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the weird laws about relational boundaries

Weird laws in the book called, “Leviticus,” are easily dismissed by many people—especially laws that set boundaries for human sexual relations. After all, isn’t sex simply a private matter between consenting adults? Well, let’s take a look at Leviticus 18.

In this chapter, there are four boundaries concerning sexual relations: incest (sex with close relatives; 18:6-18), non-marital affairs (sex outside of marriage; 18:19-20), same-sex affairs (sex with the same gender; 18:22), and bestiality (sex with animals; 18:23). The New Testament offers no exception clauses. So, what happens if someone crosses the line?

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). God lavishes his grace on us, without endorsing our sin. In doing so, he establishes the model for how we are to respond to each other. We extend grace to one another, without endorsing each other’s sins.

As we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), we come to realize that we’ve been given a new identity in Christ. What does this mean? It is not the loss of our true selves; our true selves are redeemed in Christ. Our new identity “in Christ” is actually far more profoundly real and intensely intimate than our sexual fulfillment.

This is why Paul says, “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:13-17). We are now joined—spiritually and bodily—to the incarnate, crucified, risen King! It is our union with the living Christ that gives us meaning, identity, fulfillment, and eternal existence. We “flee from sexual immorality” because our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”—not ours to do with it as we please; our bodies “were bought with a price” so we “glorify God in [our] body” (1 Cor 6:18-20).

We still struggle to live faithfully. Our “natural” impulses surface in countless ways. Jesus invites us to come to him as we are—but his offer is not to stay as we are. We are part of a body being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Following Christ requires difficult, costly obedience as we “groan inwardly” for the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Our hope for the complete transformation of our fallen physical state awaits the future resurrection.

Although it may seem odd to contemporary sensibilities, God’s weird laws are not weird after all. God loves us—and we need to trust him. If we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” we will honor the boundaries he has set for us (2 Peter 3:18).