But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
We live in a pornographic culture.
In law school the conversation around pornography circled around the First Amendment and what was considered to be protected speech. As I remember it, the test centered around whether the particular pornography at issue could be deemed obscene or not. Of course, obscenity can be a subjective standard, making for a constantly moving target. For instance, are we asking June Cleaver or Miley Cyrus? We started drawing lines between acceptable pornography and unacceptable pornography, and do you see what oh-so-subtly happened when I combined the two words “acceptable” and “pornography” into the conversation?
That, my friends, is our big problem.
The Ephesians, like the Corinthians and so many societies in the Greco-Roman world, lived in a pornographic culture. Sensuality, along with her twin brother sexuality, roamed the streets and no one really had much of an issue with it. As sensuality increases, so does desensitization, which causes sensuality to increase more. Sound familiar?
In this context, the apostle writes, But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Jews expected this. Gentiles, not so much. Paul issues not a gentle warning but a no-tolerance policy. What is Paul’s problem? God made the human body, right? What’s wrong with admiring such beauty? People were made for sexual engagement, right? Whose business is it to tell anyone else what is or is not okay when it comes to the exercise of their sexuality?
This is not about moralizing and rules. Remember, Paul is addressing us in the context of talking about the transformation of human beings from broken into beautiful again. Something about sexual sin breaks people more than other kinds of sin. Why? Because it cuts to the core of our identity, which is the image of God, and threatens to disintegrate us at the level of our personhood. As an example, consider how human sexuality these days has departed the domain of desire and threatens to take over the realm of identity.
Genesis 1:27 (niv) famously reveals, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
In the short span of a decade we have gone from the revealed biblical classifications of male and female to seventy-one gender options on Facebook alone, many of which revolve around sexual preference.
People often ask, Why do Christians make such a big deal out of sexual sin? Aren’t all sins created and treated equal? Well, yes and no. A sinner is a sinner, but unfortunately some sins are more devastating in their consequences than others. Sexual sin is sin of another order because of the way it breaks down and fragments our core identity and does damage to the image of God in us.
So what does all of this have to do with pornography? This is why Paul warns us not to walk away but to run. This is why pornography is so dangerous. Pursuing purity in a pornographic culture begins by redefining pornography as a distortion of human sensuality designed to arouse sexual interest with the purpose of misdirecting desire, misappropriating the gift of human sexuality, and misusing the image-bearers of God.
One more thing: All pornography is unacceptable.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who taught us that sexual sin begins not beyond us but within us and that our eyes are the lamp of our bodies. Free us from the shame that comes from moralizing that our minds might be attuned to your Word and our hearts turned toward your wisdom. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
To what degree are you desensitized to the oversensualized culture all around us? Do you see it as a problem?
How does this intolerance for sexual immorality become more than another legalistic approach to not watching R-rated movies? (Though that may not be a bad idea.)
What do you make of this connection between sexual brokenness and the distortion of our identity?
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