(1 Cor. 6: 12-20)
The reading from the Holy Gospel on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son fills us with joy of the good news that that the Lord, in His tender mercy, will take into His fatherly embrace all those who repent and restore their former glory.
I am going to draw both my attention and yours to the holy Apostle’s words of warning and reprimand. He tells us to be very careful with the freedom by which our Lord and Creator singled us out from all other creatures, so that we do not become like senseless animals. “All things are lawful for me,” says Apostle Paul, “but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods are for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I, then, take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!”(1 Cor. 6:12-15).
Flee from fornication, warns the Apostle. “Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1. Cor. 6:12-20).
You heard these words, keep them in your hearts and reflect on them in silence. And if anyone among you, God forbid, is living in sexual immorality, stop immediately lest you perish.
“Fornication is the most distinctive and most complete form of Satanism,” are the words of our holy Bishop Nikolai. “Sexual immorality is the fastest and most direct road towards obscuring one’s mind. It is like a poisonous microbe that transforms the soul into something rotten.”
That is why our Lord cuts through this sin with the sharpest sword, the words “Thou shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14, Mt. 5:27). Those who disobey His commandment are rooted out even in this life: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death”(Lev. 20:10). Even though the eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, as it is described in the book of Job, saying, “no eye shall see me, and disguises his face (Job, 24:15), the adulterer cannot escape God’s all-seeing eye. If God’s punishment does not reach him in this life, he will not escape God’s judgment when the dark earth swallows his body and it becomes food for the worms, and when his soul is brought before the Lord in all its sinfulness.
We know from our Orthodox holy tradition that it is extremely rare for a soul to overcome the obstacle of adultery that stands on its way to our Creator and Judge. Too many of them are pulled down from that hurdle into the claws of demons and dragged into the pits of eternal death. It is for this reason that at His Second coming, the Lord will resurrect the sinful bodies of men, so that they will perish in the same sin that they lived in (Jn. 5:29). Is this not what the Apostle is also talking about when he says, “Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
In this perverted day and age the devil, who is a liar, has succeeded in watering down man’s feeling for the terrible and mortal sin of fornication. He has managed, in the minds of mankind, to somehow turn the appearance of this lethal poison into a smooth and seductive drink that too many have become addicted to. Everywhere we look, the most perfect imagery and quality of sound is employed by all kinds of media to justify sexual immorality. The devil has put at the disposal of mankind all kinds of tempting and enticing ways to encourage this particular form of sin. We see that today even the older generation is not what it used to be and what they should be according to the law of God. At this stage of life, when through the power of God’s inexorable will, humility is given to them so that they might find peace, they fight this God-given gift by using these demonic methods of feeding their insatiable and sinful appetite. This results in the spreading of sinfulness and scandalous behavior everywhere. Come to your senses, o sinful man!
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12). The Lord our God has given us a rational mind, so that we may use it to subdue our passions, instead of igniting them. St. Dimitri of Rostov: “Whether you eat, drink or sleep, in everything you do, let your mind and your reasoning go before you and guide you.” As I said, in these perverted and insane times, the principle of freedom has been turned upside down and distorted, just as other God-given principles that have maintained mankind for centuries have been distorted. In the name of freedom, mankind has sunk to a level lower than that of a beast, in the name of freedom it has become a slave to sin and it continues in this bondage, hurtling towards eternal damnation. For we have been called to liberty, “only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh (Gal. 5:13). Our Lord died on the Cross in order to redeem us from sin and to give us the gift of freedom. We are therefore called to never again become entangled with a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1).
Knowing our sin-imbued nature and our tendency to fall easily, the Lord moved the limits of what is permitted to us from the sphere of the law to the sphere of morality. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28). By this, the Lord wishes to root out the very seed of sin, its focus and breeding ground. And He advises: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Mt. 5:29). The same goes for our hands (Mt. 5:30) and for each member of our body that incites us to sin. Even in ancient times God teaches us, through the prophet Moses, not to follow our hearts and our eyes, lest they lead us to do evil (Num. 15:39). The Lord also says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Mt. 15:19) and every other evil.
Flee from lustful gazing upon the beauty of others as from lethal poison,” says St. Dimitri of Rostov. “Flee from shameless embraces, touches and kisses, lest you fall into the sinful pit of damnation and become enmeshed in the nets of the devil.” All things created by God were good, very good (Gen. 1:25 and 31). Created matter is never evil but the way we use it may result in evil. The human body is not evil, but evil can come out of the way we use it. The Lord suffered in the flesh to redeem us and ascended into the heavens in the flesh, in order to glorify it. Apostle Paul tells us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and that we have been bought for a price by Christ’s sufferings. He instructs us to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:19:20). Every form of sexual immorality is the desecration of the holiness of our bodies. A man who disregards that which is more important – the Spirit of God in us, is like a fool who receives a gift and is enthralled with the colorful paper in which the gift is wrapped, instead of rejoicing in the gift itself. The Lord wants us to be masters of our bodies and our desires. He wants us to be free from corporal sins: “do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin (Rom. 6:12-13). Do not let yourself be deceived by the attraction and beauty of the corrupt body,” says St. Dimitri of Rostov, “for it will surely change and become rotten, and soon will be no more. No one has ever seen a handsome old man and there is no beauty in the grave. All physical beauty is but a spark, all worldly glitter is like the morning dew, every human body is grass and all human glory is like a flower in the field.” And if we chose to be so insane as to lose our minds and our reason, let us not be so insane as to forget those who have gone to the grave before us. Let us learn from them, because this is what will happen to us. “There is no sinful lust and corporal love which does not eventually become a torment, there is no temporary beauty which will not rot, and there is no passion of the flesh which will not become its opposite – hatred,” says this saint.
Do not be deceived. “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters. Nor adulterers, nor homosexuals will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). Therefore let the marriage of each one of us be honorable and the bed undefiled. God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb. 13:4).