America, in recent decades, has seen a tremendous revolution in sexual mores, and this has placed the more conservative religious groups in an uncomfortable position. Most younger people today have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, and the Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage has made homosexual activity acceptable to much of society. Now conservative churches are in the position of being labelled prudish, intolerant, and even “homophobic” and hateful. What should churches do in such a situation? Accept the sexual revolution as an accomplished fact? Or remain faithful to the basic moral principles that have guided them for thousands of years?
In a situation like this it must never be forgotten that as human beings we are all ultimately accountable to a Supreme Being, and that it is our Creator who is the final arbiter of right and wrong. And sex, like everything else in life, must be understood in terms of God’s creative purposes.
The opening chapters of Genesis describe what those purposes are. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of “God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:27,28; NKJV). The implication here is that the world has a certain natural order to it, an order that placed there by our Creator. Gender distinctions are a part of that order (“male and female He created them”), and the primary purpose of sex is procreation (“be fruitful and multiply”), and that presupposes a heterosexual relationship.
The next chapter in Genesis goes on specifically to describe the creation of woman. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him’” (Gen. 2:18). God then goes on to create Eve, and the passage describes the rationale behind marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
In line with God’s creative purpose, then, there are a number of sexual practices that are condemned in the Bible. The Old Testament condemns incest (Lev. 18:6-18), adultery (Lev. 18:20; Dt. 22:22), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22), bestiality (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23) and cross dressing (Dt. 22:5).
Some have imagined that Jesus took a more tolerant view of such matters, but the opposite is true. The Old Testament allowed for divorce, but Jesus condemned it (Matt. 19:1-12), and at one point actually went so far as to say “But I say to you that whoever looks as a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-30). And so the apostle Paul could write “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Eph. 5:3); and Heb. 13:4 tells us “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Does this mean that Christians are being “hateful” and “intolerant” by upholding God’s standards of sexual conduct? Not at all! Marriage was created for our good, and it serves our best interests if done the way God intended it. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor or given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30); but in this life “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, / And obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22).
What the biblical standards of morality do is to create a stable family life. Children are brought into the world by parents who are in a permanent, binding relationship with each other. The husband and wife naturally complement each other. In a successful marriage there is real love and devotion towards each other and towards the children that spring from the union.
But what has the sexual revolution done for America? One out of every two marriages ends in divorce, many children are born out of wedlock, and a large number of children are growing up in single parent families. Poverty is pandemic, along with a hose of other social problems, and many of these problems can be traced directly back to the unstable family structure.
It all comes down to man’s fallen sinful nature. There is a difference between lust and love. Love sacrificially gives of itself to the other person; lust uses the other person for its own selfish ends. Love builds relationships; lust destroys them.
Are Christians, then, being hateful and intolerant? Not at all. If we have a genuine concern for our neighbor’s well-being we will want to promote his best interests. And sin is never in anyone’s best interest. Would you buy a bottle of whiskey for an alcoholic? Or even sell him a pack of cigarettes? Why then would you help a pair of homosexuals sin by catering their wedding reception? In each of these cases you would be contributing to the other person’s downfall and ruin. That is not love. That is being complicit with the crime, and no one’s genuine best interest is served that way.
Some may argue that the times have changed and that the church must change with the times – that we cannot live in the past. But as we said before we must never forget that we are ultimately accountable to a Supreme Being, and that He never changes. In the end His opinion is the only one that matters.