We were all happy for a bathroom break. It had been a long morning of travel on remote mountain roads, the kind with deep ruts and anything-but-smooth-sailing. Add to that the headache-inducing air freshener our driver had installed in his sturdy Toyota van, and every one of us was ready for a few moments outside the four tin walls with our feet on the actual ground breathing actual fresh air. When our driver pulled over and motioned down the hill to the tin-roofed outhouse, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
A teammate and I were joining a visiting short-term team as they traveled from village to village in our host culture. Earlier that morning, we had left one remote village, a village where only one family of believers lived, and were now travelling to another one where we would help host an evening service for the believers there.
But first, we needed a bathroom break.
I was one of the first down that hill, finding my way to the tin-roofed shack. From the outside, it looked like every other outhouse I’d seen in these remote stretches, but when I swung open that door, I was hit with the extra feature: the inside was covered from floor to ceiling with lewd, obscene posters. It was shocking, so unexpected and overpowering in such a small space. I literally held my breath and did all I could to avert my eyes and get out of that stinky outhouse as fast as I could.
And then I had the choice to make: do I tell the others? Do I ask our driver to find another bathroom for us? My mind swam with options as I trudged back up that hill to the rest of the group. Should I just keep quiet about it, and let each person guard herself/himself on their own? How were they supposed to respond if I’d say something? Will I just make an awkward situation worse by talking?
So I took the coward’s way out. I said nothing. I acted as if nothing were wrong. As if I had no responsibility whatsoever for the people entering that house of impurity after I did.
That incident happened more than a decade ago, and I still remember it clearly. And I deeply regret my silence. I remember it as the day when I did nothing to protect the sexual purity of my brothers and sisters. The day I allowed them to go into the lion’s den, unprotected.
My host culture was many things. Welcoming, friendly, laid-back, beautiful. And it was also highly sexually-charged. Pornographic images available all over town, solicitation on many street corners, sexual innuendo commonplace in everyday speech. A long-term worker once told me she feels there is a strong sexual stronghold in that nation that I love so well, and I agree. It’s everywhere, and free use of sexuality is celebrated. After a while, it became less glaringly offensive; my sensitivity to the sin began to wear down.
Living in a sexual warzone takes resistance. And it’s a resistance we need to build beyond just our own spiritual flexing. We need to band together to create a fellowship of resistance and help one another walk through in wholeness.
Paul spoke clearly and firmly to the church at Thessalonica about sexual purity. He calls for each one to stand firm in following God’s guidelines for our sexuality, guarding our own hearts and avoiding exploitation of others. He wraps up this conversation by saying, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7).
Throughout the whole of scripture, community-living is valued. Among many, many other things, we are admonished to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), to “encourage one another” (Heb. 3:13), and to “practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). Walking with Jesus is not a solo gig; it’s one meant to be lived together.
So then, is the fight for sexual wholeness. It’s a fight we lend to our brothers and sisters. And I think we who live in foreign lands, especially those charged with sexual immorality at every turn, need to be especially aware of how we can fight for those in our families, on our teams.
Let’s silence the silence and join the fight for the purity of those we rub shoulders with. Let’s stop being quiet and avoiding the awkward conversations and engage in the battle for the sexual purity of those around us.
Don’t follow my lead. Don’t stay quiet. Don’t do nothing.
Engage, act, protect, defend.
We are called to holiness; let’s help each other walk that path well.
In what ways can we band together to create a culture of sexual purity on our teams/in our families?