“Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I have a pine tree next to my driveway which, if it falls, will land right on my house. It wouldn’t be a glancing blow either. As the tree guy I met with the other day told me, it would slam into the roof line, probably snap off there, the top part would roll down the rest of the roof and land in the front yard, and the main trunk would slice through the brick exterior right through our eight-year-old’s bedroom and into our garage, totaling our fairly recently paid-off minivan. In other words, it would be catastrophic.
Fortunately, he also said that the tree is healthy. There aren’t any signs of decay that would suggest such a collapse is imminent. No bug trails. No woodpecker holes. No bark problems. Nothing. It’s healthy and strong and didn’t even lose a branch in back-to-back hurricanes this past fall. That’s why we didn’t schedule him to come out and take it down (at no small expense as the tree is about 75 feet tall) as soon as he possibly could. But, eventually it will have to come down.
Now, given all of that, what would you think of me if I snuck out at night to start drilling small holes in the base of the trunk and introducing pine beetles into it? You’d think I was nuts. Worse than that, you’d think I was evil. After all, if the tree collapsed at night, it would land in the bedroom of our sleeping middle son. Assuming he survived the disaster he’d be traumatized for years. What sane parent would do such a thing?!?
Let’s make the turn together. You and I are the tree. Sexually immorality of any kind, of which the most common form by far and away is pornography, is this very introduction of pine beetles into our trunk. And just so we’re clear, minus the illustration, I didn’t say that. Paul did. Right here.
Paul told the Corinthian church, which was in a culture steeped in various kinds of sexual immorality and probably brought many of those habits into the church with them, that sexual immorality is the one kind of sin that is primarily against our own bodies. It may very well damage someone else’s body and in grievous ways, but the primary damage done is to ourselves.
The trick, though, is that the damage isn’t obvious at first. It may not be obvious for a very long time just like introducing those pine beetles into my tree may not show any obvious signs of damage for months or even years. But inside, they would be slowly eating away at the trunk, setting the stage for the eventual collapse. And when that collapse comes, it will likely be catastrophic not just for us, but for everyone close to us—spouse, kids, significant other, friends, etc.
So then, what do we do about this? We take Paul’s command at the beginning of the verse: We flee from it. We run from it as fast as we can and we don’t look back. We don’t stop running until we are so far away from it we can’t even see it in the rearview mirror. We put in place strong life guardrails that will alert us and some folks who are helping to hold us accountable if we get anywhere near it. If need be, we take dramatic action (Jesus hyperbolically said to dismember our bodies rather than get caught in a trap of sin) to rid ourselves of the habit whatever form it happens to take. In short: We get rid of it at all costs.
If you’ve got sexual immorality in your life—and plenty of surveys both anecdotal and scientific say that the odds of that are frighteningly high—hear this well: You’re primarily hurting yourself. You don’t see the damage now, but it will eventually show itself and it’ll be ugly. Relationship killing ugly. Freedom stealing ugly. Legal trouble ugly. Ugly ugly. Act now to do whatever it’s going to take to get rid of it. Completely. Don’t leave even a sliver in place because it will grow back from whatever bit of root you miss. Get rid of it and reclaim the freedom Jesus won for you on the cross. You’ll be glad you did…and so will all the people whose lives you will spare from your collapse. Speaking of which, I’ve got a tree guy to call…