JESUS ON SEXUALITY
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, August 2, 2020.
JESUS ON SEXUALITY
Last week, I laid the groundwork for today's ideas when I recommended learning and applying the teachings of Jesus. Christians are followers of Jesus so it makes sense to know and understand what he said and then to make it part of our lifestyle.
We are in a series called Human, exploring what it means to be a person made in the image of God. Today, I want us to focus on Jesus' teaching about human sexuality and gender.
Before we get started I need to say two things:
This is a mere introduction to the biblical teaching on human sexuality. It is a large and complex subject and it would take hours to discuss it fully. I hope to get us started and then, if you're interested, you can explore more on your own. If you need resource suggestions, let me know.
Also, I have tried really hard to be gentle and respectful in my comments. I'm not on a campaign against anyone, but I realize that Jesus' teachings can cause friction. If you think I'm wrong or I've misrepresented Jesus, please let me know. My motives are good: I want the best for you and I believe that Jesus' design for marriage and sexuality is intended to help us, not hurt us.
OK. All that said, let's dive in. What did Jesus teach about human sexuality and gender? We find an answer in Matthew 19. Let's take a moment and set the scene to give his teaching some context.
SETTING THE SCENE
Jesus was transitioning from his ministry base in Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and setting out on a journey south to Jerusalem. Jesus crossed to the east side of the Jordan River and walked down the valley to the area known as Judea .
A group of pious Jews known as Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about divorce. This was a hotly debated topic in their day. Some rabbis taught only one ground for divorce: the wife's unfaithfulness. Yes, that's right, a woman could not divorce her husband on any grounds.
The second group of rabbis taught that a husband could send his wife away for any reason at all; such, as for example, being a lousy cook.
So, these Pharisees wanted to know which side of the argument Jesus supported. The Pharisees asked him specifically about divorce, but Jesus didn't dive straight into the debate. First, he laid a foundation by explaining God's design for marriage and sexuality. That's where we're focused today.
Let's read Matthew 19:1-6.
JESUS ON SEXUALITY
(Matthew 19:1-6) When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven't you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
As a first century Jewish rabbi, Jesus was immersed in the Old Testament Scriptures. So, it's not surprising that he quoted from and affirmed God's ancient design for marriage and sexuality first revealed in Genesis, chapters one and two.
What is a surprise is that his teaching challenged these religious leaders' ideas, especially the disdainful way they treated their wives. This is a powerful reminder that we all have struggles in this area. As I've mentioned several times in this series, sin has infected everything. As a result, we are all sexually broken, imperfect, and needing to make changes.
Let's be humble about our struggles and call on God to forgive and help us. No one is in a position to point fingers or criticize or condemn anyone else. OK. What did Jesus teach about human sexuality?
HUMAN SEXUALITY ACCORDING TO JESUS
Jesus affirmed four major ideas:
1. GOD HAS A DESIGN FOR HUMAN SEXUALITY- verse 4.
Verse 4, Jesus said, “Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator ..."
Here, Jesus reminds us that he is teaching God's design for marriage and sexuality. He points back to Genesis and even quotes from chapter two.
God has an original design for human sexuality and he has never revised it. Why not? Because the Creator knows his creatures and what will work best and make them happiest. Jesus was implying that it's still a good plan that we should follow.
The second idea is ...
2. GENDER IS BIOLOGICAL AND OBJECTIVE - verse 5.
Verse 5: "the Creator ‘made them male and female.’"
This is a statement about gender identity. God's design is simple: biological sex determines gender and gender determines gender identity. God designed us so that our physical, biological, chromosomal, characteristics make it clear whether we are male or female. Until recently, that was considered self-evident.
Today, however, political and social activists whose ideas are rooted in post-modernism and deconstructionism have sown confusion about gender. They claim that gender is a social construct, so we have to ignore our anatomy and choose our own gender identity according to our subjective feelings and personal sense of self. That has led so many people, especially teenagers, into confusion, hurt, and pain.
Jesus' wants us to experience clarity and healing. Every human is either male or female and which we are is almost always clear and obvious. It's about biology, not choice. Yes, some people will still struggle over gender, but, let's not make things worse by talking about social constructs.
The next idea in Jesus' teaching is ...
3. SEXUAL ACTIVITY IS ONLY FOR MARRIAGE - verses 5.
Verse 5: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife."
Leaving and uniting are a way to speak about marriage. It refers to a formal covenant ceremony done in front of witnesses through an exchange of promises or vows. The prophet Malachi refers to marriage as a covenant:
(Malachi 2:14) ... the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
The vows unite the couple at the deepest level and that unity is expressed in sexual intimacy. The vows provide the safety that partners need in order to trust each other.
Jesus' teaching places boundaries on our sexual activity. It rules out casual sexual encounters, hookups, pornography, as well as sex or living together before the exchange of vows. In his other teaching, Jesus calls all of this "sexual immorality" (Mark 7:20-23) because it falls outside God's design.
Skipping the wedding and just moving in together is less than the best idea. There will be days when love grows cold, when hearts and eyes wander, and the only thing keeping the couple together is their commitment to those vows.
The fourth idea that Jesus taught about human sexuality is ...
4. THE BEST SEX IS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN - verses 5-6.
Verses 5-6 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh."
Jesus was referring to physical sexual union when he said, "the two will become one flesh." So, to summarize Jesus: "God made humans male and female so that they could enjoy sexual intimacy as husband and wife."
This is why homosexual sex falls outside of God's design. So does any sex outside of one man and one woman in marriage (adultery, polyamory, polygamy, incest, bestiality).
Today, our culture talks about sexual orientation or identity. These are terms that shift sex from a verb (what I do) to a noun (who I am). Sexual orientation is now a matter of personal identity; we are oriented or framed by our sexual desires or activity. That's why we get so upset when a teacher like me says anything against homosexuality. It's perceived as an attack on who a person is rather than a comment on what a person does.
Jesus did not support this concept of identity determined by sexual activity or desire. In Matthew 19, he makes it clear that our identity is based in our creation by God. Jesus roots identity in something objective and unchanging. No one can take it from us. Being made by God in his image means that we all possess worth and dignity; we are all precious to God.
JESUS CALLS FOR COMMITMENT
Well, I feel kinda weird; I've never said sex or sexuality so many times in such a short space of time.
Jesus covered a lot of ground in his brief teaching. How do you plan to respond to what he said?
Before you answer that, let me just say that I love you and I am here to support and encourage you as you orient your life to Jesus. I'm not here to criticize or condemn you. I am a fellow sinner and struggler. I need Jesus to be my Savior just as much as anyone does.
OK. Back to the question. What do you plan to do with Jesus' teaching?
You can, of course, ignore or reject what he said, but then you cannot claim to follow him. No, you're following your own heart or you're following the shifting winds of our culture, but you've decided not to follow Jesus. We don't get to pick and choose what parts of his teaching are acceptable to us.
Jesus does not want us to wrestle with his teaching. No, he wants us to wrestle with our hearts and to ask why we don't want to apply his ideas. He wants us to die to our natural self, to our reputation, to fitting in, to approval, and to godless thinking or desires:
(Luke 9:23) Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
All of us fall short. None of us apply Jesus' teachings perfectly. We're all prone to wander. We're like water, we follow the path of least resistance. So, this is a good moment to admit to the Lord that we are broken by sin and we need a Savior every day.
Why not take that moment now. Admit your need for forgiveness and cleansing. Ask for more grace so you can follow Jesus' teachings.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about the four ideas? Is there one thing in particular where you need to make some changes? You can pray about that right now. You could also reach out to me or another Christian to ask for help and support.