the first stone. They all walked away.

10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:10-11 NIV

Go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin. Change. It is possible. Just as easy as walking away.

  • As we looked at last week, Jesus knew his Torah. His disciples would have known some (and exhibit knowing much in their writings much later.) From the Old Testament, there were clear boundary lines drawn around what an acceptable sexual relationship is.

Old Testament – Doesn’t mess around

Jesus knew his Torah. He knew it so well he could go toe to toe in a scripture battle with the Devil himself. So it stands to reason that we ought to look at the Old Testament for a better understanding of this topic on human sexuality. Of course the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman is called out in Genesis. 

There was no reason to comment on an alternative to this because:

What other options were there? The first two people, personally hand crafted by the Lord, were personally and biologically compatible and complementary. God didn’t form any additional people out of dust or ribs. He provided Adam and Eve with the ability to make more humans just by virtue of their physical nature.

Female Zucchini flowers
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
Male Zucchini flowers
Photo by Petr Ganaj on Pexels.com

This is something the animals and even plants to some extent share with human beings. The standard, the baseline for reproduction – making more of a type – you need a male and a female to come together. This ability to reproduce was and is a gift from God. The ability to create life. WOW! But down the line it became necessary to clarify the boundaries of this gift. 

Leviticus 18 identifies that there are people in other lands at this point in history that have practices that do not honor God, do not honor each other or one’s own body. 

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Lev 18:1-5 NIV)

God called the people of Israel out to be set-apart for the purposes of God. His desire for them was that they would be HOLY. They couldn’t be holy and run around doing the things of the Egyptians and the Caananites. And so God gives a list of “Do Not’s.” [Buckle up. It’s gonna get even more UnComfortable!] 

6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.

7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.

8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

9 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.

10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.

11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.

12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.

13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.

14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.

15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.

16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.

17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.

18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

20 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.

21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

Lev 18:6-22 NIV

Wow it took a really long time to get to a prohibition on homosexuality. Let’s read on…

23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

Lev 18:23 NIV

Why did it take so long to get to that one item?

  • Because these were the behaviors of the Egyptians and Canaanites.
  • God wanted to clarify very specifically what was forbidden.
  • All of these behaviors are equally forbidden.

Pastor, are you saying that incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice are on the same field with homosexuality?

Yes. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These actions are so far from the mark, that God had to spell it out for the People of Israel.

Someone might say, “Well that’s just Old Testament stuff. That doesn’t apply any more. We’ve got the law of Love. It’s loving to not identify sin. It’s loving to say ‘you do you.‘ “

It’s actually not loving to remain silent while sin and lawlessness rages around us.

Yes, Christians we can and do sometimes fall into sin. Our hearts are poked by the Holy spirit, we repent and the spirit continues his work on us, making us more like Christ.

But what about those who do not know Christ? We are leaving them to their own desires and passions. They may not even know it is driving a wedge between them and God. No one is telling them.

Photo by Edmond Dantu00e8s on Pexels.com

Well there may be the occasional bullhorn guy or girl on the street corner warning that the wrath of God is coming. But is that the approach that communicates truth in a way unbelievers will hear and receive it? I don’t think so. 

Take the method I most regularly use: Sermons. The majority of the people who come and hear the message each week, read it on the blog page or listen on Spotify are already believers. 

If bullhorns and street corners don’t work, if sound teaching with little exposure doesn’t get the message across, what will? Because ultimately we address these topics in order to Clarify beliefs and catalyze change.

Where’s the hope? And how do we share it?

The hope comes in the form of 7 of the most exciting words in the bible. 

“That is what some of you were…”

“That is what some of you were…”

This is one of the most encouraging scriptures that encapsulates a clear distinction between an old life without Christ, outside of the will and desire of God and Now living a new fresh start in Jesus. As we read this, you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t give sexual sin it’s own chapter. There are a litany of things that exist because of the fallen nature of our world and the fallen sinful nature of man, that says “I want it my way.” So many manifestations of it. Let’s look at it:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Cor 6:9-11 NIV, emphasis added)

Similarly to the Leviticus text we just looked at, Paul lists out various sinful activities. It’s not a list where the first one listed: Sexual immorality, is the most egregious but rather they are all equal. People talk about equality in various contexts. 

Sin is the original Great Equalizer. Doesn’t matter which sin you are into, they equally drive a wedge between you and God. The only solution is repentance and salvation. Turning away from that life and to the new life in Jesus.

Why does it matter what I do with my body?

Why should it matter if some folks are practicing sexual immorality and claiming to be Christians?

That body you’ve got? It’s not your own.

It’s part of the Body of Christ. 

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

1 Cor 6:15-17

Why does it matter? Because since marriage reflects the Holy Union between God and his Bride (his people/Church), His Bride – the church should live like his bride. We ought not live like the world, like those outside the fellowship. We need to live like we belong to Christ, because we do. What affects us also affects God just like when a husband cheats on his wife or vice versa, the offending spouse isn’t the only one to suffer consequence. 

  • Divorce, legal proceedings, names being drug through the mud, kids taking sides, families never speaking to one another again.
  • Those are the ramifications of trust that is broken.

Sin hurts your spouse. Sin hurts the Church. Sin hurts the relationship God’s people have with God. 

Policy and Position

We’ve been on a whirlwind in scripture. There are many other passages that speak to this and I could go on and on and bring up every instance in scripture and then we could study it. If that is your cup of tea, I recommend joining us for Sunday School each Sunday at 9:45 AM. We talk about a range of topics and have good conversations around them. It’s really the best format and allows for us to take multiple weeks to understand the scripture. It won’t always be about uncomfortable topics such as human sexuality. But it will give you a chance to listen, reflect and respond in real time in a small group setting with other adults.

Now we get to brass tacks. How do we live out the scripture? Remember, as Christians our baseline – what guides our decision making while there is breath in our lungs is Scripture. The Holy Spirit guides and clarifies things to us about it, reflecting on classic understanding and the way it has been lived out by Christians ever since it was written down (Tradition and history). 

We come to a point where we must take a stand. So where ought we stand?

It may not surprise you that pastors in the church of the Nazarene struggle with addressing this topic. But addressing this boils down to two things:

  1. Policy and
  2. Position

Policy

It’s doctrine, what we believe. Where we get those beliefs from, which should point to the answers to why we believe it as well.

There doesn’t seem to be problems with this one. We have clear guidance by our denomination. The faculty at our University in Bourbonnais was recently surveyed and they are all in line with the beliefs of the church. The real complication comes with the position. 

How do we relate to those who believe differently?

  • People outside the church who see nothing wrong with human sexuality including things other than one man and one woman in the bond of marriage. For them, one man and one woman is one of the options but it’s not the only option. They believe many options are equally acceptable.

The Bigger problem lies within the church.

Nearly every time Jesus calls someone out for sin, it happens to be a religious person or a follower of his. It is true, He corrects the one he loves. Paul clearly wrote to the church in 1 Corinthians 5:1-3 NIV

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 

1 Corinthians 5:1-3 NIV

“There is sexual immorality going on in your midst. You HAVE to deal with it. I believe it is best if you deal with it,” Paul says.

Then he clarifies further in verse 6:

6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.

1 Cor 5:6-7a NIV

So yeast, leavening works all through the dough. It could be moldy and stale. It could taste horrible. If you keep that old yeast and make new bread from it you have bad bread. The idea is that this “Christian” is unrepentant and being celebrated for said sexual sin. Paul continues in verse 9: 

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 

1 Cor 5:9-10 NIV

Here Paul draws an interesting line. He knows it’s impossible for us to be away from sinners. Let’s read on…

11But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

1 Cor 5:11 NIV

It seems, over and over again the problem of dealing with sexual sin lies in the church. We should be bringing the good news of freedom, a fresh start in Jesus. And some in Christendom want to stay in a life of sin and convince us that it is acceptable. 

In verses 12-13, Paul continues to talk about those outside and those inside in this regard:

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

1 Cor 5:12-13 NIV

This goes back to the Old Testament consequence for indulging in sinful behaviors: loss of community. 

Position

Let’s get practical. 

At District Assembly this year, President Chenoweth of ONU said it this way, “we want to be doctrinally clear and relationally competent.” 

Doctrinally clear – Sexual relations outside of marriage is sin. Homosexual, heterosexual or somewhere in between. People who openly practice sin, regardless of it being sexual or not, are not to be in ministerial leadership, church leadership. Christians, we need to live what we believe, not change our belief to satisfy others.

That’s doctrine. What about…

Position – How we live out our beliefs. This is all about being relationally competent. Being able to function in a world around people who are far from God. Expressing a desire for and helping them pursue a fresh start in Jesus Christ. We approach those who are outside the body of Christ with prayer and grace. 

Trusting the Holy Spirit to work on their heart

Knowing what’s on the line. “The wages of sin is death.” Everyone who sins deserves death, it’s from the very start with Adam and Eve’s disobedience. “No tree of life fruit for you…”

People’s eternity is on the line. We can’t twiddle our thumbs!

We’ve got to Believe God will give us an opportunity to share the gospel message. Praying that he gives someone, that opportunity even if we just plant the seed and water it.

Hope in yet another instance like Paul talked about Corinthians who use to live a different life.

“That was what some of you were.”

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