Works of the Flesh - Fornication
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness . . ., and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that the who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). The subject of this lesson is fornication. When God made man and woman He placed within their nature the sex urge, or appetite, in order that thev would multiply and replenish the earth. However, God placed a fence around this act, and that is, it is to be done only in the marriage bond or relationship. Outside of the marriage union the sex act is fornication, and thus sin. The problem of fornication is as old as man himself. In Numbers 25, we have a record of the Israelites visiting with the Moabites, eating their sacrifices offered to idols, and committing fornication with them. Twenty-three thousand Israelites lost their lives on that day because of this sin. This was a problem in the pagan world at the beginning of the church. Also, it was a problem within the early church, and fornication is mentioned forty times in the New Testament. This sin has been a problem in every age of the church, and our age is no exception.
In dealing with this subject we must be very frank. In an effort to be modest we preachers sometimes feel that we have not spoken as frankly as we should on this subject. It is not our intention to be vulgar, but on the other hand, we do not feel that we should be more modest than the Holy Spirit. The Bible presents these things in all of their crudity and ugliness. Thus, we intend to he plain and frank and speak in such a way that all can understand. At times it may seem that we are getting crude, but in the language of the apostle Paul, we say, "Am I your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
In preparation for this lesson, besides the study of the Bible, many articles, reports, and case histories on this subject have been read and scanned. We can assure our readers that what we say is factual. Every statistic and quotation used is documented.
We wish to make this a preventive lesson. We shall illustrate it this way. The story goes that there was a small town nestled in a valley in the mountains. The road leading down to this valley made a sharp curve, and on one side there was a drop of several hundred feet. After some of the townspeople had fallen over the cliff and lost their lives, or were seriously injured, a town meeting was called to discuss this problem. One man suggested that they buy an ambulance and station it at the foot of the mountain so that those who ran off could be rushed to the hospital. That seemed like a good idea, but another citizen arose and suggested that they build a retaining wall along the side of the road to prevent people from running off. Of course, his plan was adopted. It is always easier to prevent a tragedy than to cure one.
At this point we would like to make a statement on behalf of our voting people since this lesson will be addressed largelv to them. We don't believe that all of our young people are going to the, dogs, as some people seem to feel. We believe that they are as good, or better in most respects, than they were in years passed. However, in the matter of sex, they have a greater problem now for several reasons. Today we are constantly bombarded with the sex suggestion. Dr. Sarokin of Harvard, estimated that we receive on an average a sexual lure every nine minutes of our waking hours. In view of this, it is a wonder that our young people are as good as they are. Too much of the time, we, as parents and adults, are to blame for the trouble they get into. The kids don't make the movies or television shows. They don't make the liquor or run the taverns. Thev don't make the high-powered automobiles in which they drive down the road to their death. They don't make and sell the narcotics. These things are done by adults who are greedy for gain. We would like to emphasize this statement-Behind every juvetille delinquent, there is a delinquent adult, who is probably a parent. We should place the blame where it belongs in this business of juvenile delinquency. The delinquent parent must accept his share of the blame. On the other hand, young people have an obligation to societv, and they too must also accept their responsibility.
In any hidden sin you can tell the amount of it by the fruits that are produced. Paul said, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8). We cannot sow the seeds of fornication without reaping the harvest. God's law of sowing and reaping will, and must be, obeyed. Let us note some of the fruits of fornication, and we can see the widespread evil that is among us.
An article in the "Coronet Magazine" reported that 200,000 babies were born out of wedlock in 1957. A recent report of the FBI, and carried in "Truth Magazine," that one million girls were infected with social disease, and 100,000 girls enter white slavery every year. In an article entitled, School Girls & 0thers, which appeared in "This Week Magazine," dated June, 8, 1958, is this report: "There is a persistent rise in illegitimate births year after year. Among, girls fifteen or younger there has been a nation wide increase of thirtv percent since 1949. A survey last year in fifteen Washington, D. C. public schools disclosed that illegitimate births had shot up 1,000 percent since 1949. In New York, 1,250 pregnant unwed girls, fifteen or younger, were dismissed from school in the first two months of the 1957 school term. In Baltimore, half of the illegitimate births are among teenagers, In the United States, there are 153 maternity homes for unmarried mothers. Nearly all of these are filled to capacity and most of them have long waiting lists."
In the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, it was recently reported in "McCall's Magazine" that one in ten American women become pregnant before marriage. Nineteen percent of these marry before the child is born. Of the others, 89 percent have abortions, six percent have their child out of wedlock, and five percent end in miscarriage.
Psychologists, sociologists, social workers, and professional people are becoming alarmed by this situation. We think it is about time for the churches to wake up, too. This should be a cause of great alarm and concern for every right thinking person in our community.
Yes, the fruits of fornication are tragic. However, the rule of cause and effect is also to be obeyed. Unwed motherhood is the effect of fornication, but behind every effect there is a cause. What is the cause of so much fornication among our young people? We would like to state several things that we believe are causes of this situation.
First, and paramount, is the attitude of parents. Too many parents have a "head-in-the cloud attitude about these things. We feel that our daughter is different, and this couldn't happen to her. Indeed, these are the "famous last words." Your daughter and my daughter are basically the same as every other healthy young girl. It can happen to our daughters, and it will if we don't wake up to this problem and do something about it. In a recent issue of "The Readers' Digest," there is an article entitled, It Could Be Your Daughter, written by Dr. Goodrich C. Schauffler, who is a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics, His article is not written from a religious viewpoint, but there is a man who sees daily the tragedy and heartbreak of unwed motherhood. He writes, "Illegitimate pregnancies often occur among sweet, nice, normal girls like your daughter and mine."
Some parents are too lenient with their teenage children. To point this out we now quote from the case histories of three unmarmaried pregnant girls. First, "I wish mother had been more mother-some." Second, "I wish my parents had put their foot down. I wouldn't have liked it, but I would have done what mother said." Third, "I felt I wasn't important to Mom because she didn't care when I got home. She just wanted to be sure I had plenty of dates." On the other hand, some parents are too strict. In one case history, one over-protective mother always chose her daughter's dresses and even her dates. But this mother worked during the day and didn't know what her daughter was doing in the afternoons. To assert her independence the girl picked a boy of her own choosing and spent her afternoons with him in his car. With time, their intimacy also became sexual and resulted in another unwed mother.
Another cause of so much fornication is movies and television. These are emphasizing more and more the appeal to sex. For example, when "Farewell to Arms" was produced in the thirties, the scene of the seduction of this Italian girl was completely eliminated from the movie. However, in the recent production, this part is emphasized to the point of even showing a scene of the childbirth. It was made so realistic that one of the movie actresses fainted at the premiere showing. Of the two, however, we believe that television is the more harmful because of its greater use. From an article in the "Gospel Guardian," a religious weekly, it is reported that the average American family has its television set on six hours per day. This is average, but how does this compare with you? Anything that takes six hours a day of our time should be carefully considered. Suppose you who are parents had gone to the movies every night from the time vou were five until you were twenty. What effect would that have had on your school work and on your spiritual life? But do your children watch television one and one-half or two hours daily? If they do, what is the difference? It takes time to see the fruits of some things, but we predict that television will prove to be extremely harmful to the mentality and morals of the generation that is now growing up. Different high school teachers have said that they are shocked at the low mentality of some of the children that they are receiving into high school. Some of them can hardly read. Of course, there are different factors that enter in here, but those who are entering high school now, were beginning kindergarten about the time that television came into wide use. We believe this should be given some serious consideration. When Dr. Schauffler asked why she became pregnant, one girl said, "Doctor, we came out of that torrid movie and it just couldn't be stopped." Neither movies nor television are wrong within themselves, but they must be rationed and censored, or we shall suffer some grave consequences.
The third thing that contributes to so much fornication today is salacious literature. In a recent report of the FBI, carried in "Truth Magazine," it is stated that fifteen million sex magazines are read monthly by one-third of our nation. Paper back novels with obscene pictures, "True Love," and "True Confessions" magazines are widely read and circulated and are a contributing cause to our sex problem. We would like to call upon the concerns of our communities that deal in such magazines and books that they consider what they are doing to our community. Remember that the boy or girl that you helped influence to go wrong might be your own. Surely the profit that you make from the sale of these is not worth the harm that they do. Even the advertisements we see today on billboards, magazines, etc., play up the sex angle.
Number four of contributing causes to fornication is steady dating by teenagers. It is reported in the article previously mentioned from "This Week Magazine" that an estimated one out of five girls between fourteen and sixteen go steady. Two out of five over sixteen do; three out of five girls in trouble had been going, steady. Going steady for teenagers results in heavy petting which often leads to trouble.
The fifth cause is a desire to be popular. One sixteen year old pregnant girl said, "I didn't really enjoy going steady, but you were a freak if you didn't, so I pushed myself into it. I didn't like the heavy petting, but it was the thing to do. If I didn't, it would have marked me as a square." Some, girls give sex favors for fear of having no more dates or invitations. Some misguided, egotistic mothers push their daughters to be sought after. The idea that a girl must be loose and immoral to be popular is false reasoning.
Indecent dress is another cause. Nakedness has been wrong since the fall of man. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and discovered that thev were naked, they sewed fig leaves together and made aprons. The Lord wasn't pleased with such scanty attire and made them coats of skins. Never before in the history of our country have girls and women undressed in public as they do now. This arouses lust which many times leads to fornication.
The seventh cause that we shall discuss briefly is dancing. There was an article from the December 25, 1958, issue of the "Gospel Advocate," in which we have this quote from the matron of the Florence Crittenden home for fallen girls at Chattanooga, Tennessee. "Most of them say they started toward their ruin when they learned to dance." Dancing brings two people too close together, and the results are too often. tragic.
The eighth and last cause of fornication that we shall mention is the aggressive nature of boys. A boy is a pursuing animal. Too many boys regard sexual episodes as sport. They look upon success as trophies. They regard it as a sign of their masculine powers. They have a "scalps for boasting" attitude. Dr. Schauffler stated that boys are directly responsible for eighty percent of teen-age pregnancies. Many times the girls bear the shame and the boys go free or unknown. Boys should be made to bear their part of the responsilillity in such cases. They are more than equally guilty, and if they are not held to an account now, they certainly will be before God.
Now we would like to suggest a remedy for this serious situation, and first we suggest "building the fence variety" of remedies. The first responsibility lies with the home, and the first thing we as parents must do is to be realistic about our problem. The most important thing we can do is to give our children religious training. This should be at home and at church. Parents should take their children to the services of the church and not merely send them. We should not be too lenient or too strict. Virtue is alwavs found between two extremes. It may take a Soloman to find where the virtue lies, but we need to pray and seek divine guidance in finding this wisdom. Parents have the right and the responsibility of knowing where their children are. They should know whom they are with. Parents should give their children love and guidance and companionship. Trust them, but keep a watch on them. Set definite limits for them. Let them know how far they can go. They will chafe at this but will appreciate it. Let us encourage our teenagers in group dating, have parties for them in our horne, and supervise group parties, such as skating, etc. Help them to have interests such as sports, hobbies, music, and they will not be so inclined to date steady. Also, the church has a responsibility to teach plainly and frankly what the Bible says on this subject.
And now we suggest a remedy of the "calling the ambulance" variety. That is, what will we do after the tragedy has happened? If a girl gets into trouble there seems to be three alternatives we think of. The first is abortion, but we should never consent to this. Abortion is the same as murder. When we resort to criminal activities we will reap the fruits of the same. Abortion endangers the life and health of a girl. It usually leaves a nightmarish effect with physical and spiritual penalties. This is an underworld affair and no respectable doctor will do it.
The second is the "shotgun" or forced wedding. This should not be resorted to unless there is real love and a genuine desire on the part of the couple to make a home. This sort of thing puts an almost impossible burden upon a marriage. The Kinsey report showed that fifty percent of such marriages end in divorce.
The third alternative is to have the baby unmarried. This seems to be the best of all unless there is love to warrant marriage on the part of the couple. This is a confusing and frightening experience on the part of both the girl and the parents. However, many times it seems as though having the baby erases bitterness and teaches a valuable lesson about life and its responsibilities. It is an agonizing experience for a girl to give up her babv for adoption, but this is often the wisest choice. To give the baby to a child-hungry couple, that nature has denied, is in itself, a reward and an atonement. But best of all is to keep the baby and take a new lease on life. It is the rare exception when a girl cannot do this, if she is truly repentant, and come back to make a successful life and home for herself and her child. Most people are ready and anxious to be helpful in such cases. We can think of no one that we would be more sympathetic toward, and more willing to help, than an unmarried mother who is making an effort to rectify her mistake.
Then, finally, if one should fall into this sin he should repent of it. The consequence will always remain, but God will forgive the guilt if we truly repent. But if we will not repent, then Paul warns us in the text at the beginning of this lesson that "they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Friend, young or old, there is no sin too hard for God to forgive. If you have fallen into this sin, or any other, let me plead with you to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, repent of your sins, whatever they may be, and be baptized for the remission of your sins.
Truth Magazine, III:11, pp. 11-13