It’s taken me a good two decades of Christian ministry to realise that accountability isn’t primarily about sex and relationships; something you may have been led to believe any time you’ve heard of someone being ‘rebuked in love’.
Particularly in those teenage years, sexual sin seems to hold a bit of a monopoly. Our church culture’s one-track record has reduced what it means for our bodies to be a temple of the Holy Spirit to a fraction of its real meaning.
We know from teen seminars exactly how far is too far but I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have been told that keeping my body pure involves not feeding it and clothing it with the products of exploitation.
The Archdeacon of Leicester, talking about sin earlier this month, said: “There are two ways it crosses people’s mind instantly: one way is, it’s all about sex. The other way is, it’s all about cream cakes, and really, in practice, foregoing the cake part, I’m not sure we’re far from that.”
We’ve fallen into the trap of creating a sin hierarchy, and the sex ones are the worst, right? The ones with the most shame. While others, like gossiping or shopping at retailers with unethical practices are let off the hook a bit. We know they’re not great, but at least we’ve all kept our knickers on, unlike some other people we could name.
I’d love someone to sit me down and say: “If Christ lives in you then why are you dressing him in clothes made by exploited factory works in Bangladesh?” or “Mim, your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, why is it that you eat cheap meat fed by unsustainable soya that re-routes vital water sources from communities which survive off them? Don’t you know you’re involving Jesus in that?” Not because I’d come out looking smug and holy but because I wouldn’t, and it’s important.
In fact, since I began trying to boycott non-Fairtrade buys 18 months ago my main compromise has been for T-shirts and hoodies at Christian mission weeks or events.
But bringing it back to accountability…
How about next time you meet up with Christian friends, ask where their clothes are coming from, how they use their money, why they walk past the homeless avoiding eye contact; these reflect and impact on our walk with Christ as much as what we do in our bedrooms.
I don’t mean to say that we have given sex too high a place on our priorities for purity, just that we should point that same microscope at other areas. God lives in us, right? Let’s take that a little more seriously.
If our bodies as God’s temple is just about sex, we’ve set the bar pretty low.