52. Drowning in Unreality

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 52. Drowning in Unreality

Ex 20:22,23    Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me

Unreal gods: A problem that constantly seemed to face Israel was that of idol worship, which was forbidden by the Lord – yet all the surrounding nations worshipped idols. So why did God forbid it and why is it relevant here? The answer to both questions is that worshiping idols is worshipping something that is unreal. The truth is that ‘gods’ don’t exist, the gods of Athens or Rome that we learn about in history are figments of human imagination, made in the image of fallen human beings. The gods of the nations surrounding Israel were expressions of superstition, unreal, make-believe. Don’t worship what is unreal is the message from heaven.

Facing Unreality: So what does our heading today mean, this ‘drowning in unreality’? It means there is a way of thinking today that is quite unreal and its very presence undermines the way Christians think and opens them up, if not to giving way to temptation, certainly to tolerating a lifestyle and failing to speak into the folly of the ways of the world. So what is the unreality that I am speaking about? It is that portrayed in films, TV ‘soaps’ and videos. There is also the unreality of ‘computer games’. I have mentioned temptation and toleration as two outworkings of this unreality (and I will go on to explain more in a moment) but within that there are two things to be observed. First, the behaviour is unreal and second, the very culture that we are looking at challenges biblical norms.

Considering ‘Soaps’ & ‘Sitcoms’: I hope you are familiar with the terms. Soaps are defined on the internet as follows, “A soap opera is an ongoing drama serial on television or radio, featuring the lives of many characters and their emotional relationships.”  A Sitcom is simply a ‘situation comedy’ based on a fixed group of characters.  The reason they are so pernicious is that they appear every week on TV. The ‘sitcom’ genre usually has a very much lighter feel to them and although infidelity is dealt with, it is in much more light-hearted way. Perhaps that makes it more acceptable.

Two Case Studies: Historically there have been two leading influential series, clearly aimed at the younger generation. The first was ‘Friends’ which ran from September 1994 to May 2004 (10 series) and the group being followed were described as, “not above sticking their noses into one another’s businesses and swapping romantic partners, which always leads to the kind of hilarity average people will never experience – especially during breakups.” That softening comment does nothing to undermine the culture that is conveyed which I will define in a moment. The second is the Big Bang Theory’, running from September 2007 and currently to series 11 in 2018.

The Culture: There are certain characteristics that are common to both of these long-running series: a) they are very funny, b) sex has a high profile and is portrayed as normal among young people, c) sex is distinct from committed relationship and indeed both series show the horror that is experienced when one member of a couple uses the words, ‘I love you’, being seen as words of commitment for which neither of them are clearly ready, d) both series had an almost cult following, especially among the younger generations. Neither series deals with inconveniences such as STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, abortions etc. Sex is problem free.

The deceptions: I would suggest (at the risk of being called a kill-joy by the younger generation) the following follies of this culture:

i) Sex is reduced to a simple pleasure with no unpalatable outworkings (see my last comment above; these ‘inconveniences’ do in fact have a substantial negative impact on modern society).

ii) As sex is separated from love and a committed lasting relationship, such a relationship has clearly become a difficult thing to acquire and the fruit of this is clearly observed in the trials and tribulations of the younger generations, many of whom now despair of the possibility of any lasting, loving, long-term relationship, especially with the ease of divorce in modern western societies being as it is.

iii) Sex is portrayed as easy, and always enjoyable and instantly on demand, and having no negative impact on the relationship, whereas surveys indicate a) many women confess that very often sexual experience is not pleasurable but they have to do it because that is what is done, and it wins affection from the male (both untruths), and b) the realities of tiredness, monthly periods (often suppressed by the pill), feeling unwell etc. etc. mean that one or other partner, in reality,  aren’t feeling like it.

iv) Sex is designed (by God and many psychologists would agree) to be just one strand of a growing relationship, friendship, growing trust and sense of security being others. Putting sex before the others (or even using it as a one-night stand) means that the likelihood of a long-term relationship developing is reduced, as is the possibility of creating a family.

v) Despite all the talk of ‘prevention’, a surprising number of (therefore) unwanted pregnancies take place, creating either the single parent syndrome (with its negatives), or a forced ‘marriage’, or a cohabiting partnership which, by its very nature, has an unstable foundation and often results in the man leaving and we are back to the single-parent syndrome again. There is also the matter of abortions often taken as the norm in this culture.

And in Church? We are often very good at accepting single mothers into the church community but in so-doing we are loath to make negative corrective comments and so our own young people see this as normal for society. It should not be; there are too many negative sides to this for both the mother and certainly the fatherless children. What I observe is an almost casual attitude to these things growing in the church. If we allow this to continue we will be helping the world in undermining the value and benefits of a committed life-long relationship, and of the family unit being a foundation for a safe and secure environment in which children can be raised. Society is very slow to link the growing number of child behavioral problems with family breakdown. If we were honest about these things, our communities would be transformed. We need to talk these things in depth within our church communities, recognizing the unreality ethos we are battling against and carefully revealing the good of God’s design.

Standards generally:   So far, we have talked about the ethos to be countered, and the very folly of the lifestyle, in respect of sex and modern relationships, but I think we should be honestly aware of the impact of various other things coming out of Hollywood. In the US, (not the UK) I have observed many times an inconsistency in believers’ attitudes to certain films. Because C.S.Lewis appears to have such a following in the US, Narnia films and then the Lord of the Rings films and subsequently the Hobbit films are perfectly acceptable. Harry Potter films, by comparison, are abhorred, because ‘witchcraft is bad’. Yes, real witchcraft is, and the manufacturing industry that capitalizes on it, also is, I believe, but no more the industry that exalts in Halloween which certainly has a dark or even ‘black’ background.  But actually, all of these films exalt good over bad and ‘good’ triumphs. (If you want to be really discerning, you will note the difference between the first two HP books and the last ones). And do you watch ‘vampire’ films or TV???? We need to think about this.

But then I found an acceptance in the evangelical community of ‘The Passion’ the worst example of the most extreme, shock-violence possible. Don’t say it happened; so did many other atrocities that you and I (I hope) would abhor if they were on screen. My other horror, on both sides of the water, is of the acceptance of the first of the Hunger Games films  shown to young teenagers. It’s about teenagers murdering other teenagers for public spectacle! I think Paul’s “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” (Phil 4:8) would be an overstatement taken out of context if we try to apply it to modern watching, but there is a truth there to be pondered.

An Approach? These days I would never recommend any watching (My own may be wider than some of you, but I would never recommend it). As a young Christian I was wary, having been brought up in my twenties in a strict evangelical mould, of even watching Crocodile Dundee, and I know there are some Christians who never watch any films. Well that is an extreme, but I would prefer it to the ‘watch anything’ extreme. Paul’s advice about not putting stumbling blocks before others (Rom 14:13, 1 Cor 8:9) is worth considering. The balance is, how can I remain aware of the standards being pushed by the world?  A question to be asked is, “If I watch this particular film/TV series, does it fill my mind, give me nightmares, or diminish my steadfast resolve to hold to God’s laws?” i.e. does it undermine my standards?  Accepting the ethos, whether it is to do with sex or the taking of life, is the danger that I believe is undermining the standards of many Christians. Even more, because there is this ‘clash of cultures’, the ‘modern outlook’ of tolerance, I am certain, undermines both the clarity and certainty of the biblical culture, if I may put it like that, in the minds of many. If in doubt, don’t watch.

Personal Guidelines: My own personal guidelines for watching today (while seeking to be an informed commentator) are:

  • Avoid explicit sex on screen which causes images to be retained and thus causes further difficulties of personal management.
  • Avoid constant use of the ‘f’ word or similar for the same reason.
  • Where relationships involve infidelity, remember the folly and the reality, and where there is violence (either don’t watch it or) remember this is manufactured in a studio and unreal. But don’t let it anesthetize you to the horror.
  • If in doubt, don’t watch; there is plenty else to do in life!

Finally, does this aspect of life, diminish the reality of ‘ongoing redemption’ we have been considering? If yes, it’s time for a change.

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41. About Desires

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 41. About Desires

Rom 1:26,27  Because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions.

Desires? I said in the previous study that we would consider the fruit or outworkings of the lifestyles that appear so prevalent in modern Western society (although one wonders if it is only prevalent in large cities – see later) but as I prayed about this I felt we needed to do things logically and in order, and so should confront the whole idea of ‘desires’, very often the starting point for behaviour.  The dictionary defines desire as “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.” Why consider this subject because there was nothing revelatory or revolutionary there? Simple answer: because it is at the heart of all that we are thinking about.

Good Desires: Within God’s design of humanity it is clear there are good and bad desires. Hunger when needing food, thirst when needing liquid, are good and natural desires. Sexual desire that continues the population must be a ‘good’ desire. Good desires help maintain life.  The desire to be married and have children would be considered a good desire.

Not-so-good desires! Desires running contrary to God’s design for humanity must be bad. The desire to take someone else’s wife – as we saw in the case of David in our earlier studies – is clearly a wrong desire, according to the Bible – and according to the wounded party of such actions. In Paul’s famous verses from Rom 1 above, he uses the expression ‘inflamed with lust’.  Lust = strong sexual desire. The message version puts it devastatingly clearly: “Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.” Now whatever else this passage says (and it is difficult to know when Paul was referring to, a specific time or generally in history), it is clear that such desires as are being spoken of there are ‘shameful …. unnatural… indecent …. perversions’. The gay Christian community says this speaks not about committed relationships but of wanton, uncontrolled and uninhibited sex, and there is certainly truth in that.  The classic and terrible example of that is seen in the incident in Gen 19:4,5.

Biblical Limits: The Law was quite specific that having sex, male to male, was ‘detestable’ and required the death penalty to act as a deterrent to prevent gradual breakdown in Israel’s society (Lev 18:22, 20:13). In the New Testament ‘homosexual offenders’ are categorized with ‘the wicked’ (1 Cor 6:9,10) and again, the gay Christian community would argue that this applies not to committed relationships but to wanton, uncontrolled and uninhibited sex. (The problem with ‘committed relationships’ is that so often they don’t last and don’t prove to be ‘committed’ – but that can apply to poorly founded heterosexual relationships as well.)

Sexual Gratification: Without doubt lust is something that can be inflamed – or controlled! Andrew Marr in his ‘A History of Modern Britain’, speaking of the 1960’s to 80’s and the AIDS ‘plague’ as he calls it, refers to the clearly “promiscuous, wild and unprotected sex” in parts of the USA as “gay men migrated across America during the sixties and seventies to find the most liberal and liberated culture available”. Speaking of a similar drift in the UK in the major cities, he refers to “Gay clubs, gay discos and gay saunas, the latter really places for as much promiscuous sex as possible.” So is this claim to “I am a homosexual”, or “I am a lesbian” tantamount to being a declaration, “I just want to have sex with those of like gender to me?” That may appear an unkind assessment, but the wider social experience often suggests that.

More Questions: So here is another legitimate question: “Why do you want to ‘come out’ and declare your sexuality?” I have no sense of specifically ‘being male’ except that I an incredibly aware that I am different from my female wife, physically, biologically, socially and psychologically. But I don’t have to proclaim it, so why do you? Another legitimate question I believe sometimes needs asking in pursuit of truth: “You are a gay male, OK no problem, but why do you have to adopt this false persona of the limp wrist, the affected speech etc. – that you never exhibited before you ‘came out’ and which I certainly never see in women (so it is not a sign of being more feminine)? Is it therefore, simply a badge, a sign, an outward profession for the sake of other gays, to attract them and say, “I am gay, I am available” which goes back to the promiscuous-sex angle?

Distinctions: Something we haven’t done so far is make some important distinctions, such as between i) Homosexual orientation, having homosexual inclinations and ii) Homosexual Practice, living a lifestyle of a member of the opposite sex, or having sexual relations with a member of the same sex, and iii) Homosexual Promiscuity, regular homosexual sex outside established single relationships. Another useful distinction is between i) “inverts” (those who claim to always have been homosexually orientated) who have found it easier to express their orientation, and encourage others to do so as well, and ii) “perverts” (heterosexuals who just get involved in homosexual activities for kicks) and who have also justified the homosexual lifestyle as acceptable. The water is not as clear as we might have thought originally.

Christian standpoint: In the light of these various considerations, we may suggest that we might question a declaration of ‘coming out’ and so respond graciously, “So what, what has that got to do with your faith?” Why are you wanting recognition? What is there in you lacking, that needs this affirmation?”   Now if that is you, you may feel it is confrontational to ask such questions but isn’t it confrontational to make the declaration in my face to start with? Do I go around the church asking couples living in the same house or apartment together, to make declarations about their sexual lives? No, of course not. Many of them are married. Do I ask them, do they have ‘good sex’? Of course not (Sadly surveys often suggest that large percentages of women do not have a satisfactory sexual relationship within their relationship with their partner (married or cohabiting)). Do I ask those who share apartments (and before I was married I shared my apartment with two other guys – no sex!), do they have sex together? Of course not, what an impertinence! So why does my lesbian or homosexual friend need to make a declaration that says, ‘I want something more than good old-fashioned friendship and I need you to know about it’?

Church failure: I have two (now) elderly ladies who live together in my street. Years ago there was gossiping, and I want to shout to the gossips, “Mind your own business! If there is something not quite right about their relationship, leave it up to God. Whoever you are in your marriage relationship, if you can say it is absolutely perfect, you can cast the first stone.”  This couple opted out of church life because of the gossip and so we, the community of God, were impoverished and we failed to love and accept and perhaps help the ongoing redemption process of those two ladies. I don’t know the truth about them, what they did or do behind closed doors, and neither do you! We are not called to be sexual ‘classroom monitors’ for the community, making sure everyone’s life conforms to our standards. That’s what the Pharisees of Jesus day did, so let’s not be like them.

Summary: So what have we looked at in this study and perhaps could consider further?

  • We all have desires and some of those are good, and some are not good, and the latter need us to exercise self-control. In the fallen world, that we have considered previously, desires unchecked can cause hurt, harm, anguish and so much more.
  • The gay movement has often been associated with promiscuous sex and that, before God, is the same whether it is homosexual or heterosexual. Rather than be indignant, we might feel sad for anyone who has opted to get meaning in life purely from physical sexual expression, and not knowing or experiencing the many other life-fulfilling facets of relational life.
  • Self-centred, godless, rampant promiscuous sex (of both varieties) is clearly condemned by the Bible as being far from the wonder of sex within a lifelong committed that is God’s original design for us.
  • Proclamations or declaration of ‘coming out’ are often questionable and self-focusing and possibly do more harm than good. As a statement of sharing experience and feelings, say within a family context, such a thing is an appeal for understanding, not of condemnation. Unfortunately they often appear as a challenge, which questions motivation.
  • As Christians we are not called to be ‘behaviour police’ but to introduce others to the love and acceptance of Jesus, so that he may change them in whatever way he and they together, wish, in his redemptive process. Enough said!

27. Redeemed From (3)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 27. Redeemed From (3)

Eph 2:1-3    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.

Following ‘Passion’?  I’m never quite comfortable with our interpretation of Paul’s words in verse 3 above even with, “We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature,” (JBP version) and even less with, “You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat,” (Message version), or “All of us used to be just as they are, our lives expressing the evil within us, doing every wicked thing that our passions or our evil thoughts might lead us into.” (Living Bible). What these various paraphrase versions show us is that we struggle with the idea that Paul is seeking to convey here. Now when you look up synonyms for ‘passion’ you do come across such words as craving, desire, or appetite. The various paraphrases above also use such words as ‘impulses’ and ‘felt’, both implying responses to feelings.

Going on feelings? Christian preachers or teachers often say ‘don’t go on your feelings’ and that is what this is all about, but when Paul says in the NIV “gratifying the cravings of the flesh” he is implying something more than just feelings; he is directing us towards thinking about desires that stem from physical or bodily expressions so, for example, we get hungry because we haven’t eaten for a while. Sexual drive can also be linked to physical state. Now psychologists often distinguish ‘desire’ from ‘emotions’ for ‘emotions’, they say, arise from a person’s emotional state.

So we have two ideas here which come out of Paul’s writings: motivation by physical gratification and motivation by mental state, and both of these, implies Paul, are things that should be consigned to past history. However our studies in redemption have suggested that so often God’s work in us has to be an ongoing process because, although our identity has changed, and we now also have a new power source, it is so easy to allow these things of the past to still ‘echo’ in the present and hence Paul had to instruct us to Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” (Col 3:5) i.e. you make an effort, an act of will to do this. The teaching is clearly that the old is still there waiting to rear up and we have to positively put it down.   Now when we moved into the fifth Part, I thought of our sub-heading as ‘Practicalities’ but changed it to ‘Nuts & Bolts of Redemption’. These things, the nuts and bolts of our lives, have very practical outworkings in our lives.

Physical Desires: We shy away from such words as ‘greed’ or ‘gluttony’ but they are words that fit when it comes to physical appetites. However, as Christians, perhaps we should call a spade a spade and call these things ‘lack of self-control’. Food: Obesity is the Western pandemic and is clearly (in the vast majority of cases) a consequence of lack of self-control. But that lack of self-control may have two origins. First, it may just be giving way to greed: I like this and I want more and more and more. Second, it may be what we call ‘comfort eating’, it is a way we deal with mental anguishes (I feel rubbish about me) and seek to bring physical pleasure to compensate for the loss of mental peace.  The first needs simple self-control, the second needs a reality check about identity, realizing afresh the truth about ourselves, loved by God and special to Him, people with purpose in life. All of these things need working through and really taking on board.

Drink: So far we have been considering desires that focus on food, but they can equally apply (if not more so) to alcohol. Now I don’t have a problem with drinking alcohol within limits (though I rarely drink) but I am sure there is a common assumption (and it appears in Christian circles) that alcohol creates a social environment that promotes sociability. There may be an element of truth in that but there are at least two difficulties with it. First, it is false that you cannot be sociable without alcohol and if for you it is true, then you have a personal identity problem again. Second, regular drinking (‘to be sociable’) becomes a pattern and a pattern often develops into a bondage and that brings about what we call alcoholism and all the health and social problems that go with that. In passing, may I note that in all these sorts of things there is so often deception here, for the individual strongly denies that there is a problem, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of sex.

Sex: All of these things we consider here, that God is seeking to lead us away from, are excesses of things that He gave us as a gift to be used within confines. Sex, the Bible reveals, is for within a lifetime committed relationship. Now I am aware that when we say that in the Western world it is like calling for light in darkness, it is so alien, but merely because the world casts off God’s design criteria, that should not be true of us Christians. It is almost impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by the philosophy that sex is all right with whoever you like, whenever you like, and however you like, and becomes no more significant than eating a cheese sandwich. The result is to debase sex and create whole rafts of relationship problems and where to speak of love is banned except after the relationship based on sex has existed for a long time (watch long running historical ‘soaps’ such as ‘Friends’ or ‘Big Bang Theory’ to see the truth of this.) Deception reigns! Fortunately voices are gradually (if only occasionally) being raised by newspaper or magazine columnists that this approach is having disastrous effects, and we will have to face some of these things as we progress down the path of redemption. For some, sex comes by computer screen and is called pornography but all that does is stimulate mind and body in ways that are less than God had in mind with His design for couples.

Wandering in the Desert: My feeling about all these things that are rising up in the Western world, is that they are expressions of life in the wilderness or the desert, life that is arid and where people are resorting to things outside the parameters of  God’s design for human beings, to try to make sense of this crazy godless world, and try to find pleasure in it, yet trying by eating more and more, or drinking more and more, or having more and more sex, simply works on what economists call ‘the law of diminishing returns’. As any junkie would tell you, you need more and more to get the same pleasure. But we’re not meant to live in deserts; the truth is that at the edge of every desert is a wonderful world that is lush and green and full of good things. This ‘desert living’ is what God seeks to deliver us from and so perhaps we should move on in the next study and move away from the depressing area (when you have eyes to see it) of the desperate scrabbling for pleasure and meaning that is so prevalent in modern Western society. So let’s move out of the desert and see the world that the Lord seeks to deliver us in to.

And So? But before we do that, let’s go right back to the beginning and remind ourselves what Paul has been saying: don’t base your life on desires or emotions, there is a better way. It is a way that is first and foremost founded on a relationship with the Lord and out of that relationship we live according to His design parameters and know His blessing in all aspect of our lives. His word, His will, His way, His wonder, and all these bring light and life and blessing and goodness, and that is what He is working to lead us towards in this path of redemption. He HAS redeemed us from that old life of self-orientation, of self-pleasures, self-concerns, self-desires, self-based-emotions, and He is now in the process of redeeming us on a daily basis into a new world. We’ll see more on to that in the next study.

39. Sexual Relations

Meditations in the Law : No.39 : Sexual Relations

Lev 18:5,6 Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD. `No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.

The Law now moves on to regularise relationships. We may see the injunctions in the early part of this chapter as all about sex, but in the word of God sex and ongoing relationship are inextricably linked. Sex is about relationship, we find, in God’s word. We, in this modern world, have separated sex from relationship so that sex is purely a single physical act which may appear to have no other ongoing consequences (although it does!). The instructions here come with very strong preliminary authority.  In the first six verses, taking us into the laws about relationship – indeed linking strongly the preliminary warnings with the following laws – we find “I am the Lord” four times. It is the Lord imprinting His authority on these laws. He emphasises Himself because He declares, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” (v.3) The implication is that there is chaos in relationships in Egypt and in Canaan and the Lord is creating a people where there is order, honour and respect (as we’ll soon see).

Verse 6 above summarises all that follows in verses 7 to 16. We will not consider them separately but simply note that the word ‘dishonour’ appears five times in those verses. Honour is all about respecting and esteeming others, about recognising their role, status or position. For instance in God’s order of things a husband and wife have a unique relationship and they become one (Gen 2:24). For a person to have sex with his mother abuses the uniqueness of that relationship. In each case there is assumed a special relationship which is held in high esteem before the Lord and to step into that relationship sexually is to abuse it and to disregard God and His design for mankind.

In verse 17 the disregard for different and unique relationships is spoken of as ‘wickedness’. Verse 18 extends that in a way that suggests to us that all of these rules have the thought behind them of care and concern for various parties concerned. Where there is abuse of these unique (as they are supposed to be) relationships, people are going to be hurt and upset. Dishonouring means disrespecting and disrespecting means demeaning and demeaning means causing hurt. It is probably this thinking that is behind the exhortation not to have sex during a woman’s period (v.19). Most women are highly sensitive about their state and the demands for sex by an insensitive husband disregards her feelings. Verse 20 is a simple exhortation to avoid adultery and verse 21 a simple prohibition against child sacrifice. It is this law that reminds us again that these laws are legislating against the anarchistic practices of the pagan nations which involve fear and abuse in a large measure. Verse 22 is a straight prohibition of homosexual sex which God declares here is ‘detestable’. Likewise sex with animals (v.23) is straight forward perversion. Remember these descriptions in the light of modern trends.

Now godless, unrighteous, modern man may decry these rules and call for total freedom of sex, but in so doing such a person is putting themselves totally at odds with God. The warnings at the beginning of the chapter were serious; the ones at the end are even more serious! Listen to the strong language: Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.” (v.24) Defiled means made dirty, polluted, spoiled. He goes on: “Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” (v.25) That’s why He had the Canaanites put out of that land, because of their appalling behaviour.  So He continues, “But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things.” (v.26) That is the strength of the Lord’s feeling about those who live so contrary to the way He has designed them to live. So He concludes: “for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (v.27,28). It is a clear warning: if you live like them you will end up in the same way. We seem to speak about free sex as if it is something that grown up and mature people accept, but in fact God indicates that it is exactly the opposite. Such people disdain relationships and go for cheap physical gratification but such will be the cause of the downfall of a nation.

The chapter concludes with a final warning and exhortation: “Everyone who does any of these detestable things–such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.” (v.29,30) If you had any casual thoughts about these things, think again. God is deeply serious about these things because they undermine the very fabric of society. These laws are not to ‘spoil people’s fun’ but are to protect individuals and hold society together. We ignore them at our peril.