3 – The Early Church & Sexuality

Home Learning Hub Sexuality, Rome and the Church 3 – The Early Church & Sexuality
So, when the church lived a different sexual ethic, it was largely because of their renewed view of humanity. In building “family” that included people on equal terms from Jewish and gentile backgrounds, the value of humanity came to the fore. This new liberty for people was expressed in terms of sexual morality, freedom from the abuse of the stronger person.

This was a revival of the creation intent, of each person made in God’s image, giving value to every individual. The church reflected this in their relationships, both economically and sexually. It also meant a brotherhood with slaves and a reduction of privilege between the rich and poor. Sexual morality was a part of the breaking down of the culture of exploitation of the vulnerable.

Marriage

The early church freed their neighbour from oppression. It didn’t do this violently, but through the development of new communities, in which abusive values were not permitted. Sexual morality was one of the ways in which culture was being transformed from seeing people as objects. A marriage commitment was one way of protecting these values. Marriage was for the protection of humanity.

The early church didn’t see marriage as something they interfered with legally in the world. It was rather the values they adopted within their own community. This is how they influenced the world. They adopted the Genesis one and two view of marriage, regardless of what the world thought of marriage. And the Genesis concept wasn’t for property rights. It was for companionship and for procreation.

Any movement to undermine this marriage concept within society, eventually moves us back to the lack of humanitarianism we saw in the Roman Empire. Gradually, sex lacks commitment and people become objects, whether intentionally, or accidently.

Human Value

Children become a prey, and weaker people are at risk, of unwanted pregnancy, ill-health from abortions, other health risks, economic risks, careers at risk, and the risk of only having value as objects. Women lose their freedoms, respect and protection. One of the reasons we have such a high rate of abortion is that we still live in a patriarchal society. The men often just don’t care.

The church initially came as a movement to transform the world, and the sexual transformation was a major part of this new freedom, love, personal value and life opportunity for people. It is people God cares about, and this is the reason he acts in the gospel for our welfare.

So, Paul said in his letters, sexual promiscuity is a part of this overall violence, aggression and self-centredness, which breaks down human value and care, and brings destruction to lives. Sexuality isn’t just one thing Paul singles out, but part of a whole scenario which he terms the flesh, meaning that which destroys human value and flourishing.

These are put on the same level as violence, economic abuse, environmental abuse, racial abuse, or anything else that militates, whether actively or passively, against God’s love for his creation and the people and other life that fill it. God is love. Anything that does not practice love will eventually pass away from his renewing kingdom.

Facing Hedonism

These things are much bigger than ourselves. We tend to think of things as we feel they affect us personally, and not the bigger future that is building, the impact upon others and our communities. We look at freedom the way we see it affects us, not the freedom of communities. Hyper individualism is harmful to individuals. It breaks down communities and it is the wellness of the community that protects and nourishes us as individuals.

We say, “What is wrong with some little drugs? It’s my body.” But it contributes to a culture that erodes life opportunities for other people. Its like fair trade. What difference can we make in our little corner? All our little decisions build a world that effects many lives.

We hear calls to update our sexual standards to “modern times,” but nothing has really changed. Sexual morality is still sexual morality. And it comes as part of a package. It is part of mankind’s predatorial nature which becomes more unleashed as more allowances are made. It is part of an overall abuse package, and unleashing it in “modern times” will bring the same kind of bondages and retreat of human liberties that we saw in ancient pagan times.

And as part of a package, sexual abuse hardens our heart against the wellbeing of other people in general and opens the door to all kinds of human rights abuses in our societies. We can’t pick and choose. A reduction in one form of morality brings a reduction in all forms of morality. It brings our whole society into the control of the strongest and most dominate. Our age of democracy and freedoms will be gone.