May 2019

May 2019

Basic Christianity: Live Chastely

When I was growing up, my parents were very careful about what my brothers and I saw on television and in movies, what we heard on the radio, and what we read in books. They didn’t want us picking up bad language, or emulating bad attitudes, or being traumatized (or desensitized!) by graphic depictions of gore and extreme violence. But of all the things from which my parents sought to guard us, the biggest of them all was what I will euphemistically term “the marital act.”

You know what I’m talking about.

That’s why I always used to think that Christians generally knew that “the marital act” was, well, marital! The way I saw it, non-Christians tended to treat it more casually, as a source of passing pleasure rather than of awesome responsibility. Non-Christians would indulge in the act with multiple partners before marriage. Christians, on the other hand, would always strive to live chastely, delaying the marital act until after they had made their public marriage vows before God and man. If they messed up, they would repent and strive to live chastely from that point on. I totally took it for granted that that’s the way things were.

How completely, desperately, lamentably wrong I was.

Since becoming a pastor, I’ve learned that the vast majority of those in our day and age who term themselves “Christian” do not live chastely. It is almost standard practice for young Christians to live promiscuously during their high school and college years. Once they “get serious” about a potential spouse, they leap immediately into the marital act and put off marriage itself until years later. They move in together and establish joint households and have children, and then, at long last, they get married. And unfortunately, when a couple doesn’t live chastely before marriage, their marriage is far more likely to end in an early divorce, leaving the children as casualties.

So was I naïve to think that Christians would, or should, live differently than the rest of the world when it comes to chastity? I may have been mistaken about the way most Christians do live these days, but I wasn’t wrong about how we Christians should live. God expects us to live chastely (1 Thess. 4:3–5; Col. 3:5). He threatens to punish unchastity (1 Cor. 6:9–10, 18; 10:8; Eph. 5:5; Heb. 13:4), and He forbids us from tolerating it in the Christian congregation (1 Cor. 5:1–5, 11, 13; Eph. 5:3). That means no indulgence in the marital act before you’re married, even if you’re engaged. It means no looking at things you find on the internet that God has forbidden. It means not intentionally entertaining lustful thoughts and fantasies, and certainly never acting them out. We Christians are called by God to lead chaste and decent lives in word and deed—and thought! It’s difficult, and, especially when it comes to our thoughts, it may seem impossible (but it’s not, at least with practice). But the response to the difficulty is not to throw in the towel and decide to live like the rest of the sinful world and rely on Jesus to forgive us (He won’t forgive us if we refuse to repent). The response is to repent and pray to God for the strength to live as He has called us to live.

I’ve been told more than once that I shouldn’t talk about these things at Holy Cross because we’re an older congregation that doesn’t struggle with the sin of fornication. Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth. We are affected by unchastity just like everyone else. And even if you who are reading this have been living chastely, how confidently can you rebuke your children and grandchildren when they live unchastely? How confidently can you make clear to them that their behavior excludes them from the kingdom of God, and that you expect them to change their ways and start living chastely again? How confidently can you support your pastor in the difficult duty of calling the unchaste to repentance, exercising Christian discipline until they repent? The Christian Church has work to do. Our congregation has work to do. I as your pastor have work to do in helping us to live chastely. That’s not some kind of pipe dream, an unrealistic puritan utopia. It’s basic Christianity.

In all earnestness, I ask you to take a moment right now, before you put down this article, to ask our heavenly Father to help all of us to live chastely, to forgive us where we have failed, and to help His Church once again to live as He has called us to live. Pray for Him to help you look kindly on your fellow Christians who have been living unchastely, not in judgment but in compassion and in readiness to forgive. Give thanks to God for covering our shame with the blessedness of His own righteousness, won for us by the death of His perfectly chaste Son on our behalf. And resolve, if you haven’t already, to live chastely and to encourage others to do so as well.

Live chastely! That’s basic Christianity.

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf