The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Richard K. Kennedy at the East Union United Presbyterian Church of Cheswick, Pennsylvania.

Its structure is in the basic homiletical pattern, in that the introduction leads naturally to the proposition, and the body of the sermon is an elaboration of the two biblical guidelines indicated in the proposition. The strength of the sermon lies in its biblical soundness as well as its timeliness in the present era of moral decline and ambiguity.—Charles W. Koller

Text: “So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:20

A recent article in a news magazine of wide circulation stated that “there is an illusion abroad in the land that sex is the most important thing in life and that life can be built on sex alone.” Some wag has said the same thing in another way: “Sex is not the only important thing in the world, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place.”

These are just two ways of expressing the fact that a very important part of life has to do with the relations between the sexes and with all the implications and complications of the sex drive itself. It is, of course, a delicate subject, and we have to measure our words when talking about it publicly. Yet it is a necessary subject, and the Church does no service to its people by maintaining a silence about it. Certainly the Bible has much to say about it. It gives direct commandments about our attitude toward sex and tells about people who became, as we say, “involved.”

In the sixth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was writing to a church that had caused him all kinds of concern. A part of that concern had to do with the sexual immorality of some of its people. In order to set their thinking straight, Paul wrote to them about the proper attitude toward the relations between the sexes. Certain guidelines given here and in other places in the Bible make it possible for us to understand what our attitude should be and what actions should grow out of our attitude. We find, here and in other places, a Christian view of sex.


The first thing that we see in the Bible about this fact of life is that it is a gift of God. Almost at the very beginning of the Bible, we find it written that “God created man in his own image … male and female created he them.” And, just a little later, that thought of God appears: “It is not good that man should live alone.” God could have chosen any way to create us. He could have made us simply some higher form of the amoeba or paramecium, those cells that reproduce simply by dividing one cell into two. He could have created the world with a kind of continuing creation going on within it, with new human beings created every year by his divine power, and without even the existence of the reproductive system as we know it. But we were created as people of one sex or the other. And we were created with that drive in us which leads to the reproduction of the human race. The fact of sex is a gift of God.

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Children get to the place—all too soon, most parents think—where they enjoy the company of children of the opposite sex. For a while, all girls are “creeps” to the boys, and the girls return the compliment by thinking, and by saying without hesitation, that all boys are “stupid.” Then boys and girls begin to mix in groups. The next step is individual dating. This is all a normal pattern for the development of the young people of our country.

In most other countries, courtship is carried on under the Watchful eye of the parents of both parties. Dating is regulated, or at least confined to those whom the parents consider to be of satisfactory standing in the community. But in the United States, young people are given freedom to roam and are able to have the family car frequently. The result is that they carry on their courting with very little supervision and often with very little direction from parents as to either behavior or the choice of persons.

Following courtship or a series of courtships, there is the engagement, and then marriage. And the position of the Church, which is the position of the Bible, is that all this is given to us to be enjoyed. No matter what the culture, no matter what the rules are about the mixing of the sexes and the courting of a wife, the Church takes the position that, within that framework, it is possible for the people involved to find the pleasure that God intends them to have.

The physical part of married life involves the giving of two people to each other. It involves surrender, and it brings two people close together emotionally and spiritually. It is significant that children come into this world as the result of an act of love. And a part of the enjoyment of all that is involved in the physical relationship between man and wife is the knowledge that this is the act by which children are created. So sex is to be enjoyed within marriage simply for itself, for the deepening relationship between husband and wife, and for the creation of children. It is a God-given fact of life, a God-given part of life, and it has been given to us in order to make life more full. Through its expression, we may “glorify God in the body.” And to glorify God is to enjoy life.

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But the second thing we see in the Christian attitude toward sex is that it is to be controlled. As with everything else that is worthwhile, discipline is necessary to fulfillment. A national magazine is the authority for the statement that “the vast majority of men and at least half the women” now have before marriage the physical relations that are supposed to be reserved for marriage. Some standards have slipped so low that now (and again the same magazine is the authority for this) many people consider a woman “pure” if her sexual experience before marriage has been confined to only her husband-to-be and one or two “steadies.” And no one knows how many people—even in our own neighborhood—are at this moment being unfaithful to their husbands or wives. It is obvious that we need to take a new look at the self-discipline on which happiness in this area is based.

The Church controls the expression of the sex drive partly through its insistence on monogamy, the marriage of one man to one woman “so long as they both shall live.” It has certain regulations about the remarriage of divorced persons, and the basis of those regulations is the protection of the institution of marriage. If the Church were to make it easy to be married again after a divorce, then it not only would be ignoring the clear teaching of the Bible but would also be cheapening marriage and treating it disrespectfully. By being strict about remarriage, the Church is saying that marriage is a solemn, sacred thing and that the physical aspects of it are to be respected.

The purity of our thoughts in this part of life is abused by the advertising in many of our magazines. In the issue following the one that dealt with the relaxing of our standards, the same magazine had at least half a dozen advertisements that used the very techniques about which the writers had been concerned the week before. Sex is used to sell everything from hair tonic to trips to Europe. And some magazines are apparently given over completely to this abuse of God’s gift to us of sex. Such magazines are found on many magazine racks, and it is perfectly obvious from their covers and their subtitles that they are playing on this same theme. So there are those who feed this urge and then wonder why pressures build up, pressures that are extremely hard to deal with and that leave them feeling nervous and upset, or else lead them to do things they would not want the world to know about. They tease themselves with certain jokes and certain movies and certain magazines and some of the feminine fashions, and then wonder why they cannot control themselves.

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Not only that, but there are those who glamourize what has come to be known as “serial polygamy.” A movie star gets married and then married again and then again and again, and yet remains popular because of her beauty. There is even, I suppose, some delight among her fans in the thought that they are almost sharing her sin. It all seems so exciting. And those who find this kind of adultery in their favorite movie star exciting begin to wish for some excitement themselves. No matter how old they are, they begin to imagine themselves as glamour girls or glamour boys and become involved in shameful things. Glamourizing evil leads only to more evil.

Furthermore, we encourage our children to grow up too fast. They get put into situations in which they develop adult desires, and they have the ability to express these desires but do not have the maturity to control them. They start dating very young and start going steady very young. When a girl starts going steady with a boy, she feels that she should do more than hold his hand because he is, after all, her boyfriend. When that doesn’t last and there is another steady boyfriend, the new one is, of course, much more serious in her eyes, so she feels that she needs to express herself a little more freely than she did with the first one. So it goes through several boyfriends. Thus she may be deeply involved while she is still very young.

In spite of signs of outward rebellion at our discipline, our children really want to have some control. They are confused by the situations we often allow them to get into, and they want to know where they stand. There was a time when a girl let her boyfriend know that it was time for him to go when her father started dropping shoes on the floor upstairs or when he slammed a door or two. But do you know what has happened in our time? We now have all-night parties, and we need to recognize why they began. They began because parents said that, if they didn’t provide them, their children would stay out all night and they wouldn’t know where the children were. Well, who was making the rules and enforcing them, the parents or the children? The all-night party began as an admission of failure by parents to control their children. And this all fits into the pattern of our theme today, because self-discipline, which begins with enforced discipline by the parents, is necessary if young people are going to be able to control this problem.

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There is a question that is related to all this and that needs to be answered: “What shall I tell my children, not just about the facts of life but about their relationship to other people of the opposite sex?” Very simply, this can be said to them: “Relax and enjoy life. Try not to let yourself become too involved with one person at least until you are settled in a job or are a junior or senior in college. Teen-age marriages fail much more often than those involving people in their twenties. So relax. Enjoy your youth.” This, too, can be said: “Sex is a wonderful thing, but don’t do the right thing at the wrong time. Save your best for marriage.” And this can be said: “Sex is not an end in itself. It is an expression of love, a full expression of full love. And you can fully express this kind of love for another person only within the framework of marriage.”

There are times when our sexual desires can be fully expressed, and that within the framework of God’s law. There are also times when those desires must be suppressed. We all need to admit that sex is a part of life; but if we have such desires and cannot rightly give expression to them, we can do what is called sublimating them. That is, we can take the power of this drive and use it in acceptable channels: nursing, teaching children, showing sympathy and concern to those who have special need. But, whatever we do, we are to deal with sex as followers of Jesus Christ, enjoying what God has given us by controlling it in his name and by his power.

The Apostle Paul speaks of glorifying God in our bodies. Sex is not the most important thing in life, nor can a life be built on it alone. But it is a fine, beautiful, wonderful thing. Yet it is that only when we use it as God intended. When, in this regard, we pattern ourselves after Christ, we shall find that abundance of life which Christ promises to those who follow him. Therefore, in the words of this morning’s text: “Glorify God in your body.”

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