(Saturday, 11/18/00, 7:45 PM, St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University. Choral performance the by Manhattan Grace Tabernacle Choir)
Let us begin tonight with a reading from Malachi 2:13-15:
Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and in spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. (Emphasis added)
Over the last thirty to forty years, we, the American people have been robbed of much of our precious spiritual and moral heritage, and many of us don’t even realize it. Firstly, we have forgotten the truth that human life was created by God and is therefore sacred. As the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...” Or as Psalm 139 states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made....”
Do we really believe that babies still in the womb have no such rights? Do you know that the great suffragists, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, strongly opposed the legalization of abortion? They knew that abortion, if allowed in the United States, would become a chief weapon against women—and especially female babies—as it already was in much of the rest of the world and is to this very hour. Anthony wrote of those who have an abortion:
Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her crime.1
Secondly, we have forgotten the truth that the marriage of a man and a woman is God-ordained, to be honored as the life-long bonding of two human beings. Marriage is a core part of the American heritage, and marriage today is under heavy assault on many fronts. God made sex and all its attendant pleasures and placed sexual union at the heart of the closest of human relationships on earth, that of a man and a woman joined in lifelong marriage. He gave this powerful gift to be enjoyed by men and women within the bounds He has set for our own protection. He also intended to protect that gift itself from the degradation that so quickly arises when we give way to immorality. Contrary to the opinion of some, God is not against sex, but He nevertheless warned us regarding the misuse of this gift: “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NIV)
Thirdly, in devaluing life itself, we have forgotten the truth that children and their upbringing are one of the greatest responsibilities and privileges of adult life. Psalm 127 states, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” God gave the gift of sex for husbands and wives to enjoy one another, but He also gave this gift to produce the next generation. Once you begin to separate sex from the marriage bond, and from procreation within that bond, you begin to lose sight of the Creator’s original purpose for physical union. You also devalue the product of that union. Just last spring, one of my students was pleading tearfully with her classmates about the awful nature of abortion, when another replied, “If any little (expletive deleted) inside my womb put my life in danger, I’d get rid of it fast!” An editorial in the October 2nd  issue of Newsweek pointed out that Princeton University has given a prestigious post to an advocate, not just of abortion, but of infanticide: “Peter Singer suggests that for perhaps a month after birth parents should be entitled to dispose of unwanted children.” Where are we heading as a nation?
Fourth, we have let go of the truth that prayer and faith in God are central to everyday life, individually and nationally. The founders of this country never intended that separation of church and state should mean eliminating prayer from our national life! Their intent was to preserve freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Benjamin Franklin once said to the Continental Congress,
In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. – Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.... And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth— that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”2
During World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, even the abrasive and rather profane General George Patton, in Training Letter No. 5, called to the officers of all his units asking the troops to pray. They were to ask for the breaking up of the cloudy weather which prevented Allied planes from hitting advancing German armored units: “Be assured that this message on prayer has the approval, the encouragement, and the enthusiastic support of the Third United States Army Commander.”3 A recent Wall Street Journal editorial commented about this action by Patton, “Imagine what a Supreme Court that has just deemed unconstitutional a prayer broadcast over public school loudspeakers before football games would have done with that.”
Fifth, we have forgotten the once widely-held understanding that all of us will give account to God, from the schoolchild to the President, and that there is a clear difference between right and wrong. Abraham Lincoln wrote in his Second Inaugural Address during the Civil War,
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still must it be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”4
Can you imagine an American president today having the courage to call a war involving American troops a judgment of God upon this country because of slavery?
Everything that is precious is costly, and everything in life which is truly worthwhile is costly as well. But we live in an age that wants instant gratification and instant pleasure. “Don’t remind me of my responsibilities, tell me about my rights and my privileges! Tell me what is due me!” Do you want to know something? If the Lord gave us what was due us, we would be in big trouble! Yet self and self-gratification are at the center of much of what our present culture values. Consider for example the recent Forbes’ radio ad, suggesting that we not settle for part of the field in business, but level our opponents and take the whole thing! What if everybody did that?
Self-sacrifice or delay of gratification are viewed today as wrong, foolish, or at best antiquated: “Get what you can while you can,” “If you don’t look out for number one, who will?” Even education today chiefly promotes “self-esteem.” Yet how far short all these fall in comparison to what Jesus called the two greatest commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-8, NIV)
Between 1962 and 1963, we took what had been for more than 340 years the historical, Biblical core of American education and threw it out the window. What moral or ethical system have we come up with in the years since to replace what we rejected? On a related note, do you know that SAT scores on the mathematics exam have been in decline ever since 1963, even as the tests have been made easier and the scores more inflated?
And now to my main theme tonight, there is tremendous confusion in our culture regarding love and lust. Many behave as if there were no difference between them! Yet even the saying from the 1960’s, “Make love, not war,” had far more to do with lust than with love. The difference between love and lust is in fact vast. Lust’s chief aim is self-gratification, while love’s chief aim is the welfare of others. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote, “Love... is not self-seeking.” One of my favorite verses from Proverbs 3:3 states:
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Love is the very nature of God, but lust is one of the chief traits of fallen human nature.
Consider the example of Hugh Hefner and the empire he built by selling the bodies and souls of women. Yet now, our society has gone far beyond anything that Hefner did! On October 23 , The New York Times ran an article entitled “Technology Sent Wall Street Into Market for Pornography.” It stated that, “The General Motors Corporation, the world’s largest company, now sells more graphic sex films every year than does Larry Flynt, owner of the Hustler empire.” Other companies the Times mentioned include AT&T, Time Warner, Marriott International, and Hilton, “all companies that have a big financial stake in adult films....” What attitudes towards women are encouraged in men by pornography, much of which today is far worse than Playboy ever was? And what effect do those attitudes have on men’s ability to build lasting relationships with women, and thereby be around long enough to help raise the next generation?
Years ago, a New York Times columnist wrote a piece mocking young people who wanted to remain chaste until marriage, especially those “desiring to give themselves as a gift for life to their spouse....” More recently, a young Christian lady was challenged by friends that she was missing out by remaining a virgin until marriage. Her reply was, “I could list a lot of things that I do know I’m missing (by remaining a virgin): hurt, betrayal, anxiety, self-deception, fear, anger, confusion, and the horror of having been used. And those are only emotional aspects; there is also disease, unwanted pregnancy, and abortion.”5
Please note the stark contrast between the attitudes of people today towards others’ lives and the value the Lord places on human life:
—Recently during a break at a math conference, I watched about five minutes of a movie starring Sarah Michelle Geller. It portrayed women with such deep contempt for men, and men with such contempt for women, that I simply turned it off. A health instructor at my school later told me that she was warning parents that this movie was “dangerous” for their teens to watch.
—During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a reporter from The New York Times asked the head of N.O.W. about Pres. Clinton’s actions towards women, including Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and others. The question was whether she was bothered by it. Her response was “No, that is what all men are like....”
Contrast these attitudes with the Lord’s word to the prophet Ezekiel:
“Every living soul belongs to me. The father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.... The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked man will be charged against him.” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)
And again, from Ezekiel 18:30-32:
“I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
It was not always thus in America. A professor of child development at Tufts University, David Elkind, described the vast change in our culture: “Up until the 1950’s, we placed the needs of children and adolescents ahead of the needs of parents, and children flourished.... From the 1960’s on, we have put the needs of children and adolescents beneath the needs of adults and parents. The outcome is a lot of stress.”6 A Wall Street Journal editorial said the same thing a couple of years ago and noted that our society is paying a very high price for adults’ failure to sacrifice themselves for their children. One consequence can clearly be seen in the attitude of an art teacher that I know towards his own children: “When my children were little, they wanted me. Now that they are older, they want nothing to do with me.” And, at least outwardly, he wanted nothing to do with them either.
In the 1970’s, Merv Griffin interviewed the nationally popular television actress Lucille Ball. “What is wrong with this country today, what is missing…?” he asked. Lucille Ball replied: “Where’s poppa? Poppa’s the one who is missing....” How many children today wish that daddy or mommy had not left home, leaving behind only an aching void. Did you see the September 25th  issue of Time magazine and its cover story, “What Divorce Does to Kids”? Listen to just one quote:
“Children take a long time to get over divorce. Indeed, its most harmful and profound effects tend to show up as the children reach maturity and struggle to form their own adult relationships. They’re gun-shy. The slightest conflict sends them running. Expecting disaster, they create disaster. ‘They look for love in strange places...,’ ‘They make terrible errors of judgment in whom they choose....’”
In the 1980’s, Professor William Kesson commented to my Child Psychology class at Yale that the two most worrisome trends in American culture were the rise in child abuse and adult failure to discipline their children. In fact, he described parents’ failure to discipline their children as a form of abuse. Neglect and abuse were closely related in that they reflected the widespread failure of adults in modern American culture to rightly value children.
How did we change as a nation? Here is part of what happened, without going into the gory details more than is necessary. In 1947, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a Harvard trained professor of zoology, founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Regarding his work, Katherine G. Bon recently wrote: “Fifty years ago, Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey shocked the world with Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, followed by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. These ‘studies,’ known as the Kinsey Reports, became the basis for sex education from (the) University on down.” Kinsey made several bold assertions:
- traditional sexual morality is worthless
- all sexual activity is natural
- 10% of the population is homosexual
- children are “sexual from birth”
Though criticized for their sloppy methods, the reports were popularized by the media and thereafter became widely accepted by many sex educators. Yet Kinsey’s studies were based on anything but random samples. He stacked the deck to find what he was looking for, choosing subjects to interview who would be most likely to tell him what he wanted to hear. In the 1980’s, Dr. Judith Riesman investigated some of the claims of the Kinsey Reports about infants and small children. She was outraged by what she found. Pedophiles had been used as “researchers,” systematically abusing children, and their detailed records were treated as science by the Kinsey team.
Another weapon used to advance immorality was the nationally famous (or infamous) Hite Report of the 1970’s. To quote the child’s line “But everybody’s doing it...,” the report, held in high regard in popular culture for years, greatly exaggerated the level of sexual immorality and marital unfaithfulness in this country. Its statistical methods have since been challenged and discredited. In fact, Shere Hite’s publisher, Dutton, decided in 1994 not to publish her newest book, finding the manuscript “sloppy” and fearing reviewers “would savage it.” (The Nation, 6/19/95)
Recently, some feminists have again begun to champion Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. The latest book on her life left out the inconvenient details about this lady whom some have called the mother of free love. In Century of Cruelty: Making Sense of Our Era, Nancy Pearcey wrote:
Generally remembered as a champion of birth control, Sanger also expounded a complete worldview. This is the lady who said that “non-Aryan people” of the United States are “a great biological menace to the future of civilization.” Ernst Rudin, Hitler’s director of sterilization who helped launch the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene, was among the contributors to the magazine Sanger edited. (From Insight on the News, v12, n47, p18(4), 12/16/96)
In her own book, The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger offered a “scientific” view of sexuality based on Darwinism. She portrays the drama of history as a struggle to free our bodies and minds from the constraints of morality, the “cruel morality of self-denial and sin.” She touts sexual liberation as “the only method” to find “inner peace and security and beauty.” It is even proffered as the way to overcome social ills. “Through sex, mankind will attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, and light up the only path to an earthly paradise.”
Please listen to what the Bible has to say about those who make such claims:
“For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:18-19, emphasis added)
Consider these claims also in the light of two recent studies, each described on CBS News this past June :
—Interviews with 21-year olds across the country showed that their two main interests were money and casual sex, not long-term relationships.
—Children raised in single parent homes have three times the level of emotional difficulties and other problems, including juvenile delinquency, that children in two-parent homes have.7
No wonder the Bible says of marriage, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and in spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” (Emphasis added) As a parent of four little boys, I can state from experience that it is hard enough to raise children with two parents present!
Let us now consider the Biblical view of men and women. We are beings created with three parts: body, soul and spirit, of which the spirit was intended to be pre-eminent, because it is the part of us through which we relate to God. In Paul’s words, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) In fallen human beings, the body and/or soul have the pre-eminence because the spirit is dead through sin. The book of Romans states, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful (fleshly) man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8) No wonder we must be born again!
What is this sinful nature like? As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) Doesn’t this list sound like a typical Friday night on many college campuses today?
Consider for a moment the awful destruction and pain that lust has produced throughout human history. Consider the rapes, the wars, and the murders provoked by human lust. Consider the pain of children who love their parents, watching them tear one another apart in a divorce. I once saw one of my brightest and happiest students transformed overnight into a dejected, pained adolescent. I never thereafter saw her recover from the news that her parents were getting divorced.
Consider the heartache of kids who rarely if ever see their fathers, knowing deep down that they don’t matter to one of the two people who gave them life. I once had one such young student sit on top of my desk at his middle school and tell me he was going to kill himself, knowing that his life mattered nothing to his absent father.
Consider the blinding pain of children who are so traumatized by parental sexual abuse that they cannot even remember entire stretches of their childhood. And remember that such actions by a parent have everything to do with lust and nothing to do with the parental love and care that God ordained.
Consider the agony of a spouse who has just discovered that the dearest person on earth has betrayed her or him by being unfaithful. I once met a man whose wife of fifty years betrayed him while he lay in a hospital bed for an entire year, recovering after a heart attack. He needed her love and support more than ever before, but she failed him and so all he wanted to do was throw his life away. Fortunately, before he could do so, I met him on a bus from New York to New Haven and was able to lead him to forgiveness and peace in Christ. He later wrote to me that he had forgiven his wife and, as a result, she had also become a believer in Jesus and their marriage was restored. Shortly thereafter, he died but he died at peace with God and his spouse.
Consider the case of the man who was the head of the Jewish community of Vienna, Austria in March 1938. I roomed with him in a hospital here in New York in 1979 while having knee surgery. He was the first non-German Jew the Nazis intended to arrest after the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria. They planted a high-ranked female Gestapo agent in his home as a chambermaid and gave her the task of seducing him the night before German tanks crossed the border into Austria. They hoped thereby to gain the pretext to not only arrest him but to take away with him thousands of other Jews from Vienna.
But my Jewish friend refused the Gestapo agent to her face, saying he would never betray his wife or his God. He threw her out of his house in her nightclothes, and she had to flee through the streets of Vienna to Gestapo headquarters. Someone there was so impressed by his actions that they secretly sent a messenger warning him to flee the country with his family, just two hours before the German tanks rolled in. Instead of dying in a concentration camp, he led a long and fruitful life on Long Island, with his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.8
Consider all these the next time you hear someone claim that “sex... will transform the world, and light up the only path to an earthly paradise.” As Galatians 6:7-8 declares,
“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature (flesh), from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
God created us and our greatest happiness lies in being rightly related to Him. The world often portrays God as a cruel taskmaster who ruins all our fun, but nothing could be further from the truth. The one who really messes people up is the devil, the author and promoter of sin. James the apostle wrote, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17)
The Lord is the source of all life, and of all in life that is worthwhile. As Paul wrote in Romans, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature (the flesh), to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14) And again from Galatians, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Each of us therefore has a choice to make, will we live to please our fallen nature and die? Or will we repent, believe in Jesus who died for us, and receive the true liberation that comes by having the power of sin broken in our lives? There is no middle ground. As the book of Acts declares,
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him (Jesus) from the dead.” (Acts 17:29-31)
Will you choose the way of lust, and bring trouble into your own life and the lives of others around you? Or will you turn to the Lord and choose the way of love, God’s love expressed through Jesus, which can make your life a blessing to many, including your family?
Christopher N. White, Copyright 2000
(Message given on Saturday, 11/18/00 at 7:45 PM in St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University.)
1 Susan B. Anthony, The Revolution, July 8, 1869. URL: http://susanbanthonyhouse.org/blog/the-revolution-july-8-1869/ (visited 2/22/2018)
2 Benjamin Franklin. From Beliefnet.com, “Benjamin Franklin’s Request for Prayers at the Constitutional Convention,” July 28, 1787. URL: http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/21/benjamin_franklins_request_for_prayers_at_the_constitutional__1.html (visited 2/23/2018)
3 Msgr. James H. O'Neill, “The True Story of the Patton Prayer,” Review of the News, 6 October 1971. URL: (visited 1/17/2019)
4 Philip Van Doren Stern, editor. The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln. New York: The Modern Library, 1940, p. 842.
5 Sarah E. Hinlicky. “Subversive Virginity,” First Things, October 1998. URL: https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/10/subversive-virginity (visited 2/23/2018)
6 See David Elkind, The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon.
7 This finding has since been confirmed and even enlarged in other studies, including the CDC’s National Health Statistics Reports, Number 74, May 7, 2014, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
8 If you would like to know more of this man’s story, you can read Escape from the Holocaust on my ministry website, https://cnwhite.org, at https://cnwhite.org/index.php/articles/text-format/17-escape-from-the-holocaust.