What Does the Cross of Christ Have to Do with Sex?

By Mark D. Roberts

May 29, 2019

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Ephesians 5:1-3

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I noted that the transition in Ephesians 5:1-3 from love in the cross of Christ to the prohibition of sexual immorality can seem like thematic whiplash. What connection can there be between God’s love, seen supremely in Christ’s death on the cross, and sexual activity?

newlywed couple on kayakYesterday we saw that the embodiment of God’s love in Jesus and the offering of Jesus’s body on the cross suggest a strong connection between love and embodied life, which surely includes sexuality. Thus, it’s not so strange that Paul might move thematically from focusing on the cross to talking about sex.

But there is another connection here we mustn’t miss. In Ephesians 5:1, we are told to imitate God by walking in the way of love. The example of such divine love is the self-giving sacrifice of Christ (Ephesians 5:2). Then we come to verse 3: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” This juxtaposition suggests that walking in the way of love is inconsistent with engaging in impure sexual behavior. If you love someone, you will not engage in sexual immorality with that person.

Why is this so? Surely one of the essential characteristics of sexual immorality is the consuming focus on one’s own desires and pleasures. Sex becomes primarily a means for one’s own gratification rather than a way to love another person in a self-giving, sacrificial way. If I use another person sexually for my own pleasure, without caring about what’s best for that person, then I am not walking in the way of Christ-like love. This is true whether I act on my desires or merely look at another person lustfully, something Jesus calls “committing adultery in one’s heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Thus the call to walk in the way of love gets down into the nitty-gritty of everyday life, including sexuality. Everything we do, every purpose to which we put our bodies, should reflect God’s amazing love, which we see most clearly in the self-giving sacrifice of Christ.

Something to Think About:

How might focusing on God’s love help us to live sexually pure lives?

What might be an answer to the claim that sex is just not a big deal and that we Christians are making way too much out of it?

Something to Do:

Set aside some time to have an open conversation with the Lord about your sexuality. Let this conversation be based on the fact that you are God’s dearly loved child. If you get stuck as you talk with the Lord, consider getting help from a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor.


Gracious God, thank you for your all-surpassing love. Thank you for loving us and helping us to see your love through the life and especially the death of Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for calling me to walk in love, to love as you have loved. Help me to do so in all of my relationships and in every part of life. In particular, I ask that your love guide and mold me when it comes to my sexuality. May my desires and behaviors be a reflection and expression of your love. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The Lust of the Eyes


Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

More on Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn