The challenges which our modern world brings to bear on a believer in Christ are considerable. The theory of evolution has created a framework for the growth of humanism and the explosion of knowledge and inventions have brought with them many opportunities to satisfy lust. Nowhere is this more apparent than in matters regarding sexual morality. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the follower of Christ to remain pure. Common usage of the word ‘sexuality’ in our modern world has changed the meaning that the word originally had. The meaning of the word in this article is intended to be ‘matters which are sexual in character’.

Let us be reminded that God created sexual desire (Gen 1:28), and its outworking in the physical union of husband and wife. They are not the inventions of our corrupt and perverted carnal mind. For some this may not be a revelation that they care to dwell upon. ‘Sex’ is all too easily seen by disciples as being something risqué and in contrast to godliness. God never intended it to be so. The reason we tend to see things in this way is because the world about us, driven by the lusts of our human flesh, has neither a godly context for sexuality nor a sense of morality with respect to sexuality, and so is filled with improper excess. In the topics which follow we will endeavour to present a godly framework within which we may contemplate the broader subject of sexuality and reject the corruptions of immorality.

We do not need to look far in our modern world to find evidence of perverted sexuality. In fact we do not need to look at all. We would need to be both blind and deaf to not notice. The Christadelphian Brotherhood is facing a challenge of unprecedented proportions and the burning question is: what do we do about it? Some are for doing nothing and certainly saying nothing. Such brothers and sisters may feel that it is improper or degrading even to discuss the matter. It is not uncommon to hear it said, “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Eph 5:12).

Without giving a full exposition of these words we might note in passing that the things of which we shall be speaking are not done “in secret” but are distressingly public and open. This changes the appropriateness of applying the above passage to our situation. All of the subjects which we shall consider are treated in Scripture, which can only mean that their consideration cannot be shameful.

Certainly the sordid details of the immoral acts of the world about us should not be discussed, but if sexuality in its entirety is a taboo subject in our homes and ecclesial gatherings then how shall we be educated to combat the evils which are ever present in the greater society in which we live? We cannot possibly be content in the knowledge that the only education in these matters comes from the immoral humanism of the world, from the immoral media of the world, or from immoral people in the world. Many would say that this education is the responsibility of the parents. While this is true, there are many things which make it difficult for parents to discharge this duty well. It is likely that the average teenager knows more about the immoral sexuality of the world than their parents dare believe or care to admit. It is also likely that parents are inadequately resourced to discuss these matters, and possibly more ignorant than their children.

It is therefore hoped that the thoughts that follow will be suitable for both young and old and provide a biblical basis for meaningful discussion while presented in as delicate a fashion as practicably possible.

A godless and promiscuous world

It should not come as a surprise that the world about us is without God and therefore without godly morals. Jesus predicted that the days before his return would mimic the days of Noah (“every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”) and Lot (“their sin is very grievous”). We need to remember that the world about them had a devastating effect on the families of Noah and Lot (Gen 9:21–25; 19:32–38). We might also note the effect of alcohol in reducing sexual inhibitions that affected both Noah and Lot. This raises concern about the increasing tendency of young and old within our community to use alcohol. We ought not to imagine that, living as we do in times that parallel those of Noah and Lot, we shall be immune from the immorality about us.

The principal cause of immorality is godlessness. Without God we neither have a proper sense of morality nor an adequate framework within which to correctly understand or appreciate sexuality. It is therefore only to be expected that the world has gotten it so very wrong. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in Romans 1:20–28: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Exactly as Paul declared, the theory of evolution and consequent atheism have provided a framework for lust which is exploited without restraint.

It is an unfortunate consequence that repeated exposure to immorality tends to reduce the impact of the awfulness of sin. Are we no longer shocked by sin? Do de-facto relationships and pre-marital sexual relationships have the same power to appal that they once did? If not, we are becoming hardened to sin! It is no surprise that many young people are not seeing the issues as clearly as they should, sadly some seem not to see them at all. The world about us has been, as Paul observed, given over to the worship of self rather than God. The creed of the world is ‘if it feels good – do it’, and they have no regard for the principles of God or the purpose of God.

It might be suggested that we should fortify ourselves positively with Scripture and avoid the problems. While this is certainly good advice, it is becoming insufficient to cope with the magnitude of the problem. Some would advocate exclusion from the world and restrict their associations almost entirely. This, while it might appear laudable, makes preaching almost impossible and is open to objection because it is impractical, was not the desire of our Lord (John 17:15), and ultimately does not work because the carnal lusts are already there waiting to spring to action within every disciple’s mind. Jesus’ prayer was that we might be ‘kept from the evil’. How shall we cope with an increasingly immoral world? With godly education.

“He which made them in the beginning made them male and female”

This is part of the response of Jesus to a question put to him by the Pharisees. We need to understand that God’s purpose made humans as males and females with the various physical and emotional responses that are typical of each sex. The tendency to regard sexual desire as a product of sin (and therefore not of God’s creation) is both incorrect and unhelpful. Sexual intimacy within, and only within, the framework God intended for it, is a wholesome thing. If it were not so then we might well remove verses like Hebrews 13:4 from our Bibles: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.”

Clearly God has made men and women different and the various physical and emotional features which constitute our existence are complementary and of Divine origin. So we must accept that sexuality is an invention of God; but let us be very clear about this – immoral and depraved behaviour are inventions of man. Within the context that the Father intended, sexual intimacy is neither immoral nor depraved. One can hardly say that children are a blessing from God but the act that conceived them is sinful.

What then was the intention of God when He made us male and female? Malachi the prophet explores this in his second chapter when explaining where Israel had gone wrong. When God made Eve He only made one of her kind. There was one man and God made one woman. Malachi is pointing out that God’s creative capacity had not been exhausted. Though Eve was the last of the creative works there was still the “residue of the spirit”. God had plenty of creative capacity left and could have made more women had that been His intention. It was not. Malachi simply explains that the Almighty was seeking a “godly seed”. Clearly any relationship outside of one man and one woman remaining married for life does not promote a godly offspring.

It is clear that God has made the various characteristics of men and women, including all the physical ones, to be mutually attractive. It would have been counterproductive for God to instil an innate repulsion to the female form in the mind of man and to ask him to be joined to her as one. To guide us in the proper use of the various attractions, God very wisely laid down laws which would keep us pure and help us achieve the greatest amount of happiness. Contrary to the accepted wisdom of this world, the greatest fulfilment and happiness comes from following God’s way.

The intended relationship

Marriage is God’s way. From the beginning it was said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This was soundly endorsed by Christ in Matthew 19:4–6. If only mankind would accept the arrangements recommended by their Maker they would save themselves much grief. Let us be very clear – there is no appropriate outlet for sexuality apart from marriage. Any other arrangements or relationships which might be considered are in God’s opinion (the only opinion which counts!) fornication of one sort or another and will preclude a person from participation in His Kingdom unless repented of and forsaken.

We need to remind ourselves upon what our marriages are based. Marriage is based on the union that God was anticipating would occur between Christ and his bride. The words of Paul could not be clearer. Having spent much time giving advice on marriage he said, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the ecclesia” (Eph 5:32). God has ordained marriage as part of the preparation for our life to come.

Providing the intimacies of marriage are conducted within the spirit of the recommendations of Scripture on behalf of both husband and wife (see 1 Cor 7:4–5; 1 Thess 4:4; 1 Pet 3:7), “marriage is honourable” (Heb 13:4), and restrictions are not placed upon the relationship. It would be wrong to allow sexual desires to make unreasonable demands upon each other or to be inconsiderate of each other.

Intimacy the reward of commitment

This is contrary to the “wisdom of this world” which instead recommends that commitment be entertained if intimacy is enjoyable. Our young people are finding it increasingly difficult to know what is right and what is reasonable in any situation. The rule is simple. Commitment in marriage is essential before sexual intimacy may be enjoyed. This is God’s way.

This completely removes any question of casual relationships. It is not the intention to here prescribe precisely what is and is not acceptable behaviour in young people save to say that sexual intimacy must be reserved for the greatest commitment – marriage – and care should be taken to ensure that lust is not given space to overtake reason and so allow emotions to get out of control. Compromising situations and behaviours are to be avoided as they will only make provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts. Circumstances where increasingly our young people are living away from home are placing greater challenges on them than may have been the case in previous generations.

Prohibited relationships

The world about us has forgotten God’s ways and instead teaches that anything you desire is good. The world now openly promotes all of the practices God detests and pours scorn upon any who would challenge them. As of July 2009, homosexual couples have the protection of the law in Australia and are deemed no different than a married couple! The practices of the community around us are such that there is a clear need to restate some straightforward teachings of Scripture to underline what God deems unacceptable. Homosexuality (Rom 1:26–27), prostitution (Lev 19:29), bestiality (Lev 18:23), as well as sexual relationships with anybody except one’s spouse, whether married (adultery) or not (fornication) (Gal 5:19), are all prohibited by God.

God is not a ‘killjoy’. God desires happiness, not misery for His children. He is a loving Father Who knows the emotional and physical consequences of promiscuity and immorality and so seeks to protect us from them. It is because of God’s desire for our happiness that He directs us to appropriate marital relationships.

Modesty in dress and behaviour

A direct consequence of the natural desires of our body is that we can easily respond to sexual stimuli whether overt or discreet. This is why God has reserved intimacy for marriage and why He demands modesty. Men especially need women to be aware of how difficult it can be for them to be physically pure, and appreciate all the help they can get. If a display of flesh is likely to promote lust then it is to be refrained from. Seldom does a woman want a man to only desire her in a physical sense. She should not then display herself in such a way.

Our sisters and young girls in particular need to be reminded that they are to be modest. This is a Scriptural injunction relevant to every generation of disciples (1 Tim 2:9). Ecclesial gatherings should be havens from the immodesty of the world. The tendency towards shorter hemlines, lower necklines and tighter clothing is unlikely to promote any godly thought. While there is no need for women to look dowdy there is a requirement for modesty. The motto of the world, ‘if you’ve got it flaunt it’, deserves no place in our community. The world is not promoting modesty as a virtue of any value but is rather mocking those who display it. We can direct similar comments towards brothers and young men although the difficulties are not in the main as real for women as for men.

Behaviour and speech which is sexually suggestive is also wrong. We need to be careful that we do not introduce thoughts to others which may cause them to stumble. We worship a holy God. He requires us to be holy also (Lev 11:44; 1 Pet 1:15–16). If there is any doubt as to the connection between behaviour or speech and sexual immorality consider the words in Ephesians 5:3–4 (esv): “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.” Here the apostle places the two thoughts in juxtaposition to remind us of the causal relationship.

Lust in an electronic age

In past ages sexual immorality was generally the result of improper conduct with another person. We now live in an age where it may be fostered in private. The average person in this world has relatively easy access to immoral material at school, at work, at the library, and at the local stores.

Today various forms of pornography are readily available to anyone with internet access. DVDs often display sexual scenes, some very graphically, and viewing these seems to be getting more popular. Many of us and our young people have laptops, which makes displaying this material so easy. Television now often shows intimate scenes. Hotels don’t just offer in-room movies, but adult films can now be previewed and viewed.

Be warned that Jezebel is no longer the ‘woman next door’, but could be an image on a screen. Immorality can be sourced or stumbled across very easily, so our will to stand fast to right principles needs to become ever more firm to compensate. Our Lord saw into the heart when he directed that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt 5:28). Access to sexually explicit material will by Christ’s estimation lead to adultery.

Flee youthful lusts

This is not just advice for the young! The lusts may be particularly pronounced in young people but are alive and well in those who are older also. Are we content to dawdle away from lust perhaps secretly hoping it might overtake us? The command of the apostle is to flee temptation (2 Tim 2:22). To delay is to court disaster. How many lives have been unintentionally derailed by failing to heed this advice? The media of the world and all of the advertising is reaching out to us. Very little of it is helpful and much of it sexually explicit. The advertising and marketing campaigners of this world know that the human mind is easily attracted to sexuality. ‘Sex sells’ is their slogan and they promote it ruthlessly.

We need to be aware of the dangers that surround us and follow the example of Joseph and remove ourselves from sexual temptations without delay. God desires us to be chaste, physically and spiritually. Those who are part of the bride of Christ are said to be virgins. Let us take care to keep ourselves pure.

The virgin state begins with a mind that is pure, in love with Jesus Christ our Lord, and a way of life that the Lord himself can look down upon with pleasure, anticipating our union with him.