“Flee Sexual Immorality”


By Wayne S. Walker

     Well, it has happened in our little, rural community too.  According to local news reports based on an May 13, 2015, item from WJBD, the radio station here in Salem, IL, where we live, a former Odin Junior-Senior High School teacher accused of having sex with two seventeen year old male students has turned herself in after she was charged with criminal sexual assault.  Marion County State’s Attorney Matt Wilzbach says that Lisa Tate, 35, is being charged with the Class 1 felony for her alleged involvement with one teenager at this point based on the evidence that was corroborated so far.  Wilzbach says a student took a picture of Tate’s vehicle and the student’s vehicle in a church parking lot in Odin and pictures were then loaded to Instagram.   Wilzbach says he elected to charge Tate with having sex with only one of the two boys because there would be no increase in the Class of felony with more than one count.   The charge filed involved the student who was allegedly photographed having consensual sex with Tate last month.   Wilzbach notes while the age of consent to have sex is seventeen in most cases, it becomes eighteen when a person is in an authoritative position, such as a teacher.  He also says the other boy stated their inappropriate relationship took place sometime last fall.

What this teacher did is absolutely reprehensible.   If she is found guilty, and all the evidence so far points in that direction, then she should be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law, and even that will probably not be enough to undo the damage that she has done.  Still, what concerns me even more is the fact that two seventeen year old boys apparently agreed to have consensual sex with her.  Yet, is that really a surprise nowadays?  We live in a sex-saturated society.  For many people, sex has become their god, and it is rapidly becoming the new civil-rights “cause célèbre” as people demand their right to have sex with anyone they choose, at any time, in any place, under any circumstances, with no strings attached.

There are certain Bible subjects which, because of their delicate and sensitive nature, are not pleasant to discuss publicly.  When I was a teenager, I heard some lessons against “fornication,” but they were usually quite general with very little specific instruction other than “don’t do it.”  As a result, when I was a young preacher, I was always somewhat hesitant to address the subject in sermons.  However, it may be that our failure to deal with this problem head-on in the past has played a part in the development of the current situation.   Today, our youth learns all about nearly every aspect of sex in their “comprehensive” school sex education classes from Kindergarten  to graduation, almost always from a “values-neutral” perspective.  Sex is openly portrayed and glorified in movies, television shows, and popular music.  What is the consequence?

My friend Wilson Adams, a gospel preacher in Murfreesboro, TN, recently cited these statistics.  “Our culture is in a sexual free fall. The average age for first time sexual intercourse for boys is 15.9 (girls 16.2). The vast majority of students are sexual by the time they are high school seniors. By the way, the percentage of ‘Christian’ kids is no different.”  I do not know where Wilson obtained these numbers, but I suspect that they are fairly accurate.  I would like to think that perhaps the percentage among young people associated with churches of Christ is better, but I am afraid that even if it is, it is probably not as much better as many of us would want to believe.  My first response when I read these figures was, “That’s disgusting.”  However, the reaction of disgust very quickly gave way to the feeling, “No, really that’s sad!” because so many of these young people will never know the sublime beauty and joy that God planned for sex in marriage.

What does the Bible have to say about this?  “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).  The familiar King James Version reads “flee fornication.”  Fleeing carries with it the idea of running as far and as fast away from something as possible.  Why should we strive to flee sexual immorality?  Paul gives three reasons.

First, it is a sin against the body.  Someone might think that God is so interested in the salvation of our souls that He really does not care about our bodies, since “the outward man is perishing” anyway (2 Corinthians 4:16).  However, the body important because it is creation of God who “formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).  It is the physical body that was formed from the dust of the ground.   Therefore God is concerned not only with soul but with body too, because it is in the body that we carry out the thoughts and intents of the heart.  It is possible for people to “dishonor their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24).  This is why God wants us to present our bodies a living sacrifice by not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).  Hence, must remember that our judgment will be based on the deeds done in body, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Second, the Christian’s body is temple of Holy Spirit.  Every person should flee sexual immorality because his or her physical body is the creation of God, but Christians have this special reason to abstain from fornication.   A temple is a dwelling place for Deity.  When Solomon dedicated the physical temple, he said, “I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever” (I Kings 8:10-13).  Yet, even Solomon understood the figurative nature of God’s dwelling in a temple, for he went on in verse 27 to say, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”   The church is pictured as spiritual temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-22).  How does Spirit dwell in this temple?  It is by dwelling in the lives of the materials which make it up.  “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  Again, this is a metaphor for being influenced by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as we allow it to dwell in us (Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 3:16).  If this is true, we will flee sexual immorality.

Third, we are to glorify God in the body.  Again, God wants everyone to glorify Him in their bodies, but Christians have a special motivation for doing so, and this is that we are bought at a price, which is the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7).  So, how do we glorify God in our bodies?  We must keep ourselves pure, clean, chaste, virtuous.  People of any age can be impure, but impurity is a special danger for inexperienced and immature young people.  This is why Paul told Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).   Also, we need to live righteously, that is, doing that which is right with God.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).  And we ought to be holy, separated from sin and dedicated to God.  “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:1t-16).  Committing ourselves to purity, righteous living, and holiness will help to give us the strength to flee sexual immorality.

To accomplish this goal, let me tell you what our young people need to be hearing—from their parents at home, from Bible classes in church, from sermons in the pulpit—over and over and over again, because they will not be hearing it from their friends, from school, from television, from movies, from their music.  From those sources, they will hear only, “Sex is just a part of growing up and being a teenager.  Everybody does it.  And if you’re still a virgin at eighteen, there’s something wrong with you.  You’re weird!”  So this is what they need to hear.  The following is from a scene in a fictional story where a father is explaining to his twelve year old son about “the facts of life.”  Though the story is actually fiction, the advice is very much the truth.

The boy, who is telling the story, reports, “He said that sex, as God intended it, isn’t something that’s dirty and shameful unless it’s abused.  Rather, it’s designed as the unique, loving expression of the wonderful and beautiful relationship of a husband and wife and therefore is a blessed gift from God in a committed marriage that’s definitely worth saving yourself for.  But as such, it’s very private, to be experienced only in marriage, and not intended for casual recreation, or something to be joked about, laughed at, or made fun of.”  Parents, it may be uncomfortable and even a little embarrassing, but please do not be afraid to talk to your children about God’s plan for sex and the vital importance of fleeing sexual immorality.

While Paul’s instruction is simple, “Flee sexual immorality” or fornication, the application of this passage may not always be easy.  I may be an aging, white-headed, gray-bearded, sixty-something old man, but believe it or not, I can still remember what it was like being a teenage boy and young adult male.  Yes, I can still remember the hormones, the desires, the temptations.  And I know that fleeing sexual immorality has not become any easier in the last forty to fifty years but in many respects is much harder in today’s world than it was in the days of my youth.  Yet, I also know something else, and that is that it can be done because it has been done.

“And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’  So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.  But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’  But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Genesis 39:7-12).

Joseph, in a rather literal sense, fled sexual immorality.  Now, we have this tendency to romanticize the Bible heroes.  The medieval artists painted them with halos above their heads.  It is as if we think of them as not having their feet actually touching the earth but floating on clouds just above the ground.  But the Bible says that they lived “with a nature like ours” or were “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17).  Joseph had the same red blood flowing through his veins and the same hormones coursing through his body as all other young people in every generation.   What enabled him to flee this temptation, as he “he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside”?

Of course, he was concerned how it would affect his master, who as captain of Pharaoh’s guard held Joseph’s life in his hands.  However, even more importantly, he asked, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  If we put our trust in God and commit ourselves to doing His will in our lives, we can lean upon His promise, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13), and He will help us to flee sexual immorality.

—in Faith and Facts Quarterly; July, 2015; Vol. 42, No. 3; pp. 2-8