Scripture Focus: Leviticus 18.24-28
24 “ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Reflection: Older Than the Old Way
By John Tillman
There’s an argument that the biblical sexual ethic is old and outdated. “That was the old way. Now we must think about sex in a new way.” The truth is more complicated.
Biblical sexuality is the “original” idea from page one of the Bible, but we rejected it on page two and never looked back. There is nothing “new” about the modern sexual climate. Sex has always been abused by the powerful, made a tool of addiction and manipulation, peddled for money, intertwined with slavery, and unlimited in its scope. This free-for-all leaves casualties and abuse in its wake.
Sexual ethics go beyond personal choices. God says the land, the dirt we came from, is affected by our defilement of one another. When we mistreat each other, the land itself gets sick. Creation is not inanimate, unaffected matter. “Cursed is the ground,” God says. And why? “Because of you.” (Genesis 3.17; 4.10-12)
When the only sexual limit is consent, human bodies, souls, and emotions are just hills to be mined or streams to be tapped. Secure the mineral and water rights; take what you want. Strip mine, clear cut, dam them up, dry them up, poison them…who cares? They signed on the dotted line. This is the old way. But older than the old way, is God’s way.
Current cultural sexual ethics are old, but in every age, God carved out for himself people to be different—to return to Eden, little by little. (Matthew 19.4; Mark 10.5-6)
In Leviticus, God instructs his people to be distinct in how they practice everything from handling money to how to treat one another’s bodies. God’s language centers on care for others, respect, and self-control. No one group is singled out. God’s people must be distinct from the pattern of normality all around them. “What is normal for them, must not be normal for you. What seems natural to them, must not be natural to you.”
This didn’t start in Leviticus. Throughout the Bible, there is a consistent pattern of God subverting the cultural norms of sex among those who follow him. God worked gradually and people followed imperfectly. They consistently followed culture rather than him, but God worked with and among them even amidst failure.
We are a part of this people. We may fail at times, but if we continually turn to him, he will continue to undo our curses and make us blessings to our land.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. — Psalm 97.9
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about It’s in the Bible
If we look carefully, we can see God actively disrupting cultural assumptions and human traditions that people in scripture accepted as normal.
Read more about Beyond Consent
May each of us submit every part of our identities, including our sexuality, to God’s calling in our lives.