Baggage Claim – Sexual Baggage
Sycamore Creek Church
March 3 & 4, 2013
Today we wrap up a series looking at claiming our baggage and knowing what to do with it once we’ve claimed it. We began with family baggage, spent two weeks on divorce baggage, and today we finish with sexual baggage.
It’s worth taking a moment and remembering what I’ve meant when I use the term baggage. Baggage almost always has something to do with sin. Sin is missing God’s will for our lives. When we miss the mark God has set for us, we sin, and when we sin we feel guilty. That guilt is baggage. The way we deal with it is we confess it and then we do whatever we can to make things right. But sometimes we confess our sin and guilt persists. That persistent guilt is baggage. Or perhaps someone has sinned against us and left in us scars and memories that won’t go away. That’s baggage too.
We all accumulate baggage over time. Think about the most saintly person you know. They’ve got a past that includes some baggage. Think about the worst sinner you know. In Christ they have a future. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. You can’t do anything to change your past, but Christ can change your future. Jesus can take your baggage and create something new from it.
This isn’t a series of judgment and condemnation. But it is a series of truth telling. We’re telling the truth about ourselves. And when we tell the truth about ourselves, then we have the opportunity for real and true compassion and mercy. Truth telling and mercy aren’t mutually exclusive. They actually walk hand in hand.
Throughout this series we’ve tried to follow the example of Jesus who was presented with a woman caught in adultery. The crowd wanted to know what Jesus would do to her. Would he stone her as the law required? Jesus bent down and began writing in the dirt. As he wrote, each person in the crowd began to leave one by one. Then we read:
Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one sir,” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
John 8:10-11 NRSV
Jesus tells the truth about the woman when he says, “Go and do not sin again.” But he shows her compassion and mercy in the midst of it when he says, “I don’t condemn you.” So we take that same attitude today and we turn it toward the sexual baggage that we all claim.
I know you all think that because I’m a pastor that I’ve got no sexual baggage. Well, you would be wrong. In my premarried days I didn’t always save sexual intimacy for marriage. That guilt persists at times with me today. I grew up in a church that at times seemed to think that the only sin a teenager could commit was to not save sex for marriage. I internalized that and so I carry around some persistent guilt even today from decisions I made before I was married.
One area that I particularly struggled with was pornography. I’m not sure it was “clinical” but I struggled mightily with a split personality between my private viewing of pornography and my public persona of being a leader in my youth group at church. One day I felt so guilty about this that I felt compelled to go talk to my youth pastor and resign from my leadership roles because of my sin and hypocrisy. So I met him in his office and confessed and “resigned” from my leadership positions. Amazingly, he wouldn’t let me resign! He told me that I was finally being honest about myself, something that a lot of teenage guys weren’t doing. In that moment I met the joining together of telling the truth about myself and having mercy and compassion extended to me.
So what sexual baggage do you carry around with you? Here’s some questions to get you thinking:
- Were you sexually active before marriage?
- Are you currently sexually active outside of marriage?
- Have you looked at porn in the last month?
- Have you been sexually abused?
- Are you satisfied with your current marital sexual intimacy?
All of these, and probably many more, can be ways we accumulate sexual baggage. I can’t possibly hit on all of these in one message. So here’s the problem I want to deal with today: We think that casual sex has no consequences. We live in a sex-saturated culture that continually tells us we will only be satisfied when we have as many non-committal sexual encounters as possible.
I was recently listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) show, This American Life. The host of the show, Ira Glass, was interviewing a guy about a decision he and his girlfriend made about their relationship to have a month-long “rumspringen” where they could have sex with as many people as they wanted. “Rumspringen” is the time in the Amish culture when a teenager is given the opportunity to “sow their wild oats” before deciding whether to become Amish or not. So the guy Ira Glass is interviewing tells the story of how he goes out and tries to sleep with as many women as possible in this month-long period. The only problem is that he becomes emotionally attached to the women he’s sleeping with. He can’t just have casual sex. He bonds physically and emotionally with each woman he has sex with. Then it’s over.
Of course, over time he learns how to not become emotionally attached, but this is something like taking a piece of tape and sticking it to one thing after another. Over time, it won’t be sticky anymore because it’s being used in a way that it was not intended to be used. After the 30-day period, he gets back together with his girlfriend and they decide they need ninety more days for their Rumspringen. After the ninety days, they decide it’s over. Did you see that coming? Of course you did. Because even if you’ve bought into the culture’s idea that casual sex has no consequences, when confronted with this situation, you know that the culture is lying. Casual sex does have consequences. You either bond with those you have sex with or you have so much bonding and breaking that you become emotionally numb to bonding and have to relearn how to bond with someone.
Let’s take a moment and look at what God’s plan is for sex. We can find this laid out pretty clearly in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. I find in the story of creation four purposes for sex.
When God creates humans, God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28 NLT). Sex is about creating life. We are made in the image of God and some of what that means is that we too can create living breathing intelligent life that is able to love and communicate and have a relationship with its creator. That’s amazing! Sex is in part for multiplying.
When God made Adam he realized his creation was incomplete. We read, And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him” (Genesis 2:18 NLT). Adam and Eve were created as companions to one another in a way that was mutually compatible.
Some Christians throughout history have seemed to make sex into some kind of obligation and duty you have to perform and along the way you’re supposed to try to ignore or even suppress the pleasure that it brings. But that’s not the way that we read it in Genesis and many other parts of the Bible. After God creates Eve for Adam, we read, “At Last!” Adam exclaimed, “She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of a man” (Genesis 2:23 NLT). My Hebrew professor at Duke liked to say that “At last!” was way too tame of a translation. She liked to translate “At last!” as “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Adam is pleased with what he sees. And of course both of them were. They were both looking at one another butt naked in all their original human bodily perfection!
The author of Genesis sums this story up saying, This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one (Genesis 2:24 NLT). Sex creates a bond of unity that goes so deep that the author of Genesis says they become one flesh. That deep spiritual and physical unity is why Jesus says that if you divorce and remarry you may have dissolved the legal bond, but you can’t dissolve the unity bond that came through marriage and sex. Thus, if you remarry, according to Jesus, you’re committing adultery because you can’t un-flesh the one flesh that comes through marriage and sex. You’ll carry that other person around with you for the rest of your life.
So here’s the whole point of this message: sexual purity is intended for intimacy. Multiplying, companionship, pleasure, and unity create an intimate bond that is nearly impossible to break. We were built for intimacy, a bond between two people that excludes all others, and sex ultimately bonds us with another person.
When you have a life-long committed marriage that has experienced the birth of children, companionship, the pleasure of one another’s bodies, and the unity of becoming one flesh, you’ve got an exclusive bond of intimacy unlike any other. But if you’ve slept around and moved from one relationship to another delighting in many bodies and birthing children with many partners and sought companionship with many, then you don’t have a unity that leads to intimacy because you’ve got a bond that has been shared with many people.
The writer who compiled the book of wisdom called Proverbs, expresses this truth about sex in this way:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for sharing with strangers. Let your fountains be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. May her breasts satisfy you at all times; may you be intoxicated always by her love.
So God’s plan for sex is that it be saved for one person in a life-long commitment of marriage that creates an intimacy unlike any other. Sexual purity is intended for intimacy.
So about this time now, if you’re like me, you’re looking at some sexual baggage that you’re carrying around with you. It may be sexual baggage that is accumulated because you didn’t save sexual intimacy for marriage. Or it could be sexual baggage you accumulated because someone stole that sexual intimacy from you. I want to recognize the latter, but speak mostly of the former. Here’s what I want you to do today:
- Stop ignoring sexual sin.
- Stop idolizing sexual sin.
Some of us have bought into the culture’s claim that casual sex has no consequences or that God’s plan for sexual purity being saved for the intimacy of marriage doesn’t apply to us. We just ignore the sexual sin in our lives. If you err in this direction, then today I want you to stop ignoring the sexual sin in your life and recommit today to save sex for marriage. It may take a massive reordering of your life to make that happen but I think in the long-run God will bless you for making that commitment to sexual purity. Today receive God’s grace to live a transformed life.
Some of you err in the other direction. You idolize sexual sin. I fall in this category. Because I grew up in a church that seemed to take sexual sin more seriously than just about every other sin, I really tend to beat myself up about this one area of sin. I “idolize” it by making it worse than others. But sin is sin, and we’re all sinners. Today, receive God’s mercy and forgiveness and know that God can take that baggage of guilt from you.
In the book of Luke, we read about Jesus encountering a prostitute amidst a religious leader, Simon’s home-party. Simon isn’t very happy about this woman showing up at his party and is even less thrilled about how Jesus is treating her. We read:
Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I cam in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.
Jesus shows compassion to the woman who had sexual baggage, while he seems more than a little put off by the self-righteous religious leader. Baggage of any kind, including sexual baggage, draws us to the feet of Jesus where we meet both truth and mercy. We then lay the baggage at the foot of the cross.Share on Facebook