The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism — for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact — just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.
—CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, bk III, chapter 6, paragraph 2, pp. 95 – 96
I think Jack hits it right on the money with the above comment. (“Jack” is what CS Lewis was called by his friends. Really, with the name ‘Clive Staples’ I would have picked ‘Jack’, too!).
As single Christians (or married Christians, too, for that matter) sexual purity is very important. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 – 8 NIV it says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
So, obviously, sexual purity is important to God. Now, because of the prevailing North American world view, though, it may be easy to get confused about the need for sexual purity and to feel that it isn’t really necessary. “But everybody’s doing it.”
I happened to watch a sit com on TV a few months ago which demonstrated an interesting comment on how the world views Christians and purity. The show follows the life of a young professional in New York City and her failures in love. In the one that I saw she was dating a Christian “preacher” who was quite pedantic (overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning, from Wiktionary) about his faith and yet was openly sleeping with the main character. Perhaps the producers were making a comment on apparent hypocrisy…who knows. But this shows that even non-Christians are confused about where Christians stand on sexual purity. They are confused because we are confused.
You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14 NIV
God is very clear in the Ten Commandments that adultery is against His will and, therefore, is a form of sexual impurity. What exactly is adultery? The on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse. So adultery is a violation of the marriage bed.
“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ (Gen 1:27) ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.’ (Gen 2:24) So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” NIV
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4 NIV
So as Christians, married or single, we should honour God’s command to keep the marriage bed pure.
Someone asked me once to describe what I would consider the characteristics of the perfect marriage partner. They were rather surprised with my answer when I started with 1). single, 2). male, 3). Christian (list was truncated for space considerations!). They criticized me for putting ‘Christian’ third on the list. I told them that I might consider a single male Christian but not a married male Christian (or a single female Christian!). If someone is married, friends, they are off limits completely. If we hold that firmly in our minds it will protect us from temptation.
Adultery isn’t the only sexual sin. Jesus answers His disciples in Mark 7:21 – 23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” NKJV So fornications can be different from adulteries. What is fornication?
The on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fornication as voluntary sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other. This, therefore, would include pre-marital sex.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 NIV
I am not trying to judge anyone; I will happily leave that to God. I am just trying to remind us of what God says. He says that fornication, and therefore pre-marital sex, is dishonouring to our bodies and therefore to God. Pre-marital sex is a huge issue today around the world, even amongst Christians. Just watch TV, go to a movie with friends, or listen to the radio. The media plays lose and free in North America with pre-marital sex as a way to advertise, a way to catch viewer attention. There is a form of brinkmanship happening–how far can they push sexual relationships in the media before people will turn away? It started out insidiously but has become outrageous. The more outrageous the relationships now, the more appalled people pretend to be, and the more likely their interest will be tweaked and that they will watch.
Remember, sexual impurity begins in the mind. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Exodus 20:14) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27,28 NIV
Be careful, Little Eyes, what you see…
OK, so we now know some of the forms of sexual impurity in the eyes of God and some of the challenges we have with being pure in this world. What do we do?
God wants us to be pure–don’t give up now! Regardless of what your past may hold, you can be sexually pure going forward. Watch for my next post: Purity 3: How can we become sexually pure?