Mercy for the Broken
The issue of sexual immorality is a difficult one to speak about in a corporate worship service and that for a list of reasons. First, it is awkward because of the differing ages and positions of life of people in the average Sunday Morning church audience. Sex is a sensitive topic and for differing reasons. Adults have usually reached a different level of understanding of sexual matters and can bear a discussion of a more graphic nature while that same discussion might be completely inappropriate for the average teen. Younger children can be introduced to the subject prematurely and some older folks may not feel comfortable talking about it at all.
There is also the consideration for those who are guests to the services. It is imperative that the preacher consider those visiting in every sermon. The culture bears a very different message about sexuality, what is acceptable and what isn’t as well as how one might express or hold to a different opinion regarding what is acceptable. Secular visitors may struggle when hearing a Biblical exposition on human sexuality. Any effort to communicate Biblical truth around this topic might well be seen as judgmental, hateful and condemning of one segment of the population or another.
Another reason sexual immorality is a difficult topic to tackle is that it is an area filled with shame for many. We live in a sexually broken society. Our culture has ventured far from God’s design for human sexuality and as a result has been plunged into sea of shame; one from which few will remain unscathed. Anytime one speaks of sexual immorality from a Biblical perspective there are mature Christians, new Christians, seekers and unbelievers who struggle with guilt and shame produced by abuse and/or mistakes from the past. Some are confronted with necessary changes in their current walk of life and those changes are never easy.
Let me address those three reasons briefly here. First human sexuality is an issue that receives significant focus in our culture with little respect for those who are innocents. Children are learning about sex from peers at a younger age than ever. I personally believe as the authors of scripture also believed that it is important to have those discussions in the church, even if awkwardly, so that God’s people are hearing God’s word on the topic. It is a topic that receives significant attention in both the old and new testaments. The old testament is especially graphic regarding God’s design for human sexuality and the boundaries he places around it giving it context in which to make it pure, sacred and holy. It is up to the church to remind Christians of God’s design and the boundaries he put in place. We want to be sensitive to a culture that is clearly being carried by a wave of immorality toward the acceptance of a deeper and darker brand of hedonism but we also bear the burden upholding God's will for God's people.
In regards to the second issue, I believe it is worth the risk of “turning off” people from the culture in favor of speaking plainly about God’s design and his intent for human sexuality. I think what is spoken should clearly be labeled as part of the ‘cost of discipleship’ being that when one chooses to follow Christ, they also choose his standards for behavior and his definition of right and wrong.
Finally, I also believe that messages about sexual immorality should be heavily seasoned with the message of grace. Because we are surrounded by a sex-saturated society we must seek to understand that just being a part of that culture is in and of itself wounding. Those who are sexually wounded are far more vulnerable to temptation to stray from God’s plan for sexual expression. The church must be a place where the broken can come for help. We cannot stand at the door with measuring stick for sexual purity requiring certain standards be met before those seeking God’s presence can come in. The church must be a place where the wounded find healing and where those struggling can find peace from their struggles not judgement for them.
If we are to be the church Jesus built, one of our defining qualities must be to well manage the tension between holding disciples to the highest standards of sexual purity while offering mercy for the broken, healing for the wounded and help for the struggling.