Sexuality has always been a defining issue in society. Just think about the difference between the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated and the Hijab worn by Muslim women. Human cultures have handled sexuality in so many different ways.
Even in modern times, the variance is shocking. It has been reported that the Irish society living on Inis Beag is one of the most conservative. Sex is never mentioned, and even married couples leave their underclothes on. Some of the most liberal are the Mangaians of the South Pacific, who encourage their young adults to have several partners prior to marriage to gain experience.
It was the same way during Bible times. Paul traveled to the city of Ephesus to bring the Gospel (Jesus had only risen from the grave about 50 years before). When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he discovered that they had plenty of religious practices. They worshiped Artemis, the god of fertility. This involved ritual prostitution at the temple, and vicious street orgies during celebrations. They had few limits on sexuality.
Paul gave them the message of Jesus, of forgiveness, and a relationship with the true God. Many people responded and the impact on the city was profound. Ephesus became one of the strongest groups of believers in the early church.
Paul encouraged them to keep away from their old way of life, which was “past feeling… given over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness,” because, “you have not so learned Christ.” (Eph. 4:19-20)
He writes, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light!” (Eph. 5:8) In another letter, Paul explains, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (1 Thess. 4:3)
What does it mean to be holy? It’s obviously important, considering that God’s summary command to the Israelites was “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Lev. 20:26)
Holy means to be set apart for a particular purpose. An example would be the wine glasses my wife and I use for special occasions. We keep them special. The dog doesn’t get to drink out of them (no offense Molly).
We are special to God, and he wants us to be set apart… to be “holy” for Him. This means that he also wants our sexuality to represent his character and purpose.
So that’s how sexuality becomes defining for us as Christians. We are setting ourselves apart for God. That means we also set ourselves apart from the world. We no longer do like everyone else. We don’t even blindly obey our own lusts. We choose to be “holy” to God.
“God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from sexual sin.”
For my part, I’m ok to deal with the challenges of pedophilia. I don’t mind telling myself, “No!” That’s because I have a strong motivation – my relationship with God.
I think we are going to see sexuality become an even stronger identifier in our modern society. In fact, it will become a dividing factor between those who love God and those who don’t know him.
The world, by itself, has few reasons to limit sexuality, but God wants us to be holy and special for him. And, we trust that if we honor him with our sexuality, according to his character and purpose, he will make it be something special in our lives.
Even for you and me.