This past Sunday Pastor Jamus preached a somber, stirring and soul-searching sermon on the sin of adultery. (click here to listen to sermon) He very pastorally walked us through selected passages in Proverbs 5 and 7 and warned us of the deceptive nature of sexual sin and its horrific end. Throughout the sermon there were repeated, pointed warnings and practical suggestions to safeguard our hearts, minds and marriages against adultery. If you were unable to be there I highly commend this sermon to you.
However, after some thought we realized that a sermon like this, though needed, could possibly produce an unhealthy overreaction that leads to awkward relationships among brothers and sisters in the church. This was glaringly evident to me Sunday night as I sat around a table sharing a meal with my Missional Community when one of the sisters half-jokingly said that she felt very awkward after the sermon that morning and really didn’t want to make eye contact with any man for fear of being perceived as the “adulterous woman!” (Proverbs 7:5) That’s a somewhat humorous articulation of the tension we all experience as we try to swim the choppy waters of healthy, God-glorifying relationships with those of the opposite sex that are not our spouses. Let’s be honest, it’s just not easy at times to know what to do.
To that end, I am once again thankful for the Word of God and the timeless, ever-enlightening counsel it offers. You see, the same Bible that presents stern warnings to protect and preserve our marriages is the same Bible that offers simple, straightforward counsel regarding our relationships with other men and women in the church. In 1 Timothy 5, the apostle Paul tells us plainly that we are to treat older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters, “in all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
At the root of our relationships must be a right understanding of the Gospel! Jesus’ work to save sinners has not created a cleaned-up, better version of us; the Gospel has really created a whole new race of people. (1 Corinthians 5:17) In our “new creation” status God is really our Father. (Ephesians 4:6) Jesus is really our older brother (Hebrews 2:11, 17) and we are really brothers and sisters. (Matthew 12:48-50) Paul’s encouragement in 1 Timothy 5 flows from these glorious Gospel truths.
How am I to interact with a woman in the church who isn’t my wife? I am to interact with her the same way I would interact with my sister because that’s what she really is. How are you to interact with a man in the church who isn’t your husband? You are to interact with him the same way you would interact with your brother because that’s what he really is. If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus we are really family and the Scriptures instruct us to act like it. We are called to love one another well and laugh and cry and work and play and worship and serve and eat together like family “in all purity” to the glory of God!
We exist in an erotic, sex-saturated culture that knows very little or nothing of healthy, nonsexual relationships with the opposite gender. If you don’t believe me, go turn on your television. What an opportunity for Christians to let their lights shine amidst the darkness! Light shines brightest in the dark. We are to live our lives with the Spirit’s help as sojourning aliens in a foreign world. We are empowered and commissioned to live in such a way that it captures the attention of unbelievers around us.
Jesus taught us in John 13 that one of the primary ways the world knows that we are lovers and followers of Christ is the way Christians love one another. We are called to do so in a way that is remarkably different than anything the world has ever seen. This is a testimony to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that creates a new family and changes hearts, minds and lives.
Let’s not only strive to exercise great wisdom, caution and discernment to guard against adultery, but let’s also pray for grace and put forth the same effort to genuinely love one another as brothers and sisters “in all purity” for the Glory of God, the spread of the Gospel and our deep and lasting joy.