Sexuality | Week 09

Interconnectedness

inTro

Integrated Beings

Read This Week’s Passage: Matthew 7:1–5

Integrated Beings

Human beings are not segmented in their experience of life. For clarity, we may discuss mental and physical health separately, but the two are clearly connected. Poor physical health can lead to feelings of depression, and depressive spells, in turn, can lead to a lack of motivation to achieve positive physical health outcomes. Sometimes the remedy for a mental health challenge may lie in a physical health intervention. An excessive focus on one aspect can blind a person to the best solution for a situation.

In academia, interdisciplinary studies are an attempt to remedy the problem of overspecialization. In most educational systems, the more educated you become, the more specialized you become in one particular area, often at the sacrifice of an awareness of other fields of study and how they may relate to yours. Interdisciplinarity brings together individuals with specializations in different fields, or the expertise from various fields, and applies it to a particular topic. The problems associated with climate change, for instance, would require input from various disciplines to resolve.

As individuals, we too tend to compartmentalize the various aspects of our lives. We may not often consider how our water intake impacts the quality of our hair, or how our screen time affects our eating habits, which affects our hair quality; yet they are all interconnected. God created us as integrated beings so that every choice we make affects us holistically. So it is with our sexuality, that the choices we make with respect to our sexuality impact all other areas of our lives.

Clearly, the inverse is true. Sexuality is simultaneously physical, emotional, relational, social, and spiritual. Denying any one of these aspects of sexuality leads to an impaired experience of sexuality.

• Deny the importance of the physical aspect of sexuality and you fail to experience sexuality in its intimacy, as in the case of ascetism.

• Deny the emotional element and you fail to experience sexuality in its intensity, as in the case of the “hooking-up” culture.

• Deny the relational aspect and you fail to experience sexuality in its depth, as in the case of masturbation.

• Deny the social ramifications and you fail to experience sexuality in its breadth, as in the case of adultery.

• Deny the spiritual import and you fail to experience sexuality at its height, as in the case of any and all sexual expression that is not blessed by God.

The intimacy, intensity, depth, breadth, and height of sexuality can only be experienced when we submit our sexual expression to the dictates of God’s Word.

inScribe

Journal

Write out Matthew 7:1–5 from the translation of your choice. You may also rewrite the passage in your own words, or outline or mind-map the chapter.

inGest

Choose Life

Movies of all genres are based on the theme of the battle between good and evil. Whether it is a drama, a romantic comedy, a thriller, a horror flick, or a documentary, the viewer is captivated by the question of whether the good, as defined by the film, will triumph in the end. This theme is so captivating and pervasive because it resonates with our experience of life. We yearn for justice, joy, peace, and harmony, but all around is strife. Even without the biblical context, everyone can recognize that we live in a world filled with controversy.

The Bible defines the origins and nature of this controversy. Our concept of good derives from the Creator who is good (Ps. 100:5). Everything that came from the Creator’s hand was good (Gen. 1:31). At some point in time, one of God’s created beings, an angel, independently and mysteriously chose to deviate from God’s design (Ezek. 28:15). This angel convinced a third of heaven’s angels to rebel against God’s government, and they were subsequently cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:4, 7–9).

Banished to the earth, the fallen angel, the devil, sought to recruit humanity to his rebellion (Gen. 3:1, 5). When the first humans, Adam and Eve, ate of the fruit (Gen. 3:6), they placed humanity on the side of the rebellion in this cosmic conflict (Rom. 5:12). God interposed to create an innate revulsion toward evil and offer the opportunity for humanity to choose to follow Him again (Gen. 3:15) and live (Rom. 6:23). Thanks to God’s intervention, we want good to prevail, but our inclination is to do evil (Rom. 7:18). So the battle between good and evil rages around and within us (2 Cor. 10:4, 5).

A critical point in the Bible’s definition of the cosmic conflict is that it is not just an external war between celestial beings, but that it is personal to every human being. The weapons in this spiritual battle are to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Our minds are the epicenter of this warfare. Anything that affects our mental acuity is a disadvantage. But perhaps more to the point of the verse, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” refers to any erroneous ideas that challenge God’s established will. Such ideas are a stronghold for the devil and must be eliminated. Our views of sexuality fit squarely here.

In His Word, God has presented the picture of what humanity was intended for when He created us. While sin has marred even our experience of sexuality, to align ourselves with God’s government means to accept His ideal as the model to aspire to. The enemy knows that the battle is based in our minds, so we are inundated with false notions of human sexuality at every turn. If he can win our thoughts on this matter, then behavior that is contrary to divine wisdom will follow.

In some respects, it is impossible to avoid altogether these false ideas. They are being propagated in the music we are passively exposed to as we go about our daily duties. They are infused in our textbooks and newspapers. Our politicians proclaim them, and sometimes even our ministers imitate them. Unless you are going to live under a rock, you will be exposed to unbiblical views of human sexuality. For those instances, we must trust to God to shield our minds from adopting the falsehood (Prov. 30:5).

There are, however, some things that lie within our control. We can choose to watch that movie or not. We can choose whether or not to read that book. We can choose to excuse ourselves from that raunchy conversation. We can decide what music is on our playlist, what podcast we are listening to, and which YouTube channels we subscribe to. Not only can we choose, but given that our eternal destiny depends on what choice we make, we must choose, and choose aright (cf. Deut. 30:19).

inTerpret

See with New Eyes

“What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom is no one’s concern but their own.” This is the dominant thought of Western society. Yet even for those who hold this position, they might draw some exceptions. Perhaps they would have a problem with incestuous relationships. That certainly is the case with the law in most states across the United States. Why draw the line at incest, though? In Russia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium, incest between two consenting adults is, at the least, not illegal. Similarly, while incestuous marriages are not recognized in Rhode Island and New Jersey, there is no criminal penalty imposed.

From a legal perspective, your sexuality is private unless there is a compelling state interest in how you are engaging in it. The definition of what a compelling state interest is has and continues to morph over time as the values of a society shift. It is society’s value system, then, that determines the level of involvement that they have in individuals’ sexual lives.

Take ancient Israel, for instance. Capital punishment was prescribed for those caught in adultery (Deut. 22:13–29). There was an assumption of consent between the erring parties (compare vv. 23, 24 and v. 25–27), and the purpose of the punishment was to “put away the evil from among you/Israel” (Deut. 22:21, 22, 24). Three purposes for the punishment present themselves. The communal and public nature of the punishment was a denouncement of the sin so as not to be complicit in the evil. It also served as a means of ensuring that the sin would not influence behavior. And finally, the denouncement was a powerful social deterrent.

Ancient Israel was a theocracy, so there was a strong overlap between the moral standards and the civil code, with God as arbiter of both. Not everyone today looks to God to define their morality, but whatever moral values are espoused by our legislators are reflected in our civil code. As laws relating to sexuality become increasingly lax, a temptation for the Christian is to strive for more morally conservative legislation by lobbying lawmakers and seeking other political means. Jesus did not call us to political activism. He has called us to co-labor with Him in the work of heart transformation. A Christian response to the decline of morality in society is not activism but evangelism.

Another challenge that presents itself in light of the fact that we do not live under a theocracy: How do we denounce sexual immorality in no uncertain terms so as to avoid its pernicious influence, while at the same time being winsome Christians? The words of Christ are instructive here: “ ‘And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye?’ ” (Matt. 7:3, 4).

“But,” you may say, “I’m not promiscuous like that person who is sleeping around as if they have no sense of self-worth.” Or you may say, “I don’t identify as LGBTQ+ so at least I’m heterosexual.” How about, “I’m always respectful of the other person’s wishes and make sure they have a good time. It’s not like I’m selfish.” In our own estimation, there is always a worse sinner than us.

If, however, we stopped measuring ourselves by the low standard of human frailty and saw ourselves in the light of the flawless life of Jesus Christ, how exceedingly sinful we would appear in our own sight. How close are we, in our sexual lives, to the purity of the standard God has for us? Guaranteed, we are all missing the mark. By just how much is determined by looking at Jesus. And when we look at Jesus, we will find that we have a great big plank in our eye that obstructs our view and our ability to see clearly the lives of others.

Perspective is the key to interacting with others in the appropriate manner. We must see ourselves for who we really are—sinful, broken, erring, weak beings. Then we must see others for who they really are—God’s creation that He is working tirelessly to win back to Himself.

inSpect

How do the following verses relate to the primary passage?

  • Genesis 3
  • Ezekiel 28:11–19
  • Revelation 12:1–9
  • Romans 3:9–26
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5

What other verses/promises come to mind in connection with living interconnected lives?

inVite

The Connector

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:1, 2). When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in Eden, they chose a life of separation from God. Unfortunately for humanity, apart from God there is no life because He is the life-giver. So God, in His mercy, granted a probationary life for humanity to choose to reconnect with God and live. But this probationary life is plagued with disconnectedness that can only be remedied by reconciliation with God.

Shortly after their sin, Adam and Eve realize that they are no longer the same. Whereas they came from the Creator’s hand naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25), they now find themselves scrambling for leaves to cover their shame (Gen. 3:7). Something fundamental shifted internally when they sinned, and they sensed they were no longer the persons they were created to be.

In the heartbreaking narration of the events that follow, they hide themselves from the presence of the One who gave them life (v. 8). The way God calls for them in verse 9 intimates that they would typically run to Him when they heard Him coming, so the fact that they were hiding was aberrant behavior. God’s disappointment and sadness is palpable as the free fellowship between Him and humanity is broken. “ ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ ” (v. 11). He had seen everything as it transpired, but even God seems to experience the incredulity of the painful new reality.

Adam, who had broken into poetry in gratitude to God at the sight of Eve (Gen. 2:23), now excoriates God and inculpates Eve for his misdeed. You can feel the warmth of affection between man and wife dissipate. In the beauty of a world freshly spoken into existence by the Creator, when God brought them together (v. 22) Adam and Eve could never have envisioned that they could possibly feel as disconnected as they now did.

Even humanity’s relationship with the rest of creation did not go unscathed. In her response to God’s cross-examination, Eve implicates the serpent (Gen. 3:13). Moreover, the ground is cursed for humanity’s sake (Gen. 3:17). Humanity was meant to nurture and protect the rest of God’s creation (Gen. 1:28), but at the introduction of sin, that relationship is broken.

Sin brought about an internal, spiritual, social, and natural disconnect within the individual, between humanity and God, among humanity, and with nature. We now struggle to reconcile our physical realities with our emotional reality. We fail to see the connection between our social and spiritual lives. Our existence, beginning in Genesis 3, has become fragmented.

In reconciling us to God, Christ’s ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18, 19) fuses all the disconnected elements of our lives back to God’s original design.

inSight

If Christ Is Abiding in the Heart

“Few realize that it is a duty to exercise control over the thoughts and imaginations. It is difficult to keep the undisciplined mind fixed upon profitable subjects. But if the thoughts are not properly employed, religion cannot flourish in the soul. The mind must be preoccupied with sacred and eternal things, or it will cherish trifling and superficial thoughts. Both the intellectual and the moral powers must be disciplined, and they will . . . improve by exercise.

“In order to understand this matter aright, we must remember that our hearts are naturally depraved, and we are unable of ourselves to pursue a right course. It is only by the grace of God, combined with the most earnest effort on our part, that we can gain the victory.

The intellect, as well as the heart, must be consecrated to the service of God. He has claims upon all there is of us. . . .” (Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1913), 544.)

“Few believe that humanity has sunk so low as it has or that it is so thoroughly bad, so desperately opposed to God, as it is. . . . When the mind is not under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Satan can mold it as he chooses. All the rational powers which he controls he will carnalize. He is directly opposed to God in his tastes, views, preferences, likes and dislikes, choice of things and pursuits; there is no relish for what God loves or approves, but a delight in those things which He despises. . . .

“If Christ is abiding in the heart, He will be in all our thoughts. Our deepest thoughts will be of Him, His love, His purity. He will fill all the chambers of the mind. Our affections will center about Jesus. All our hopes and expectations will be associated with Him.

To live the life we now live by faith in the Son of God, looking forward to and loving His appearing, will be the soul’s highest joy. He will be the crown of our rejoicing. . . .” (White, Letters and Manuscripts, Vol. 7, Letter 8, 1891.)

“Those who have trained the mind to delight in spiritual exercises are the ones who can be translated and not be overwhelmed with the purity and transcendent glory of heaven.” (White, Letters and Manuscripts, Vol. 1, Letter 17, 1868.)

“Through Christ, restoration as well as reconciliation is provided for man. The gulf that was made by sin has been spanned by the cross of Calvary. A full, complete ransom has been paid by Jesus, by virtue of which the sinner is pardoned and the justice of the law is maintained. All who believe that Christ is the atoning sacrifice may come and receive pardon for their sins; for through the merit of Christ, communication has been opened between God and man. God can accept me as His child, and I can claim Him and rejoice in Him as my loving Father. We must center our hopes of heaven upon Christ alone, because He is our Substitute and Surety. We have transgressed the law of God, and by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. The best efforts that man in his own strength can make are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has transgressed; but through faith in Christ he may claim the righteousness of the Son of God as all-sufficient. Christ satisfied the demands of the law in His human nature. He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement for him, "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ, and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.

“He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. Man cannot be saved without obedience, but his works should not be of himself; Christ should work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. If a man could save himself by his own works, he might have something in himself in which to rejoice. The effort that man makes in his own strength to obtain salvation is represented by the offering of Cain. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God. When we seek to gain heaven through the merits of Christ, the soul makes progress. ‘Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,’ we may go on from strength to strength, from victory to victory; for through Christ the grace of God has worked out our complete salvation.” (Ellen G. White, “Spiritual Weakness Inexcusable,” Review and Herald, July 1, 1890.)

“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” (White, The Great Controversy, 678.)

inQuire

  • How have your views of God affected your ideas of sexuality and vice versa?
  • Are there any benefits to compartmentalizing your life?
  • How do you avoid compartmentalizing Jesus out of certain areas of your life?
  • How should the church treat sex offenders, particularly those who have harmed children?
  • What support can the church offer to those who have been sexually abused?
  • How can the church create a sexually safe environment?
  • In what areas of your life have you discovered a disconnect that needs remedying?