It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans
I Corinthians 5:1
I have had the privilege for most of the past 17 years, to train young physicians in both Pediatrics and Family Medicine. One of the foundational aspects of their training is the establishment for what constitutes "normal". These young physicians must quickly have an appreciation for the wide range of behaviors and presentations, that are all considered normal. This is why pediatricians with children have such an immense advantage in their training. Living with a child allows you to see the good, bad, and the ugly. It is not until the sense of "normal" is understood, that disease detection and prevention can be applied.
What a community affirms as "normal" has a huge impact upon its ability to evaluate its own health, and the health of its members. We see this vividly in our own cultures where some damaging behaviors are seen as normal and even are worn as a badge of honor. I think about the culture of fear in many inner-city communities where not reporting crime or supporting the perpetrator of a crime, even if you are the victim, is considered "normal" and there is a bravado of saying "I ain't no snitch". That is a community affirmed pathological behavior. It hides disease rather than promotes a cure.
I find that when a community, whether it be an entire culture, or a neighborhood, or even a faith community, fails to have some objective understanding of its own health, then it can not understand its own disease and disorder.
The the opening scripture, the Apostle Paul was talking to the church leaders at Corinth. At this church, there was a wide range of sexual behaviors that Paul was suggesting that they should be alarmed about. However, the body of the letter will show that they were not only not ashamed, but boasted in their activities. Part of this may be due to the incredibly cosmopolitan composition of Corinth and its traditions of cultic sexual practices such as the temple of Aphrodites. These practices, among others, became "normalized".
I believe that faith communities in general, are called to present an alternative vision to the world. This means that churches are not to simply reflect what is normal in the communities around them, but to challenge the existing assumptions by being both a witness (experiencing) and a sign (demonstrating) of the real, tangible, kingdom of God. This means for churches, we understand our wide range of normal from God's revelation through his Word, his Spirit, and his people, but not the cultures and societies at large. This is difficult, because we are all formed and created in cultures outside of the church (ethnic, social, historical, socio-economic, geographical, etc).
Particularly, with sexuality, I believe most churches are completely unprepared. We have polarized understandings of healthy sexuality. Either everything goes or nothing goes. We either make sexuality a god, or try to stamp out every semblance of a healthy and normal sexuality. Both are preversions of the wholeness that we are to experience in our lives with Christ.
There is a proverb that says "There is a way that seems right to a man, but that leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). This proverb is stating that our understanding of healthy can not be left up to our own reasoning and understanding, because even those incredible faculties, are often impaired and biased. We must have a concrete standard that is based upon something or dare I say, someone greater than ourselves. That is why the proverbs also say "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:4-5).
I want to challenge you today to consider you life and your faith community. What is "normal"? What practices are pathological and lead to death and destruction as opposed to life and health? What standards do you apply to your understanding of health and wholeness? What standards do you apply to your sexuality?
I pray that today, you experience a vision of health and wholeness that inspires and motivates you to truly live in the fullness of your purpose.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor