A Message from Pastor Hale

A Message from Pastor Hale

Hugh Hefner died in September at the age of 91. Young people can’t even imagine a time when nudity and openness about sex was truly controversial. But it is claimed that “Hefner mainstreamed porn, he put it in millions of homes, and he even glamorized it.” He published his first issue of Playboy in 1953. His own mother gave him money to help him start this venture.

Hugh’s parents actually had Nebraska roots and were considered morally conservative. But their son, after his wife committed adultery against him, tried an open marriage and then divorced, redefined sexual ethics for a generation. He was a sort-of false prophet of the 1950’s and later, advocating a new morality. He helped overturn several thousand years of traditional thinking. When he said premarital sex was “moral,” “logical,” and “practical” in 1966, it was controversial. Today it is hard to find any young, unmarried person who would even disagree with this, even among those supposedly raised as Christian.

But the loosening of sexual morals redefined man. Man is now reduced to body parts and the holy marital act has been made common. In the minds of many, it requires no commitment, no actionable love, and is in principle no different than a handshake or pat on the back. When sex is everywhere, it becomes meaningless. Man becomes no better than an animal – self-control  is ridiculed. The concept of sin, and therefore God and His authority over man, is denied – man is always right and good in doing what he feels. Desires and lust are made the new idols. To think, Hefner’s popularization of this pagan ethic all started with the help of a misguided mother, thinking she should support her son.

Our bodies, though, were created by Christ and redeemed by His blood. The body is baptized and covered with Christ’s righteousness. We are spiritual and bodily beings. What we do with our body is critical to faith and the soul. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). We confess that this body will be raised and, in faith, is filled by the Holy Spirit. Your body is not your own, it is either called holy and belongs to Christ or is ruled by satanic sin and under God’s wrath.

Now many young and even middle-aged people are completely addicted to pornography and cannot function in a normal marriage. It is too accessible, even to pre-teens. It is said that 10% of all internet traffic is pornographic in one way or another. Over time brains are re-wired and become dependent on an ever-increasing escalation of titillation. This has changed how women are seen. While this world is becoming more feminized in many ways, men are often depicted as drooling, sex-hungry fools. But women are seen simply as objects to look at and use for gratification. The “pornographic chic” has influenced entertainment, fashion, and advertising. “Sex sells” is the slogan, but in some ways sex is the currency for everything else. How far we have fallen!

Intercourse detached from marriage is a perversion of God’s good creation. He designed this close uniting for marriage and it leads to it – since it is always a joining of the two into one flesh, even before legal marriage. Promising pleasure at one’s finger-tips, without the obligation of children, the sexual revolution broke the holy ties of marriage in the minds of most. It not only broke up marriages and families, it redefined how we think about male and female. From the 1950’s Hefner was pushing for the acceptance of homosexuality. He rightly saw its connection to extra-marital sex and the structure of marriage: “gay marriage was a fight for all our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time.” He also was an early advocate for transsexualism and outward equality between the sexes. He heartily supported abortion in the 1960’s, even before many feminists and Planned Parenthood did officially, since children limit and define sexual activity. These things are all related. They all go against the gift of marriage and our biological design. When marriage is not holy and valued, men cannot be godly men and women cannot be godly women. The male/female roles are defined by the pattern of marriage in Scripture, after all.

Hefner stated in 2010: “The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous. Women are sex objects. If women weren't sex objects, there wouldn't be another generation. It's the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go 'round. That's why women wear lipstick and short skirts.” This ridicule of women, unfortunately has been accepted by many women. They seek to be free and valuable by denying what they were created for and what marital knowledge leads to: children, motherhood, and submission to a husband’s headship. The fruits are everywhere among us now. The world cannot even say who should use a certain bathroom and which acts are clearly unnatural and against our biological design. Hefner stated in 1966: “female emancipation is related to sexual emancipation.”

But equality comes at a steep price and is not very fair. Men like Hefner promising freedom actually enslaved in a radical way: using, buying, and selling women as pieces of meat – valued only for what they look like and how they can stimulate men. So women are sexualized in every aspect. They are not people first, but objects primarily to the world. How tragic, that those for whom Christ died are not valued as holy creations and made for a holy purpose. Men are to be more than play-boys and women are more than cute bunnies. All were made to be holy, living to God in His Spirit.

Both men and women have been hurt tremendously by this “Playboy philosophy.” Christ made us for marriage and our bodies are to be His holy temples:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 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
Romans 1:26-27

This is God’s act, just as He made our bodies. A misuse of the body is a sin against God. This is the same sense in which we used to call homosexual acts “crimes against nature,” and the Bible says, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error”.(Rom. 1:26-27)

As Christians, we are not less sinful or guilty than the world. Our sins are not better or more pleasing to the Father. But we live as righteous, forgiven by the blood Jesus gave for our transgressions. In Christ we are whole, even as we struggle against our fleshly desires. But the victory is certain. It is in Christ. We are called to honor marriage, whether we are single or married. This will not be easy, especially today, but it is God’s will.

Called to follow our Lord in suffering, and then to resurrection glory, we are not to live for our passions and the sinful flesh. Those things are dead to us in our baptism – we live to the Father in Christ’s righteousness. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Phil 3:13-16). This is a continual activity. We repent and turn to Christ in faith. What we want to do is sinful and leads to death, and then everlasting punishment.

How do we describe our times? “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:17-24).

We live for the Father, serving as He made us. We don’t have to live in fear anymore or in slavery to our cravings. Marriage is to be enjoyed as a direct gift of God. Our innate attraction was meant to lead to marriage and to the multiplication of the human race, so more people can hear the Gospel. As much as these things are abused by the world, they remain good and holy. In faith we do not have to deny our body or fight our in-built purposes, God’s law shows us that we are the problem in misusing what was made good by our holy Creator. Using the body apart from the Lord’s intentions and will is idolatry.

Thanks be to God we have been rescued from the slavery of sin and set free to live a new life to our Father. Slavery is all around us, but in Jesus we have the victory. His call gives us a glorious purpose beyond our own gratification: to serve one another in true love, whether in sickness or health, good times or evil times. This walking in the Spirit leads to life for us, as we await death’s obituary. Amen.

Rev. Philip W. Hale is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Omaha, NE.