Summary: How the Bible’s description of love debunks three popular myths about love.
(Note: This sermon was introduced with the Susan Ashton song "Call of the Wild").
The song says, "The freedom he loved, he was now a prisoner of, because he answered the call of the wild." We see examples of that reality all around us, as we live in a culture that urges us to answer that call. In many ways we’re reaping the consequences of the sexual revolution as we stand at the threshold of the next century. Robert Rimmer, one of the founding fathers of the sexual revolution, promised "a new kind of society where human sexuality…become[s] the new religion."1 Margaret Sanger, patron mother of the sexual revolution and the founder of Planned Parenthood, claimed that any attempt to restrain the sexual impulse injures health and dulls the intellect.2 Yet when those seeds grew, they blossomed into sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, broken hearts, and fractured families.
Today, sex isn’t just about marital intimacy, but people use sex as a tranquilizer, as an antidepressant, as a way of venting anger, as a way of proving their worth, as a way of dominating other people and, probably most of all, as a way of finding some sort of joy or meaning out of life.3 Yet like the guy in the song we just heard about, the call of the wild merely shows us how alone a person can be, as we end up imprisoned to the very freedom we thought we had.Yet still our culture is obsessed with sexuality. A study by the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation found that two-thirds this season’s prime-time television shows have sexual content.4 Each day we’re bombarded with thousands of sexual messages through advertising, television, radio, movies, bumper stickers, t-shirts, email, and so forth.
We’re in the midst of a series called LIVING CONFIDENTLY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES. Most people would agree that the Christian faith is a belief system that’s held together by love. Yet part of our problem is that we’re confused about what real love is. Consider the motto of MTV’s popular call-in sex advice show Loveline: "Solve all your love and lust dilemmas—whether we’re talking heartbreak, sex, sexually transmitted diseases, or whatever." Is that what real love is, lust, heartbreak, sex and diseases? Or how about that ever so popular bad advice, "Real love is never having to say you’re sorry." Tina Turner told us love was nothing but a second hand emotion. Or we’re serenaded by Celine Dion in the movie Titanic that unmarried sex is the kind of love that can touch us one time and last for a lifetime and never let go till we’re gone.
What exactly is real love? And how can men and women who’ve responded to Jesus Christ’s call walk confidently with that kind of love? Today, as we prepare for communion together, we’re going to look at how to confidently express real love. We’re going to see that Bible’s description about real love is debunks three popular myths about love.1
. Respect for Sexual Boundaries (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7).
One myth our culture feeds us is that REAL LOVE IS SEX. This is the myth portrayed in movie after movie, song after song in our culture in our popular culture. This is why in 1996 Americans spent more money on pornography than they spent on Broadway plays, opera, ballet, jazz and classical concerts combined.5 This is why almost every caller who calls into MTV’s LoveLine is sexually active outside of marriage, because real love has been reduced to the physical act of sex. And of course this isn’t unique to our generation or to our culture, because every human culture in the history of civilization has had a tendency to define real love as sex.
But in light of that modern day myth, let’s look at what Paul says about real love. When Paul wrote these words there were basically two different attitudes about sex popular in ancient society. One attitude came from the Greek intellectuals, specifically the philosopher Plato. These people believed that the human body was a prison for the human soul, and that everything associated with the body--including sex--was evil and to be avoided. Since the real me is my soul, not my body, human sexuality was viewed as inherently evil and dirty, even within in the context of marriage. Unfortunately during the middle ages many Christians were influenced by this way of thinking instead of the Bible.
The other attitude was far more popular among common people, and that was that sex was simply another physical drive, like the drive to eat, drink and sleep. Most people back then viewed sexual activity as morally neutral, and however you meet your sexual needs was just fine. Of course this standard only applied to the men. The Greek writer Demosthenes reflects this attitude when he wrote, "We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes."6 The only thing off limits for men back then was to be with the wife of another man. So the ancient world was a strange kind of schizophrenia between prude and pornographic.