Posted by: ritagone | April 13, 2011

Shhhh! Sexual immorality!

The other night, I was the teacher for our Growth Group as we progressed through the book of 1 Thessalonians. (We rotate volunteer teachers in this group.)  It fell to me to talk about chapter 4:1-8.  Not an easy little selection of verses by any means, particularly given the contemporary culture in which you and I live, because it deals with sexual immorality.  Now, no one likes to talk about sexual immorality.  It’s too difficult, too amorphous, too hard to get a handle on.  Or too controversial and too threatening.  You don’t want to offend.  To put people off.  Or to come off as too prudish or legalistic or old-fashioned or out-of-date or uncool or…

You name it.

Talking about sexual immorality is just too risky.

But there it was, my topic.  I could just pretend it wasn’t there and skirt the issue, but then, we’d all be staring at one another that evening with not much to say, because that’s what the entire passage was about.  And it’s way too important a topic to ignore.  It might not seem to be an issue for those in that particular group, people in their sixties and seventies, because, come on, those people don’t have sex anyway, do they?  (I’ll leave the sarcasm or irony detection to the reader.)

But let’s be realistic: this topic is all around us, unavoidable, in our faces.  You can’t watch a movie today or even a television show without being confronted with it.  And so we must talk about it.  And if we must, let’s be intelligent about it.  Let’s understand what’s at stake and not be afraid to speak the truth with love and grace abounding.

Our world and our culture are so awash in sexuality that it’s sometimes hard to know anymore how to proceed.  But when we read a verse like 1 Thessalonians 4:3, which says to us, plainly and clearly: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality,” I’m not sure how much clearer Scripture can be than that.  You can disobey it, you can ignore it, you can say it’s for another time and place, but you surely can’t say that you don’t understand what Paul is saying in the text here.

In a world, then, that tells our young people (and our older ones as well) that if it feels good, go ahead and do it, no harm, no foul, here’s a passage that is truly calling followers of Jesus to be nothing less than revolutionary, counter-cultural in every magnificent sense of the word.  I can’t think of a better way to represent our Lord than to say, “Not me!  I’m not going to follow the culture even – or especially – in its sexual morals.  I’m going to be cut from a different cloth here, take a stand because my Saviour tells me that I’m worth it.”  I’m going to choose to actually obey what the words of the Bible tell me and live a different kind of life in 2011.

A friend of Rob Fairbanks has become a friend of mine over the recent months via email and a few short in person visits when I’ve been in the Spokane area.  She recently wrote about a process called back-mapping in which you choose a path in life and then work backwards from there, making decisions that will ultimately get you to that end result.

What if we could teach the value of this process to our young people, for example, in terms of their sexuality so that they could see the bigger picture, claim a revolutionary lifestyle that defies the culture around them, and backmap a relationship that is built on faithfulness and trust, then work forward to procure that life and end result?  Wouldn’t that be a way to present an alternative to sexual immorality that is rich and overflowing with promise and plenty instead of penalty?  If you wanted, then, to end up with a healthy, long, fruitful, faithful marriage 40 or 50 years down the road, if that is your end result, what would it take starting today to get to that goal?  That’s back-mapping, and it’s a brilliant way to strategize so that you’re not just going through life willy-nilly with no game plan.

I look at my husband, who spent almost 30 years of his career in the television business around actresses who most likely were willing to offer much more than a smile to further their careers.  But unknowingly we had backmapped our lives together, because we wanted what we now have, 41 years later, a marriage built on trust and faithfulness, and so he didn’t succumb to those temptations, he came home every night to his wife and children and so the trust increased and increased year by year.  And that’s why we’re still here ready to celebrate our 41st anniversary this year.  In Russia, where we helped with a marriage retreat last October, most if not all of the couples who attended the conference had no exposure to parents who were still married after 41 years.  Most of them had parents who were divorced.  No one had learned to backmap or plan ahead or make the commitment to abstain from sexual immorality.  The result was marital disaster, seeping into the next generation and wrecking havoc.

This is a big issue, bigger than reading a few paragraphs on a Wednesday morning or afternoon.  If you’re a parent, you’re probably dealing with it or will deal with it soon.  Or maybe you have already had your heart broken and are on the mend, because Jesus certainly can and does mend the heartbreak that can result from the kind of sin Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.  Or maybe you’re the adult who found yourself in a place you never thought you’d be, shaken to the core by behavior that surprised you.  Or maybe you were caught offguard by a spouse’s betrayal, a betrayal of a marriage vow that you thought was inviolable.  Or you’re walking through something similar with a good friend.

The sexual liberation over the last few decades hasn’t freed us; it has just expanded the people who are being damaged all around us: children, grandchildren, friends, church affiliations.

So today, as you read this, pray.  That’s one thing God’s people can do.  It’s a good start. If you know someone who is getting dangerously close to violating Paul’s warnings in 1 Thessalonians 4, pray for them.  Pray for yourself, pray for your spouse, pray for your pastors and leaders, that these temptations not lead those we love and respect astray.  Pray fervently and pray often.

Rule #1: You are a warrior in a battle.

Never for one moment forget that!



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