Did you hear about the 90-year-old man who married a 25-year-old woman? His son by a previous marriage asked, “Dad, don’t you think, um, sex is a little dangerous at your age?” “Well, son,” he replied, “if she dies, she dies.”
The first instance of a custom which was afterward incorporated among the laws of Moses states, that when a husband died leaving a widow, his next of age brother was to marry her. If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deut. 25:5)
The time and circumstances in which this practice originated are not known. It seems to have been introduced early and arose out of the great importance attached to the primogeniture. O’NAN (strong) in about 1925 B.C. When his brother Er, Judah’s firstborn, was put to death by Jehovah on account of his wickedness, Onan refused, in defiance of the ancient custom, to produce offspring by his widow, Tamar. For this he was punished by death.
Clearly the issue for Onan is disobedience to God. Rightfully, the story of Onan and Tamar is not a sexual story, but a story of compliance to God’s will. It is difficult for us in our culture to understand this story because our customs are so different. Like Onan, we don’t want to marry someone that we are not in love with, especially our dead brother’s wife. When we have children we want them to call us father, not recognize someone else as their father. The whole purpose of this marriage arrangement was so that his brothers name would live on and that there would be a child to care for Tamar when she is old. Onan doesn’t care about his brother’s posterity or the welfare of Tamar. Onan, is selfish, self-centered and disobedient to God.
I selected this story because while it doesn’t directly deal with the subject at hand it forces us to ask the question of contraception. Some religious groups look at this passage and use it as a guideline for individual self-control. I don’t think that is being addressed in this story at all. Some religious groups teach that God doesn’t permit any type of birth control other than abstinence. That sexuality was designed by God for procreation and not recreational pleasure. Such groups would point to God’s anger in this passage at Onan – because Onan was taking advantage of Tamar. More than one million American teenagers (about one in ten) become pregnant each year, three-fourths of them unintentionally. There may be as many as 450,000 teenage abortions each year. Only about half of the young women who become pregnant before age eighteen will finish high school, and about thirty percent will become pregnant again within two years. About eighty percent of out-of-wedlock births to teenagers are to girls who were themselves born to unmarried teenagers.
I was invited to lead a lecture on ethics to a group of college students. I asked this group of 60 students what has been the greatest moral struggle in American history? Almost everyone agree that it was slavery. Except for one young man who said, “No, it is abortion.” Then proceeded to go into the pitfalls of abortion. My response to the young man is that it is a no win situation. The one that has the abortion finds that life is filled with guilt and remorse. The one that chooses to have the baby faces the stigma of society and if she keeps the child usually ends in poverty. Those are no win choices. A recent tragedy has revealed some repulsive hypocrisy in our land. On November 12, 1996, two young college students birthed their child in a Delaware motel room then tossed it in a dumpster. For this action, Amy Gross and Brian Peterson have been charged with murder. I am repulsed by their actions, but as a pastor I can tell you I understand the moral bankruptcy in the lives of many that would lead them to make such decision.
Listening to a lecture by a well known doctor who was talking about sexually transmitted diseases. She said that in medicine “promiscuity” was define as having four or more sexual partners. However, she soon discovered that when asked no one would ever admit that they were promiscuous. They would always see promiscuity as being one more sexual contact then they had.
When it comes to sexuality what does God’s word teach? We play games with ourselves. We say, “I believe abortion is wrong, except for rape or incest.” Wait a minute, if it is morally wrong from causal sex then it is morally wrong from rape and incest. One wrong has never justified another. Look at the story of Adam and Eve – “the woman made me do it.”
What is the bottom line? The Bible forbids sex outside the bonds of marriage. Two people not married to each other are forbidden to have sex with each other. Nothing that comes as a result of such a relationship can be justified. The David and Bathsheba story tells us that. Within marriage all things are permissible.
I disagree with some religious groups that see sex only for procreation. Within the bonds of marriage, sex was also designed for pleasure. To that end contraception becomes a necessity. Morally acceptable are all contraceptive devices that provide a barrier to conception. A barrier that prevents sperm and egg from joining. A barrier that is hormonal and doesn’t allow for the production of either sperm or egg. A barrier that kills either the sperm or egg and thus not allow them to join. Morally questionable are contraceptive devices that allow the sperm and egg to join and then do their work.
It is an odd world that we live in today. At elementary schools, the kids are in before breakfast and are kept after class doing homework, crafts or sports until they can finally go home. Kids are expected to deal with parents’ divorce without emotional damage. They are to handle life with a single parent without problems.
Teenagers today are expected by their peers to be sexually active. As parents we allow them to work out a moral code of their own for coping with sexuality. Parents must be involved in helping their children establish their moral code, but the problem is that many parents haven’t established their moral code yet.