This morning we had a masterclass from Jesus in how to preach quite directly and without ambiguity about sexual sin, but without falling into the trap of being embarrassing, or cute, or ‘daringly’ explicit.
We need how to do this, because our people need direct teaching. In a few weeks’ time, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ will come out, and it will be all over the media, and over the coffee mugs too. It will be the rite of initiation for a teen group to go to, and will lead to many of our members being tempted in very dangerous ways.
Some preachers will be minded to ignore it. That’s understandable, but I think misguided. We teach truth, but we also refute error. And that doesn’t just mean error over our doctrine.
Others are going to go into prurient detail. There’s a fine line here, because I recall a staff meeting when a sermon series on sex was being planned, and there was a careful but simultaneously hilarious discussion about what words could be used, and what words couldn’t. There will, and must be, issues that fall into the second category, because we shall always be tempted to be over-explicit.
So how does Jesus do it? He raises the graphic importance of the issue, and all it requires from us is a nanosecond of imagination. A young child could hear this and it would go over her head. No-one in the crowd goes home furious that a particular word was used.
Imagine a man, late in the evening when the family has gone to bed, glued to his laptop.
‘If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.’
In context that second comment is jaw-droppingly clear, but quite clean.