Today, something a bit heavier for you to ponder based on the sexual commandments from Leviticus 20. This isn’t my normal style, but I pray that it burns away chaff and brings truth. If it gets too intense, you can always take a break and read about the Singing Jumbo Ferry.
To any non-Christians who might read this, I hope that I’ve spoken with respect despite disagreement and that this will at least help you to understand where the Christian world is coming from.
I have a few more posts out of Leviticus, but next week I’ll begin a multi-part short story in which a nuclear engineer seeks to find God’s one true way for Christians to get hitched.
Worldview and Sexuality
The second half of Lev. 20 is a list of commandments regarding sexuality. For the most part, it’s “If a man sleeps with X, they shall surely be put to death.” For the most part, I think these commandments overlap with the ideas in the New Testament about sexual immorality, except of course for the punishments. For example, I can’t think of any cases where it’s morally permissible for a Christian to sleep with his father’s wife, his sister, animals, or his daughter in law. So, because the commands reflect God’s heart in human sexuality, they’re a good place for us to get some idea of what the New Testament means by “Sexual immorality.”
You’re a solitary body
Today in America, the world sees Christian sexual mores as irrelevant and oppressive. One of the top Urban Dictionary definitions of Leviticus, is that it is “The part of the Bible that God wrote when He was bored (for lolz), containing ridiculous commands.” But this isn’t because America disagrees with the commands. It’s much deeper: America disagrees with the Bible’s foundational teachings about humanity and sexuality.
First, the view of the culture at large, even among those with a vague spirituality, belief in God, or Christian background, is that man is chiefly a physical being. Mindless evolution created us. Because we Americans are really bad at logic, even many who believe God still fall into the gravitational pull of evolution and the meaninglessness of life.
This worldview also takes disproportionate weight in our nation because it’s the only one acceptable in the public sphere (schools, government, news, etc). God gets a little lip service, especially at a funeral or wedding, but at the end of the day, utilitarian secular humanism dominates the air waves.
Anyways, the outworking of man as a physical being is that sex is no big deal. Because if you’re using protection, you have basically no physical side-effects. We recognize psychological effects of sexual assualt, so we have laws against that, but the world mostly thinks that two consenting adults can do whatever they want.
Americans also view people as individuals. As long as I’m not hurting someone else’s freedom, my decisions are mine alone. If two individuals decide to hook up, no problem. That decision affects no larger a population than the two of them.
You’re a spirit in community
So, what is the Christian view of human nature? First, man is the highest creature in God’s creation, as he was created last and with the very breath of God in Him. Technically, women were created very last (therefore with a greater sense of completion and refinement), but as a guy, it’s something of a duty to brush that fact under the rug.
That “breath of God” in the nostrils is incredibly important. The word for “breath” and “spirit” are the same in Hebrew (ruach). When God breathed life into man, He made us spiritual beings. He also created us “in the image of God,” meaning that we have that divine, eternal spark within. So, while we have bodies, we are spirits.
Sex is also both a physical and spiritual act. The ancient world understood this better than the modern. Shrine prostitutes existed as a way to please the god through sexual union. The Bible makes the spiritual nature of sex clear as well (see I Cor.6 for some details on this). Even as far back as Genesis, we see this wonderous union between Adam and Eve with the words “the two shall become one flesh.”
As to individuality, the Christian worldview acknowledges that. But equally, we’re members of communities. In the beginning, Adam knew God, and we can never escape that first relationship: it’s either broken or atoned. Eve quickly joined them, creating families. Even in redemption, God called out a society (the church). Unlike an evolutionary view that only acknowledges the passing on of genetic material (a solo act), we as Christians recognize ourselves as part of something larger.
Conclusions based on presuppositions
So, if we believe the Bible, sex (a spiritual act) touches the core of your being and profoundly changes you, for the good or the bad. And those ripples go beyond the two consenting adults into their relationships with God, their families, and their communities.
Look to the chaos in the life of a promiscous women with five children from different lovers, and you understand the communal aspect of sexuality. Beyond the immediate families involved, the government pays court costs and welfare costs. Society pays when those fatherless children end up in drugs and prison. No, sex reaches far beyond the lovers. And lest I sound overly angry: church, help that woman! Stop turning her away at the door. She needs Jesus, and she needs help with her kids!
Anyways, when we get the nature of man and sex right, the commandments of Lev. 20 make sense. Yet much of Christian effort is trying to force our culture to abide by the letter of the law through legally fighting against issues like gay marriage. If we don’t impact the worldview of our culture, an issue like gay marriage is a lost cause or a pyrrhic victory.
And lest we should turn out there in judgment, we have to recall the words of Jesus, “Anyone who looks after a woman with lust in his heart has committed sexual immorality.” When much of the church is slave to pornography and hidden sexual sin, the world laughs at our hypocrisy when we preach purity. The call to Pergamum echoes down to the present: “Repent.” If we are to change our culture, the power of God Himself must accomplish that work, so “It is time for judgment to begin with God’s household.” (I Pet. 4:17)