“I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” (Leviticus 18:2-3, NIV)
Leviticus 18 is the most extensive treatment of sexual ethics in the Bible, and it begins with God telling the Israelites not to do what the cultures around them were doing. As Mark Rooker points out in The New American Commentary, “it was in the sexual realm particularly that the Israelites were aware of their differences with the Canaanites.”1
I recently spoke with a pastor who was ranting about how Christians today are too concerned with legislating sexual relationships between consenting adults. He said, “It’s time to get out of the bedroom and into the streets. We need to stop worrying about what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms and start serving the poor, feeding the hungry, and loving the lonely.” But I think Leviticus 18 demonstrates that not only does God care about the poor, He also is concerned with what we do in the privacy of our bedrooms.
The church today is in a similar position as the nation of Israel was a few thousand years ago. It is in the sexual realm, particularly, that Christians are aware of our differences with the surrounding culture. The Bible clearly teaches throughout its pages in both testaments that marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, and any sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinful.2 As unpopular as it is, that is the standard to which God calls us, and perhaps the greatest opportunity we have to be set apart from the world.
As we pursue a holy life, we must remember to show grace and love to those around us–especially to people who have not given their lives to Jesus. Jesus regularly interacted with people, including prostitutes, who were involved in lifestyles and sexual practices that violated God’s Word. Yet, Jesus treated them with love, even while inviting them to repent and live a different way. Let us, like Jesus, be known for our love as well as our purity. If you struggle with sexual sin, please seek help. This is one area where we need the accountability and encouragement of a brother or sister in Christ in order to win the victory.