Excerpt from Biblical Sexuality & The 21st Century Rev. Jayson L. Graves, M. MFT
Order the full course here.
It would have been so cool in the garden but you had to go and end that chance on earth for all the rest of us. Seriously though, could you imagine: Hanging out in the garden? The Garden of Eden…paradise!
So before Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were naked, without shame. They were free to share themselves most freely and purely as gifts of love to one another. There were no obstacles to it.
Part of the deal was they were without shame because lust hadn’t been invented yet. Shame hadn’t turned into lust yet. There was no shame, so there was no lust. Because they’d never been exposed to making mistakes.
Galatians 5:17: “For the sinful nature (or what we call ‘the flesh’) desires what is contrary to the spirit and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” So there is a reality that exists that two things are oppositional to each other. There is good and there’s not so good (a.k.a. ‘bad,’ ‘wrong’ or less-than-perfect) and they don’t like each other. They’re not exactly Facebook friends. The effect of mistakes entering the world is still costing us today. ‘Sin’ or the curse came into the world and as a result, now things are all messed up. Things are distorted.
I love what Mary Healy, author of Men and Women are From Eden, says about Adam and Eve: “They decided that rather than honor God, (remember that design thing) they would prefer to be their own gods. Rather than trust in their loving Creator, they decided to determine what was good and evil for themselves.” So, they just effectively put themselves on the throne. That’s what we do in our sin nature/propensity to make mistakes: we put ourselves on the throne above God himself. Again, we’re all in the same boat so there’s no need for judge mentalism towards our selves or each other, thanks be to God!
I Corinthians 6:18 says “Flee from sexual mistakes. Every other mistake a person commits are outside of the body but the one who lusts, (or the lusting person) sins (or makes a mistake) against his own body.” Obviously, I’m substituting the word mistake for sin. Why am I doing that? Well I’m not trying to be revisionist or anything like that. However, the word sin has got so much baggage that if you use it in an unwise way all you’re going to do is create deaf ears. What is sin essentially? It’s just making mistakes. You know what the word comes from? In archery terminology, a ‘sin mark’ is where the bull’s-eye is missed. So, sin is just a mistake. It’s missing the bull’s-eye with our choices. It’s simply just not being perfect, which we essentially are in the first place.
Lust is one of those things this can take the sanctification process backwards, or at least stop it or slow it down. That’s sure of anything that tends to focus us on our self. The sanctification process is a process of others-centered love and the development of loving habits or the ability to love in us. Of course, anything that causes us to focus on ourselves is necessarily antithetical to that which causes us and wants us to focus on others
We can’t get too hung up on the object of lust, which I think we have a tendency to do. It is an unfortunate tendency because the message becomes about the object, leading to shame instead of focusing on the real problem: lust. We have to realize that at the end of the day, lust is lust is lust, which is no different in its scope from any other mistake.
The reality is that sexual mistakes are real and they can happen. We can make mistakes sexually and miss that mark in doing so. We can think that we can do things our own way and that’s one of the mistakes because we don’t get to make our own rules in this life. We can buy into the American idea that you can have it your own way, the ‘Burger King mentality’ and do a lot of damage to others and ourselves with that delusion.
So, I just say let’s be savvy about this, let’s be wise. Let’s talk in a way that is accurate yet relatable when we’re talking to folks that might otherwise be pushed away. Let’s not push people away with our language just for the sake of using the ‘exactly correct’ term as that’s commonly understood if its not absolutely necessary. Let’s not be rigid when a little flexibility can mean drawing a lost soul near to the Holy One. God isn’t rigid with us. Let’s be flexible within reason as a way to adapt and relate. Everybody knows about mistakes.
We need to be reminded how it’s his kindness that led us to repentance.