We talk a lot about sex in the conservative church, mostly of the homosexual variety. In fact, my church recently did “the sex sermon” and none of the texts referenced adultery, fornication, lust, or any of the majority of the ways that God says people are prone to pervert what was intended to be a good thing.
So imagine my surprise when I was reading in Leviticus 18 and got into God’s mind on the subject. God has a lot to say. Here’s how it weighs in, on sheer volume:
- Verses about kinds of sexual relations to avoid: 17 (20 different kinds of relationships)
- Verses detailing adulterous and incestuous relations to avoid: 13 (16 relationships)
- Verses detailing homosexual or other sexual relations to avoid: 3 (4 relationships)
- Verses detailing idolatrous sacrifices to avoid: 1
God Details Sexual Sins: No Loopholes!
God seems fairly well convinced that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” are not clear enough for us to understand. (Or God just knows how good we are at looking for loopholes!) So here’s the list of sexual sins God lays out, being perfectly clear, in Leviticus 18.
Don’t have sex with:
- Your mother
- Your stepmother
- Your sister
- Your stepsister
- Your niece by your son
- Your niece by your daughter
- Your stepsister (again)
- Your paternal aunt
- Your maternal aunt
- Your uncle’s wife (a different paternal aunt)
- Your daughter-in-law
- Your sister-in-law
- Both a woman and her daughter
- Both a woman and her niece by her son
- Both a woman and her niece by her daughter
- Both a woman and her sister while the woman is living
- Any woman during her menses
- Your neighbor’s wife
- Any man with any man
- Anyone with an animal
God also adjures Israel not to give children to the foreign God Molek. (In other passages, God defines rape/fornication and the penalties for it.)
That’s a pretty hefty list. What is most remarkable to me is how little of it focuses on the sins we are prone to discuss.
Our church obsession with homosexual sex would seem to represent our readiness to look for a law, instead of Christian morality, to manage our own houses. Otherwise, as people of the Book, wouldn’t we be more balanced in our discussion of this issue? In particular, wouldn’t we be talking more about adultery and incest?
The most recent statistics I can find on adultery are from the mid-1980s. Apparently, since adultery laws fell to no-fault divorce laws, no one has found it worthwhile to “keep score” on this subject. But at that time, more than half of all men and 1 in 5 women admitted to cheating on their spouses.
Wouldn’t this have a much bigger impact on families than homosexuality, which affects, by the most generous statistics, 1 in 10 adults? If so, why isn’t it a more frequent sermon topic?
We’re Fighting with Ballots, Not By Spirit
It seems to me that the answer might be: we feel like we lost the political battle on adultery, so now we’re fighting the political battle on homosexuality.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying Christians should not fight political battles.
But Daniel managed to fight moral battles in a culture where the law was entirely against him. Christians in Corinth fought moral battles in a culture where they had no laws to support and buttress their faith.
We have some gigantic moral battles related to heterosexual sin right within our own congregations. Shouldn’t we be training God’s people to fight our own moral battles successfully in the power of God’s Spirit instead of demanding that laws be written to spare us from needing moral fiber?
Satirist Mark Twain considered the question of what can happen to Christians who fence themselves away from challenges in a short story, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. While no one can agree with the “prayer” he suggests, he gives a fascinating fictional picture of what can happen when Christians depend on the community and its rules, instead of God, for their moral strength.