I’m preaching through 1 Corinthians, and on Sunday I’ll be preaching on 6:12-20, which means I’m going to be preaching about sex. A lot. It won’t be exhaustive, but it will be intensive, and I’m excited about it.
Now, as demographers define generations (such as, for example, the Baby Boom Generation), we have six generations in my church. The oldest generation are all homebound and the youngest generation will be elsewhere in the building at least during the sermon, so the number of generations I’ll be preaching to about sex is four. These four generations represent an indescribably vast shift in cultural attitudes, customs, and even law with respect to sex. As I’m preparing myself to preach I recognize (and will acknowledge at the beginning of my sermon) that the oldest generation listening to my sermon will probably be deeply uncomfortable and perhaps even angry at what I say on Sunday and how I say it. But if I preach the text in a way that would have been appropriate fifty years ago—with subtle speech, dancing around the edges, relying on polite innuendo and euphemism to convey a coded message that I could trust all adults to understand and all children to misunderstand—then half of my church today won’t understand what I’m talking about. It’s not just that it won’t be impactive: it won’t be comprehensible. That’s how hypersexualized and vulgar our society has become.
But as hard as it may be to believe, that won’t last. English-speaking society has been here before. We’ve swung from the strict Puritan 17th century to the licentious 18th to the prude Victorian 19th to the wild, Jazz-Age early 20th century to the outwardly upright mid-20th through the Sexual Revolution to the debauched era we live in today, probably the most extreme of them all. And mark my words, the pendulum will swing back again. And as it approaches the truth that sex is wonderful and to be celebrated but is to be vigilantly contained within the healthy boundaries of marriage, it will accelerate and fly to the opposite extreme position that it is a dirty and destructive thing not to be spoken of or (ideally) engaged in.
And when that happens late in my career as a preacher, I’m going to keep preaching about sex. And I hope that there are other preachers with me who are willing to risk being kicked out of their churches for offending their congregants and violating taboo. Because it is the failure of preachers to preach candidly a Bible passage like 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 fifty and sixty years ago that is partly responsible for the sad condition of devastated and confused people today.