We don?t live in a puritan world with Victorian social mores. It seems, though, that many pastors have yet to come to grips with?this. You grew up in a context of strong Bible teaching and enforced morality. You were taught that sex before marriage was wrong. You were taught to believe that sex was an unthinkable act until that ecstatic wedding night, a sin fraught with guilt and shame. So was I. I didn?t listen.
I am one of the 80% of young evangelicals who had sex before marriage. But pastor, it?s not just us. In your congregation are numerous people who have commited adultery. There are hundreds of porn addicts and fantasizers of both genders. We are not a sexually pure people. So please don?t preach like we?re riding on your high horse with you (whether or not you mean to be up there).
The Bible is clear about sex and it?s place in marriage, and it is your job to preach it. But when you stand up there and preach like ?we all know fornication is evil? it shames us. When you lay low the adulterers with your scorn it shames them. And are you even thinking of those who became sexually active by force through rape or molestation? How low must they feel when you speak of the “loss of purity” like it?s a candle that was blown out?
Of course there are the unrepentant and the hard-hearted, yes. But when you go after them with unfettered wrath you know who else feels the brunt of the message? Those of us who have repented, who do know our sins, who have asked for forgiveness. And every blow you land on them is at least a glancing blow on us. You knock us back into the days of our failings and the shame of mistakes already forgiven. We still feel shame, and what we need isn?t a preventative message or a pejorative message but a restorative one.
God?s standard for everyone is holiness, and not one of us can attain it without grace. Not me, not you, not anyone. Pastor, you are speaking to the stained. When you speak down at sexual sin you shine a spot light on part of life we are ashamed of, you open up old wounds. You must speak God?s truth about obedience and holiness ? please do! ? but please do so with a message that is not just seasoned with grace but made up of it.
What God wants for us is purity, not just virginity. You can lose the latter but regain the former. And you can have the former without having the latter. Purity is found in Jesus whether you are virgin or not. And the gospel, full of grace, tells us that purity can be laid over our stains through the righteousness of Jesus. Pastor, that is the message we need. We know our guilt, and those who don?t won?t be won by your fervor and contempt for their sin. We will be restored and they will be persuaded by the sweet grace of Jesus. Preach that.