Sin as Sensuality
When most of us hear the word sin, we first think of worldly or fleshly sins connected with bodily needs, desires, and pleasures. Although the Bible indicates that sin may express itself in this form, it is by no means the center of the biblical doctrine of sin. Why than do we automatically think first of all along these lines? There are probably two reasons.
First, such sins as sexual immorality, drunkenness and gluttony are safe sins to talk about. Everyone already knows they are wrong. They are often more prevalent or at least more visible among people outside the church, and no one is offended so long as we are talking about other people’s sins. It is safer and easier to talk about personal immorality than about social justice, which is emphasized far more strongly in the Bible.
Second, The emphasis on sin as sensuality enables us to blame sin on our bodies, telling ourselves that though the flesh tempts us to do bad things, our heart is in the right place or we mean well. We may do sinful things, but we are not basically sinful. Once again we run into the classical Greek idea that our lower physical selves are a drag on our higher spiritual nature.
We can learn the true meaning of sin connected with our sensual appetites under three conditions:
First we must not forget that this is only one form sin can take. If I am better off than some others in this respect, that does not mean that I am less sinful than they. It would be hard to argue that the moral, lawabiding Phariesees were less sinful that the prostitues and tax collectors especially in light of Matt. 21:31-32 and Luke 18:10-14.
Second we can think correctly of sinful sensuality only when we remember that the source of all sin is the heart. We must look for the root of such sin as sexual immorality not in the body but in the self. When Paul speaks of sinful flesh Rom.8:3 or according to the flesh Rom.8:12, he is not referring to sins of the body alone but to the whole personality of sinful people. Thus the works of the flesh, according to Gal.5:19-21, include physical sins. Paul does not suggest that one kind of fleshly sin is worse than the other. The point is that the body is no more sinful than the heart or spirit.
Third it follows from what we have just said that we can understand the sinfulness of physical immorality only when we think about it in personal terms.
Sin comes into the picture when we ask why people become sinners such as gluttons or drunkards. Food and drink in itself is not sinful, it is what we do with them that makes us sinful. Sin does express itself in sensual ways. But we will never understand it or learn how it can be overcome until we ask who the people are and what kind of personal relationship that have with God and other people in the use of their bodies and the physical things and activities that meet their needs and give them pleasure.
Finally, friends in the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., "We must live together as brothers or persih together as fools." If we are in fault of the sin of sensuality, we all have a God who is willing to forgive us today.