“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Paul, A.D. 55, to the Church at Corinth (1 Co. 6:18-20, ESV)
The talk of traditional marriage has taken a back seat these days, apparently from the lack of political conversation on the matter after several legal reversals of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” military rule on homosexuality. In some ways this a welcome result. It has always been disappointing for me, at least, to see the vitriol with which “Christians” would defame those who were promoting homosexual marriage and the lifestyle of those in that category. While I understand the slippery slope concern; that somehow accepting of homosexual marriage will lead to further sexual sins, that is not really the point here. The point is about the realization that we have never been asked to focus on anyone’s sin except those who are already Christians.
All throughout the New Testament when “sinners” were addressed from Jesus, while the sin was acknowledged, grace was shown consistently. The scripture here from Paul to the Church at Corinth is often used as an example on why these “heathens” need to leave their sin and turn to Jesus. Other verses on this topic come to mind as well obviously; the Bible is full of them. However, only when it comes to Christians is the idea of sexual sin being a much deeper sin discussed, including in this verse above (note how Paul describes his audience as being people with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). Before a person accepts Christ, there is a consistent treatment of all sin as equal. It is only when a person becomes a follower of Jesus, that sins seem to start going into different categories. Now, I am not trying to say that this is unequivocally the way it is 100% of the time, but in context with all of these verses together it is clear that God does not expect someone who is not a Christian to be holy.
Let me put it another way. The only judgement that comes to a non-believer is just that, they do not have a relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. However, it is with Christians that this issue of each and every sin is called out, judged, and even punished (habitual unrepentant Christian sinners were excommunicated from the Church). The only command that God gives us as believers in reference to our communication with non-Christians is to show love, grace, and mercy in the same way in which God has showed that to us. I am very glad that God did not require me to get my act together before I became a Christian. Most of the time I don’t even have my act together now, after becoming a Christian. I am truly, a work in progress. If I am expected to have grace extended to me as a Christian, who has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (as this verse from Paul describes), then why would not even more grace be extended to those who are outside of the fellowship of the Lord.
In closing, I do not think that our “anger at sin” is geared in the right direction. The world is expected to be sinful. You and I as Christians; we are the ones expected to be holy. I do not know about you, but I fail at that pretty regularly.
Billy J Crocker