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50 Shades of Decay
by Tom Goodman
July 11, 2012

It's a strange time we live in when feminism's daughters make a runaway bestseller of sado-masochism and when God's daughters invite each other via social media to see the latest flick about male strippers.

A strange time, but not a new time.

No, not new.  The first-century Roman world was easily more pornographic than our own.  Since the earliest Christians came out of that culture, part of discipleship involved learning a new sexual ethic.

What kind of world were these new Christians trying to break from?  We learn a little from Thomas Cahill's book about ancient Greek culture, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea.  Explicit sexual acts were praised in song and even depicted in art work -- and not art work hidden away in private bedchambers but openly displayed.  Lurid portrayals of sexual organs, orgies, and rapes can still be seen in dining room frescoes and dinner goblets from the period.

When Paul wrote to people who were trying to live new Christian lives in that kind of world, he expressed firm and yet patient pastoral concern:  "God wants you to be holy and to stay away from sexual sins.  He wants each of you to learn to control your own body.  Don't use your body for sexual sin like the people who do not know God." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NCV)

In this not-new world of ours, let's show that same untiring commitment with each other.  Paul was a patient coach:  "You need to learn," he said.  "Learn to control your own body."  Like learning any subject, those who try to practice the Christian sexual ethic in an ungodly world will have their stumbles -- but they will inevitably get back up and progress.  And they will be glad for that Christian parent, that Christian marriage partner, that Christian friend, and that Christian pastor who helps them progress.

In what forms does that help come?  General teaching, specific counsel, pointed reprimand, heartening encouragement, and always the infusion of prayer, to the end that we all become imitators of the Lord who bought us at a price.

The Christian is in a lifelong project of deprogramming from an ungodly world system.  This includes a new approach to everything: possessions, friendships, family, and, yes, sexuality.  You live in a world that celebrates 50 shades of decay -- you live in that world, that is, but you are no longer of that world.  Onward and upward!


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