God created human beings male and female, intended for special intimate relationships. They play an enormously important role in our society, but are also often perverted by sin.
LD 41 q&a 108.
What does the seventh commandment teach us?
That all unchastity is cursed by God.
We must therefore detest it from the heart
and live chaste and disciplined lives,
both within and outside of holy marriage.
LD 41 q&a 109.
Does God in this commandment forbid nothing more than adultery and similar shameful sins?
Since we, body and soul
are temples of the Holy Spirit,
it is God’s will
that we keep ourselves pure and holy.
Therefore he forbids all unchaste acts,
gestures, words, thoughts, desires,
and whatever may entice us to unchastity.
The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” is related to the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God. The seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” relates to the fact that we were made male and female. Another way of saying this: God created people as sexual beings.
Read Genesis 1:27-28. What are some practical consequences of the fact that people are male and female?
The sexuality of people has important consequences. Biologically, males and females together can brings forth children. When God created Adam and Eve, he created the possibility of many more human beings, who all share the same humanity as their parents. Physically, men and women have different bodies, designed for different kinds of tasks. Most men are stronger, so they can do the hard work necessary to produce food or make a living in other ways. Women are able to bear and feed children. Psychologically, men and women are different, too; men tend to push the limits of physical and intellectual strength, and like to protect their families by strength. Women tend to be more caring and social, and often flourish by caring for the family in everyday things. Because of this, men and women also fulfill different social roles.
Is sex bad?
Men and women can form intimate relationships that affect all these aspects of life. Together with their children, they form a social unit. They care for each other in different ways—the man giving security and protection to the woman, the woman giving care to the man. Men and women find each other physically attractive. The personal highlight of their relationship is sex, when they are together physically and emotionally in an intimate way.
Christians have sometimes thought that sex was bad, or at least a part of reality that we should not be too happy about. They viewed anything “bodily” as lesser than mental and spiritual things. This is not right; God created people with body and soul, and the one is no less important than the other. After all, we believe not only in the resurrection of the human soul but also in the resurrection of the body. As Christians we should celebrate the wonderful design of God: when he created people as men and women, he provided a wonderful dynamic that is good for society, that propagates the human race, and a special way for husbands and wife to enjoy their love.
It is therefore also important that God instituted marriage. When people get married, they officially promise to form a male-and-female unit in society, which then may grow out into a larger family, in which faithfulness and love can grow. Marriages are made (and sometimes broken) by society, but the pattern of marriage was given by God when he brought Eve to Adam.
Read Eph. 5:25-33. What does Paul compare the love of husband and wife with?
Precisely because the love, faithfulness, and sex between spouses is so special and intimate, it is also fragile. People can really hurt each other when they do not respect God’s design for this relationship.
Adultery is a violation of an existing marriage, when one spouse is intimate with another person. This breaks the trust that is so important in a relationship; and while God forbids divorce (breaking up of a marriage), he allowed a person to get divorced when his or her spouse had committed adultery.
Fornication is engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage. Our world often treats sex as something casual, something you do for fun. While it is fun, it is also something deeply psychological that is only proper and healthy in a loving, committed relationship. Apart from physical consequences (pregnancy, diseases) it often does psychological damage, especially in young people who are eager to try things out.
Other physical perversions of sexuality include homosexuality (intimate relations between people of the same sex) and incest (intimate relations with family members). The Bible is quite firm that these are “abonimations” to God.
But sexual sin is not only limited to physical action. Just as the commandment “You shall not murder” also addresses hatred, so the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” also speaks about our heart and thoughts. The catechism uses the word “unchastity” for anything that violates God’s design for intimacy, including thoughts and actions.
Read Mat. 5:27-28. How does Jesus describe “adultery of the heart”?
Sexual lust is a very common thing in teenagers and adults. The way men and women are different yet made for each other is exciting, and as you grow up you are attracted to people and imagine what an intimate relationship would look like. The desire for such a relationship is good, and when young people get more involved with each other it is natural that they long to share all aspects of intimacy. But lust is wrong when it does not line up with God’s design—that it fits in the context of a committed relationship, that is, marriage.
The world provides ample opportunity for lust in all the wrong ways. Many people get involved with porn, which disconnects sex from any normal human relationship and increases lust in a way that is addictive. We must stay away from this, and rather protect our intimacy. To be chaste means to value your sexuality as something precious, something you set aside for the spouse that the Lord will give you, something you don’t use to deliberate create lust in others.
Temple of the Holy Spirit
Read 1 Cor. 6:12-20.
In 1 Cor. 6, Paul dealt with people who thought that as Christians, they were free to do whatever they wanted. They thought that your spiritual life was all that mattered; what you did with your body was meaningless. So they happily engaged in all kinds of sexual activity (for which Corinth was famous). But Paul strongly disagrees. First of all, your body is an essential part of you, not something you throw away. Second, there is more to sex than just putting bodies together; it unites you with another person in a special way. That other person should not be a prostitute! Third, your body is like a temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Random sexual activity is a desecrating of God’s temple.
- What do you think of “rules for modesty”? Do they matter? How strict should they be?
- If someone commits a sexual sin, can he/she remain a member of the church? (See John 8.)
- How does the Old Testament often describe the unfaithfulness of God’s people when they committed idolatry? What was God’s reaction? (See e.g. Jer. 3:6-14.)
- Should you marry someone who has had an affair, or a child out of wedlock?
- Should a dating couple remain chaste? How?
- Is it wise to wait until you are thirty, or until you have known your boyfriend/girlfriend for 10 years, before you get married?
All: Memorize q&a 109.