In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul writes, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
This is probably not the first time you come across that passage. You’ve most likely have read it. You may have heard it preached. Some of you may have even memorized it. But have you asked yourself this question: “What exactly is sexual immorality?” Though the question is simple enough, the answers I have heard throughout my life have been less than helpful and often downright worldly. We are in great need of defining our term. What is sexual immorality?
The simplest way to understand porneia (Greek word translated as ‘sexual immorality’) is to think about the things that would make you furious and heartbroken if you found out someone was doing them with your husband or your wife. If someone shook your wife’s hand you would not be upset. If someone gave a casual side hug to your husband it probably would not bother you…But if you found another person had sex with your wife or saw her naked or touched certain parts of her body you would be furious. If you found another person made out with your husband or talked about sexual activities or made certain gestures you would be heartbroken. Why? Because these are all activities that are appropriate for a married couple but are inappropriate when practiced outside marriage. Any sexual activity between those who are not married, or between two men, or between two women, or among more than two persons, or between family members, or between those married to other people – any sexual activity in these contexts is sin and can be included in the prohibitions against porneia.
As you read that, I offer this question for your reflection: How much healthier and life giving would our dating relationships be if this is our understanding of sexual immorality? If you are not married, I encourage you to think deeply on this and its implications for your relationship with whomever you come to date. If you are married, what is your counsel to non-married couples? What definition of sexual purity/immorality are you giving?
Let’s all labor to make the white dresses of our brides mean something. Flee sexual immorality.