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Michael Gowen

Shechem – Sex and violence

Sexual immorality really does open a doorway for the devil, not only in one’s own life, but in the whole community.

Photo: Unsplash

Is there any link between sexual immorality and violence? Well, one could look at the classic love triangle. How often do these end up in violence, even murder.

Here are a few of this year’s headlines that I found from a cursory search of the internet: from the Indian Express of 30 August: ‘Love triangle born in Kerala ends in murder in Australia’. From the ITV website of 17 August, ‘Two guilty of Sadie Hartley love triangle murder’. From The Times of 11 October: ‘Love triangle soldier denies kidnap and attempted murder’.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic and tragic cases – serialised on ITV earlier this year – is that of Colin Howell, a dentist from Northern Ireland said to be ‘a deeply religious father of ten and a former lay preacher’. He and his lover killed his wife and her husband in 1991 so that they could be together, and he finally confessed to the murders under the burden of guilt in 2010.

Yes, however committed we may be as Christians, none of us is exempt from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). And before we distance ourselves too far from this man, Let the person who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7).

There are many histories in the Bible where violence follows on from sexual immorality: Sodom and Gomorrah; the Levite and his concubine in Judges 19-20; Samson and Delilah; David, Bathsheba and Uriah; Amon, Tamar and Absalom, to name but a few. Hosea exposes the link between the two in his own society: Thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the street. … They are all adulterers, burning like an oven. … All of them are as hot as an oven; they devour their rulers (7:1-7).

Amos too: They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl (2:7). And Jesus, when he speaks about the evil things that come out of the heart, identifies three of the first four as murder, adultery and sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19).

So, it should come as no surprise that the Bible recounts, in Genesis 34, the history of Shechem, a man who engaged in sexual immorality and who died a violent death. He was son of the local ruler, a man used to getting his own way. One day he happened to come across Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, took a fancy to her and raped her – a scenario that is all too familiar today in the parts of the developing world where judicial systems are corrupt, inefficient or non-existent.

After the rape he decided that he really liked Dinah and wanted to marry her. So his father went to speak to Jacob, as was the custom in those days. At this point Jacob’s sons enter on to the stage. Most of them were grown men and they had one thought in mind: avenging the shame which Shechem had brought on their family.

They tricked him and his family by telling them that if all their males were circumcised, he could marry their sister. But this was never their intention, and while the men were lying around in pain from the circumcision two of the brothers, Simeon and Levi, went out and killed them all and looted their city. In due course they too would pay a price for their deceit and violence.

As for Shechem, after his sexual immorality he not only died a violent death, but brought violence and death on his whole community. I have seen this happen in churches today: situations where sexual immorality is tolerated or covered up and not dealt with appropriately – it is like taking a pane of glass out of the greenhouse and letting the cold wind blow through and shrivel up the plants inside.

The weak and vulnerable are the first to suffer and, tragically, can become prey to sexual abuse and violence. Sexual immorality really does open a doorway for the devil, not only in one’s own life (1 Corinthians 6:18), but in the whole community – a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6).

Solomon – whose sex life was far from exemplary – also warns about this link between sexual immorality and violence. In the Bible he says, People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. … But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is (Proverbs 6:30-35).

Adultery is highlighted here, as it was the major problem of sexual immorality in a society where girls were kept under close supervision after puberty; but the application is wider, and is as topical as ever. If you have read any Tony Parsons books, you will have noticed in them how often men come to blows over the same woman. It does not always happen like that, but it is much more common than we might think.

So, flee from sexual immorality. It will seriously harm both you and your community. Sexual purity, on the other hand, will protect our lives and the lives of those around us, and it brings wonderful benefits too.




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