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1/16/1997
WORD OF FAITH
God, sex and listening
REV. ROGER KARBAN




Our modern Christian sexual morals are often based more on Greek philosophy than on Biblical principles. Though almost every Sacred Author wrote against the background of a Semitic world and Semitic morality, within 150 years of Jesus' death and resurrection, His followers started to filter Scripture through a Greek world and Greek morality.

Once Christianity spread beyond the Holy Land and became part of the entire Mediterranean world, it lost or ignored much of its Jewish core, the core on which Jesus and His first disciples focused their faith. Eventually, the Jewish carpenter's followers abandoned His unique Jewish outlook and adopted a Greek outlook.

Greek philosophers not only divided persons into bodies and souls, but also presumed what involved the soul was good; and what involved the body, bad. Sex was, at best, suspect; at worst, condemned. Though marriage was permitted because of the need to procreate, most regarded the practice as a license to engage in evil acts. People were encouraged to avoid sexual urges and actions, since such concentration on the body diverted them from the higher pursuits of the soul.

Sexual commitment

Thankfully, we find none of this reasoning in Sunday's second reading (1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20). In spite of extensive liturgical editing, we can still make out Paul's basic argument against casual sex. Following the theology of Genesis 2, Paul believes intercourse creates one person from the two persons who engage in it.

That's why he reminds his community, "Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body" -- because he or she has become one body with the other person with whom they're sexually joined.

There's no separation of body and soul here; no conflict between the material and the immaterial. There's simply a belief that sexual intercourse without commitment is a lie. It's immoral to be physically one with someone with whom we refuse, at the same time, to be psychologically and emotionally one. God didn't create intercourse to be used for casual sex.

Yet, Paul doesn't stop there. Because he believes that our faith has already made us one with Jesus, he sees another moral implication in such free and easy sexual encounters. How can we make Jesus one with a prostitute?

"You must know," he writes, "that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.... You are not your own." Paul's now far beyond Genesis 2. Jesus' death and resurrection forces him to look at every act of intercourse from a totally new, unifying perspective.

God's voice

Having left many of these early Jewish-Christian principles behind in our rush to embrace Greek philosophy, we could be like young Samuel at Shiloh (1 Sam 3:3-10, 19). Just as Samuel "was not familiar with Yahweh, because Yahweh had not revealed anything to him as yet," in the same way many of us are not familiar with God revealing God's self to us in our everyday actions. Thinking God speaks to us only through "things of the soul," we often miss the Lord's voice in the ordinary events of our lives.

Eli knows the proper response for all God's followers: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Only those willing to carry out the Lord's wishes will be able to hear God calling -- even in the middle of the night.

This Jewish, creation-grounded theology also seems to be behind Jesus' famous question in the Gospel (Jn 1: 35-42). By having Jesus simply, but demandingly, ask John's disciples, "What are you looking for?" John the Evangelist is warning his readers: "Unless you're looking, you'll never find Jesus. Unless you're curious, you'll miss God in your midst."

Of course, the Lord expects us to be courageous enough to ask the next question, "Where do you stay?" and then be willing to follow up on His generous invitation to "Come and see." John is in line with all our Biblical authors. They remind us that our lives, as God's followers, revolve around seeking, finding and responding to God's continual calls.

Nothing in our God-created lives can be outside God's concern and revelation. To think and act otherwise is to be at odds with the ancient, scriptural theology on which Jesus based His own spirituality.

(01-16-97)










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