Restoring Sexual Ethics
In our current culture, “freedom” incorrectly means the ability to do what we please without suffering any consequences. This lack of personal responsibility has caused many of our societal problems and much of it is rooted in irresponsible sexual behavior. Consider one of Tinder’s latest ads proclaiming, “Single does what single wants.” This axiom of greed and objectification does not take into account the feelings of another human being, nor does it account for the collateral damage if children result from a union. It merely strips freedom down to the selfish pursuit of one’s desires.
In contrast, Os Guinness, in his new book Last Call for Liberty (IVP Books), argues, “Free societies are responsible societies with citizens who are ready, willing, and able to assume personal responsibility.” This sense of personal responsibility is founded in a correct view of ourselves and our purpose. If we understand that we are made in God’s image, then we respect ourselves as His creation. If we respect ourselves as His creation, we also respect every other person as His creation as well. We understand that God made each person special and unique and that He loved them long before we ever met them.
Because of this reality, we cannot treat the opposite sex (or any person for that matter) as a consumer item. A person is not a vending machine to use for our own pleasure but rather a creation of God endowed with a soul. Every man is a brother, a son, and a friend, while every woman is also a sister, a daughter, and a friend.
In our consumer-driven “swipe right, swipe left” culture, the ethics of sexuality, the ethics of treating others with dignity, has become frayed. Yet what would happen if, as a community, we restored sexual ethics? What if we restored the concept of treating others with value and dignity rather than using them for our own purposes? What if we truly believed that every life was a sacred gift of God with incredible value, worth, purpose, and dignity? What if, before we followed our feelings — and exploited another human being — we remembered that this person is a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, and a friend — not an object to be used? What if, starting with respecting ourselves, we restored relationships of mutual respect?
Restoring sexual ethics would radically change our culture into one of kindness and mutual respect.
The obstacle to this restorative change is the greed of the human heart that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, continually pulls us to use others for our own advantage. This hardwiring can only be satisfied when the created is finally reconciled to his Creator. As St. Augustine so poignantly noted, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
When we truly find rest in God alone, it transforms our hearts and our perspective to view ourselves and all other people with dignity and value. In a world so devoid of value and meaning beyond self-fulfillment, this perspective stands apart in a radical way.
As such, the tides of “normalcy” beat against it because seeing others as consumable objects for one’s own benefit stands as the normal mode of selfish human behavior. Movies, music, the media, celebrity magazines, and popular culture reinforce this perspective. Yet this perspective has only led to suffering, broken relationships, damaged hearts, and the vain attempt to ignore a life that is bankrupt of real meaning.
It is time for a new vision, a new restoration for our culture. Not only answering “What does it mean to be human?” with “Created in the image of God” but also allowing that truth to guide our lives. It becomes an inner decision that goes, “If all people are made in the image of God, then I must treat them as such. If all people are made in the image of God, I cannot use a person for my benefit — sexually or otherwise.”
It also follows that if all people are made in the image of God, then abortion, which ends a human life, is morally wrong. If all people are made in the image of God, then pornography, which is often made using trafficked victims, is wrong. In addition, pornography defaces another human being through a destructive counterfeit relationship, destroying love, relationships, and families. This also strips people of the dignity of being made in God’s image.
Ultimately, if all people are made in the image of God, it means that we must radically change our own self-perspective and our perspectives of others. If all people are made in the image of God, then we must treat others with dignity. Finally, a restoration of sexual ethics could not only benefit our personal lives with self-respect and respect towards others, but if we all choose to live by it, we could change our world.