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Second/Last Sunday after Epiphany

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Rev. Andrew Eckert

St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 

St. Paul writes to a congregation in the middle of a culture filled with sexual sin.  We Americans often think that we are the first people to practice sexual openness and freedom.  But we are only the latest among many cultures to indulge the sinful flesh.  The name of the city Corinth was used in ancient times as a verb.  To "Corinthanize" meant to fornicate.  Also, there was not one, but three temples to Aphrodite in the city, including many temple prostitutes.

America is not much different than Corinth.  Our culture is saturated with explicit forms of lewdness in theater, literature, music, advertisement, television, clothing styles, etc.  Sexuality is public, with all forms and manners of immorality not only discussed, but bragged about.

Since our culture practices sexual freedom, there must be the freedom to commit abortion.  The consequences of prolific sex include pregnancy.  But if pregnancy can be eliminated at will, then American freedom is that much stronger.  Of course, it is not true freedom, which can only come through Jesus Christ.  It is only an illusion of freedom, a monstrosity that devours millions upon millions of innocent babies in the name of pleasure.

In the past, churches were unanimous in their response.  With Paul they said, "Flee from sexual temptation!" Do not stand and give battle in the face of this enemy.  No matter how strong your resolve is, "the strongest oath is straw against the fire in the blood," as an old proverb says.  Like other temptations, sexuality turns your will power against you to desire the thing you should resist.  Therefore, get away from the temptation, like Joseph who ran from Potifar's wife.

Could there be anyone who escapes completely from sexual sin?  Paul does not limit sexual immorality to prostitution.  In other ways we transgress the Sixth Commandment.  Whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Not only in eyes and thoughts, but also in words we abuse God's gift of sexuality.  The Commandment is broken by using pornography.  It is broken by divorce, homosexuality, and any sexual act not done with your spouse.  Likewise, to condone immoral behavior is to share in sin.  For instance, certain churches that support homosexuals in their lifestyle share in that sin even if they do not commit it themselves.

Even the very purest of us sometimes slip in thought, word, or deed.

If we allow sexual sin to germinate in our lives, it will spawn all kinds of other sins.  One immorality gives birth to many more.  With King David, adultery led to lying, murder, and other sins.  What our society mistakes for love, bears its fruit in hate.  What God intends as a life-giving act, sin turns into death.  What should create union instead causes division and divorce.

The child conceived by the union between man and woman ought to be an incarnation of that union.  In the child, the flesh of man and woman combine in a beautiful way.  But the sin of mankind sees the child as an inconvenience.  Mankind wants only selfish pleasure.  So the self-gratifying human race puts to death the innocent victims of desire.  Abortion flows from adultery because adultery tries to separate sexual pleasure from the union of man and woman, and the child IS the union of man and woman.

The Church must resist the pressures of the world, especially because our sinful flesh wants to cooperate.  We are being led, if not to give in to temptation, then at least to condone the ways of the world.  We might say, "That behavior is not THAT bad," especially if someone we know engages in it.  If a close friend is gay, then it may seem to us that homosexuality is not that bad.  If a family member lives with someone outside of marriage, we might overlook it so that we do not appear judgmental.  If a friend has an abortion, we may sympathize with the emotions that led her to that decision.

Go ahead and sympathize all you like.  But we must not compromise on God's Word.  We must recognize sin for what it is, and not be afraid to call it sin.  We must be able to recognize sin in ourselves, and allow God's Law to condemn us when we have stumbled.  If we rationalize sin away, or say it is not serious, then we are pushing away repentance, and are in danger of pushing away faith and the cross.

Every sin is dangerous, especially those sins that masquerade as love.  Sexual sin and abortion are tragic and destructive abuses of God's gifts.  These abuses result in corruption and death.  To see the destruction that our sins have made, look to the cross, where the Father turned His face away from the awfulness of mankind's sin.  On the cross, the Son of Man suffered the agony of hell.  The sins of humanity, including our sins, crushed His innocent flesh, driving Him to such agony and death that we cannot imagine.  That is the destruction of sin.  Christ Jesus allowed Himself to be killed by the horrific abomination of our sins.

He was more innocent than any child conceived in any mother's womb.  For we all are conceived in sin, but Christ Jesus was conceived in holiness by the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Not only was He conceived that way, but He remained holy and sinless throughout His entire life.  Not a single misdeed was committed by Him.  Not a single sinful word came from His mouth.  Not a single corrupt thought was ever in His mind.  He did not lust, He did not covet, He did not desire anything immoral.

Yet this perfect Man was crucified, and not only crucified, but killed in our place and for our sins.  His death was the worst, most awful abortion of human life: The precious life of the Son of God snuffed out, even though He alone of all humanity through all of history was perfectly innocent.

In His death, He showed us true love, not the cheap, fickle, petty love that we humans practice.  His love was willing to suffer the worst agony and torture of all.  His pure, selfless love asked nothing in return.

Christ showed us what perfect married love ought to be: He, the loving Husband, has won back His bride, the Church.  His faithfulness transcends all understanding, for He was willing to suffer the penalty for our adulterous idolatry.  We played the spiritual fornicator, abandoning our loving Husband for every lust and desire that entered our minds.  But He, faithful to the end, has loved us with a pure, untainted love; a glorious love so unlike our pale love as the shining sun is greater than a shadow.

Now His love and cross and Blood have adorned us like a bride prepared for her wedding day.  Christ has made us beautiful with His beauty.  He has made us holy with His holiness.  As a good husband shares all that he has with his wife, so Christ has shared all.  He has poured out His full grace and the glory of His nature to us, so that we poor, wretched sinners are covered with the majesty of our Redeemer.  No sin, no matter how grave, can separate us from our loving husband.  His desire is only that we be united with Him in perfect happiness forever, and He has descended to the depths of hell to see us joined with Him.

Do you think that anything is more powerful than that love?  If there is abortion in your past, whether you pressured someone else to have one, or you made the decision to end the life of your baby - make no mistake: that is a serious sin.  But abortion is no match for the grace of God.  His forgiveness is sure and certain.  Your sin, no matter how large, cannot compare with the precious Blood of Christ shed for you.  The cross wipes away every offense.

Have you committed adultery?  Have you broken your marriage vows in unfaithfulness or divorce?  Make no mistake.  These are serious offenses against God.  Each is worthy of His greatest punishment.  But Christ paid for them all.  Even your worst are atoned by the sacrifice of the holy Lamb of God.  You cannot sin a sin too big to forgive, because Christ died.

So repent.  Take sin seriously.  Be sorrowful over all the filthy, disgusting garbage of your life, because it all deserves terrible retribution.  But all the more, be confident that every sin is washed away by the Blood of Christ.

One more thing.  When you meet someone who is burdened with guilt, remember that you have the message of forgiveness.  You can tell them that Christ has paid for their sins and freed them from their guilt.  You can tell them that the cross is their salvation, because they have been redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, true God in human flesh, our glorious Savior who reigns eternally at the Father's right hand.  Praise be to Him forever and ever.  Amen.

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