@tsbehan Thank you for posting. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. I think at the heart of this question “what can be wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone?” is both a misunderstanding of human identity and a misunderstanding of how sin is truly destructive.
Of course - loving our neighbor and living lives set apart to Christ in word and deed is often the most powerful witness.
1 - A Misunderstanding of Identity
Sometimes when someone poses a question about sexual ethics to me, I respond with this question: “Did you realize that according to the Bible there is no sex in Heaven?”
Sometimes I need to share Jesus’ story from Matthew 22 when the Pharisees challenged him to tell them which of a man’s wives he would be married to in Heaven - and Jesus responded by saying that there is not marriage in Heaven.
Now, here is a follow up question: if there is no sex in Heaven, do we need sex to be fulfilled human beings? What is the purpose of sex?
Hopefully this leads to a good discussion where we can discuss why Jesus is more fulfilling and more necessary and more fundamental than sexuality. You see, at the root of sexual ethics is a misunderstanding of identity rooted in idolatry.
Romans 1:25 says - “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him … .They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”
Tim Keller puts it this way - an idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.”
You see - some people make an idol out of sex. They say - without sex I am nothing. But it is only without God that we are nothing.
If God is not at the core of our identity, our identity is always on the verge of crumbling.
Tim Keller has a fuller explanation here:
2 - How Sin is Truly Destructive / The Real Tragedy of Sin
You can approach this topic with a question like, “What makes anything wrong in the first place?” and talk about how we need a moral lawgiver to establish moral laws, but here I will take another approach.
When most people say something is ‘wrong’ they actually by default mean that it is inconvenient or painful for themselves or another person. This definition excludes God by default from the picture.
But what was it that really happened in the Garden of Eden that was so tragic? Why did Christ have to die on the cross? Not only to teach us to love one another and be reconciled to each other, but chiefly to reconcile us first to Himself. In the Garden the tragedy was separation from God.
Isaiah 52:1 - But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
People who question the Bible’s sexual ethics feel God is trying to steal something from them - to take away their pleasure, when in fact God is trying to restore them to Himself. But how can we communicate this to someone who does not believe in God?
The key, I think, is what Blaise Pascal and C. S. Lewis noted when they said that the cravings within us cannot be satisfied by physical pleasure or anything else in this world - because we were meant to find our true joy in God alone.
Jeremiah 2:13 - My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Sexuality is a cracked cistern - if people try to find ultimate satisfaction in it they will always need more - never be truly filled.
This is a tricky one to communicate - because you need to somehow see if this person has ever had this realization in their own life.
Do you find that sexuality really fulfills the deepest longings of your heart?
What is it that you really desire most in life? (I’m willing to guess most people will not say sex)
You need a question to redirect the person to realize that even they already know that sex is not the ultimate thing (this goes back to identity) and that the tragedy of sin is that it has separated us from the One who can really give us peace and satiate the deepest longings of our heart.
Sam Alberry also has some great resources on these matters