Jay Tea wrote a very good article this week about his stand on Abortion. In the course of that discussion and the debate in the comments following the article, opinions regarding sexual behavior and orientation were naturally expressed. That got me to thinking about sexuality and the moral imperatives we follow regarding them. From what I learned in various biology classes, the sexual imperative is arguably the strongest after self-preservation, and so a person’s sexual choices and behavior can be said in many ways to mirror the character of the person at their heart. The next obvious question, then, is the moral value of a person’s sexuality, and it is there that the discussion so often devolves into bitter attacks and accusations. Given how close to our heart our own preferences sit, it is not surprising that a practice which we find strange would also be seen as “wrong” and offensive. What further complicates the matter is the fact that some behaviors go well outside acceptable boundaries of even the most tolerant consideration, particularly those which involve harm to other persons and deliberate assaults on the general sense of propriety. In between those extreme practices and what we might call “normal” sexual behavior, however, is a range of practices which may be strange to us, but which may reasonably be considered the private business of those who practice it, while in some other cases the behavior may cross the line into moral offense.
I am a practicing Christian, but I understand that to a non-believer my Scripture will have no weight, so for this article I will try to consider the matter using reason and – hopefully – a common set of moral standards. I mention my faith here, for the reason that I wish to be clear about my own moral position, and while I may not understand every point as fully as I wish, I accept the Lord’s word as true. I would mention, however, that I do not always agree with those who quote a snip or scrap of the Bible in one place or another to support their argument, while ignoring the broader context of Scripture. What I mean can be seen by briefly considering the ‘Bible’ argument against homosexuality. The verses in Leviticus which condemn homosexuality, for example, are not far removed from verses condemning wearing garments made of mixed fibers, eating pigs or certain other ‘unclean’ foods. You see, the Hebrew people in that time were in the wilderness, where any communicable disease could literally wipe out the nation. I am not trying to use that as proof that the Bible was tolerant of homosexuality, but those verses need to be seen in the context in which they were written and originally taught. Further in the Bible, other verses come up, including 1st Corinthians and 1st Timothy, but again there is reason to be careful about overstating God’s law regarding homosexuality. For example, even though I am sure that my Lord encountered homosexuals in various places during His ministry on Earth, there is no verse quoting Jesus condemning homosexuality. The case of the Roman Centurion whose faith Jesus commended (Matthew 8:4-6) is worth consideration in this respect, but I leave it at that. Speaking just for myself, I think the Bible warns us that what makes the sin in sexuality is the lust. It should certainly be obvious that lust has brought many a man to his ruin, and adultery is a grievous sin in the eyes of the Lord. There are verses in Proverbs, for example, which warn against treating a person as a thing, against thinking of a human being only as an object for serving a sexual desire.
I don’t know about you, but I worry a bit about my struggles to think of every person I meet in the right way. It’s easy to fall into stereotypes, to take a superficial image and assume that’s all there is to that person, but such thinking is an offense to the greater, unseen, person. We’ve come far enough in our cultural mores, to understand that a person’s race, gender, and age are not valid indicators of capability or character. Even so, what we see on the surface still affects our judgment and influences our actions, and when a sexual orientation is clear, that reaction might be strong. Also, we wrestle – or at least I do – with a variety of impulses in response to situations. I try not to judge other people for things they screw up, because my own record is not particularly impressive.
Some time back, I had what I think is a revelation for my faith – that the reason God makes us consider our sin and repent, is so we are not weighed down by that sin, that we are enabled to move ahead and grow into the person we are meant to be. With regard to sexuality, we must learn to govern strong desire and focus our actions to an appropriate goal. Not only that, but we must be careful to avoid that subtle temptation to believe that we can act without consequence. Adultery is wrong, divorce is wrong, and lust is wrong, because such things diminish the person and lead to destruction and suffering. Sexual sin is among the worst, precisely because it cuts deep into its victim.