The Dancing Puritan

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Forbidden Woman and the Foolish Man: Remedies

I am reading one of the finest books that I have read in a long time. The title is, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith. The author is Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

Dr. Butterfield was a tenured professor at Syracuse University. She was a lesbian in a committed relationship. God saved her.

She writes with an uncommon insight into the heart issues connected with sexual sin.

What good Christians don't realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won't be 'healed' by redeeming the context of the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more or nothing less. I told my audience (she was speaking at Geneva College) that I think that too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin...Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They're wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus can do that. The audience seemed shocked to hear this (p.83).

How do we deal with sexual sin?

1.  Look to the right Savior.

The Bible gives us many reasons for marriage. Marriage is for partnership and is God's primary remedy for loneliness. Marriage is for procreation. In the context of marriage only are folks to give birth to children. Marriage is for the mutual pleasure of husband and wife. An entire book of the Bible, The Song of Solomon, was written to cultivate such pleasure. Marriage is for protection. I Corinthians chapter seven teaches that regular sexual intimacy with one's spouse is a protection against sexual immorality. The primary purpose of marriage is to display the gospel (Ephesians 5).  Marriage is not the gospel; it is a presentation of the gospel.  Marriage is not the Savior and does not redeem sin but it points to the Savior and how he redeems sinners.

It is essential that we look for salvation in the right person else marriage becomes an idol of the heart.

So, how do we deal with sexual sin?  We must first look to Christ and His gospel. And then we are to act in obedience. Lets go back to Proverbs for wisdom in the battles that we face with sexual temptation.

2.  We must hear and keep on hearing wisdom. This is the message throughout Proverbs on a variety of topics. It is underlined, highlighted and in every way emphasized when it comes to dealing with sexual immorality. All sin is bad, offensive to God and brings consequences. Sexual immorality brings a truckload of consequences into a person's life. The father in Proverbs wants to drive the point deep into the heart of his beloved son.  My son be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and that your lips may guard knowledge.  For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol...(5:1-5).

Wisdom is built on knowledge and has often been defined as the skill to apply knowledge. The young man (and woman) needs to know the truth and they need to know how to apply the truth. The Bible is a sword.  One might know the Bible and yet be unwise in applying the Bible. Just as one might own a sword but mere ownership of a sword is not guarantee of a victory in a sword-fight.  That is why Proverbs teaches that we should make every effort to find wisdom.  Know God's Word, listen to godly teachers and seek wise counsel. Turn over every stone. Hear every warning.  Learn every principle.

The young man that falls into the arms of the seductress is characterized as lacking sense (7:7). The person who commits adultery lacks sense (6:32).  Don't be a fool.  Get wisdom no matter the cost.

3.  Do not go near the house of the forbidden woman.

When I was a seminary student I had the opportunity to serve as the Campus Minister Intern at the Baptist Student Union of Georgia Tech. I led a weekly Bible study. Students would often come to me for counsel. Most of the counsel that they sought had to do with dating and relationships.  A question that I often heard went something like this: "How far can I go without stepping over the line." The question was in reference to being physical with the opposite sex. That was/is really the wrong question but it is a revealing question. What the question reveals is that we often do not think of sin as dangerous, destructive and deadly. We imagine that we can play close to the line of sin and yet not cross the line. The Bible gives the opposite counsel. The Bible says, Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house...( Proverbs 5:8).

The foolish man (or woman) wants to play close to the fire pit.

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness (Proverbs 7:6-9).

Some men and women are prowlers. They are not content at home and they are on the prowl--roaming the streets, visiting the bars, going to various places with their eyes open as they look for prey. Yet sexual sin is not just characterized by the street prowler.

Some men imagine that they can enjoy the pleasures of the Swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and go no further. They can get close--but certainly they will not take the next step. The forbidden man or woman does not have to be physically present to capture one's attention.They are a click away. They call from billboards, magazines (not just magazines that are noted for pornography), from books, movies and of course the Internet.

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned.  Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife, none who touches her will go unpunished (6:27-29).

The ultimate problem is not even the forbidden man or woman. The problem is not the Internet, magazines or billboards. The problem is much deeper than that. The problem must be addressed as a heart issue. And the heart is only changed via the gospel.

More to come.