When I was in seminary I was told, “ethics is the study of what is right and wrong”. For Christian ethics, this means to define what is sinful and not sinful. With this in mind, Christian ethics is based upon the laws God gives us in the Scriptures (which are the authority in all matters of faith and life according to the constitution of the ELCA). At the Western Iowa Synod Assembly (June 6-7 in Storm Lake) one of the main topics was studying the first draft of the “Social Statement on Human Sexuality”. For the ELCA, social statements are “theological and teaching documents that assist members in forming judgments on social issues” (a quote from the introduction to the “Social Statement on Human Sexuality” - page I). In other words, this social statement is to help us determine what is right and wrong in matters of human sexuality. This social statement will be voted on in the 2009 ELCA National Assembly.
In the discussion at the Western Iowa Synod Assembly, it was pointed out that the social statement failed to show what was right and wrong, or what was sinful. One of the subtitles (on page 8) was “sexual ethics shaped by God’s mercy and compassion”. In my opinion, this is putting the cart before the horse. Sexual ethics must be shaped by God’s law, not by God’s mercy and compassion. God’s mercy and compassion is seen in forgiveness for sinners. Sexual ethics should tell us what is sinful, so that God’s mercy and compassion can be shown by forgiving the sinner. Before there can be forgiveness, there has to be repentance. There has to be a confession of sin. There has to be an acknowledgement that we are sinners, and that our actions are sometimes sinful.
The “Social Statement on Human Sexuality” should be telling us what actions are sinful in matters of human sexuality, based on God‘s law as seen in Scripture. It fails to do that, which is a serious fault in the statement. If this social statement is adopted in 2009, it could lead to same-gender marriage and the acceptance of homosexual activity, something that the Bible clearly states is sinful. I have often said this in the past, but as Christians and as a Christian church we must welcome and minister to all sinners, but we must also reject and condemn all sinful activity. We must love the sinner, but hate the sin.
In Matthew 9, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Jesus came for sinners. If we think we are righteous, then Jesus did not come for us! We are all sinners. We look to the Bible to tell us what our sins are, so that we can repent of these sins and try to refrain from them. Then we receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. Hopefully, the next draft of the “Social Statement on Human Sexuality” will recognize this and tell us what is right and wrong, and what is sinful. For this is what sexual ethics is for.
Your friend in Christ,