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Read Ephesians 5:1-14.

Character contrast - I want to remind you what this text is about. As those who’ve been baptized into Christ we are called to live worthy of our divine calling. We are children of light. We are imitators of God. You were darkness, but now you are light. Along side that contrast is another important contrast: We can live in Christ-like love or we can live in self-indulgent lust. (See 5:1-2.)

Idolatry of Lust - The empty deeds of darkness that we have been called away from include self-serving lust. Lust in all its varieties, but sexual lust in particular, regards other people as objects that exist for our own gratification. Perhaps because this force is so powerful and prominent it has been personified in a hundred different gods and goddesses. Ashtoreth, Eros, Aphrodite, Xochiquetzal, Ishtar, Varuna, Medb, Chuang-Mu, Bacchus, Gerda are just a few examples of how humans have turned sex and sensuality into a force to be worshipped. Those old names may not be around anymore except in encyclopedias, but lust is still a power that is worshipped even in this day and age.

Just like Ephesus and the ancient world our day and age seems to have the same problem with obscene and foolish talk about sexuality. Our culture has an unhealthy fascination with scandal and innuendo. We are told that sex sells – it sells books, movies, TV shows, music, clothing, cheeseburgers and buffalo wings.

Sarah Freeman is an Assistant Manager at a Westco Jeans shop in Melbourne, Austrailia. Two weeks ago, she and all other staff were presented with a new item of uniform, a tight white T-shirt, with a plunging neckline, bearing the slogan, "stop pretending you don't want me". The slogan refers to the company's product, but for Sarah, its double meaning was clear, and she didn't like it. Sarah raised her concerns with managers. But the memo to staff was clear – there were no exemptions from the rule, and no T-shirt equals no work. Not long after that, she says her concerns were realised when she was harassed by a customer. Eventually, the company issued a release saying that the T-shirt was a quirky statement reflecting the attributes of their product, and that feedback from staff had been overwhelmingly positive. However, [the company] reversed its directive that wearing the shirt is compulsory.
[Article by Ben Knight -]

But its just all in good fun, right? Not quite. There’s a price for regarding sex as nothing more than recreational, casual, or just something for buddies. There’s a cost involved with crude joking about sex or using it to sell merchandise. A culture that seems shocked when children are molested but at the same time markets suggestive material to pre-teens is simply hypocritical. We cannot cry out against the sexual degradation and demeaning of children and adults if we take human sexuality lightly or ignore its holy significance.

There’s nothing sinful or wrong about sex as God intended it. There’s nothing sinful about human sexuality. It was after all God’s idea to create us as male and female. But there’s quite a lot wrong with worshipping sexual desire (or any desire for that matter). When we are ruled by our lusts we are no longer living under God’s rule. It is essentially idol-worship and the tragedy is that when we are ruled by our need for gratification we have exchanged the creator and sustainer who made us male and female for a counterfeit god that will consume us. Who do we worship? What power do we serve? The answer will determine the kind of people we are ...

What is Fitting? - As children and light and as those who called to imitate God, what is fitting for us? Should we live for gratification of our own desires? Or should we live in love? What is fitting? What is proper? We know the answer.
To “live in love” is more than a legalism that denies human sexuality, rather it is a higher standard in which people make covenants on the basis of love. The standard of those covenant is the self-sacrificing love of Christ. Regarding sex and sexuality, this will of course apply to married couples, but it also has implications for all of us concerning the way we behave and the way we talk about sexual matters and the reverance we show to God’s design.

The text indicates what is fitting:

  1. First of all, to “live in love” means to imitate the love of Christ. (5:1-2) That’s a self-sacrificing love. At minimum, it is a love that considers the welfare of others. This applies to marriage in which a man and woman consider each other and their relationship is patterned after Christ’s relationship with the church. But this principle can be applied even more generally than that. Living in love toward one another means that our sexuality is defined by God and not by selfish gratification. So that means that a man is not going to treat any woman [even if he doesn’t know her] as an object of satisfaction. It means that a woman will not use a man for her own means. Instead of being foolish and casual about sexuality it means that we are going to regard all men and women as souls created in God’s image. It means that we will respect this wonderful mystery of sexuality that God conceived.

  2. Secondly, to live in love means that we are going to be a people who give thanks (5:4). The language of thanksgiving, not the language of foolishness and obscenity is what we speak. Thanksgiving is not only reserved for God, but it is also directed at others. Being thankful is the antidote to selfish indulgence.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 1 July 2007

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