Sample text for What would Jesus do today? / Mike Cope, Rubel Shelly.


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Chapter 2

Sexuality

Can you build a fire in your

lap

and not burn your pants?

Can you walk barefoot on hot coals

and not get blisters?

It's the same when you have sex with your

neighbor's

wife:

Touch her and you'll pay for

it. No excuses. . . .

Adultery is a brainless act,

soul-destroying, self-destructive;

Expect a bloody nose, a black eye,

and a reputation ruined for good.

Solomon,

Proverbs 6:27-29 The Message

What a thrill it was for me to

run the Boston Marathon with forty thousand other runners in 1996

for the hundredth anniversary of the famed race. When the gun

went off at noon on Patriot's Day, we all began making our

way from Hopkinton to Boston on a two-lane road. Talk about

crowded! It took runners at the end of the line more than twenty

minutes just to reach the starting line. Then it was

elbow-to-elbow and aching-calves-to-aching-calves for most of the

race.

Now imagine what it would have

been like to line up at the front of such a crowd and then to run

in the opposite direction of everyone else when the gun sounded.

Picture the puzzled looks, the ridicule, the bruised ribs, and

the trampled toes. It might have been safer to try driving

clockwise (against the traffic) in the Indy 500!

Now you have a somewhat

accurate picture of what is meant by swimming against the stream.

And you have a pretty good idea of what a life of sexual purity

looks like today. The strong current of immorality is all around

us. Swimming against the current takes more energy and strength

than many have.

In many environments today,

people expect sexual immorality-even with young teenagers.

They merely encourage them to use precaution and protection. This

public attitude was evident in the mid-1990s when a popular actor

was picked up with a prostitute on Sunset Boulevard. He faced

terrible public ridicule because he'd been unfaithful to his

gorgeous live-in girlfriend. (Stupidity was evidently a more

serious charge than sexual misconduct!) Both his actions and the

public's reactions made the seventh commandment prohibiting

adultery seem outdated.

Perhaps the clearest insight

into the world's perspective is a question asked at the end

of The Scarlet Letter, a 1995 film starring Demi Moore and

based very loosely on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel:

“Who is to say what is a sin in God's eyes?”

Hester Prynne lands in the twenty-first century!

It isn't really news that

immorality fills television-from morning soaps to racy

afternoon talk shows to prime-time sitcoms. Even the news is

tainted. USA Today (that paragon of virtue and chastity!)

reported that “the nightly newscast is chockablock with

explicit language, lust, and perversion. TV moguls weep with

grati tude: this carnal cornucopia has spilled into . . . their

ratings sweep.”

Not everyone with a television

is limited to the shows that are programmed, however. Thanks to

VCRs and video stores, we can be more selective about what we

watch. And what are people watching? Well, there's an

interesting mix as one recent top-twenty list of video sales

shows. The list included:

1. Pinocchio

2. Playboy Playmate of the Year

3. Beauty and the Beast

4. Playboy Celebrity Centerfold

5. Disney's Sing Along Songs: Friend Like Me

8. Playboy 1993 Video Playmate Review

10. Barney Rhymes with Mother Goose

12. 101 Dalmatians

14. Barney's Best Manners

15. Playboy: Erotic Fantasies III

18. Playboy: The Girls of the Cabaret Royale

19. Penthouse: The All-Pet Workout

20. Barney's Magical Musical Adventure

I'm guessing someone sent

Dad to the store for a video for the kids and he grabbed one for

himself while he was there. One can only hope that

“Barney's Magical Musical Adventure” isn't a

euphemism for some XXX-rated porno flick!

And now, thanks to the magic

of telecommunications, the current of immorality can flow into

our home computers. Courtesy of on-line services and the

Internet, people of all ages can enter into sexual conversations

(cybersex), check kinky alternative bulletin boards, and download

pornography in the privacy of their own homes.

We need not be shocked that

the world lives by standards no higher than enjoyment and

precaution. And as the church we do not need to waste our time

whining about how immoral the world is.

We mention the white rapids of

this stream not to condemn the stream but to challenge those who

are supposed to be swimming against it. What decisions will you,

as a follower of Jesus Christ, make because of your commitment to

him?

After admitting that he and

his fiancè were already sexually involved, a

twenty-year-old student recoiled defensively when I challenged

him to refrain from continued sexual activity until they were

married. For a few minutes I engaged in a debate that I was

losing. Whenever I gave a reason why they should wait (e.g.,

“You don't know that you'll remain

together”), he had a quick reply. There was just no way they

were going to break up, he assured me. And there was no way that

sharing a bed together could be damaging, he reasoned.

Finally, I did what I should

have done initially. I asked him if he was a disciple of Jesus.

When he assured me he was, I said, “Then that seems to

settle it. I don't guess I understand all the reasons why

Jesus doesn't want you to have sex before you're

married, but then discipleship doesn't mean following Jesus

only when you understand all his reasons. When you follow him,

you place your trust in him. You admit that he can control your

life even when it doesn't make complete sense or feel right.

I want to encourage you to trust Jesus by refraining from having

sex until you're married.” That seemed to make more

sense to him than all the other arguments combined.

I heard one man tell a small

group about the time his daughter called long distance from

college to ask him to explain again why she shouldn't have

sex before she was married. If it had been my daughter, my first

question would probably have been, “Where are you calling

from?” I'd just pray she wasn't calling from a car

phone!

As her father, I would hope to

have the presence of mind to speak not of diseases and unwanted

pregnancies but of discipleship. What would Jesus do?

What Jesus Taught

Perhaps the place to begin is

to point out that Jesus was not antisex, as some have

misunderstood him. When some Pharisees tried to pull him into the

raging debate concerning divorce and remarriage, Jesus insisted

that all discussion should return to God's original

intentions for marriage in Genesis 2.

“Haven't you

read,” he asked them, “that at the beginning the

Creator ‘made them male and female'?” Didn't

they remember that God had intended for a husband and wife to

become “one flesh” (a phrase that implies more than the

sexual relationship, but which surely includes it)?

Jesus understood that

sexuality isn't a punishment from Satan to be endured but a

gift from God to be celebrated in marriage. He knew that the

Creator could have devised other ways for babies to be born but

chose instead to make us sexual beings.

It's important that our

children grasp this truth. They will pick up on our many warnings

about sexual immorality. But if we don't balance the

warnings with teaching about God's delight in sexuality,

they'll wind up thinking sex is evil.

Yes, sex is a good gift from

God, according to Jesus. Yet it's a gift that is to be fully

opened only in marriage. Jesus condemned adultery (sexual

involvement by someone who's married with a person other

than his or her spouse) and sexual immorality (sometimes

translated “fornication”-any sexual involvement

outside of marriage).

Those who follow Christ have

learned to trust his guidance for sexuality. They believe that

any limitations he has placed on the gift are to protect us, not

to deprive us of enjoyment. They accept this heaven-sent

blessing, enjoying it fully only in the context of the marriage

relationship in which a man and a woman have promised to stay

together. Only in marriage can sex be explored and enjoyed fully.

In God's design, two

people are to remain together-no ejection seats or rip

cords-whether the romantic voltage is high or low at the

moment. In marriage by God's intentions, there is a

commitment that transcends the hot and cold fluctuations of

erotic passion.

We have a huge problem with

our culture in that many of the icons considered “sexual

experts” (because they engage in endless sexual explorations

or endless discussions of sexual explorations) actually know very

little about sex. They tend to limit sex to mere anatomy when in

reality it is multidimensional.

God, the Creator of all males

and females, is the only one who fully comprehends all the

implications of our sexuality. He knows that there is much more

to sex than what can be illustrated in a textbook! And this one

who fully understands is the one who has protected us by limiting

the sexual relationship to marriage.

The religious leaders of

Jesus' day would certainly have agreed with him up to this

point. But then he took God's intentions even deeper:

You have heard

that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.”

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman

lustfully has already committed adultery with her in

his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge

it out and throw it away. It is better for you to

lose one part of your body than for your whole body

to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes

you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is

better for you to lose one part of your body than for

your whole body to go into hell.

One can be technically chaste

but full of immorality, according to Jesus. When confronted by

Pharisees and teachers of the law who were disturbed that his

disciples didn't follow their traditions about hand washing

before eating, Jesus answered that evil doesn't come from

what goes into a person, but from what comes out of a

person's heart. “For out of the heart come evil

thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false

testimony, slander. These are what make a man

‘unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make

him ‘unclean.' ” Sexual conduct isn't

primarily about hormones; it is a matter of what is in one's

heart. Therefore, a person can commit a sexual sin while fully

clothed in a classroom, at a desk in the office, or in the living

room of his or her own home.

Because God made all people in

his image, it is wrong for us to reduce others to objects of our

sexual desires. That is what Jesus calls “lust.” Lust

is more than looking at someone and finding them attractive or

looking at them and having a sexual thought. After all, God is

the one who wired us so that we can have such thoughts.

But just as appropriate anger

can easily turn into bitterness, so an appropriate sexual thought

can become lust. The lustful man or woman looks at another person

with the intention of feeding his or her fantasies and then turns

the other into little more than a sexual fantasy object. A

translation that brings out Jesus' intentions would be:

“Anyone who looks after a woman for the purpose of lusting

after her has already committed adultery.” Lust eventually

becomes obsessed with fulfilling one's desires, even knowing

it's against God's will.

Jesus' instruction on

sexuality is concise and refreshing in an age of misinformation.

Here are at least three of his insights for Christ followers:

1. Sex is a

gift from a loving Creator.

2. Sexual

relationships are to be confined to marriage.

3. Because all

our actions are from our hearts, we must be pure

in our thinking as well as in our actions.

How Jesus Lived

Jesus Christ was fully human,

yet fully divine. Orthodox Christianity has always believed this

despite being unable to explain it completely.

Heresy has been passed on

through the centuries by those who believe one aspect of his

being but not the other. Some have insisted that he was fully

human but not really God-a prophet of God, perhaps, or maybe

even “a son of God,” adopted by the Father for his

purposes. But he was not truly God.

Others have claimed that Jesus

was indeed God, but that he only seemed to be human. Apparently

the apostle John had to face such false teachers, for he sternly

wrote: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:

Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the

flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge

Jesus is not from God.”

Many Christians struggle with

believing that Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

was fully human. They're very uncomfortable with the idea

that Jesus faced sexual temptations.

Yet the writer of Hebrews

claimed that he was “tempted in every way, just as we

are.” This surely includes the sexual temptations that most

men (and women) face.

But Jesus never caved in to

his desires! Hebrews adds, “yet [he] was without sin.”

He was with many women-some emotionally vulnerable and some

with sordid sexual histories. Yet he never used women as objects

of his desire. Consider these examples:

1. The

woman at the well. When Jesus met a woman

from Samaria at a well, a woman who had gone

through five husbands and was now living with

another man, he treated her with complete respect

and spoke to her about living water that wells up

to eternal life.

2. The

woman caught in adultery. When a woman caught

in the act of adultery was cast in front of Jesus

by some religious do-gooders, Jesus got rid of

the hypocrites and then spoke with great love and

dignity to the poor woman, calling her to a new

life in God.

3. The

woman who anointed Jesus' feet. When a

woman with a sordid sexual history began wiping

his feet with her tears and with perfume and then

drying them with her hair, Jesus defended her to

a man who was offended, insisting that her

actions came as a response to God's

marvelous forgiveness in her life.

Jesus treated all the women he

encountered as dignified individuals, pointing them back to God,

who alone could make them complete. Surely there were temptations

along the way (at least the writer of Hebrews was sure there

were). But because Jesus' heart was eager to serve God

through loving others purely, he never crossed an inappropriate

line.

Doesn't it help you to

know that you're following one who can sympathize with you

in your temptations?

Swimming Upstream

So how do we deal with lustful

inclinations? Jesus told us to gouge out our eyes and cut off our

hands if we must. This hyperbolic language certainly makes a

point: We are to take drastic measures to be sexually pure.

Don't pamper sin. Don't flirt with it. Don't

nibble at sin like a fish toying with bait.

Remember that Jesus'

words are not just for individuals but also for a group-a

new community, the church, seeking to follow him. The church must

be a group of people who . . .

• call

for moral purity

• remind

each other in worship of why we live differently

• confess

(usually in some small group setting) our

struggles and failures

• hear

again and again God's word of forgiveness

One powerful Sunday at a

church in Abilene, Texas, following a message on sexual purity,

all high school and middle school students were dismissed to a

large room. There they were met by the elders and their wives and

by some of the youth leaders. They listened as these godly people

committed themselves to modeling sexual purity before them and to

praying for them. Then the teens were asked to raise their hands

during a prayer if they would pledge themselves for a year to

sexual abstinence because of God's love and because of

Jesus' example of purity. In a separate room, several

hundred university students met with their leaders to make

similar pledges before God. Many other prayers for courage to be

pure were offered by those remaining in the auditorium. We live

or die as a community!

Christ followers need to

encourage each other to seek good and avoid evil. They should

also try to cut off the supply for whatever fuels their

lust-like movies, magazines, novels, and television shows

that are filled with sexual temptations. (Keep in mind that no

one person has been made vice president in charge of moral limits

for a church. These are personal decisions-though still made

in the context of community.)

Sports Illustrated,

source of the annual swimsuit edition, isn't usually a

primary source for encouragement in this area. But in 1996 the

cover story was about David Robinson, all-star center for the San

Antonio Spurs and a dedicated Christian. The magazine spotlighted

his eagerness for sexual purity:

The Silver Dancers

come onto the court during a timeout, and David

Robinson does not watch. He sits at the end of the

San Antonio Spurs' bench with his perfect

posture, drinking a cup of water, looking down at

coach Bob Hill diagramming a play. The Silver Dancers

are the Spurs' version of the Laker Girls,

choreographed for the maximum number of jiggles and

pelvic thrusts. Their uniform tonight is hot pants

and tight silver shirts. The predominant lyric in the

heavy-beat music is “Do that thing.” Do

that thing. Do that thing. Do that thing.

Do that thing?

No, David Robinson

does not watch. Assorted other Spurs, especially at

the outer reaches of the huddle, can be seen sneaking

peeks, uh-huh, and second looks. Last season's

Most Valuable Player somehow removes himself from

this part of the show. He says he never looks at the

Silver Dancers. Not on purpose. He will not allow his

mind to wander down the mildly carnal paths that are

offered to the Alamodome crowd of 23,883. Why open

himself to the possibility of impure thoughts?

The article explains that the

reason he will not let his eyes wander is that he is committed to

following Jesus Christ. “I made a rule when I got

married,” he mentions when asked about all the women who try

to flirt with him. “I decided that if anyone's feelings

are going to be hurt, they're not going to be my

wife's. If I think someone is acting inappropriately, I say

so. It may sound harsh, but that's the way it is. My wife is

not going to be the one to suffer.”

As Christians, we must be

willing to swim upstream against the world's current of

prevailing immorality. Such an upstream response from one who

travels in NBA circles seems heroic. But it's the same

response every follower of Jesus Christ must have. While there

are dozens of reasons why we want to remain pure, the main reason

far surpasses all the others: because Jesus was pure!

With a swelling flood of

impurity around us, we need to make firm commitments and we need

to fill our hearts in such a way that we can keep those

commitments. We need to set ourselves in a direction and stick

with it. And Jesus has a direction for us: upstream!

Are you up to the

challenge?




Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Christian life.
Jesus Christ -- Person and offices.