You’re probably sick to death of this topic. I kind of am, too. Fear not: I’m not writing yet another post on sexual ethics. There are lots of those out there. Some of them are even really great. But many of us feel like we need to remind ourselves, as JD Greear did with SBC pastors at the 2015 convention, that “sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity. The Cross and Christ are.”
This is a given, or it should be one. And yet, if you look at what so many are writing about, you’d think sex was the central issue. Why do we do this? Why is it we tend to focus so much on sexual ethics, seemingly at the expense of Christ and the cross, the center of our faith?
There are undoubtedly more reasons than these, but I have four suggestions I’d like to put forward:
1. It’s easier. Negatively, it’s easier to point to symptoms of a problem than to the bring the real issue to light. The issue with western sexual ethics is not simply that people are behaving in ways contrary to their nature: the true issue is that human beings have rebelled against their Creator and chosen to worship created things—including themselves—rather than the One who made them. Unpacking the latter takes a lot of work and a great deal of patience. It’s much easier to follow that great theologian Bob Newhart and say, “Stop it!”
2. It’s a Freudian slip. While this has been used as a weapon to wrongly dismiss and defame some proponents of traditional sexual ethics, there is, occasionally, some truth to it. Though I suspect they are relatively few, there some who are passionately vocal about issues like adultery or pornography or homosexuality who all the while are are committing adultery, have a computer filled with pornography of the vilest sort, or are secretly engaged in homosexual behavior. If the Ted Haggard scandal of the mid-2000s has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes when people protest a great deal, it may be their way of revealing their own issues.
3. It is compassionate. Positively, some speak about sexual ethics not because they hate people who identify as LGBT, engage in polyamory, or any other activity, but because they have a great deal of compassion. They see people who are lost and confused desperately searching for something to make them feel whole and happy and satisfied, but are always coming up short. Few wake up next to a stranger they met at the club thinking, “Yep, I feel confident that was the right decision,” even when they go and do it again the next week or the next night. And this motivates people to speak—they see people hurting themselves while desperately trying to make themselves happy, and seemingly not recognizing that it’s not working. So even though there are some voices out there who are callous and cruel in clubbing people with their dissenting voice,1 there are others who are compassionately voicing their concern as dying people pleading with dying people.
4. It is a gospel issue. Finally, and again positively, many Christians are speaking about sexual ethics a great deal because it legitimately is a gospel issue, which means it is necessary. The gospel has implications on all of life, from our finances to our sexuality. There is not a square inch of human existence over which Christ does not cry, “Mine,” as Abraham Kuyper once said. Thus, if the Lord Jesus is truly Lord of all, that necessarily includes what we do in our bedrooms, our phones and our computers.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the near-constant talk of sexual ethics, gender identity and all this kind of stuff. But don’t let the noise turn you away from the really good reasons to speak up. There are people who need to hear the truth, and we owe it to them to do so in as compassionate and Christ-honoring a fashion as possible.