Pastor Foster’s outstanding efforts for justice on behalf of victims of church sexual abuse reminds me of 1 Corinthians 6:18. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” This is relevant because sexual sin is rarely committed at the drop of a hat, almost at random. Going out and committing adultery, fornication, or homosexuality is not like tripping and falling down the stairs. It isn’t something that you do suddenly when you “snap”, “crack under the pressure”, or somehow lose control of your faculties, your ability to think and reason clearly or restrain yourself. It is rarely a sin that “just happens on the spur of the moment”, the result of a situation that rapidly spiral out of control.
Now perhaps there are sins that probably can happen that way, maybe including even murder, but they DO NOT include sexual sins. Instead, the idea that “it just happened” or “it was beyond my control” is a convenient reassuring lie that we often find refuge in after the fact. Truthfully, the only time that this explanation is even plausible is when abuse of alcohol or drugs are involved, and in those cases, rather than being excuses for sinful sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse are sins themselves. Instead, sexual sins are almost always sins committed after a time or incident of temptation, and the comission of said sin is thus the result of the failure of the Christian to remove himself from the temptation.
Let us be honest here. We aren’t simply walking down the street minding our own business when some unclean spirit seizes us and unwillingly forces us to do dishonor our bodies and abuse the bodies of others with this type of sinful behavior. And we also aren’t these naive souls that find ourselves manipulated and overcome by the wiles of a tempter or seductress. Plainly speaking, if it isn’t rape, then it is sexual sin. If it isn’t violent coercion, then it is sexual sin.
So why does it happen so often, even amongst the clergy? The reason is that we are like David as opposed to being like Joseph. Now consider Joseph. When Potiphar’s wife made her advance and grabbed hold of him, he didn’t trust his ability to resist the temptation or negotiate the situation. No, Joseph got out of there, leaving his clothes behind! And Joseph, being a very wise person, almost certainly knew that his running naked away from Potiphar’s wife and leaving her holding his clothes would leave him with absolutely no defense whatsoever. He knew that running off in that manner would result in any charge made against him being believed, and that any legal standing or credibility that he might have had – and being a Hebrew slave in Egypt he really had none to begin with – would have been forfeited. So in leaving his clothes behind, he was really abandoning all that he had. He was giving up every right, every privilege, every consideration that the world had to offer him. And why did he do so? Because obedience to God’s law was worth all the rights, privileges and recourses that the world had to offer. Joseph was going to obey YHWH even if it cost him everything, including his very life! Make no mistake, either way Joseph was going to be in a hard position. He either had to put himself in the position where he had to resist the seducing charms of Potiphar’s wife, or put himself in a position where he would have no defense against a false charge of attempted sexual assault by that same wife. As the Bible narrative tells us, Joseph chose the latter, and willingly bore the consequences! As was evident from the time that Cain slew Abel and was made manifest in the most supreme and extreme example by the rejection and death of the SINLESS Jesus Christ on the cross, true righteousness in this wicked world always comes at a price, and it was a price that Joseph was willing to pay.
But instead of being like Joseph, we are like David. David watched Bathsheba bathe. He could have easily avoided doing so. Some blame this on David’s not going out to battle, but one doesn’t even have to go that far. David could have simply closed or averted his eyes and gotten away from there as fast as he could; gone back inside his house. Instead, he allowed viewing the body of another man’s wife to please him, and from there it was simply James 1:14-15, which reads “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” So where Joseph fled fornication, David gave a place to the devil, and with the latter you saw the result. David “took Bathsheba and laid with her”, and it is still my opinion that the Bible does not state that David’s relations with Bathsheba were consensual on her part, but instead used language similar to Absalom’s rape of Tamar and Shechem’s rape of Dinah. In that light the contrast between Joseph and David becomes even more stark: where the former fled consensual sin with Potiphar’s wife, the latter appears to have forced himself on Uriah’s wife.
So why are we so often more likely to choose the path of David over the path of Joseph? It appears to be a misunderstanding or misapplication of another verse from James, that being 4:7’s “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Actually, that is 4:7b. 4:7a, which reads “Submit yourselves therefore to God” is often ignored and omitted, and 4:7b is often quoted in isolation, usually as sort of a “Christian cliche'”, which of course increases its potential to be misunderstood and misapplied.
We often interpret “resisting Satan” to placing ourselves in compromising and sinful situations. We think of ourselves as spiritual athletes or superheroes. We tell ourselves that there is some great merit in putting temptation before our face and resisting it, that it is some mark of spiritual maturity and upright character. We think that because we are Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that it means that we can trust ourselves and that we can be trusted. And the feelings of attraction or tension that we might have? We tell ourselves that they don’t exist because we are born again, and born again Christians don’t have those problems! Or we tell ourselves that because we are so strong and mature and are experiencing such victory that we can handle them without acting on them. We can just sweep them under our emotional, mental and physical rugs, we tell us, and we further deceive ourselves by telling ourselves that God will make it stay there. After all, we delude ourselves because of bad theology and teachings: it’s His job! It is one of His promises! To be able to stare temptation right in the face hour after hour, day after day, week after week and year after year without falling is one of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit!
And Christians who reject this form of (let us call it what it is) NEEDLESS SELF-TORTURE, SELF-ABUSE AND SELF-ENDANGERMENT? We call them “legalists.” We call them “fundamentalists.” We even question their own salvation and Bible knowledge. We say “if they were REALLY saved, if they REALLY UNDERSTOOD GRACE, if they REALLY UNDERSTOOD VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING, if they REALLY HAD THE SELF-CONTROL THAT CHRISTIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE, then they wouldn’t need all these legalistic rules. They’d just trust themselves and each other, and above all trust God. Right?
Well, we see the result of this thinking. Having cast aside the rules designed to keep Christians pure as “old-fashioned”, “legalistic”, “impediments to church growth” and “sexist”, we see that teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, divorce and pornography are huge problems in our churches, in some cases surpassing that of the general population, and that speaks nothing of the sex scandals among the clergy and other church leaders. And despite all this, we deceive ourselves as to the reasons why. Instead of separating from worldly practices and ideas, we tell ourselves that we can partake of those same practices, implement those same ideas and still not sin because we are Christians.
This is particularly absurd when the Bible itself explicitly calls it a lie. In a general sense, 1 John 1:8 says that any Christian who denies his capacity for sin deceives himself and rejects God’s truth. And in a specific sense, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 promotes marriage as a way for Christians to avoid sexual sins. Again, 1 Corinthians 7 IS NOT DIRECTED AT UNBELIEVERS. Paul WAS NOT telling unbelievers to get married to avoid sexual sin! Paul was telling baptized, born again, Holy Spirit filled BELIEVERS to get married to avoid sexual sin! And of course, if avoiding fornication is an issue for single Christians, avoiding adultery is an issue for married ones. So if that was an issue for Christians in Paul’s time, what makes us think that it isn’t now? Is it because society has advanced? If so, in what way? Because we are so much more civilized thanks to our humanistic, rationalistic mindset that we are capable of more self-control than we could in Paul’s repressed, misogynistic social location? Such ideas are nonsense, a strong delusion.
So then, the mark of true Christian maturity is not to put temptation in your face so you can brag about how holy and righteous you are for not giving into it. Instead, the mark of true Christian maturity is to do whatever you can to avoid the temptation, and being willing to suffer the consequences. Again, consider Joseph. He was willing to go to prison – and he may well have been executed – over running away naked. But how many contemporary Christians are just as willing to turn down a situation at school, at work, or even at church that requires them to work long hours alone with an attractive member of the opposite sex? Or what about shunning the raunchy and prurient movies, TV shows and Internet websites, including those that may be harmless themselves but have racy advertiser content?
Again, that may sound anti-modern, antedeluvian, medieval, old-fashioned, legalistic, fundamentalist or whatever you want to call it. I call it not giving a place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27) and submitting yourself to God, of being more like Joseph and less like David. After all, what merit is there to imperiling yourself with temptation for its own sake? Does it make you a better witness for the gospel? Even if that were the case, when you contrast the high number of evangelical Christians who commit sexual sin (at least 60% and very likely higher) and the low number of Christians who actually evangelize (less than 10%) and being a better evangelist clearly isn’t the reason. Instead, being more like the world is the reason.
Also, let us have some consistency. Those of you who believe that you are such powerful, faithful bold victorious Christians that you can resist all this temptation, why limit it to that area? Expand your horizons. Go handle poisonous spiders and scorpions. Grab a rattlesnake by the tail. Make yourself a cocktail of household cleaners and drink it. Stand out in the middle of a freeway. Or take a boat out into deep water, the ocean or the middle of a swirling river, and step out and walk on water. You have faith, don’t you? You are a mature, strong Holy Spirit-filled Christian, aren’t you? Isn’t avoiding that behavior legalism? Fundamentalism? Old-fashioned? Is refusing to pick up a rattlesnake misunderstanding grace?
Of course, you won’t do that. Why? Because you value your life and health. And that is precisely the issue. You value your own safety and security over avoiding sin. You are much more willing to risk the chance that you might sin than you are to risk the chance that you might die. Therefore, you are willing to take a chance that you might sin and tell you that God will keep you from sinning, but you are unwilling to take the same chance with your life under the idea that God will save you from poison, drowning, or getting crushed by a car. But you might say “there’s no reason for doing those things.” Well, there was no reason for David to watch Bathsheba bathe, was it? The truth is that there is also no reason, no reason that will advance the kingdom of God, for Christians to sit around and unnecessarily tempt themselves with sin, and that is not just sexual sin but a great many other sins. But we actually have a Christian mainstream, an evangelical mainstream, that regards trying to separate from wickedness as sinful, hypocritical and Pharisaical, and the results are plainly exhibited before all. Many of the things that we tempt ourselves with we do so for no reason other than our own entertainment or to be like everyone else, and other times we do so because we are unwilling to make a real sacrifice to our lifestyles, to our comfort, to our aspirations. We don’t want to go to prison like Joseph. We don’t even want to miss out on a promotion, become a laughingstock at school, or be considered “extremist” by other churches. As a result of this carnality, this selfishness, we are much more willing to pollute our minds and bodies and offend God with our sin than we would ever be willing to put ourselves in harm’s way, and yes that does include put ourselves in harm’s way to actually spread the gospel. And the result is the Christian landscape in America that we see today.
Paul Washer does an excellent job of addressing this precise topic in the video below, which I really hope that you will view. In it he gives added emphasis to pastors who unnecessarily expose themselves to sexual sin, and that goes back to some of the topics that Pastor Foster regularly deals with on his site.