Having recently published a letter, I didn’t think The Lutheran Witness would, I decided to publish this article Higher Things wouldn’t. To be fair, it’s not that they didn’t think it worthwhile. They just thought it too risky, perhaps risque. You decide for yourself.
You know what the sin is, and you’ve noticed this silence yourself. Your pastor, youth group leaders, and parents don’t hesitate to refer to other sins. Yet this one remains unnamed as if mentioning it would empower it. The truth is by not mentioning it we empower it.
The world does not hesitate to refer to it. Songs speak of it. Television shows, particularly sit-coms, regularly refer to it. One Seinfeld episode is devoted to it. That 70’s Show laughs about it all the time. Google has 7.5 million hits for it. While I can’t speak for the 7.5 million hits on Google, I can speak for sit-coms and songs. This sin that we aren’t talking about they are treating as normal, natural, and certainly not sinful.
The unnamed sin that has Lord Voldemort-like power in its name, you well know what it is, maybe too well. What you want to know is why isn’t it spoken about in your church? Does this silence mean that sit-coms, songs, and the world are correct about it? Is it to be laughed at the way sit-coms do? Is it to be used the way the world thinks? Is it to have fun with the way songs say? If nobody in church speaks about it, how are you suppose to get answers? Ask? Get real. You’d rather die.
Let’s speak about it. When pastors mention sexual sins in general or lust and pornography in particular, they have this sin in mind too. Because they don’t name it doesn’t mean they don’t know about it or don’t know that it is a big issue with kids. More importantly, your pastor knows that it is not as big of a sin as you think it is.
What do I mean? There are two extremes to be avoided with any sin. One is to think like the world does that a sin isn’t really wrong. The other is to think like the devil does that a sin is so wrong that you can’t be forgiven or so powerful that you must give into it. It is a sin, but it’s like all others. When we confess it, God is faithful and just and forgives it. But it is sometimes such an overwhelming sin that it feels beyond the reach of Jesus’ forgiveness or power.
First, remember that Jesus purposely lived the teen years. He could have entered the world as an adult, but He didn’t. He specifically wanted to redeem teenagers who often feel irredeemable. Second, remember that Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He was without sin. Jesus was tempted to do what you give into. He felt the burn, the obsession, the irresistibility of it. Yet, He didn’t give in. He kept the Sixth Commandment. Therefore, no matter what your conscience yells at you, no matter what the devil whispers to you, the Sixth Commandment can’t be hanging over your head undone.
But the Sixth Commandment didn’t just need to be kept; our breaking of it needed to be paid for. Your feeling guilty won’t do that. Your feeling dirty won’t do that either. It takes God to satisfy the wrath of God. So God in your flesh and blood, Jesus, went to the cross bearing this unnamed yet well known sin. He was whipped, tortured, and nailed in your place. The shame you fear if anyone should find out Jesus bore on the cross. Jesus declared He finished paying for your sin; God the Father shouted, “Amen!” by raising Jesus from the dead, and we sing, “Thanks be to God!”
“But how can I be forgiven if I know I will do this sin again?” Most of the time when a young person asks this he or she is thinking about this sin. This is one of those sins that can follow you around like a stray dog or haunt you like a ghost. People have always known this. That’s where the old wives’ tales about it causing blindness or hair to grow on your hand come from. These were attempts to make kids afraid of the sin.
They didn’t work. Neither will threatening yourself, promising God, or punishing yourself. The only remedy to sin is God’s grace in Jesus. As the devil, the world, and your flesh bring the lust, the burn, the necessity of it before you, bring the grace, mercy, and peace of Jesus before your eyes. The unholy three promise it is the path to pleasure and relief. They lie. As you know, it only leads to more. True pleasure and relief are found in Christ, and He gives all of Himself to you in Baptism, in Absolution and in Communion. Christ has given sex to you as a gift to be opened on your wedding night. The sin nobody talks about only taints this gift. It doesn’t destroy sex because not even our sins can destroy a gift from God.
It’s time to bring this sin into the open. Take it to the font, to confession, and to Communion. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s not more powerful than our God or His forgiveness.