We are called to live lives worthy of our calling. What is that calling? Remember 1 Peter 2:9. As followers of Jesus, we have been set apart and specially chosen to live as holy people in order to represent our holy God. So let’s start getting practical. What does this calling look like in action? When we know who we are and decide to live in light of that identity, not only will there be a greater confidence and boldness about us, we’ll have different practices and habits than the rest of the world. Peter continues to explain it this way:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV
Peter points out this choice we all have to make: Will we choose to follow our desires or to follow Christ? To obey our flesh or our heavenly Father?
Here’s the thing: The idea of obedience can get a bad rap in our culture today. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to submit to someone else, especially when we’ve experienced abuses of power and people taking advantage of others. That’s not okay. But that’s never the outcome when it comes to obeying God. When we obey and follow Him, we stay connected to the very Source of life, peace, and true fulfillment. But when we obey and follow our desires, we end up in a very different place. Paul explains it like this:
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Romans 6:16 NLT
So what does it look like to choose obedience to God in our romantic and sexual relationships? It looks like choosing to love others the same way God, through Christ, has loved us, by reserving sex for marriage and refusing to objectify other people.
Why reserve sex for marriage? Well, sex is a powerful thing. And in the wrong context, it’s not “making love,” it’s causing so much harm to ourselves and others. Just look at the world we live in today. We have to deal with sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies that end in abortion, kids growing up without fathers, and all the shame and trauma that comes from sexually abusive situations. The list goes on and on, because in the wrong context, something as powerful as sex causes massive harm. And that’s not how God has treated us or called us to treat others.
What about refusing to objectify others? Refusing to objectify others looks like rejecting lust. Because lust trains us to see others as objects for our pleasure instead of people to be loved. And that’s not okay. When Jesus came, He constantly elevated people. He reminded us what it means to be human, to have dignity and value, to be people invited to partner with God in bringing goodness and beauty into the world. That’s who you are, but that’s also who your boyfriend or girlfriend is. That’s who that person on the screen or in that video is. And treating them as anything less is an error in the highest sense of the word—it’s sin. And sin (our fleshly desires) always ends in death. But what God offers us, what Jesus shows us, is the way that leads to life:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NIV
Obedience to God is so much better than obedience to anyone or anything else. Obedience to those other things, our desires, may feel good in the moment, but it always ends in pain and death. So choose obedience—choose to treat others the same way God, through Christ, has treated you.
Habit 2: Choose obedience. Practically, work to eliminate temptations today, so you don’t have to resist them tomorrow. Get in the habit of nipping things in the bud while they’re small, instead of letting them grow up to produce pain and death in your life. When you identify a trouble point, don’t brush it off. Have that conversation with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Put restrictions on your phone and computer. And don’t do this alone! Ask for help and accountability from the people you trust. Practice identifying and eliminating temptation today.