Why is LIGHT + LIFE releasing an issue about “sanctified sexuality” at a time when our world is experiencing the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? With some friends sick and dying from the coronavirus and others joining the millions of suddenly unemployed people, why am I writing an article about sex?
To be honest, my journalistic side would like to scrap the planned theme and focus entirely on the coronavirus — something that’s on the forefront of my mind these days as I’m sure it is yours. The reality is, however, that this magazine is published by the communications department of the Free Methodist Church – USA that has actively communicated about the church’s response to the coronavirus. Our bishops created articles and videos that can be found at fmcusa.org/covid19 and on the denomination’s Facebook page. Pastors and other Free Methodists created prayer videos that can be found at fmcusa.org/forthistime and on Facebook. Communications Director Brett Heintzman, this magazine’s publisher, hosted the Live Stream for Awakening with J.D. Walt and David Thomas of Seedbed to promote increased prayer for awakening prompted by our current global situation.
Even as the pandemic caused us to decide to publish exclusively online for the time being, the LIGHT + LIFE team also chose to continue our regularly scheduled theme list for 2020. Indeed the “sanctified sexuality” message may be more relevant now than ever.
As typical aspects of daily life come to a halt because of this deadly virus, many people are binge-watching movies and shows on Netflix and other streaming services that offer plenty of sex but little sanctification. News websites offer signs that sexual sins persist as we battle against COVID-19.
Computer hackers reportedly have interrupted Zoom calls — including an elementary school meeting — by displaying pornographic images.
The Balkan Insight news website reported “abnormally large numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths” in a small Romanian community known for human trafficking, and, here in the United States, North Carolina TV station WLOS reported on concerns that the pandemic will lead to vulnerable people being “coerced into sex or other services for money” by human traffickers.
The New York City Health Department made headlines by issuing coronavirus-related advice that included, “You are your safest sex partner.”
On social media, I’m seeing people endorse or share a blog post that criticizes a Christian university for a chapel speaker who shared a couple of months ago how his conversion to Christianity led him to pursue celibacy instead of acting on his same-sex attraction. I’ve heard this speaker in person, and I believe he offers a valuable perspective that many students aren’t likely to hear elsewhere.
Perhaps you’re upset that I lumped these examples together, because some are seen by many people as harmless or positive activities while nearly everyone would agree it’s wrong to put pornographic images into someone else’s video meeting or to kidnap and force a person into prostitution.
It’s tricky to know how to encourage people to practice sanctified sexuality without coming across as self-righteous, unloving, or selective in which sins we condemn. In some settings, it may be easy to criticize homosexual activity but not to speak out against heterosexual harassment, promiscuity, or pornography use.
The past few decades included several high-profile Christians publicly calling out other people for sexual sin and subsequently being caught in sexual sin themselves; this hypocrisy drives people away from the church. The situation would be different if we followed Jesus’ instruction: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4–5).
The #metoo movement led to the #churchtoo movement that exposed sexual abuse in the church and an attempt by some Christian leaders to cover up the abuse. These leaders failed to obey Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
If we are living a sanctified life, we should not be ashamed to reveal where we stand on key issues of our day — including sexuality. This month’s issue contains the first in a series of position papers that provide a well-researched Free Methodist perspective on important topics.
This issue also shares the story of a pastor who escaped human trafficking and another pastor who overcame pornography addiction. Let’s join together and avoid “even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).
Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined LIGHT + LIFE in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media.1