A Revolutionary Christmas: How Christmas revolutionized sexual ethics (Mat. 1)

Publié le 27 décembre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Pastor Vincent Bourrel on 12th December 2021

Introduction

In our Christmas series last week, we saw how Christmas revolutionized politics. Today we will see how Christmas revolutionized sexual ethics.

Let’s read Matthew chapter 1.

Our hyper sexualized society has shattered any framework for sexual relations. According to it, everything is acceptable from the moment you are between consenting adults (and the sexual majority varies from one country to another between 14-18 years old in Europe, it is 15 years old in France). It might seem like a no-brainer that people need to be consenting, but the #MeToo movement, recent revelations involving a politician and the abuse scandal within the Catholic Church have proven that it is not as obvious as that.

Not all of our desires are noble, legitimate and healthy. There are harmful forms of sex and everyone should have some control over their sexual desires. (Sam Allberry). What distinguishes Christian ethics is therefore not to establish limits on sexual behavior but to specify where they lie and why.

What is at stake is the nature of these limits. We tend to simply say « you have to love yourself ». But we also realize that there are different forms of love: I love my wife and also my mother, my brother, my children, my colleagues and my neighbor and if I want to love everyone it is essential that these forms of love are expressed in the appropriate framework. When we confuse them we are playing a dangerous game.

In the first part of chapter 1, we find the genealogy of Jesus son of David, son of Abraham. V.16 Matthew thus presents the humanity of Jesus and his legitimacy to David’s succession to the throne of Israel. Then in the following verses, we find the account of his miraculous conception which attests to his divinity. V.23 Jesus is called Emmanuel (= God with us). So much so that at the end of chapter 1 we have this dazzling truth that Jesus is both man and part of a royal lineage and at the same time perfectly God conceived by the Holy Spirit, without sexual relations.

Christmas: a model story for sexuality

Have you ever thought of this? Why did God choose a young woman who was already engaged to a man to be embodied? He knows the laws of 22.23-24 « If a young virgin girl is betrothed, and a man meets her in the city and sleeps with her, you will bring them both to the city gate, and stone them, and they, the young girl will die for not having cried out in the city, and the man for dishonoring his neighbor’s wife. In this way you will remove evil from your midst. « 

The other options:

    • a married woman ? => In this case his supernatural conception would have been difficult to believe especially by the spouses, even with the intervention of an angel, the divinity of Christ would have been questioned.

    • a young, unmarried, virgin woman who is not engaged? => Jesus would then be born without having a protective and provider father and above all without legitimacy for the throne.

The Son of God therefore had to be born in this perfect situation, a young engaged couple (engaged but not yet having had sexual relations).

And he sets a model here for our families, and a sexual ethic that can be summed up as follows: Sexual relations are reserved within the marriage of a man and a woman.

The Jewish engagement was a solemn commitment towards marriage. It was a time when an engaged couple prepared for their union. He preparing a place for her for her future and she preparing everything they needed for their life together.

As an engaged couple, they reflected a greater truth. Paul says in 2 Corinthiens 11.2 “For I am jealous of you with a jealousy of God, because I have betrothed you to one husband, to present you to Christ as a pure virgin’. He reproaches the Corinthians who allowed themselves to be turned away from Christ to follow deceivers, false teachers.

In John 14.1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God believe also in me. There are several rooms in my Father’s house, if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’

Thus believers are betrothed to Christ and wait for the Lord to return to take them with him to celebrate the wedding feast and to always be with him (cf. Revelation 19 and 21). The Bible begins and ends with a marriage. This is important to him and how sad it is to distort his plan in the romantic relationship.

Preserving sexual purity before marriage

V.18 You noted, this is about two young people (male and female) who have romantic feelings towards each other and who have decided to get engaged. They weren’t living together, they weren’t sleeping together, but they were planning their union to come.

The 2 Gospels, Matthew and Luke, which tell of the birth of Jesus, affirm that Mary found herself pregnant by the action of the Holy Spirit. Rest assured, it seemed just as incredible at the time! To convince Mary and Joseph that a virgin could give birth to a child, the intervention of an angel was necessary. The God who created the whole universe out of nothing (cf. Genesis 1.1-2) can create a baby without the help of a human father. The contrary would be surprising. This is not the only miracle reported in the Gospels.

When Joseph finds out he is devastated, he must feel betrayed but he loves Mary, he questions his commitment (he is not going to marry a woman who is pregnant by another man) and he will seek to break up with her secretly.

While he is thinking about it, an angel appears to him v. 20 and gives him the divine explanation. Joseph will have to act as an adoptive father. The baby’s name and gender are revealed to him by the angel as well as his mission « to save his people from their sins »

Everything is in accordance to the Scriptures v. 22-23 this is what allowed Joseph to recognize the work of God.

The supernatural birth of Jesus is the only way to explain the life he led. A skeptic who denied the virgin birth of Jesus once asked a Christian, « If I told you that the person over there was born without a human father, would you believe me? » The Christian replied « yes, if he lived as Jesus lived ». The most obvious proof of the supernatural birth of Jesus and of his divinity is his life.

So Joseph takes his wife with him shortly after the angel’s announcement, v. 24-25 (it seems that the marriage was a simple one). But he won’t know her intimately until she has given birth. Matthew makes it clear that she was a virgin until Jesus was born, implying that normal marital relations began afterwards. The fact that the brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned several times in the Gospels (Mtthew 12.46, 13.55-56; Mark 6.3) proves that Mary did not remain a virgin perpetually as some claim.

And this is the second great truth of Christian sexual ethics:

Sex in marriage is a gift from God to be enjoyed abundantly. They are given with a view to procreation but also with a view to the celebration of the union, the commemoration of the marriage covenant.

As every human being is extremely precious (since they are made in the image of God), it makes sense that the means of their conception should be as well. It was God who invented sex, not us. We did not discover it without his knowledge, he himself created the organs of pleasure for the joy of the bride and groom.

Our society protests against this by saying: why should there be only the bride and groom who are entitled to the gift?  It says that you can give sex without giving your person, and without emotional and psychological union. But that’s not true, sex involves more than our genitals, it engages our whole person. This is especially evident in negative experiences. Anyone who has been sexually harmed suffers throughout their being, the damage is physical but even more psychological and emotional.

Sex is given to unite two spouses who give themselves to each other.

If I give my wife the latest thermomix for Christmas, it is meant to be a generous gift but in reality it is very selfish, I would like her to start cooking good meals for me.

I can also offer her the very latest thermomix, with a completely different intention, that of offering myself as a cook. My gift then becomes the promise to make her good meals. This time it’s very generous.

The action seems to be the same doesn’t it, she gets a thermomix for Christmas. But in one case it’s only an appliance and suggests the humiliation of being seen as a servant and in the other she receives the appliance and even more the honor of being loved and served. Sexual relations in Christian ethics belong to the 2nd case, it is the gift of myself and not just a little body fluid.

So don’t offer sex if you’re not ready to give yourself entirely. It is a gift reserved for marriage. God chose sex as a way for a man and a woman to say to themselves, « I belong to you completely, exclusively and for life. »

Christmas: the sexual revolution

Bible teaching concerning sexuality is certainly one of the subjects that most shocks our society, our contemporaries. In addition, the church, supposed to make this teaching known, has turned out to be criminal in this area as revealed by the Sauvé report which reports 3000-4000 priests who are sexual predators and 300,000 child victims (80% of whom are boys) within of the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020.

But Christian sexual ethics have never been really popular. If this message shocks you, know that the first readers of the New Testament were shocked too.

In 1st century Roman society men had wives to beget heirs. And to satisfy their sexual desires they had mistresses, slaves or traded with prostitutes.

But Paul writes in 1 Co 7: 2-5 “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.  The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife , and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.  In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. »

Christmas and the coming of Christ revolutionized marital relationships by giving them reciprocity. In this context 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-4 « It is God’s will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable » was revolutionary.

Here we have found the reason why Christian sexual ethics are offensive to many, it is because we act like people who do not know God (« like pagans ») who pursue fulfillment in sexuality and satisfaction but are never satisfied, you always need more, and new, stronger experiences …

It’s the same with money, or success, you never have enough.

This shows that we are looking for something bigger but our hearts will be filled by God only. Which is good news for those who don’t have or no longer have a husband or wife. Christ is sufficient because he is the only one who can fill us.

When I was young there was a saying, in the sexual domain, « it’s those who talk about it the most who do it the least ». I believe this expression is true about the current generation. According to recent studies, young Americans have less sex than the previous generation. Young people who are now in their twenties are said to be 2.5 times more abstinant than the generation X were at their age. This trend worries researchers who fear that it may reflect a deep rooted malaise in this generation. Young people want to have less sexual relations. In the age of virtual sex and pornography Christianity daringly praises true sexuality. The bible justifies the beauty of sexual relations in marriage.

Christmas: offers the restoration of our sexuality

In the genealogy of Jesus we find:

– a man (Judah) who went to a prostitute, in reality it was his widowed daughter-in-law   (Tamar) disguised as a prostitute to have a son (Perets).

– a former Canaanite prostitute (Rahab),

– and a woman who was abused (Bath-Sheba) by an adulterous king, liar and murderer   (David).

This is what Jesus’s lineage is identified with.

It was to redeem a fallen race that Jesus came to earth at Christmas, he was incarnated to forgive us and to give us grace by dying on the cross for our faults v.21. Jesus came to save us from our sins, from our sexual disorder.

It seems that the domain of sexuality is the one where our depravity is the most glaring: lust, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, pedophilia, debauchery … Today the law of men no longer really condemns these sins (except pedophilia) but it leaves many victims with tears and many of the guilty with shame. The Bible condemns these because it knows the wounds that sexuality experienced outside of its framework, marriage, causes, like a fire outside a fireplace, it becomes destructive.

But God gives us grace, he saves us and heals us from our wounds and our sexual faults so that we can reflect in our lives and in our sexuality his redemptive plan.

Since the problem lies deep in our sinful heart (Matthew 15.19 « For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. … »). It is our evil heart that distorts and corrupts the finest things like sexuality, it is not just a matter now of following new ethical rules. We must definitely take measures to save us from falling, but above all we need a new heart. You once said « God I won’t do it again, forgive me » and you were perfectly sincere and determined. But your heart has remained the same so when a new opportunity presented itself you reproduced the same things. What you should say is « Lord I don’t want to be like that anymore. » The problem is not above all with what we do but with what we are. David realized that he committed adultery because he was, in his heart an adulterer. He lied because he was, in his heart a liar. He killed because he was, in his heart, a murderer.

After reflecting on his condition as a sinner David prays « cleanse me from my sin … and create in me a pure heart and renew in me a willing spirit » Psalm 51.4, 12.

“Renew” means that we need Christ every day to transform our hearts. It is within this lifelong relationship that we are renewed to remain abstinent until we are married and to remain faithful and a servant to one another if we are married.

Conclusion

You may have been abused, you may have been hurt, betrayed, humiliated, sexually deceived. Jesus came to help you, to console you, to restore you.

Your sexuality is disorderly, you feel guilty, ashamed, unable to change, to resist temptation. Jesus came to save you, he forgives us, he cleanses us and he transforms us in a daily relationship with him.

The Christmas message says « He is the One who will save his people from their sins ».