In its July 27th broadcast, the UK radio and podcast, “Unbelievable,” hosted a conversation with a variety of Christian homosexuals who had chosen voluntarily not to act upon their homosexual desires because they believed that these actions would be sinful.
The story of Joseph appears near the end of the book of Genesis. Joseph was abused by his brothers and sold into slavery. As a slave in the house of an Egyptian official, Joseph was sexually propositioned by the official’s wife. Having been hatefully discarded by his family and living as an enslaved foreigner, one might expect that Joseph would seize upon whatever immediate pleasures he could, however his answer to her was this:
“Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
The book of Exodus tells the story of Moses, born a Hebrew slave, but adopted into Pharaoh’s palace. Rather than enjoying the privileges of the palace, however, Moses chose to share the plight of his people. The book of Hebrews puts it this way:
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
The book of Daniel tells the story of four Jewish boys who were carried off into captivity by Babylon. They were chosen among the Jews as a select few to be brought into the king’s palace, taught the language, and indoctrinated in the culture. But rather than accepting the rare privilege they enjoyed among the captives, they repeatedly refused to assimilate, voluntarily requesting to be served vegetables and water rather than meat and wine.
After Jesus had been baptized, he spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying. During this time Satan appeared to him and challenged him to use his divine power to convert some stones to bread in order to feed himself. Jesus’ response was this:
“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Christianity promotes, by its very nature, a philosophy of delayed gratification. It is a belief system that looks forward to such things as the return of Christ and eternal reward. It is these eternal things that take priority over immediate gratifications that might compromise the moral standards that Christianity promotes. Since a Christian’s hopes and goals exist in the future, even after death, it is more rewarding to them to maintain principle at the expense of fleeting carnal pleasures. As the book of Hebrews puts it:
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
By comparison, a secular worldview, which views death as the end, tends to foster a very short-sighted concept of reward. Immediate gratification, such as can be obtained through pleasurable distractions and hedonism, becomes a great deal more acceptable if there is very little to look forward to in the long run.
This goes a long way toward explaining the difference in thinking that occurs between the Christian and the secular cultures, especially as it relates to sex.
If one were to examine the various battles being fought between a conservative religious worldview and a more liberal secular worldview, the ones wherein the most vitriolic slander is poured out are almost entirely those related to pleasure seeking activities.
Battlegrounds such as homosexual activity, the teaching of abstinence versus safe sex to children, and even abortion, are, at their root, about the freedom to practice sex, unencumbered by any sort of moral misgivings.
These subjects are a great deal thornier than they already appear. From the secular perspective, Christians who attempt to enforce restrictions on sexual practices are robbing people of the few pleasurable distractions they have access to in an otherwise stressful and unfulfilling life. Even if the Christians don’t actually get the satisfaction of their policies being enforced, the mere act of talking about it in such a way that would suggest any kind of guilt on the part of the practitioner is enough to enrage.
On the other hand, from the Christian perspective, these convictions are deeply rooted in their very worldview. Mere rhetoric and posturing are not enough to silence these objections; someone would have to convince the Christian that their entire worldview is wrong. However, to do so would then rob the Christian of something far more valuable than carnal distractions: purpose and hope.
Ultimately, brief, pleasurable activities are not enough to replace the existential fulfillment provided by eternal hope that transcends death itself.