1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
A recent Gallup poll of over 1000 Americans revealed the following viewpoints on sex:
- 69% consider premarital sex to be morally acceptable.
- 67% consider homosexual relationships to be morally acceptable.
- 42% consider teenage sex to be morally acceptable.
Paul, however, tells us to flee sexual immorality (porneia). But if we don’t see sexual immorality as dangerous, than why would we flee from it?
We live in a culture that has separated facts and values. Facts are scientific and objective. Values are relative and subjective. Today we define ourselves by our values. One’s sexuality is a way to define and find identity in this life, it is a value. However, one’s biological sex, or the act of sexual intercourse, is purely a physical act and has no bearing on my value or identity. This “facts/values divide” has created a fractured self. My sexuality is everything, but sex is nothing. This fails to see that the physical body is good and has a purpose. It also fails to connect the physical and the spiritual. This is close to how the Corinthian Christians viewed sex. It was purely an appetite. Just a bodily function. Not connected at all to the true self, the spiritual self.
Our modern sexual narrative which divides the “value” of my sexuality, or my sexual orientation, from the “fact” of my biological sex, has left us valuing a very selfish and independent way of life. We are told we must self identify and learn to express this identity, and that this is the greatest good. Authenticity, consumerism, and freedom are now our way of life. We should be and do whatever we want to be and do. We should have whatever we want to have. All in order to realize who our true self is.
But Paul challenges all of that. Your true self is “in Christ.” Your body has a purpose and it is not separate from your spirit. Sex is far from just an appetite to be satisfied. Freedom is not for self expression, it is for giving to another person. Sex is an expression of covenant love and in such it is a picture of our union with Christ.
As we think back to the Garden we see that sex is, of course, good. It was created by a good God and made to reflect his own passion and faithfulness toward his people. Sex allows us to image God’s love and his creation power. The biological differences between men and women, and the sexual union that occurs in the marriage of a man and woman, serve to image the unity and yet diversity of the Trinity. In the Garden we also see that humans are embodied souls. We are body, soul, and spirit. We are whole beings, not divided beings.
This truth (we are embodied souls) leads Paul to say this:
1 Corinthians 6:16-17. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
To give your body to another sexually is to give your whole self to them. The “two become one flesh.” Sex creates a new reality– the union of two people. That is not the problem though. The problem is when we abandon these unions by leaving or by never being fully committed (married) to them. To go around creating these unions over and over and then abandoning them is degrading to humanity. It is clearly not the vision God had in mind when he re-created us into the new humanity in Christ.
Therefore Paul tells us to flee sexual immorality. Why? Because it is destructive to humanity and to you. It’s addictive. Like any behavior that only serves the self, it will never really satisfy. Like an addiction to a drug, it will satisfy less and less the more you do it. Only when attached to the covenant of marriage can sex begin to be redeemed and brought into a place where it is primarily for giving and not for getting. Only then will it not become an idol. Only then will it not be a sin against your own body (v18).
But how is sexual sin a sin against your own body? Granted this last part of verse 18 is very tricky to understand. But what Paul may mean is that every other addiction involves introducing an outside substance or reality into your body. But sexual sin is an addiction from the inside out. It is an addiction to the self that through the bodily and spiritual union it creates, radically alters the self. Sexual sin alters the way you relate to others, God, and yourself, much more than any other sin. Or, Paul may even mean that it is a sin against the body of Christ, the Church. How many Christians do we know, ourselves included, that have left church or gone silent at church because of the shame and guilt of sexual sin. This “personal” sin is not just personal. It hurts everyone.
So flee sexual immorality! But how? Well, maybe like Joseph you need to literally run away from it. But the longer term solution is that we must flee it by replacing its power in our hearts. Our spiritual union with Christ (he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him) must be ever more satisfying to us than sexual unions with “prostitutes” (or girlfriends, boyfriends, porn stars online, fantasy novels, casual sex partners….you get my point). Only when Christ is the most satisfying thing in your life, will the addiction to the self subside.
“To live is Christ” is not just a mystical union with no practical applications. No, it affects every part of our lives, especially our sexuality. Union with Christ puts sex in its proper place. It is not a god to be worshipped, it is not your identity. Nor is it “no big deal.” It is a glorious mystery that, in a covenantal relationship, pictures and connects us to Christ, the Trinity, and the gospel.
Are there sexual sins in your life that you need to flee? How can you begin to let the supremacy of Christ replace the supremacy of sex in your life? What truths do you need to believe for this to begin?