How can we envision a healthy pattern for male-female relationships, one based on a holy love for one another, as God intended? This is no doubt what we want, but when the apostle Paul warns, “There must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3 NIV), and there are whiffs of immorality all around, we consider it prudent to avoid other men and women in general. Just to be safe. We order caution tape by the truckload—and assign an extra-large consignment to the youth ministry.
But it is not enough to fear sin and legislate against it. The law and its penalties have never been sufficient to bypass sin and produce righteousness. For that, we need Jesus: his payment for sin and his paradigm of grace. And so, when it comes to God-honoring sexuality, cultivating a fear of sin is never going to be enough to keep us from bad choices. Nor can a community of thriving relationships grow in soil contaminated by the fear of getting it wrong. The fear of the Lord—not the fear of sin—is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). And John reminds us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, ...” 1 John 4:18
If we are going to talk about sexuality and creating communities not ruled by fear, we need to start by revisiting what we mean by sexuality.