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?
SOME people have the idea that the Bible frowns on anything having to do with sex. However, an examination of the Bible itself reveals that this is not true. After telling about God’s creation of the first man and woman, it 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, then, clearly have divine approval. But does God approve of unrestrained sex? Would this bring the greatest enjoyment in life? Would it result in true peace and security for us 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 learn this from 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, it is not just for the sake of our own peace and security that we should learn and hold to God’s standards concerning the use of these faculties. More importantly, we should do so out of respect for our Creator. If we truly take his side on the issue of sovereignty, we will gladly submit to his superior wisdom and sovereign authority in this matter, too.—Jeremiah 10:10, 23.
Keeping Marriage Honorable Among All
5. What does the Bible say about engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage?
5 The Bible counsels: “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 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 the two 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?
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 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. Clearly, 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 often has a much wider meaning. The word for “fornication” that was used when recording the statements of Jesus and his disciples is the Greek word por·neiʹa. It is drawn from the same root as the modern term “pornography.” In Bible times por·neiʹa was used in referring to a broad range of unlawful sexual relations outside of marriage. Por·neiʹa involves the grossly immoral use of the genital organ(s) of at least one human (whether in a natural or a perverted way). Also, there must have been another party to the immorality—a human of either sex or a beast.
8. For what strong reasons did the apostle Paul urge Christians to “abstain from fornication”?
8 When urging Christians to “abstain from fornication,” the apostle Paul gave strong reasons, 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) Why do some people hold back from legal marriage, even though living with someone of the opposite sex? (b) Even though 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 couples who live together 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 the security that responsible marriage ought to bring. But if both persons enter the relationship willingly, are they still ‘harming and encroaching on the rights of others’? Yes, definitely so.
10 There are many effects of the actions of fornicators that do ‘encroach on the rights of others.’ For one thing, anyone participating in fornication shares in damaging the other person’s conscience as well as any clean standing that one may have had with God. The fornicator 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. Dreadful sexually transmitted diseases such as the deadly AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are often linked with sexual immorality.
11. Why is there no reason for anyone to believe that God will condone fornication?
11 Many choose to be blind to these harms. But do you believe that God, in his righteousness, will condone such callous disregard for the rights of others? God’s Word calls for ‘honoring,’ not debasing or repudiating, his sacred marriage arrangement.—Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 22:39.
12. (a) What is 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 it 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 will not inherit God’s Kingdom if they continue such a practice. Also, describing the results to persons who ‘dishonor their bodies in uncleanness,’ going after “flesh for unnatural use,” the Bible says 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) Such persons not only fall under God’s condemnation, but they also receive a “recompense” of mental and physical corruption. Today, for example, there is a disproportionately high rate of syphilis, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases among homosexuals. The high moral standards of God’s Word protect us against such harm, rather than deprive us of something good.
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 how Jehovah God expressed himself when reproving those who ‘dealt treacherously’ with their marriage mates. (Malachi 2:14-16, Revised Standard Version) His Word gives abundant counsel to help couples 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 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. Jesus showed what this is: “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 sexual relations outside of marriage, whether natural or unnatural.
15 If one’s mate becomes guilty of fornication, does this automatically break the marriage tie? No, it does not. The innocent mate can decide whether to forgive or not. Where divorce is decided upon, the Christian’s recognition of secular authority will cause him to dissolve the marriage legally, doing so on a truthful 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 Witnesses show 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 a case might be able to obtain a divorce in a country where divorce is permitted. Circumstances, of course, may not allow for this. But some form of legal separation may be available in one’s own country and could be sought. Whatever the case, the innocent mate could separate from the guilty one and present definite proof of Scriptural ground for divorce to the overseers in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What if that person were later to decide to take another mate? The congregation would not act to remove him as an adulterer if he provided the congregation with a written statement containing a vow of faithfulness to the present mate and an agreement to obtain a legal marriage certificate if the former marriage should be dissolved either legally or by death. Nevertheless, the individual would have to face whatever consequences might result 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 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, and also as a source of pleasure to the parents. (Genesis 9:1; Proverbs 5:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5) Nevertheless, he warned against abusing this gift.—Ephesians 5:5.
18, 19. (a) Why is the practice of masturbation, or self-abuse, not proper for a Christian? (b) What can help a person to avoid such a practice?
18 Because of the emphasis placed on sex today, 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 practice?
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’? On the contrary, he is stimulating the sexual appetite. The Bible urges that one avoid the thinking and conduct that lead to such problems, replacing them with wholesome activity, and that one 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.
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 right to engage in sexual relations with each other. 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 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 “disgraceful sexual appetites” and “obscene” practices. (Romans 1:24-32) Could married couples imitate such homosexual forms of intercourse in their own marriage 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 those who are, as the Bible says, “past all moral sense.” But, with God’s help, one can “put on the new personality,” which is molded in accord with God’s standards of righteousness. (Ephesians 4:17-24) In this way a person 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 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, broken homes, delinquent children, prostitution, disease, and the violence and murders committed in connection with sexual passion. (Proverbs 7:10, 25-27) How evident the wisdom of God’s Word! When you reject worldly thinking based on selfish desire and bring your thinking into harmony with Jehovah’s counsel, your heart is greatly strengthened in right desires. Instead of fleeting pleasures of sexual immorality, you enjoy a clean conscience and enduring peace of mind. Marriage and family ties are fortified with the growth of mutual trust between marriage mates and with respect from the children.
23. How is a person’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. So 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 have no regard for God and that you have been ‘marked’ for survival into God’s “new earth,” where, not immorality, but 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.