“Fornification”

Sharon Discipleship, Pop-Culture, Scripture 8 Comments

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Heidi and ColbyMonday night I happened to tune in for an intriguing episode of MTV’s hit show “The Hills.” I haven’t seen the show in a long time, so it was ironic that this particular episode featured an awkward interaction between the main characters and some evangelical Christians.

In case you don’t follow the show, the episode went like this–one of the main characters, Heidi, is in a volatile relationship with her live-in boyfriend Spencer. However, her ex-boyfriend comes into town to visit, so the tumultuous duo decide to have dinner with the ex and his own current girlfriend.

Now here comes the plot twist: the ex-boyfriend is now at Bible college. He and his girlfriend are conservative evangelicals, so the interaction doesn’t involve the typical ex-boyfriend awkwardness that one might expect. Instead, the episode follows the Christians’ noble attempt to witness to Heidi and Spencer.

After a few scenes in which the Christian couple takes various moral stances, such as refusing to drink alcohol at dinner because “nothing good comes of it”, they eventually convince Heidi and Spencer to join them in a Bible study. And that’s when things get really interesting.

Prior to the study, Spencer had asked them, “Is there really a verse in the Bible that says premarital sex is wrong?” Initially they didn’t seem to know the answer to this question, even though they had just defended their decision to remain abstinent until marriage. But now that they’d had the time to do some research, they had an answer.

The Bible does address the issue of premarital sex, they respond. Then the Christian girl explains to Spencer, “In the Bible, the word used for it is ‘fornification.'”

And with that, my heart immediately sank.

Now I’m going to be honest with you–I generally hate scenarios like this on television, because the Christians almost always come out looking like idiots. But in this case I was genuinely cheering for these two! They seemed very sincere in their desire to honor God and be a witness to Christ, and I was rooting for them. I wanted them to succeed!

And to some extent, I think they did. They’re honesty and integrity seemed to have quite an impact on Heidi, despite the pronunciatory slip-up. They certainly did their best, and God will bless their efforts.

However, such stories are all too common within the Church. Christians will be uncompromising in their beliefs, morals, and lifestyle choices, all in the name of Christ. But when pressed in the slightest bit, it quickly becomes apparent that they haven’t the slightest idea about what Scripture actually says.

In the instance I just described, the young lady was a stalwart defender of sexual abstinence, yet she seemed to be encountering the word “fornication” for the first time. Given that this particular word serves as one of the strongest statements against premarital sex in all of Scripture, her unfamiliarity with it is worrying. In Greek, the word clearly refers to extra-marital sexual relationships, but her belief in abstinence did not appear to be based upon this information at all.

If we are to have any credibility in the world around us, we need to know why we believe what we believe–not vaguely, or even philosophically, but Scripturally. Especially if we are going to be outspoken or dogmatic about an issue.

If you are a strong proponent of the pro-life movement, then you need to know the Scripture supporting it. If you are going to avoid clubs or drinking alcohol, then you need to have the related Scripture readily available. If you’re not going to sleep with your boyfriend, then be sure you know what Scripture has to say about it when your friends ask you why.

If we fail to back our beliefs with Scripture, then our beliefs aren’t particularly “Christian” at all. They are instead abstract moral philosophies, no different from any other ethical or religious system in the world.

But our beliefs and behaviors ARE different. We are not to obey the Word of God out of obligation or because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We follow the Word of God because it not only honors Him, but because it provides us with the only path to freedom from the trappings of this world.

When we defend our positions with Scripture, as opposed to opinion, we may still be met with rejection. For some, the truth of God will be foolishness no matter how it is presented. But we are not responsible for them. We are only responsible for ourselves, and as long as we bear the name of “Christian,” we better well know what Christ actually said.

Comments 8

  1. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    That’s a good question! As I mentioned, the word “fornication” refers to any sexual act that occurs outside the bonds of marriage. This occurs throughout Scripture–Eze. 16:15, Matt. 15:19, Mark 7:21, 2 Cor. 12:21, Gal. 5:19, Eph. 5:3, Col. 3:5, Hebrews. 13:4–just to name a few. All of these verses name fornication as a sin.

    In addition to these verses, Heb. 13:4 specifically teaches, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

    Also, see 1 Cor. 6. It talked about the sin of having sex with a prostitute, but notice that the sin is not using their body or taking advantage of someone. The sin is uniting yourself with someone to whom you are not married.

    That should be a good start!

  2. Tom

    The, Heb.13:14 clearly the sentence descibes adultry. I’ll read the others but I suspect I will find nothing specific assuming you quoted passage was your best shot. If it isn’t why not fix this and do the very thing your complaining the TV show didn’t. I don’t like reading about women being stoned to death. Christ was apposed to this and frankly I find you scripture people to be unchristian because it is almost always old testiment and there is so much brutality and injustice. Why not just read the thing and see.

  3. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Tom, if you checked the passages I first cited, they all reference “fornication” explicitly. jesus himself condemned it. Not all translations render the word “fornication” depending on what you read–some say “sexual immorality’–but it all derives from the same Greek word, porneia.

    That said, the condemnation of fornication is not isolated to the Old Testament. Although I would encourage you to check out the Old Testament more. While there is some violence in it, the violence is not always viewed as a positive thing, and there are a lot of passages in the Old Testament about the importance of caring for the poor, loving one another, etc. That’s why the Old Testament and the New Testament are included in the same book–they are part of the same story.

    Finally, the reason I highlighted the passage in Hebrews separate from the other verses is that it isn’t explicitly referenced, but the idea is the same. When we have sex outside of marriage, in any capacity, we belittle the sacredness of sex within marriage alone.

  4. AnneB

    Excellent post – we really do need to know the Scriptures to back our beliefs and moral positions. I find it a bit disheartening that most Christians I encounter hardly know what the Bible says – at all!

    I was at the mall yesterday with my family, and my husband noticed a lady wearing a shirt that said “Authentic – Luke 9:23.” My husband asked her what the verse said (not to be a jerk, he just wanted to strike up a conversation) and she had no idea what the verse said!

    Bible reading and Bible study does take effort, and it’s sad the most Christians just don’t find the time to do it.

    Your post was a good reminder of the importance of knowing why we believe what we believe and the importance to back everything by Scripture- our opinions don’t matter, it’s what God says that matters! God’s opinion is what will change the hearts of men.

  5. David

    Hi Sharon,

    I’m sorry if I am posting this in the wrong place, I was wondering if you could share any thoughts on the idea of Christians going ‘night clubbing’. You mentioned in your post here that if Christians are to abstain from night clubbing then we should have scriptural reasons to do so. Could you share any thoughts that would clarify these reasons or perhaps direct me to an article where it is made clear?

    Big fan of your website and your intelligent and reflective articulation of biblical and pastoral concepts.

  6. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Hi David! You know it’s kind of funny–my husband and I actually met at a night club/bar. We were both there for a fundraiser, so when it comes to night clubs I am definitely not opposed! Haha! However, I think you have to know your weaknesses, check your motives, etc. If you struggle not to objectify the women there because of the way they are dressed or dancing, then it might be wise to avoid that scene. On the other hand, when I was a single woman I used to have fun going out and dancing with my friends, and I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with that.

    The important thing, as I mention in the post, is that you should have Scriptural backing for any decision you make on the matter. If you are adamantly opposed to clubs and a non-Christians ask you why, it’s important to have a biblical reason why. Otherwise, you are being arbitrarily legalistic, which is the impression that a lot of non-Christians have about the church. We need to be able to give a reason for our faith and how we live it out. Does that make sense?

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