Casual sex can refer to one night stands and non-relational sex, where there are no strings attached. How often do people approach God in similarly casual ways?
Biblical prophets write of how God’s people often play the harlot (See Ezekiel 16, for example). The problem becomes so bad that God tells Hosea to take for himself a prostitute as a wife. Their marriage involving her various adulteries and Hosea’s faithfulness in the midst of her infidelities symbolizes God’s relationship with his people, Israel. Instead of remaining faithful to the God of the covenant who had blessed them, Israel turned to Canaanite deities and worshiped and honored them as the source of their plenty (Refer to Hosea).
How do these Old Testament realities bear upon the New Testament church? Old Testament allusions ring out in Paul’s words to the church in 2 Corinthians 11:
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
Those of us who claim to be Christians are likely not turning to Canaanite deities. Our kind of abundance might not reflect what Israel experienced as a nation. Still, as we prepare for the marriage supper of the lamb, toward which all of human history is proceeding (Revelation 19), how might we respond to such biblical themes noted here and the subject of casual faith?
For one, we should take note that God is not casual. God does not take lightly casual faith. It is one thing to struggle with doubts; it is another thing to revel in doubts about God or the Christian faith. It is one thing to be tolerant of various faith perspectives in society at large; it is quite another to put up with other views of Jesus or different spirits or different gospels than those handed down to us from the apostolic community and accept them into our faith communities. Still, some of us might not struggle with reveling in or tolerating everything other than biblical faith. Our problem might be more subtle. We might struggle with honoring God with our minds and devoting our hearts to various gods of prosperity in the present day—such as the worship of wonderful, high-achieving families, globally advancing nation states, or our individual financial and social security. What leads those of us who are Christians to turn away from what Paul called “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” and bite the serpent’s apple like Eve and Adam?
We live in a culture that often celebrates brokenness, where we are found breaking bad, going downward from bad to worse. Just as we might celebrate brokenness as in casual faith involving doubt and tolerance of anything other than biblical truth, so we might celebrate casual sex, or at least tolerate it. Here we return to the connection between casual sex and casual faith made at the outset of this post. Perhaps Scripture’s linkage of spiritual and sexual adultery in the experience of ancient Israel and the church has a bearing on us today. How much do we tolerate locker room talk among various celebrities and political figures, or sexual abuse? How much do we tolerate our own vain sexual fantasies, pornography and fixation on people’s body parts? Just perhaps, such casualness reveals not only our sexual brokenness, but also our spiritual bankruptcy. A truly fatal fixation.
An earlier version of this piece is published here at this column and at The Christian Post.