Christ was crucified. Stephen was stoned for preaching the gospel. Ten of the twelve original disciples were executed for preaching the gospel.
We often think that persecution is a thing of the past. This is simply not the case—and, strangely, one of the most common forms of persecution among Christians today is sexual.
To understand this, we have to realize that Christ’s followers are called to live chastely, enjoying every pleasure in its appropriate season. This puts us in stark contrast to a culture that revels in pleasure without acknowledging any boundaries whatsoever.
Of course, Christians are often horribly compromising when it comes to their sexuality. They look at porn. They have affairs. They sleep around. They break their vows of celibacy. In many ways, Christians don’t look any different from the world in their sexual mores and preferences at all.
Christians feel bad about their sexual sin.
They are rightly convicted of their failure to observe the sexual ethics of Scripture and, if they are faithful to the movement of the Spirit inside of them, they will stop. The moment when a Christian person decides to begin living like a lover and a follower of Jesus Christ – especially when they are in a committed relationship – is the moment in which they will likely experience their first bout of sexual persecution. Their partners, perplexed at this apparently sudden change of heart and values – like adult-onset Puritanism – may get angry, become aggressive, say hateful and hurtful things, and ultimately (if they cannot pressure their Christian lover to compromise their standards once again) end the relationship.
For example, imagine two beautiful and loving people who share an apartment. They’ve been sexually active for years, but then the gal begins following Jesus. Her newfound faith is immediately in conflict with her existing romance. She struggles, but after six months decides she has to tell her boyfriend they can no longer continue in the same sexual patterns. He doesn’t understand. They fight. Often. That conflict is toxic in the relationship and ends with the gal moving out of the apartment and the romance ending.
Of course, this is not a guaranteed outcome. The boyfriend may become curious and begin following Jesus himself. He may be more tolerant than we’d suppose and is willing to live chastely because he is so deeply in love with the gal. Or she may “fall off the wagon” and they go back to their old patterns. Or they may decide to get married and enjoy guilt-free sex. Or. Or. Or.
But most of these other options are unlikely. This most common scenario is heartbreak, confusion, and pain.
This is profoundly hurtful, but also liberating. The Christian who chooses to live chastely has suffered and endured the mark of their oppression. But they have given testimony to the transforming power of the gospel, making God proud by finally deciding to live the way they know they should. The one preferable scenario is for a Christian person to only date other Christian people and to keep from screwing around in the first place—which, though not eliminating the possibility of sexual persecution, the Bible seems to indicate is a pretty good idea.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com