"Do not be deceived…" – 1 Corinthians 6:9b
There is, of course, an entirely different way to view all of this. That is to say, instead of trying to understand St. Paul within his historic context, and by means of that suggested understanding do away with the sexual obligations placed upon us, we regard Paul's application of Mosaic Law as reflecting not merely God's intent for a certain nation for a certain period of time, but as God's intent for all of mankind forever. Indeed, this has been the church's take on Paul for the bulk of the past 2,000 years.
Certainly the case can be made (and has been made) that the church's understanding of what is required of us, sexually, can be gleaned from the Old Testament scriptures: that incest, adultery, homosexual practice, dressing so as to look like one of the opposite sex, and bestiality are all wrong. And why are they wrong? Because God has said they are wrong, even to the point of calling some of these an "abomination." That has been the approach of the church for nearly 2,000 years and for nearly 2,000 years that belief held sway in nearly all of western civilization.
So why the change now? Why is this being questioned now? Two reasons…
1. A greater understanding of what factors (genetic, societal, psychological) may be behind various sexual desires that were condemned by Mosaic Law has resulted in a questioning of the rather strict bonds of Mosaic Law in regards to sex and sexuality, and
2. So many church leaders (both Catholic and Protestant) have been found guilty of various sexual sins that the church has lost the moral high ground so as to be able to speak authoritatively on subjects related to sex and sexuality.
So back to the question raised in Part 1 of this topic: where does this leave the church?
It is here that there is a Bible passage that is SO IMPORTANT and should be underlined and marked and maybe even memorized by every serious Christian. That passage is 1 Corinthians 5:9-13,
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But I am now writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. FOR WHAT HAVE I TO DO WITH JUDGING OUTSIDERS? IS IT NOT THOSE INSIDE THE CHURCH WHOM YOU ARE TO JUDGE? GOD JUDGES THOSE OUTSIDE. Purge the evil person from among you.
This is Paul's bifurcation of the world: the world of those "inside" the church and those "outside" the church. Those on the inside are called to the kind of holy life that Paul (and the early church as a whole; see 2 Peter 3:14-16) envisioned while those outside the church cannot be expected, NOR SHOULD THEY BE EXPECTED, to conform to that same holy life. A great problem in today's church is that all too many churches, pastors and Christians have decided it is their duty to tell those outside the church how they should be living. Clearly that has not gone well. So what is the church to do with those who desire to come into the church (through faith in Christ) but who have become involved in lifestyle choices that run contrary to what is deemed a holy life? Must the married homosexual couple get a divorce in order to be part of the church? Must the transgender attempt to undo what may have been surgically done? Must the married adulterer, divorce the latest spouse and return to their first mate? To what extent does this call to a holy life affect any of us in regards to actions we took before we came to faith in Christ?
More on this next week…