Reading Through The New Testament In 2016. Day 137. 1 Corinthians 5
Let’s talk about sex.
The church right now is dancing a line it feels like at times. How do we not shame, hurt and push away those who are struggling with sexual immorality, while at the same time still holding up our gift of sexuality in reverence?
It’s difficult, especially because most of us are sexually broken in one way or another. So, how do we call each other to holiness in this area without being hypocrites and making sexual issues more taboo than others?
Paul doesn’t mind calling out the sexual immorality in the church in Corinth. Actually, he’s asking them to kick out someone in the church for committing sexual sins. Let’s remember here that we’re reading a disciplinary letter. Paul isn’t writing a letter knowing that it will be read for the rest of time. We need to put this letter in its context.
The context is that the church in Corinth is bragging about how much grace they have because they are welcoming to this guy who is in a sexual relationship with his Father’s wife. They don’t address the dangers of sin, they tolerate it and let it be.
Paul now has to call it like it is — destructive behavior is not ok. It works it’s way into the church like yeast in bread. Don’t sit around boasting about how much grace you have when someone is destroying their life and others.
And that’s the heart of the matter. Sex is a beautiful gift of intimacy and wholeness, but can also be something we use to destroy ourselves and others. Sex is powerful, which means it isn’t dirty, wrong, or something to be stigmatized — but powerful things need to be handled with care or it might become dangerous.
What makes sex so powerful?
Richard Rohr says: [Sex] is the most dramatic way that we all try to overcome our separateness. (Immortal Diamond: the search for our true self)
Sex is a gift of connectedness in a world of separation. We all long to be united, to be loved, to be naked yet not ashamed. Sex is powerful because it is an act that can connect us to someone and give us the intimacy we were made to feel in the garden of Eden.
The danger is that sex is an expression of intimacy, but it alone does not give us the intimacy we are actually longing for. Rohr goes on to speak of the french word: la petite mort, which is used to describe the return to separateness after sexual climax. It is literally translated into english as “the little death”. As good as sex is, as wonderful a gift it is, it is temporary. We return, we have a little death, and we come back to separateness.
If you’re looking for wholeness in sexual relationships alone, you’ll find yourself dying a little inside each time.
If sex is becoming something you use to get love, and not give it, you may find it is becoming more damaging than it is rewarding.
Sex is beautifully expressed as an act in a relationship that already has intimacy, connectedness, unconditional love, and is done out of selfless love. This act is meant within a marriage covenant and thrives there.
If sex is not an expression of love, it becomes an idol. It becomes an act where you go looking for love and it is there that it begins to tear apart and hurt. It begins to become nothing but little deaths that remind us we still aren’t whole.
I think this is why Paul doesn’t mind being hard on sexual immorality, because if he wasn’t he was stating that he is ok with people destroying their hearts.
Paul wants people to find the intimacy they need in God’s love. He wants people to find the fountain for our thirst for intimacy that doesn’t have any “little deaths”. This intimacy sustains and lasts and fulfills.
So, for that reason, it’s not ok to mess around with sex.
So, he asks that this person be removed so that he can wake up to his behaviour.
Then, Paul has this great line:
“I’m not saying you should be this harsh on anyone outside the church. That would be crazy, you wouldn’t be able to be around anyone! I’m talking about people who want to live a life of crazy love for Jesus. For those that sign up and say they want God’s life. You can let them know that they’re behavior is at a stark contradiction to them growing in God’s life” (my paraphrase)
As hard is it might be sometimes, to have someone close to you to say “This isn’t ok, this is destroying yourself and the people you love and you need to stop” is exactly what we need sometimes to get back on track. Sometimes we need the reminder that we’re using sex as an idol and not as a gift.
Are you a Christian struggling with sexual immorality? You’re likely looking for wholeness, connection, intimacy and love. Right? You want to be ok? You want to be loved? You want to be naked without shame…
Of course you do! There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re a red blooded human being! It’s just that sex is an expression of love, it’s not love itself. So, maybe you’ve found yourself getting little connection highs in sex, but it’s not sustaining you like you thought it would. You’re experiencing too many “little deaths”.
It’s time to stop hurting yourself and others. Here’s the great invitation though, there is a real place you can go to be connected. You’re invited now to discover the love of God in a deeper way, and to discover the intimacy that loving friendships can give you.
If you’re married and you’re sneaking off and indulging in affairs, pornography and so on — this might be the most damaging and self-sabotaging thing you could be doing. My prayer is that you discover self-less sex with your spouse again. When you do it because you love them and not because you need it. Talk to someone, get counseling, but whatever you do, don’t keep going.
Paul reminds us that we need to call out destruction for what it is and even in this area when it seems to be the hardest.