Summary: Sexual fulfillment is a very shallow goal to have in life. Instead, we need to seek spiritual fulfillment in Jesus Christ
Yes, some of the things you have heard about this city are probably true. In fact, they say the main reason people come to this place is because of sex. Sexual immorality is more prevalent than you could ever imagine. By God’s grace, I have remained chaste, but it seems I am being bombarded with temptation. There is one place here where there are 1000 prostitutes, and men flock there daily. There are lots of male prostitutes as well, since homosexuality is viewed as a virtue by many. It seems a lot of people I’ve met almost worship sex. I agree with your statement that it must be hard to live as a Christian in this type of situation. I assure you, though, there are indeed Christians here who are remaining pure and faithful to the Lord despite this sex-crazed environment, and I promise that by God’s grace I will seek to do the same.
Where do you think that letter was written from: New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Bangkok? No, actually it was written from Chisholm. I made it up, but it could have been a letter written by a Christian living in the Greek city of Corinth during the first century. This was a place famous for its sexual immorality. In fact, the Greeks coined a new verb, "to Corinthianize" to describe participation in illicit sex. Knowing this keeps us from making the mistake of thinking that sexual immorality is something that has just become prevalent in the past 30 years.
This, however, does not make the fact that we live in a culture preoccupied with sex any less disturbing. It would be difficult to choose between first century Corinth and 21st century America as to which society is more sexually immoral. Forbes magazine recently did a story on the $56 billion a year porn industry. In 1998 there were 9,000 new hard-core x-rated videos released on the market, generating revenue of $5 billion alone. The videos are becoming yesterday’s news because of the direct access people now have to pornography through the internet and cable tv. You no longer have to go downtown to pick up the stuff anymore. They pipe it right into your house. Equally disturbing is the widespread acceptance of soft-core porn that shows up on network TV in prime time sitcoms. Though prostitution is illegal in every part of the country except Nevada, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations recently opposed a resolution condemning "voluntary prostitution." There are indeed similarities between ancient Corinth and modern America.
But is this obsession with sex, whether 2000 years ago or today, really healthy? I think of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
"Suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a
covered plate on stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just
before the lights went out, that it contained a pork chop or a piece of bacon. Would
you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with their appetite for
food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was
something strange about the fact that people pay money to watch a woman take off
Lewis says some might claim that the preoccupation with a pork chop might be understood if the people in that country were starving because of a lack of food. It is difficult, he says, to imagine that anyone could argue that it is starvation, a lack of sex, that is the reason our culture seems so preoccupied with the subject. Instead, he says, it is far more likely that it is some twisting, some perversion of our nature, what the Bible calls our sinfulness, which causes us to deal with sexuality in the way we often do.
Friends, our journey through the book of 1 Corinthians brings us to chapter 6:12-20 which the NIV titles "Sexual Immorality." Though a very proper modesty may make us feel a little uncomfortable with this topic, this is a text that speaks very directly to some issues we face at the beginning of the 21st century. So, let’s pause and pray that God would help us to listen and hear as He speaks to us through His Word today.
I want to begin by looking at what Paul says about sexual immorality to the Corinthians, which also happens to be God’s words for us. He is basically responding to three claims made by folks trying to justify their immoral behavior. The first asks, "Is everything really permissible?" 1 Corinthians 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything." Some folks were claiming "everything is okay for me." In our day, people often say the same thing. A common claim is that if two consenting adults want to have a sexual relationship, it is nobody else’s business. Any type of sexual immorality, as long as it does not involve force, ought to be permitted. But, Paul notes that besides being immoral there are still two other questions which have to be asked: Is it beneficial? And does it lead to an enslaving addiction? The answer to the first question is, "No, it is not beneficial." Though sexual immorality brings temporary pleasure, there is often a very high price tag. Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, deep emotional scars and divorce are often found in the trail left by immorality. Even if they were okay morally, for practical reasons, neither one-night stands or long-term affairs would still not be good choices. The answer to the second question is, yes, sexual immorality is often enslaving. A failure to execute self-control in sexual conduct makes it that much easier to fall into sexual sin the next time. Though I do not think Paul would agree with a lot of psychology behind the term "sexual addiction," he would agree that it often happens to those involved in immorality.