The Sexual IS The Theological . . .

Not long ago, I was involved in cyber-communication with a new Methodist friend, and we were discussing the same-sex conundrum within the United Methodist Church. 

My friend (who knows about this post, by the way) and I align on most  issues, but I sensed a divide on this one.  Meaning: we have similar views regarding the divinity of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, and the sublimity of ancient thought but different viewpoints on performing same gender weddings and ordaining practicing homosexuals into Methodist ministry.

Yet here’s how he phrased our different perspectives regarding homosexual intercourse and the Methodist Church:

While you and I may have some disagreements on social issues, I appreciate your witness for doctrinal fidelity.

To which I immediately thought — and replied —  “No, no, no.  You can’t separate those categories.  It’s not merely a social issue. The sexual IS the doctrinal!” 

Why do I say that?  Because your body is the most theological thing about you.

(Note: theology here is “thinking about & reflecting on God” while doctrine is the kind of official teaching the results from that earlier thinking.  Theology produces doctrine.)

So back to the theological nature of our bodies:

Life was breathed into the human body at our origins.

Once we marred the beauty of our creation, it took a body to redeem us:

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation  (Colossians 1:21-22).

Paul then reminds the Corinthians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  In a real sense our bodies are the dwelling place of God.

Finally, at the end of all days we will dwell with God not as immortal souls but as resurrected bodies.  From the dawn of creation to the end of time, then, our bodies are God-breathed, God-dwelled, and God-honoring.

And that same rich heritage that teaches us about bodily sacredness also teaches that the most intimate use of our bodies — sexual intercourse with another — is blessed on the marriage bed and there alone.  All other expressions of sexual intimacy are . . . and pardon the use of the word . . . sin.

It’s why, in the same paragraph as “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,” Paul tells us to flee sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18).  Behind that imperative lies this reasoning: all other sins are outside the body yet this one is against our own bodies.  Our own dwelling places of God.

And in Paul’s beautiful logic here in I Corinthians, all these individual “temples of the Holy Spirit” form one corporate Body of Christ.  So what one believer does with his or her body has an impact on both the witness and the unity of the larger Body.

Such a profoundly consistent witness on the subject suggests to me that the theological nature of our bodies and our sexuality should result in clarity around Methodist sexual doctrinecelibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage.

So when we Methodist speak of the sexual issues roiling our denomination, separating the conversation into the doctrinal and the social won’t fly.  It’s like the Greek dichotomy of body and soul: it sounds like a way forward but it doesn’t align with the Scriptural revelation.

Because when it comes to sexual intimacy, every act has theological implications.

The sexual IS the theological.

And therefore it is the doctrinal as well.