The serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. He attacks while retreating, retreating while attacking. He concedes this point, all the while making that point. He is both a tar baby and quicksilver. And we are fools for forgetting it.
Consider, if you will, the battles that have dotted the evangelical landscape over the past thirty years. We had lordship salvation, integrationist psychology, seeker sensitive worship, Jabez, WWJD, Promise Keepers, Harold Camping, y2k and a host of other end of the world scenarios, charismatic gifts, modalist elephants and in one tiny circle of the evangelical world, federal vision, Shepherdism and the New Perspective.
Most of these issues are, or were, important. There are right answers and wrong answers, and wrong ideas have bad consequences. What if, however, the devil’s goal was less to encourage us to end up on the wrong side of these issues, and more to distract us from more damaging issues? What if some of these were false fronts and we left sundry other flanks exposed? What if while we were all scratching our heads the devil was dropping our drawers?
Though there are competing studies, some more alarming than others, the hard truth is that evangelicals are sleeping with partners to whom they are not married. Hundreds of thousands of them, with barely a word even spoken. How many churches, for instance, have a reputation for preaching against fornication? How many denominations are known as those that take adultery seriously? I suspect when church historians in the next millennia look back at our age they may just define us as that group that gave up on sex. We could not remain relevant and faithful to the Word on sex, and we chose relevant. It would be bad enough if we had allowed ourselves to be swept up in the culture’s sexual tsunami. But the truth is worse—we have failed to be salt and light. It is less that we are worse off because we are like them, more they are worse off because they are like us.
The result is not merely immorality. The trouble with not keeping your pants on isn’t that you offend that great Prude in the sky. The problem is that it leads to death (Proverbs 7:27). How many of our grievous social ills trace their roots to the lie that we can have sex outside marriage with no great consequence? To put it another way, what would this world look like if there were no more adultery and fornication? Because families would be intact, ghettoes and the pathologies that come with them would fade away. The murder rate would drop precipitously. Little boys would grow up with fathers, and when grown would be fathers, working and providing for their own families. Little girls would grow up knowing they were loved by their daddies, and would be secure. Sexually transmitted diseases would go the way of polio. Sexual trafficking would be but a shameful memory.
Best of all, babies would be safe in their mother’s wombs. The murder of babies, which is no mere social ill but is our greatest shame, would wither from the scene.
That is not the world we live in. For two reasons. First, we have come to believe that sexual sins have little reach. Wrong we’re willing to confess. Dangerous we are willing to consider. Destroying our world? No, not that. The pathway to death? That’s just biblical hyperbole. Second, and perhaps the cause of the folly of the first, we won’t preach against this, because then people won’t come to church. We think it more important to not drive anyone away, to not lose one giving unit, than to see the power of the Word preached to change the world. We sold our prophetic birthright for a mess of relevance pottage.
Faithful biblical preaching recognizes that theology doesn’t stop with our minds. Faithful biblical preaching preaches the whole of the Bible, and calls out our sins, even if the world thinks them not sins at all. I pray a day will come when we say of this pastor or that, “You ought to download his sermons. He preaches sin. He’s a marriage-ist.” I pray a day will come when one believer will say to another, “I was reading Spurgeon the other day, and he got after it. I had no idea that guy preached fidelity.” I pray, with Paul, a day will come when sexual sin is so faithfully preached against that it will not named once among us (Ephesians 5:3). It matters, eternally.