Friday, August 14, 2009

Scriptural or Cultural

Recently I did a pre-marital appointment for a couple who wanted to attend our marriage class. They indicated in their application that they were living together. Part of our requirement for being part of the class is that couples not be living together, and if they are we meet with them to encourage them to separate until their wedding. Not knowing how the appointment would go, I wanted to prepare and be sure that I had solid scriptural footing for any conversations that might arise.

I figured there had to be a verse somewhere that said "Thou shalt not knock boots until thy wedding day, thus saith the Lord" but it is nowhere to be found. So I asked another pastor. He looked at me funny. "Hmm, I don't know. Let's look" and he pulled out a little counseling guide that pointed to 1 Corinthians 6:

1Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
1Cor. 6:10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Ok, but what, exactly, does sexually immoral mean? Because they are not adulterers, they aren't married. Well, in Greek it's pornos. Looking at the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, pornos seems to be related to prostitution. Well, they aren't going to prostitutes so that doesn't exactly apply... Other greek lexicons were of no help either. They mostly talk of immoral behavior or relationship to prostitution. Hmmm. Ok, so what if they claim "we aren't immoral, we are in a monogamous relationship with one another!"

So I asked another pastor. He pointed me to Hebrews 13:4

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Ok, but they aren't married, and they aren't guilty of adultery, and the sexually immoral had that pesky pornos root again. I began to wonder if this was more of a cultural thing than a scriptural thing. After all, in 1 Corinthians 6:16 it seems to indicate that it is the sexual act that creates the union in God's eyes, not the marriage ceremony:

1Cor. 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
1Cor. 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

It was at this point that my wife joked "we shouldn't have waited!" to which we all laughed. So I asked another pastor. He went first to corinthians, and then to another passage that had that pesky greek word pornos in it. He replied confidently "but pornos means immorality!" and then we discussed that a bit. Pornos is often claimed to mean a lot of things, but when you come right down to it, it seems to tie mostly to prostitition. It was amazing to me how confident we all were without ever really digging into the scriptures involved.

So I went to yet another pastor and asked him. He immediately went to Ephesians 5:3 -

Eph. 5:3 ¶ But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

We have a winner! Regardless of how you exegete porneia or pornos, this verse is clear about sexual purity in english or in Greek. I didn't exactly expect them to begin arguing greek roots with me, and I wasn't about to tell them to continue on in sexual sin, but I found it very interesting how difficult it was for guys who know their bible to answer this question when challenged on those very points.

It did get me thinking about how easy it is to apply culture to the scripture, and to assume that cultural values are biblical values. It is always good to search the word of God to be sure that our assumptions are backed up by the text. In this case I believe they are, but I was definitely surprised at how not black and white this whole discussion really was when we dug in.


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