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Sexuality

The sex­u­al char­ac­ter of human per­sons has a pos­i­tive role to play in human spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. Like all things human, sex­u­al­i­ty must be sanc­tioned by God and inspired with the Holy Spir­it, used for the pur­pos­es God has intend­ed. And like all things human, through its mis­use and abuse, sex­u­al­i­ty can be per­vert­ed and cor­rupt­ed, becom­ing an instru­ment of sin rather than the means for glo­ri­fy­ing God and ful­fill­ing one­self as made in His image, and accord­ing to His like­ness.

…The body is not meant for immoral­i­ty, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…Do you not know that your bod­ies are mem­bers of Christ? Shall I there­fore take the mem­bers of Christ and make them mem­bers of a pros­ti­tute? Nev­er! Do you not know that he who joins him­self to a pros­ti­tute becomes one body with her? For, as it is writ­ten, “The two shall become one.” But he who is unit­ed to the Lord becomes one spir­it with Him. Shun immoral­i­ty. Every oth­er sin which a man com­mits is out­side the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a tem­ple of the Holy Spir­it with­in you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glo­ri­fy God in your body. (I Corinthi­ans 6:13–20)

The teach­ing of St. Paul about sex­u­al­i­ty is anal­o­gous to his teach­ing about eat­ing and drink­ing and all bod­i­ly func­tions. They are giv­en by God for spir­i­tu­al rea­sons to be used for His glo­ry. In them­selves they are holy and pure. When mis­used or adored as an end in them­selves, they become the instru­ments of sin and death. The apos­tle specif­i­cal­ly says that all sex­u­al per­ver­sions have as their direct cause man’s rebel­lion against God.

There­fore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impu­ri­ty, to the dis­hon­or­ing of their bod­ies among them­selves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and wor­shipped the crea­ture rather than the Cre­ator, who is blessed for­ev­er. Amen.

For this rea­son God gave them up to dis­hon­or­able pas­sions. Their women exchanged nat­ur­al rela­tions for unnat­ur­al, and the men like­wise gave up nat­ur­al rela­tions with women and were con­sumed with pas­sion for one anoth­er, men com­mit­ting shame­less acts with men and receiv­ing in their own per­sons the due penal­ty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowl­edge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improp­er conduct…Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who prac­tice them. (Romans 1:24–32)

That those who “do such things deserve to die” was tak­en lit­er­al­ly in the law of Moses; thus adul­ter­ers, homo­sex­u­als, inces­tu­ous peo­ple and those com­mit­ting sex­u­al acts with beasts were ordered to be “put to death.” (Leviti­cus 20:10–16)

In fol­low­ing this teach­ing, while hop­ing on the mer­cy of God and the for­give­ness of Christ for all sin­ners, the New Tes­ta­ment scrip­tures are even more strict in their demands regard­ing sex­u­al puri­ty. Jesus, who for­gave the woman tak­en in adul­tery (John 8:7–11) and the repen­tant har­lot who washed His feet with her hair (Luke 7:36–50) gave the fol­low­ing teach­ing in His ser­mon on the mount:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not com­mit adul­tery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lust­ful­ly has already com­mit­ted adul­tery with her in his heart. If your right eye caus­es you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is bet­ter that you lose one of your mem­bers than that your whole body go into hell.

It was also said, ‘Who­ev­er divorces his wife, let him give her a cer­tifi­cate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchasti­ty, makes her an adul­ter­ess; and who­ev­er mar­ries a divorced woman com­mits adul­tery. (Matthew 5:27–32, also 19−3−9, Romans 7:3)

The Apos­tle Paul says sim­ply that unre­pen­tant adul­ter­ers, for­ni­ca­tors, and homo­sex­u­als will not enter the King­dom of God. (cf. I Corinthi­ans 6:9–10, Gala­tians 5:19)

Let mar­riage be held in hon­or among all, and let the mar­riage bed be unde­filed; for God will judge the immoral and the adul­ter­ous. (Hebrews 13:4)

Thus, accord­ing to the rev­e­la­tion of God, sex­u­al rela­tions are holy and pure only with­in the com­mu­ni­ty of mar­riage, with the ide­al rela­tion­ship being that between one man and one woman for­ev­er. Those who are not mar­ried and those who choose by the will of God not to mar­ry must abstain from all sex­u­al rela­tions since such rela­tions can­not pos­si­bly ful­fill the func­tion giv­en to the sex­u­al act by God in cre­ation. This does not mean that there will be no sex­u­al char­ac­ter to the unmar­ried person’s spir­i­tu­al life for the unmar­ried man and the unmar­ried woman will still express their human­i­ty in mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine spir­i­tu­al forms. The virtues and fruits of the Spir­it in each, as in those who are mar­ried, are iden­ti­cal, but the man­ner of their incar­na­tion and expres­sion will be prop­er to the par­tic­u­lar sex­u­al form of their com­mon human­i­ty, as well as the indi­vid­ual unique­ness of each per­son.

The sin­gle per­son who lives his or her whole life with­out hus­band or wife is called to vir­gin­i­ty as a wit­ness in this world of the King­dom of God where “in the res­ur­rec­tion they nei­ther mar­ry nor are giv­en in mar­riage, but are like angels in heav­en.” (Matthew 22–30) It is for this rea­son that those fol­low­ing the monas­tic life are said to have tak­en the “angel­ic habit.” This does not mean that they become dis­in­car­nate or unsex­u­al. It means rather that they per­pet­u­al­ly serve and praise God as His chil­dren, com­pris­ing, as it were, the uni­ver­sal fam­i­ly of God with­out being them­selves the lead­ers of fam­i­lies on this earth. In this way they express them­selves as the fathers and moth­ers, broth­ers and sis­ters of all mankind in Christ.

Who is my moth­er, and who are my brethren?” And stretch­ing out His hands toward His dis­ci­ples, He said, “Here are my moth­er and my brethren! For who­ev­er does the will of my Father in heav­en is my broth­er and sis­ter and moth­er.” (Mark 3:34–35)

Do not rebuke an old­er man, but exhort him as you would a father; treat younger men like broth­ers, old­er women like moth­ers, younger women like sis­ters, in all puri­ty. (I Tim­o­thy 5:1–2)

These words, of course, are intend­ed for all, mar­ried and unmar­ried, but they also most obvi­ous­ly have spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for those who, for Christ’s sake, are liv­ing the unmar­ried life. For as those who are mar­ried have the task of liv­ing their spir­i­tu­al lives with the cares of the fam­i­ly, and with­in the con­text of its needs and demands, the Chris­t­ian who is sin­gle lives his or her life in Christ with­out these con­di­tions.

I wish that all were as I myself am (i.e. unmar­ried, says Paul). But each has his own spe­cial gift from God, one of one kind and one of anoth­er. (…) The unmar­ried man is anx­ious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the mar­ried man is anx­ious about world­ly affairs, how to please his wife, and his inter­ests are divid­ed. And the unmar­ried woman or girl is anx­ious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spir­it; but the mar­ried woman is anx­ious about world­ly affairs, how to please her hus­band. I say this for your own ben­e­fit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to pro­mote good order and to secure your undi­vid­ed devo­tion to the Lord. (I Corinthi­ans 7:34–35)

So he that mar­ries… does well; and he who refrains from mar­riage will do bet­ter. (cf I Corinthi­ans 7:7–40)

The teach­ing here is clear. Peo­ple can serve God and live the spir­i­tu­al life both in mar­riage and in the sin­gle life. And peo­ple can sin in both as well. “Each has his own spe­cial gift from God.” (I Corinthi­ans 7:7) Saint Paul thinks, how­ev­er, that among those who want to do as per­fect­ly as they can, they who do not mar­ry “will do bet­ter.” (I Corinthi­ans 7:38–40)

The spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Church clear­ly agrees with the apos­tle. This does not mean that mar­riage is in any way dis­par­aged or dis­dained. It is giv­en by God and is a sacra­ment of the Church, and those who abhor it for “spir­i­tu­al rea­sons” are to be excom­mu­ni­cat­ed from the Church. (Canon Laws of the Coun­cil of Gan­gra) It means only that, most prac­ti­cal­ly, one can be a greater ser­vant of God and more per­fect­ly a wit­ness to His unend­ing King­dom if he gives up every­thing in this world, sells all that he has, and fol­lows Christ in total detach­ment and pover­ty.

The idea, how­ev­er, that a sin­gle per­son can indulge one­self in the things of this world, includ­ing sex­u­al­i­ty, and still be the ser­vant of God in Christ is total­ly reject­ed and con­demned. One can for­sake mar­riage in the body only for greater free­dom from “anx­i­ety about world­ly affairs” in order to be con­cerned with “the affairs of the Lord…how to be holy in body and spir­it.” The sin­gle per­son who is “holy in body and spir­it” has sex­u­al rela­tions with no one.