Monday, February 11, 2008

The Pain of Pornei

We learned on Sunday that the Greek word for sexual immorality is "porneia". Surrounding this whole topic of sex is so much pain, confusion and disillusionment. It makes things very complex.

I've already had a few conversations with people involved in the pain of pornei and I'm so thankful to hear from them. I just wrote to one thanking them for having the courage to talk to me. I wrote...

....what so often happens in Bible teaching is that we lay out "the truth" and everyone who doesn't fit with the truth lays there bleeding and feeling like no one understands their situation. But Paul talked about "truth and grace". As a biblical community we have to find the balance of the two...I need to preach with an awareness of the pain that people endure around this topic.

I mention this as a bit of a caution to us to tread lightly around sensitive issues like sex. I find it very difficult to teach on what the Bible says because many of the biblical texts regarding sexual immorality are addressing extreme cases of orgy and temple prostitution prevalent in ancient Greek culture. The passions that drive people into these settings are more obviously rooted in pure greed and selfishness. So the Bible attacks the people engaged in this lifestyle aggressively and understandably so.

But if we apply those scriptures with equal weight to people in our culture today, it might not be fair. In fact, people today often push back on biblical teaching about sexual immorality because they don't like being thrown in the same camp as these people. I can't blame them.

So we need to carefully tease the underlying principles of sexual purity from the Bible that we can apply today without embracing the full condemnation that was targeted at people steeped in carnal idol worship.

It's the complexity of this topic that causes the wide range of teaching on sex throughout all churches. If you apply the texts to all people without taking into consideration the cultural differences, you'll wound a lot of people, implying that their relationships are all about selfish sex and devoid of any self sacrificing love. But if you throw up your hands and say, "The biblical text has nothing to say to our culture today" then I think you lose sight of a very central theme throughout the Bible and that is holiness; the idea that as God's people we are set apart to live a life for God and not ourselves. And holiness requires that we sacrifice our desires at times to please God.

All this to say that, as with any sermon I preach, let's wrestle with these things together and not polarize into camps. We can learn from each other as we all share from each other's perspective. I want to stimulate thought and discussion, not only with each other but with God. We may not all agree but we'll be better for having had the conversation. So, let's be careful with one another, understanding that for some the topic of sex is very sensitive and painful. I don't want to drive anyone away or "into the closet" because they don't feel like anyone wants to hear their side.

I invite your input, here or directly through email or one on one conversation.