This basic kind of thinking strays far from Jesus' view of marriage, and his view of sexual immorality. In fact, it strays far from a Biblical view in almost every respect. And I think that this problem stems from us wanting to fixate on the acts of sexual immorality rather than the core issues of sexuality. Why do we want to fixate on these things you ask? I think that's simple. Because then we can be better than other people. Then it will be possible for us to be sexually pure while 'others' are not.
For Jesus, the core issue of sexual immorality was simple. It was lust. In Matthew 5 Jesus taught that looking at a woman lustfully is the same as committing adultery with her in your heart. The meaning of this is plain. For Jesus the core issue of sexual immorality is in the heart of an individual and not in the acts they do or do not perform. If we've performed them in our hearts, then we are just as guilty.
In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul teaches the church this same heart principle. Paul uses an all encompassing word for sexual immorality. This word is Porneia, (and I probably don'e have to explain the English connection). Some might tell you that this word means fornication, others will say adultery, others may say many other things. The truth is that they're all right. Porneia was meant to be the word to encompass all kinds of sexual immorality. But this means that when Paul uses this word we need to look for the implicit meanings in the passage he uses it in.
not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
For Paul, the crux of sexual immorality was the same as it was for Jesus. He wanted to see us sanctified, to see us holy and honorable "not in passionate lust."
What bothers me is that I've been in the church for my whole life, and I've been in church leadership for most of my adult life and I've seen all the hot button sex issues come through the church in the last thirty years. Homosexuality, adultery, moving in together, and the youth group favorite of premarital sex. But never, have I ever seen lust as the great hot button topic in the church. But why would it be? It's only at the core of what Jesus and the rest of the Bible really cared about. How could the church go so long without recognizing this at the very core of sexual immorality?
I believe that the reason for this is the same as the perfect married person problem we already talked about. If we can only fixate on the sexual acts themselves long and hard enough then that will mean that we can hold a moral high ground. We can look down on people for what they do. However, if we recognized the core issue of lust as the most powerful and most dangerous form of sexual immorality, then we would have to step off that pedestal. Anyone honestly looking at themselves would have to admit this to some level.
This is where Jesus' teaching of the plank and the spec becomes very true. And the church has spent so much time in debate over what we should allow, what we should deny and how accepting we should be of those who have committed these acts that the plank has been buried deeper and deeper. We don't even see the plank of lust in each other anymore. At this point it might be pretty difficult and painful to dig the thing out, but the bare truth is that if we're going to claim to see clearly enough to speak of sexual immorality then it's up to us to defeat lust first, not just the symptoms.