As we begin this ten week preaching series on “godly sexuality” I can imagine many people – both Christians and non-Christians asking the question why? I will take a moment to provide a brief apologia, or defense, of this preaching series.
For example, a non-Christian might ask, why are Christians so hung up on sex? Aren’t there more important topics to cover? Why does it matter what people do in the privacy of their bedroom?
This is a good question. Let me take a moment to answer it. This ten week preaching series on “godly sexuality” is the final part of a three part teaching series with the overarching theme of “Faithful Presence.” In April, May and June we looked at the Bible’s teaching on justice and mercy and how God called his people to “faithful presence” in this aspect of life. In July and August we considered the theme of identity and vocation from the book of Esther. We asked “what does it look like to be ‘faithfully present’ in our callings, in our workplace? Finally, we are turning our attention to the question of faithful presence as it relates to reflecting God’s call on our life as his people in the areas of our sexuality and sexual practices. So we are looking at sex in the broader context of being a faithful people in the areas of mercy and justice, of calling and work, and, now, in the area of sex.
Another question that I have heard is something alone these lines: Why would we devote 10 weeks to preaching on godly sexuality? Couldn’t we do this in a better forum than when the whole community is gathered for worship?
This is also a good question. Let me try to answer it.
To be a Christian means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord over every aspect of our life, including our sexuality. To be a Christian also means to be part of the community of people who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus has something very clear and definitive, and, I think, compelling to say to his children in this area of our life. Under the Lordship of Christ, the church is meant to be a counter-cultural community, as the late John Stott put it, as God’s “New Society” that models a whole new way of being human, including in the area of our sexual relationships. I want us to take time to listen, to let His Word press deeply into this area of our lives and shape and influence us.
We also need to take the time to be reflective and intentional about this vital area of life because we live in an age in which sex is a great idol. It is important to point out that the idol of sex is not unique to our age. One only needs to go back into the stories of the Old Testament to see how powerful and pervasive this idol was. And one only needs to read Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church to see what an idol sex was in the age of the Apostles.
The powerful idolatry of sex today is seen in the absolute and infallible autonomy each individual person is assumed to have when it comes to their own sexual ethic and practices. In contrast to this prevelant assumption of the autonomy of the individual in regard to his or her sexual practices, Stanley Hauerwas points out in his classic work, A Community of Character, sex is a public issue and states that “any attempt to reclaim an authentic Christian ethic of sex must begin by challenging the assumption that sex is a 'private' matter. The foreigness and "otherworldliness" of the idea that sex might not just be a matter for the individual but also a public matter that effects the whole community is an indication of how pervasive the idol of sex is even within the Christian church in terms of influencing our attitudes and assumptions.
The powerful idolatry of sex is seen also in how sex is used to sell everything. As it commonly quipped, sex sells. Sex is a power. In those who fall under the spell of this idol, it traps, exploits, enslaves, and destroys persons, families, and even whole societies.
Under the pressure of this potent idol, the church must stand her ground. We must proclaim the goodness of sex and our sexuality as a gift of God and we must also walk within the life-giving boundaries God-designed for sex and our sexuality. So powerful is this idol that we cannot do this alone. We need each other! We need to call each other to faithfulness to Christ! We need to lift each other up when we fall! We need to hold tight to those who are tempted and straying. We need to teach and rebuke! We need to counsel and care!
Think of the church standing her ground against the powerful idolization of sex in our culture (and in our own hearts) as a rugby scrum, that part of a rugby match where the two teams link arms and legs and push against each other. That is the kind of force of exertion that is needed for the church to be faithful to Her Lord and her call to be God’s new society today.