Why is Sex a Four Letter Word?


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The phrase four-letter word, according to the dictionary, refers to several short words dealing with sex or human waste which are considered objectionable or obscene. Why should the 3 letter word sex be so firmly connected to the stigma of the 4-letter words? I hope in answering this I will help our young people particularly, and perhaps selfishly, my own kids. Kids if I could somehow liberate sex from the 4-letter word category for you, I would be giving you a lifelong advantage over your peers. Why? Because it is the stigma, the stain, the shock of sex wrongly understood that scars, hobbles, and disables millions of people in our society.

Sex has been a 4-letter word since the Fall. You remember your Bible stories, don't you? There's Adam and Eve in paradise, and it's a great place to be. The weather is perfect. The food is great. They are married, in love, and they have no need for clothes because God has declared nakedness, sexuality, and sex too, "Very good.". But then the devil and sin with him slither into Eden and what God had declared very good became a cause for shame, blushing, and turning away the eyes. So out came the fig leaves. What God meant to be very good for mankind had now become a problem.

God created sex and sexuality good, perfect, holy. Men in their sinfulness perverted it, and this perversion is not of recent origin. It's ancient history. Homosexuality and incest show up in Genesis 19. Rape and premarital sex by chapter 34. The world has been awash in sexual sins from the Fall on. Ancient Greek civilization was brought down by the sin of homosexuality. In 9 AD Roman Emperor Augustus had to issue a law requiring marriage since Romans weren't marrying because they didn't believe sex outside of marriage was wrong. In the 1400s the Cathars said what you hear many saying today: anything consenting adults do is okay. Luther said in his day it was popular to believe that sex outside of marriage was not a mortal sin.

Sex didn't become a 4-letter word in recent history, and neither do I want you kids to believe that it is worse than ever now. Ads in newspapers and magazines of the 19th century regularly advertized pornography, abortion, and prostitution. In 1925, movies, magazines and ads had the thrill of sex as their overt and hidden agenda. This glorifying of sex in print and in movies was an attempt to say we've outgrown our fig-leaves. We're mature enough to stop thinking of sex as a 4 letter word.

This was followed by the attempt to move sex out of the 4 letter word category by "scientific investigation." In the 1950s, a man named Kinsey released a report on sexuality and then in the 70s Masters and Johnson followed with theirs. Both treated sex as little more than a physical, biological act no different in humans than animals and therefore no more significant in them than in animals. Science can liberate sex from the 4 letter word category.

N o it can't kids. Sex and sexuality will still stain, shame, and blame your body and soul if you try to deal with them by saying, "The only things that make sex a 4-letter word is immaturity or lack of scientific knowledge." No, what makes sex a four-letter word is sin and sinfulness. It's our fallen hearts; it's our sinful hearts; it's our corrupt impure, dirty, hearts. Anything that goes into such a heart whether it be God, Mom, Apple pie or sex can only be corrupted, defiled, polluted, and ruined.

It takes a lot to clean a fallen, sinful heart. It takes a lot to clean a heart that has been stained, shamed, and blamed by sexual sins. Sexual sins tend to rattle around and haunt hearts and consciences, and when they can't be quieted, they make us prone to repeat them. So you can see getting sex out of the 4-letter word category is a big deal. But it must be gotten out in the right way, not by splashing it all over computer and TV screens or by putting it under a scientific microscope, but by putting it back where it belongs.

Sex is a gift from God. He invented it. He gave husband to wife and wife to husband to enjoy each other. He said of sex what He said of all the rest of His creation: It is very good. Just because men can and do misuse what is a good gift from God doesn't make the gift evil and bad. Sex and sexuality in and of themselves are not 4-letter words no more than alcohol, sugar, fat, or tobacco are evil in and of themselves.

Put sex back where it belongs, in God's hands to use where God intended it to be used: in marriage. But what about my sexual sins? You are not going to be able to go through this life without sinning sexually. And it is because men's and women's consciences are muddied, dirtied, and soiled by sexual sins that they keep treating sex and sexuality as a 4-letter word, but the more they do that the more their fallen heart is inflamed. And inflamed is the right word. It can sometimes seem that you can think of nothing else than sex. Sigmund Freud made much out of this in the late 19th century. He essentially traced all of man's problems back to sex. The truth is that any sin can and will do this to you. You will find as you age that the same constant, compulsive burning which may surround sex now will later be around sickness, aging, your kids, or you job. It is not sex itself that causes us to focuses on it this way. It's sin. And how do we deal with sin?

We don't deal with it. Only God can. We can make excuses for our sins, but excuses don't take them away. Excuses leave sins haunting our hearts only to rise up all the more ferociously later demanding us to do something about them. We can promise to do better next time but that doesn't remove sins either. That only sets us up to fall all the harder. Only God can deal with sins, sexual or otherwise. Only God can cleanse hearts and minds, bodies and souls from sexual sins. And it takes nothing less than God becoming a Man and dying on a cross to do it. It takes nothing less than Advent/ Christmas and Easter/ Lent to deal with your sins. That's why I want you in Church year round.

Did you listen to the Passion reading tonight? Did you hear Jesus being declared innocent 4 times. 3 times Pilate used the official, Roman legal formula for declaring someone not guilty. "I find no basis for a charge against Him." Herod, who was up till then an opponent of Pilate, agreed. And then God testified in a dream to Pilate's wife that Jesus was innocent. Jesus was innocent, innocent, innocent. Though He knew all the sexual temptations we know, Jesus never gave in, never sinned. Though He was like us in all ways, He never did, said, or thought a lewd thing.

But look how Jesus is treated? Do you see the savagery, the brutality, the viciousness with which the meek, gentle, pure Jesus is attacked? He was flogged with a leather whip that had bones and metal in the ends. They put a purple robe on His shredded back only to rip it off again. The made a crown of thorns and jammed it on His head. They struck Him on the head with a staff; they spit on Him; they mocked Him, ridiculed Him, and teased Him.

Do you know why Jesus suffers this way? Because that's how sexual sinners ought to suffer. You hear that all the time on talk radio. Someone calls in about a child molester, a homosexual, a rapist, or other sexual sinner, and they with great glee tell how the man ought to be beat half to death, staked out on an ant mound, tortured like he tortured his victims. Yes, yes, yes, everyone knows that is how sexual sinners like us deserve to be punished, but we're not. Jesus is.

Jesus' punishment is so brutal, so savage, so vicious because that's what our sins deserve, and, listen closely here kids, that's what our sins GOT. Every stroke of the whip removed one more of your sexual sins; every blow with the staff paid for one more of your sexual sins; every drop of spit on the holy face of Jesus, every rude remark, every mocking word brought the forgiving grace of God, the smiling face of God ever closer to you, till He said to you: I can't see your sin any longer. It doesn't exist before Me anymore, so it cannot exist before you or haunt your conscience any longer.

This next part will be hard for you kids to appreciate till the Lord gives you children. Jesus wants the shame, the blame, the stain of sexual sins to be on Him not on you. Jesus is God in flesh and blood. At anytime He could've stopped the suffering. He could've snapped the ropes that bound Him, grabbed the whip that hit Him, and pulled it out of the hand of the one whipping Him. He could've asked and the Father would've sent 12 legions of angels to stop the torture. Jesus could've easily stopped His suffering, sighing, bleeding and dying, but didn't. Because He would rather suffer, sigh, bleed and die for your sins than have these things happen to you. When you are blessed with kids of your own, you will know better how gladly Jesus suffers so you don't have to, so you can go free.

And you are free kids. You are free to know that sex is God's gift to you for you to open in marriage. Though it is abused, misused and profaned in movies, in songs, in books, and in life, sex remains God's pure, holy gift for you on your wedding day. He doesn't want you to think that your sins against sex and sexuality are so bad as to have ruined forever His holy, pure gift. No, the sins of men, women and kids can't ruin a good gift of God. And don't let Satan stain your conscience with your sins against sex, so that sex is forever tainted. That would be punishing yourself for sins that Jesus has already been punished for. Though you have sinned against God's gift of not just sex but every other gift of His, the sufferings Jesus endured, the blood He shed, the tears He cried are more than enough to wash the slate clean before God, so they are certainly more than enough to wash your conscience, your soul, and your body clean too.

Sex is a 3 letter word, not a 4, but even if you've misused it as a 4-letter one, Jesus is a 5 letter one, and so are grace, mercy, and peace. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Lent Midweek IV (3-17-04); Sixth Commandment