13–19 March 2016.
In Leviticus 18 we find a lot of Jewish laws about sexual relationships. For us today, we know that positive sexual relationships are those that focus on loving and respecting each other, relationships where we care for each other’s physical as well as emotional health.
But that’s not the focus of these ancient laws. Chapter 18:3 and 18:24 tell us instead that these laws are all about stopping the Israelites from following the religious practices of their neighbours, especially the Egyptians and Canaanites. For us today, laws such as those in Lev. 18 which forbid incest make sense to us because we know the terrible genetic and legal problems that come from such relationships. But for Israel’s priests, these relationships were prohibited not for health or legal reasons but because they were practiced by neighbouring religions.
That’s why modern Jewish rabbis tell us that not all these laws are appropriate anymore, because our world and religious situation has changed. We Christians would also want to make several changes to these regulations. For example, these Jewish laws accept that men will naturally have many wives and even concubines – something we don’t accept! The laws assume that only men are responsible for sexual decisions and morality – something else we don’t accept. And these laws don’t directly forbid sexual relationships between a man and his daughter – something we would very strongly condemn as a terrible type of abuse and sin!
Today we Christians know that when sexual relationships aren’t based on a deep love and respect between people, when there is no selfless and humble care for the other, then those relationships become poisonous and damaging. Apart from hurting the people involved, they can also end up damaging others. For example, when husbands and wives are in abusive relationships we see how much suffering children, family, and friends also go through.
In bad relationships we turn others into objects for our own use, devaluing and hurting them. But that’s not the type of loving and healthy relationship God wants for us. But when we really love our partners in a selfless way, that’s when we and everyone around us will feel the true love of God shining in our relationships.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis