Your View of Sex—What Difference Does It Make?
1-3. (a) How does the Bible show that sexual relations between man and woman have divine approval? (b) Would it be for a person’s good to indulge in unrestrained use of his sexual powers?
THERE are people who have the opinion that the Bible disapproves of everything that has to do with sex. That, of course, is not what the Bible itself says. After telling about God’s creation of the first man and woman, the Bible goes on to relate: “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.’”—Genesis 1:27, 28.
2 Sexual relations between man and woman therefore have divine approval. But are they to be indulged in without limitations? Would such a view result in our gaining the greatest enjoyment from life? Would it bring true peace and security for ourselves and for those around us?
3 Sex is just as subject to misuse as are other human functions. Eating is good and essential for life; yet gluttony can impair health and shorten one’s life. Sleep, too, is vital; but an excess robs life of accomplishment, and can even weaken the body. Just as real enjoyment of life does not result from gluttony, drunkenness and laziness, so, too, it does not result from unrestrained use of one’s sexual powers. Human experience for thousands of years bears testimony to this. Must we find it out through bitter personal experience? There is a better way.
4. What should motivate us to uphold God’s standards regarding sex?
4 God’s Word gives a balanced view of sex that will protect our happiness now and in the future. Yet, not just for the sake of our own peace and security, but, more importantly, out of respect for our Creator, we should seek to learn and hold to his standards concerning the use of these faculties with which he endowed mankind. Do we truly place ourselves on his side in the issue involving the rightness of his rulership? Then in this matter too we will gladly submit to his superior wisdom and authority as the Universal Sovereign.—Jeremiah 10:10, 23.
KEEPING MARRIAGE HONORABLE AMONG ALL
5. What does the Bible say about engaging in any sexual relations outside of marriage?
5 The Bible exhorts: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) So, God is against persons who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. This is consistent with the fact that, when providing the first man with a mate, God showed that his will was for a man and his wife to become “one flesh,” in a lasting bond of union. Some four thousand years later, God’s Son showed that his Father had not abandoned this standard. (Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:4-6) But is such a standard needlessly restrictive? Does it deprive us of something good? Let us see.
6. What shows that God’s law against adultery is for our good?
6 Adultery violates the divine standard, and Jehovah God promises to become “a speedy witness” in judgment against adulterers. (Malachi 3:5) The bad fruits of sexual relations with someone outside the marriage union emphasize the wisdom of God’s law. Adultery produces broken confidence and distrust. It causes insecurity and undermines marital peace. The resulting bitterness and heartbreak often lead to divorce. Children suffer as they see their family torn apart. Considering these things, do you not agree that God’s condemnation of adultery is for our good? His Word shows that anyone having genuine love of neighbor will not commit adultery.—Romans 13:8-10.
7. Explain what is meant by “fornication,” as referred to in the Bible.
7 As we have observed, the Bible also expresses God’s judgment against fornicators. Exactly what is “fornication”? While the Bible’s use of this term can include sexual intercourse on the part of unmarried persons as well as adultery, it has a much broader meaning. The word for “fornication” that is used when recording the statements of Jesus and his disciples is the Greek word por·neiʹa. It is drawn from the same root word as the modern term “pornography.” Por·neiʹa was used in Bible times to describe all forms of unlawful sexual intercourse. (The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, by Moulton and Milligan) It includes not only ordinary sexual relations between persons who are not married to each other, but also perverted sexual relations between such persons. Thus another reference work states that por·neiʹa “can also be ‘unnatural vice,’ . . . sodomy.”36
8. For what strong reasons did the apostle Paul urge Christians to “abstain from fornication”?
8 When urging his Christian brothers to “abstain from fornication,” the apostle Paul gave strong reasons for their doing so, saying: “That no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah is one who exacts punishment for all these things . . . For God called us, not with allowance for uncleanness . . . So, then, the man that shows disregard is disregarding, not man, but God.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.
9, 10. (a) Frequently, why does a person hold back from legal marriage, even though living with someone of the opposite sex? (b) Even if the fornication is by mutual agreement, how is there ‘harm and an encroaching on the rights of others’?
9 One committing fornication does indeed ‘harm and encroach upon the rights of others.’ This is true, for example, of persons who live with one of the opposite sex without benefit of legal marriage. Why do they do it? Frequently it is so that they can abandon the union whenever they please. They do not give their partner in such an arrangement any of the security that responsible marriage ought to bring. But what if both persons engage in fornication willingly, with mutual agreement? Are they still ‘harming and encroaching on the rights of others’? Yes, definitely so.
10 For one thing, anyone participating in fornication shares in damaging the other person’s conscience as well as any clean standing with God. The fornicator also destroys the other person’s opportunity to enter marriage with a clean start. He likely brings disrespect, reproach and distress on members of the other person’s family, as well as his own. He may also endanger the mental, emotional and physical health of the other person. Dread venereal diseases are frequently linked with such sexual immorality. While the guilt for any such harm rests most heavily on the one who promoted the fornication, nevertheless, both parties share in that guilt.
11. Why is there no reason for anyone to believe that God will condone fornication?
11 Passionate desire may cause persons to choose to blind themselves to these harms. But do you believe that God, in his righteousness, will pass over or condone such callous disregard for the rights of others? God’s Word calls for loving one’s neighbor as oneself and for ‘honoring,’ not debasing or repudiating, his sacred marriage arrangement.—Matthew 22:39; Hebrews 13:4.
12. (a) What shows God’s view of homosexuality? (b) Against what does God’s law forbidding homosexuality protect us?
12 What of homosexuality? As we have seen, this practice is covered by the word por·neiʹa (“fornication”), used by Jesus and his disciples. The disciple Jude used that word when referring to the unnatural sex acts of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 7) Homosexuality there caused degradation that produced a loud “cry of complaint” and led to God’s destruction of those cities and their inhabitants. (Genesis 18:20; 19:23, 24) Has God’s view changed since then? No. First Corinthians 6:9, 10, for example, lists “men who lie with men” among those who, if continuing such a practice, will not inherit God’s kingdom. Also, describing the results to persons who ‘dishonor their bodies in uncleanness,’ going after “flesh for unnatural use,” the apostle Paul writes that they “became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.” (Romans 1:24, 27) Not only do such persons fall under God’s condemnation. They also receive a “recompense” of mental and physical corruption. Today, for example, there is much syphilis among homosexuals. The high standard set out in God’s Word, rather than depriving us of something good, protects us against such harm.
ACCEPTING GOD’S VIEW OF DIVORCE
13. How serious is the matter of faithfulness to one’s marriage vows?
13 “I hate divorce.” That is the way Jehovah God expressed his strong feeling when reproving those who ‘dealt treacherously’ with their marriage mates. (Malachi 2:14-16, Revised Standard Version) His Word supplies abundant counsel to aid persons to make a success of marriage and to avoid the bitterness of divorce. It also makes clear that God views faithfulness to one’s marriage vows as a sacred responsibility.
14, 15. (a) What is the only proper basis for divorce? (b) Does such “fornication” automatically break the marriage tie? (c) Under what circumstances is remarriage allowable?
14 This is emphasized by the fact that he acknowledges only one proper basis for divorce. His Son showed what this is: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [por·neiʹa], and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9; 5:32) Por·neiʹa, as we have seen, refers to all immoral sexual intercourse outside of marriage, whether natural or unnatural.
15 If one’s mate becomes guilty of such “fornication” today, does this automatically break the marriage tie? No, the innocent mate can decide whether to forgive or not. Where divorce is decided upon, the Christian’s recognition of the proper authority of secular government will cause him to dissolve the marriage legally, doing so on a truthful, legal basis. (Romans 13:1, 2) When the proceedings are finalized, remarriage is allowable. But the Scriptures counsel that any such marriage should be only to another Christian, one who is really “in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 7:39.
16. In lands where secular law does not allow for divorce on any basis whatsoever, how do Jehovah’s Christian witnesses show due respect for God’s law on the matter?
16 What if the laws of a land do not allow any divorce, even on the ground of sexual immorality? An innocent mate in such case might be able to obtain a divorce in a country where divorce is permitted. Circumstances, of course, may not make this possible. But some form of legal separation may be available in one’s own country and could then be sought. Whichever the case, the innocent mate could separate from the guilty one and present definite proof of Scriptural grounds for divorce to the elders who serve in a judicial capacity in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Then if that one were later to decide to take another mate, the congregation would not act to remove him as an adulterer from the congregation, provided a written statement is filed with the congregation. This statement must contain a vow of faithfulness to the present mate and agreement to obtain a legal marriage certificate if the estranged legal mate should die. Nevertheless, the individual would have to face whatever consequences this might result in for him as far as the world outside the congregation is concerned. For the world does not generally recognize that God’s law is superior to human laws and that such human laws have only relative authority.—Compare Acts 5:29.
WISELY AVOIDING ALL UNCLEANNESS AND SEXUAL GREED
17. From the Scriptures, explain the proper place that sexual relations have in the lives of married persons.
17 Sexual relations plainly have a proper place in the lives of married persons. God provided this as the means by which children would be produced, as also a source of pleasurable satisfaction to the parents. (Genesis 9:1; Proverbs 5:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5) Nevertheless, he warned against abusing this gift.
18, 19. (a) Why is the practice of masturbation or self-abuse not proper for a Christian? (b) What can aid a person to avoid such a practice?
18 Because of the emphasis placed on sex in modern society, many young folks find that their desire for sexual satisfaction is aroused even before they are in position to marry. As a result, some of them seek pleasure through self-stimulation of their sexual parts. This is masturbation or self-abuse. Is it a proper or wise thing to do?
19 The Scriptures counsel: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness‘.” (Colossians 3:5) Is one who practices masturbation ‘deadening his body members as respects sexual appetite’? To the contrary, he is stimulating the sexual appetite. He develops a craving for activity that is not yet proper for him, so he satisfies the craving in an unclean way. (Ephesians 4:19) The Bible urges that one avoid the kind of thinking and conduct that leads to such problems, that he replace it with wholesome activity, and that he cultivate self-control. (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:22, 23) When earnest effort is put forth to do this, such self-abuse can be avoided, with benefits mentally, emotionally and spiritually to the individual.
20. What shows that it would not be proper for husband and wife to throw off all restraint in their sexual relations with each other?
20 What the Bible says respecting “uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire” applies to all Christians, single and married. It is true that husband and wife have a Scriptural and legal right to engage in sexual relations with each other, and to enjoy doing so. But does this mean that they can throw off all restraint? The fact that God’s Word urges all Christians to cultivate self-control argues against such a view. (2 Peter 1:5-8) The inspired Bible writer did not have to explain to married persons the natural way in which the reproductive organs of husband and wife complement each other. Homosexual relations obviously cannot follow this natural way. So, male and female homosexuals employ other forms of intercourse in what the apostle refers to as the satisfying of “disgraceful sexual appetites” and “obscene” practices. (Romans 1:24-32) Is it reasonable that married couples could imitate such homosexual forms of intercourse in their own marriage relations and still be free in God’s eyes from expressing “disgraceful sexual appetites” or “hurtful desire”?
21. Regardless of what a person’s way of life may have been in the past, what opportunity is open to him now?
21 On considering what the Scriptures say, a person may realize that his former thinking on these matters was molded by persons who are, as the Bible says, “past all moral sense.” But a change can be made. With God’s help, one can “put on the new personality,” which is molded in accord with true righteousness. (Ephesians 4:17-24) In this way he shows that he truly means it when he says that he wants to do God’s will.
YOUR VIEW VITALLY AFFECTS YOUR PEACE AND SECURITY
22. What immediate benefits come to those who apply the counsel of God’s Word in regard to sexual morality?
22 Really, applying the counsel of God’s Word as respects sexual morality is not burdensome. Contrast the fruitage of the course the Bible outlines with the world’s high rate of divorce, its broken homes, delinquent children, its prostitution, and the violence and murders committed in connection with sexual passion. (Proverbs 7:10, 25-27) How evident the wisdom of God’s Word! By rejecting worldly thinking based on selfish desire and greed, and by bringing your thinking into harmony with Jehovah’s counsel, your heart will be greatly strengthened in right desires. In place of fleeting pleasures of sexual immorality, you will enjoy a clean conscience and enduring peace of mind. Marriage and family ties will be fortified with the growth of mutual trust between marriage mates and of respect by their children.
23. How is one’s view of sex a factor in his being ‘marked’ for survival into God’s “new earth”?
23 And do not lose sight of the fact that your very hope of eternal life is involved. Scriptural morality will contribute to more than your present health. (Proverbs 5:3-11) It will become part of the evidence that you truly deplore the detestable things done by people who hypocritically profess to believe in God and that you have been ‘marked’ for survival into God’s “new earth,” where righteousness is to dwell. How vital, then, that you ‘do your utmost now to be found finally by God spotless and unblemished and in peace.’—Ezekiel 9:4-6; 2 Peter 3:11-14.