Forgotten Factors: An Aid To A Better Confession

Forgotten Factors: An Aid To A Better Confession

TODAY our society is so sex-obsessed that if it thinks of wrong sexual behavior at all, it seems to think of it only in terms of the illicit sex act itself—the lustfulness of it, the uncleanness of it, the uncontrolled passion of it, the perverted use of it. If that is the main wrong of sexual misbehavior, it is easy for men to make excuses for themselves and to sidestep the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

“Surely,” they say, “it is something merely biological, something quite natural. It is purely arbitrary on the part of society, even of God, to draw a line and say that before a certain dateline the act is wrong, but after that dateline it is right. What is done may be lustful, but it is none the less natural.” If the main sinfulness of such misbehavior is the lustfulness and impurity of the act itself, it is easy for men to argue in this way.

Strange to say, that is the aspect with which the Bible and the Church, is least concerned.

Make no mistake, both the Bible and the Church does condemn unequivocally sexual misbehavior because of its lustfulness and uncleanness.

The fact that the Douay Rheims version describes such sins in Elizabethan English has robbed its words of much of their meaning for the modern mind. Fornication, adultery, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, uncleanness, lasciviousness, inordinate affection, evil concu-piscence are the words like them are used.

But what do they mean to the modern English-speaking man? Once we exchange those words for their present-day equivalents—promiscuity, immorality, unfaithfulness, prostitution, homosexuality, masturbation, lesbianism, lustful imaginations, indulgence in pornographic literature, etc.—we all know what the Bible is talking about. And it is surprising how much it does speak about these things. There is not one of Paul’s epistles—addressed, mark you, to Christians—in which he does not speak about them and the people who do them. And when we hear him say, “for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience,” and again, “of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” there is no doubt at all that the Bible condemns these things for their lustfulness, impurity, and perversion.

But even so, I say again, that is the aspect with which the Bible and the Church seems to be less concerned. It speaks about the physical aspects of sex, both right and wrong, with a complete absence of squeamishness or shock. Though nothing is hidden in its accounts, it is very difficult for even the most lustful of readers to get a vicarious enjoyment out of the things alluded to—mainly because that is not the purpose for which it is written, which certainly cannot be said of many of the books that are published today, even when they purport to be great literature. All the allusions in Scripture to sex, even to the most degraded forms of sex, are clean; and more, they are penetrating. God is out to get to the bigger wrongs behind these things, where men are utterly culpable and without excuse, where the offense is seen to be against eternal moral principles, which are part of God’s own nature and are written into man’s nature in his conscience. And here, of course, we are in the realm where sexual misbehavior is no different from any other misbehavior. Sin is simple self-centeredness, independence of God, and that is basically always the same. It is only the raw material in which sin operates which changes. One man’s raw material may be sexual desire; another’s may be a desire for the top spot. It is the degree in which a man indulges himself in his particular raw material in defiance of the known will of God that constitutes the degree of his sinfulness. God then insists on judging sexual misbehavior on the same principles as He judges any other misbehavior, and that, rightly understood, is what makes His judgment such an awesome thing for us.

The factors, however, which constitute the real wrong of sexual misbehavior have been largely forgotten today.

When men and women in some crisis of their lives try to repent of their sins along this line, they seldom get beyond confessing the lustfulness and impurity of them. God, however, wants to get to something deeper than that, in which they are far more culpable—such things as the wrong which one person inflicts on another through sexual misbehavior, the multiplied duplicities which are invariably involved in such misadventures, the dishonor a person does to his own body through abuse of its powers, and above all, the wrongs done to a loving God. These are some of the forgotten factors which one so seldom hears confessed. Those who might assert they have repented might find on closer examination that they have never really faced the more culpable aspects of their deeds, and for that reason have not ever really experienced the full answer of the grace of God. Sometimes a man who has come to Christ and accepted Him as his Savior is obviously lacking in his experience of the grace of God. His testimony is somehow not a sinner’s testimony, and he does not seem to possess a sinner’s joy in his all-forgiving Savior. It may be there has not been repentance at the level that God wants it. It may be he has not seen the most culpable factors in his sin, or if he has seen them, he has conveniently forgotten them. So we come to consider in detail the forgotten factors in the various forms of sexual misbehavior—and indeed in all misbehavior.