We aspire to have a point of contact when we disagree with someone. We can agree in part with small government conservatives who distrust political machinations, and we can also agree with big government liberals who are concerned about the neglect of the poor. An interest in a point of contact is both civil and biblical. But when it comes to sex, Christians accent their differences with the rest of the world.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. (1 Thess 4:3–5)
The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters by Richard Bernstein reminds us that most of the world has lived in a “harem culture” throughout recorded history. The eroticized version that Westerners have of the East, he writes, is largely true. Against this backdrop, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Christians to be different.
“To control his [or her] own body in a way that is holy and honorable”—that’s what we are after. Paul’s letter to Titus adds that this growth in self-control should be the focus of Christian discipleship for young men (Titus 2:6). The danger, of course, is that following Christ can quickly be reduced to a law. But that danger can’t restrain us from being passionate about this teaching; instead, it challenges us to always keep the larger story in view.
The story can be rendered this way. Creation was intended to operate within certain God-given boundaries. Water doesn’t extend to the dry land, stars don’t leave the sky, humans don’t find kindred spirits among animals, and they don’t eat from trees that are forbidden. Sin is the violation of these boundaries. For humanity, first it was the fruit, then murder, and then pansexuality. It wasn’t until the grace of God that came in Jesus Christ that we could find both full forgiveness for our violations and actual power to combat our renegade instincts. He, indeed, came as the re-Creator. He calmed the seas, and he has freed us to be who were intended to be. His grace gives us the honor and privilege “to say ‘no’ to ungodly and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12).
We are supposed to be noticeably different.