Jesus on sex

The demonstrators outside the Supreme Court this week held aloft a great number of signs. Inside the great building, nine justices were hearing arguments over the definition of marriage.

Naturally, some of the signs – on both sides of the sidewalk – were pretty rude.

But one was rather intriguing. It said something to the effect of, “What Jesus said about homosexuality:”

The rest of the sign was blank.

And true enough, as far as we know, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. He never discussed gay marriage. He never heard the term “gay.”

Jesus also never addressed rape, incest or watching the Victoria’s Secret “fashion” show.

Just because Jesus didn’t speak specifically to a subject does not allow anyone to put words in his mouth, or to decide what he would or would not bless. In fact, I would – and do – tread with great caution before announcing what Jesus believes about anything.

Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t silent on the subject of sex. Study the content and culture surrounding the actual words of Jesus, and a number of things become blatantly obvious.

Here are 10 things Jesus said about sexuality and relationships

1. Jesus affirmed a one-man, one-woman definition of marriage. When asked about divorce, Jesus took his questioners back to basics: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”[1]

2. Jesus affirmed the existing attitude that all sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”[2]

It is impossible to read the Bible and not read repeated condemnation for adultery and homosexuality. Supporters of same-sex relationships like to point out that Jesus never said anything specifically about homosexuality. In a culture that prescribed the death penalty for those involved in adultery or homosexuality, one might think that Jesus would speak up in defense of those persecuted for such activity – if he wasn’t bothered by it. But instead, Jesus affirmed the incredibly strict standards of his day. Not even the smallest detail of the Law would be removed!

3. Jesus raised the bar of sexual morality. Ask Bill Clinton about adultery, and he’ll exclude anything that didn’t include sexual intercourse in the Oval Office. Ask Jesus about adultery, and he’ll say this: “… Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[3] While on the subject, Jesus used exaggerated illustrations to say, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away! It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”[4] Whether or not you ever gouge out an eye, the lesson is clear. Jesus wants us to go to extreme measures to avoid sexual immorality.

4. Jesus affirmed and honored women. In a culture that treated women as second-class citizens, Jesus treated women as people of great value. He spoke to men and women with equal respect, something that shocked his disciples.[5] He treated all people with dignity. Little surprise that women were the last to leave the scene of the crucifixion, and the first to return to the tomb on Sunday morning!

5. Jesus unconditionally loved people who were obviously engaged in immoral sexual activity. This is something all of us love about Jesus. He accepts us just as we are, loving us in our worst moments as much as he loves us on our best days. Once, a woman was caught in the “very act of adultery.” Jesus saved her life and then conversed with her as if she were a person of unquestioned morals.[6] On another occasion, he had a long and patient conversation with a woman who was already working on Husband No. 6.[7] His acceptance was such a transformative encounter, she re-engaged with her community as a person of worth to everyone.

6. Jesus challenged those who had been forgiven to make better choices in the future. To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”[8] Such an instruction is in perfect harmony with all of Jesus’ teaching. He often would say, “You have heard it said …” and then raise the bar of morality on whatever subject was being discussed. Every culture has a natural pull to loosen the bonds of morality. The teaching of Jesus always call us to a higher standard of morality.

7. Jesus honored single people. Many of Jesus’ closest friends were single. And lest we forget, Jesus was single.

8. Jesus actually spoke of some who were “born that way!” Jesus said, “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”[9]

A eunuch is someone who is either incapable of sexual activity (often caused by castration, but also by birth defect), or someone who chooses not to be involved in sexual activity. Throughout the Bible, eunuchs are spoken of as a matter of reality, and never mentioned in terms of being sexually immoral. In fact, that’s the point. They did not participate in sexual activity.

9. Jesus was angered by divorce, but acknowledged the pain of sexual sin inside a marriage. Divorce was common in the culture Jesus knew, and he was repeatedly questioned about it. On one occasion, Jesus answered, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”[10]

Different translations will use words like “fornication,” “adultery” and “sexual sin” for the exception Jesus mentions, all trying to translate the Greek word “porneias.” That’s the root word of “pornography,” and the point is clear. All sexual sin is very harmful to a marriage. Interesting that Jesus did not require divorce as a response for sexual sin. He seems to be saying all divorce is off limits, though when sexual sin happens by one or both of the spouses, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see the marriage dissolve.

As an important side note, the followers of Jesus described successful marriage as one in which both husband and wife submitted to one another.[11] This was a teaching so shocking, it had to have come from a direct teaching of Jesus, both in word and in the way he treated women.

10. Jesus knows you can’t change on your own. Make all the New Year’s resolutions you want, but you won’t put sexual temptation to bed. Weep on the morning after, and promise God you’ll never do (fill in the blank here) again. But you already know it’s only a matter of time before you’ll fail all those good intentions. Jesus knows what you know. You can’t change on your own. That’s why he invites you to a brand-new start. He called it an invitation to be “born again.”[12] Each of us, on our own, will soon become a tangled mess of confused morals, suffering the pain of guilt and other distressing consequences. The only hope for train wrecks like us is to start completely over with a baptism of grace and a brand-new set of moral guidelines.

“Go,” the Rescuer still says, “and leave your life of sin.”

 

[1] Matthew 19:4-6.

[2] Matthew 5:17-18.

[3] Matthew 5:28.

[4] Matthew 5:29-30.

[5] Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. (John 4:27)

[6] John 8:1-11.

[7] John 4:1-42.

[8] John 8:11.

[9] Matthew 19:12.

[10] Matthew 5:31-32.

[11] Ephesians 5:31.

[12] John 3:3.