My friend Ed has a couple of good posts up on sexual sin. I love Ed’s heart, and I agree with his conclusion:
In the end, my point isn’t really to criticize the way churches or denominations deal with this matter as much as to say, why don’t we try to find better more wholesome, more biblical ways of dealing with this, so that people and churches are restored and the Gospel is powerful in our midst. I’d love for all men to be able to be honest and vulnerable, knowing there is hope, there is a way out, and that they can and will find victory and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and that it’s not in keeping this area of their lives hidden and secret. That is my desire for all men.
Ed is right on. We don’t always handle the sex topic well, and it’s time to start talking about the fact that we are all broken sexually. Restoration is possible. Secrets don’t help anybody. As much as I agree with Ed overall, I disagree with two of his arguments. Ed says, “Is one worse than the other – yes in our yes, but not in God’s eyes, according to Jesus definition of immorality.” I disagree. Some sins are worse than others, both in God’s eyes and ours. Although the smallest sin makes us a lawbreaker, it’s simply not true that all sins are equal. Jesus talked about the “greater sin” (John 19:11) and “the least of these commandments” (Matthew 5:19) and “the weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23). Some sins are viewed more seriously by God (James 3:1, Luke 12:48). Jesus talks about an unpardonable sin, which implies that it is a worse sin than others. I hate dumping a whole bunch of verses here, but you don’t find any teaching anywhere that all sins are the same. When Jesus says that lust and adultery are both sin, he’s stating that they’re both wrong. He isn’t stating that they are equally as bad. One is the seed of the other. Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler were both sinners, but as Robertson McQuilkin writes, one is going to be judged more severely than the other. This isn’t just a theological argument. We know this instinctively. Let’s get real. Visiting a prostitute, abusing a child, or having an long-term affair is worse than having an impure thought. This doesn’t have to make us more judgmental. Actually, it allows us to not make a huge deal over every issue. It allows for more grace. I want to go further than Ed did on one other issue. I think that certain sexual sins do make it necessary to step down from Christian leadership, at least for a while. It’s pretty clear that if you’re going to be an elder or a pastor, you’ve got to be monogamous. I know that this seems to make it harder for pastors to come clean, but it can actually help. I’m going to react to a pastor who has had four long-term affairs differently than I will with a pastor who sometimes struggles with pornography. In the end, I agree with Ed’s heart and his hope. I think that making a distinction between the level of struggle actually provides hope, because I can come clean with my struggles without someone overreacting. We are all sexually broken, and discussions like this one can help to move us to a point when we’re not shocked to know that someone else is struggling too.