READ: Psalm 118, Zephaniah 3, Matthew, 1 Thessalonians 4
Honor killings in the Muslim world are a horror to us. It seems unfathomable that a man or woman would be killed for sexual impropriety (best case) or because by being a victim they brought shame on the family (worst case). Like all twisted acts of men, however, we know something is perverted by measuring it against what is true.
In God’s perspective there is something fundamentally essential about sexual purity, so important to Him that sexual sins are dealt with uniquely. Paul encourages the Thessalonian church to abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3), to posses their own bodies in sanctification and honor (v. 4), and to not take advantage of and defraud their brothers in this matter–BECAUSE THE LORD IS THE AVENGER OF SUCH (v. 6). Paul drops two large bombs on the Thessalonian Christians and on us regarding sexual sin: advantage and revenge.
Muslims have one thing right: our bodies and our honor are not our own. When we sin against our own body, we also sin against the body of Christ. Christians in the West have reduced sin to a personal matter alone while the Bible holds a much more complex understanding of sin’s consequences on both the individual and the group. Any sexual sin has consequences on others. Any sexual act outside of the willing participation of both man and wife (and masturbation is a sexual act) has consequences on others. If I engage in any sexual act (of whatever degree) with a person not my wife, even if that person is myself, I have disfigured myself, my wife, the other person, and indeed any relatives and intimates of the other. Muslims have it right in this regard: sexual sin is a sin against the community. The Bible would add sexual sin is primarily a sin against God. Privacy is no protection against consequences. Sexual sin always affects others and when God is sinned against, forces are set in motion to punish and purge even when no other human is involved or aware.
The frightening thing about Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians on sexual purity and immorality is his shocking statement that God is the avenger of sexual sin (4:6). Because God has called us to holiness (v. 7), He takes drastic steps when we disfigure our temple and in so doing also affect the holiness of others. My holiness is affected when I stand in the supermarket checkout line and unintentionally see a shocking headline or sensual picture. I have not sinned, yet I am still sullied by the improper sensuality of others and God will avenge the assault on my holiness. As He will when my lust sullies others. It is a fearful thing to realize that God will avenge all that is unholy and immoral. We must be soberly aware that our sexual sin (even private and unknown) both affects others and will be avenged by God. In the end it is His honor that is at stake, and He will defend His own honor.