Well, my controversial post has generated a couple of responses.  Jon, in the comments, referred me to an article by Rev. Paul R Harris about a sin he does not name.  (If you’re over the age of 11 you know what this is, if not, well… you will some day.)

It’s an article about masturbation.

Having recently published a letter, I didn’t think The Lutheran Witness would, I decided to publish this article Higher Things wouldn’t.  To be fair, it’s not that they didn’t think it worthwhile.  They just thought it too risky, perhaps risque.  You decide for yourself.

   You know what the sin is, and you’ve noticed this silence yourself.  Your pastor, youth group leaders, and parents don’t hesitate to refer to other sins.  Yet this one remains unnamed as if mentioning it would empower it.  The truth is by not mentioning it we empower it.

   The world does not hesitate to refer to it.  Songs speak of it.  Television shows, particularly sit-coms, regularly refer to it.  One Seinfeld episode is devoted to it.  That 70′s Show laughs about it all the time.  Google has 7.5 million hits for it.  While I can’t speak for the 7.5 million hits on Google, I can speak for sit-coms and songs.  This sin that we aren’t talking about they are treating as normal, natural, and certainly not sinful.

   The unnamed sin that has Lord Voldemort-like power in its name, you well know what it is, maybe too well.  What you want to know is why isn’t it spoken about in your church?  Does this silence mean that sit-coms, songs, and the world are correct about it?  Is it to be laughed at the way sit-coms do?  Is it to be used the way the world thinks?  Is it to have fun with the way songs say?  If nobody in church speaks about it, how are you suppose to get answers?  Ask?  Get real.  You’d rather die.

   Let’s speak about it.  When pastors mention sexual sins in general or lust and pornography in particular, they have this sin in mind too.  Because they don’t name it doesn’t mean they don’t know about it or don’t know that it is a big issue with kids.  More importantly, your pastor knows that it is not as big of a sin as you think it is.

   What do I mean?  There are two extremes to be avoided with any sin.  One is to think like the world does that a sin isn’t really wrong.  The other is to think like the devil does that a sin is so wrong that you can’t be forgiven or so powerful that you must give into it.  It is a sin, but it’s like all others.  When we confess it, God is faithful and just and forgives it.  But it is sometimes such an overwhelming sin that it feels beyond the reach of Jesus’ forgiveness or power.

   First, remember that Jesus purposely lived the teen years.  He could have entered the world as an adult, but He didn’t.  He specifically wanted to redeem teenagers who often feel irredeemable.  Second, remember that Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He was without sin.  Jesus was tempted to do what you give into.  He felt the burn, the obsession, the irresistibility of it.  Yet, He didn’t give in.  He kept the Sixth Commandment.  Therefore, no matter what your conscience yells at you, no matter what the devil whispers to you, the Sixth Commandment can’t be hanging over your head undone.

   But the Sixth Commandment didn’t just need to be kept; our breaking of it needed to be paid for.  Your feeling guilty won’t do that.  Your feeling dirty won’t do that either.  It takes God to satisfy the wrath of God.  So God in your flesh and blood, Jesus, went to the cross bearing this unnamed yet well known sin.  He was whipped, tortured, and nailed in your place.  The shame you fear if anyone should find out Jesus bore on the cross.  Jesus declared He finished paying for your sin; God the Father shouted, “Amen!” by raising Jesus from the dead, and we sing, “Thanks be to God!”

   “But how can I be forgiven if I know I will do this sin again?”  Most of the time when a young person asks this he or she is thinking about this sin.  This is one of those sins that can follow you around like a stray dog or haunt you like a ghost.  People have always known this.  That’s where the old wives’ tales about it causing blindness or hair to grow on your hand come from.  These were attempts to make kids afraid of the sin.

  They didn’t work.  Neither will threatening yourself, promising God, or punishing yourself.  The only remedy to sin is God’s grace in Jesus.  As the devil, the world, and your flesh bring the lust, the burn, the necessity of it before you, bring the grace, mercy, and peace of Jesus before your eyes.  The unholy three promise it is the path to pleasure and relief.  They lie.  As you know, it only leads to more.  True pleasure and relief are found in Christ, and He gives all of Himself to you in Baptism, in Absolution and in Communion.  Christ has given sex to you as a gift to be opened on your wedding night.  The sin nobody talks about only taints this gift.  It doesn’t destroy sex because not even our sins can destroy a gift from God.

   It’s time to bring this sin into the open.  Take it to the font, to confession, and to Communion.  Don’t be afraid of it.  It’s not more powerful than our God or His forgiveness.

Having recently published a letter, I didn’t think The Lutheran Witness would, I decided to publish this article Higher Things wouldn’t.  To be fair, it’s not that they didn’t think it worthwhile.  They just thought it too risky, perhaps risque.  You decide for yourself.

You know what the sin is, and you’ve noticed this silence yourself.  Your pastor, youth group leaders, and parents don’t hesitate to refer to other sins.  Yet this one remains unnamed as if mentioning it would empower it.  The truth is by not mentioning it we empower it.

The world does not hesitate to refer to it.  Songs speak of it.  Television shows, particularly sit-coms, regularly refer to it.  One Seinfeld episode is devoted to it.  That 70′s Show laughs about it all the time.  Google has 7.5 million hits for it.  While I can’t speak for the 7.5 million hits on Google, I can speak for sit-coms and songs.  This sin that we aren’t talking about they are treating as normal, natural, and certainly not sinful.

The unnamed sin that has Lord Voldemort-like power in its name, you well know what it is, maybe too well.  What you want to know is why isn’t it spoken about in your church?  Does this silence mean that sit-coms, songs, and the world are correct about it?  Is it to be laughed at the way sit-coms do?  Is it to be used the way the world thinks?  Is it to have fun with the way songs say?  If nobody in church speaks about it, how are you suppose to get answers?  Ask?  Get real.  You’d rather die.

Let’s speak about it.  When pastors mention sexual sins in general or lust and pornography in particular, they have this sin in mind too.  Because they don’t name it doesn’t mean they don’t know about it or don’t know that it is a big issue with kids.  More importantly, your pastor knows that it is not as big of a sin as you think it is.

What do I mean?  There are two extremes to be avoided with any sin.  One is to think like the world does that a sin isn’t really wrong.  The other is to think like the devil does that a sin is so wrong that you can’t be forgiven or so powerful that you must give into it.  It is a sin, but it’s like all others.  When we confess it, God is faithful and just and forgives it.  But it is sometimes such an overwhelming sin that it feels beyond the reach of Jesus’ forgiveness or power.

First, remember that Jesus purposely lived the teen years.  He could have entered the world as an adult, but He didn’t.  He specifically wanted to redeem teenagers who often feel irredeemable.  Second, remember that Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He was without sin.  Jesus was tempted to do what you give into.  He felt the burn, the obsession, the irresistibility of it.  Yet, He didn’t give in.  He kept the Sixth Commandment.  Therefore, no matter what your conscience yells at you, no matter what the devil whispers to you, the Sixth Commandment can’t be hanging over your head undone.

But the Sixth Commandment didn’t just need to be kept; our breaking of it needed to be paid for.  Your feeling guilty won’t do that.  Your feeling dirty won’t do that either.  It takes God to satisfy the wrath of God.  So God in your flesh and blood, Jesus, went to the cross bearing this unnamed yet well known sin.  He was whipped, tortured, and nailed in your place.  The shame you fear if anyone should find out Jesus bore on the cross.  Jesus declared He finished paying for your sin; God the Father shouted, “Amen!” by raising Jesus from the dead, and we sing, “Thanks be to God!”

“But how can I be forgiven if I know I will do this sin again?”  Most of the time when a young person asks this he or she is thinking about this sin.  This is one of those sins that can follow you around like a stray dog or haunt you like a ghost.  People have always known this.  That’s where the old wives’ tales about it causing blindness or hair to grow on your hand come from.  These were attempts to make kids afraid of the sin.

They didn’t work.  Neither will threatening yourself, promising God, or punishing yourself.  The only remedy to sin is God’s grace in Jesus.  As the devil, the world, and your flesh bring the lust, the burn, the necessity of it before you, bring the grace, mercy, and peace of Jesus before your eyes.  The unholy three promise it is the path to pleasure and relief.  They lie.  As you know, it only leads to more.  True pleasure and relief are found in Christ, and He gives all of Himself to you in Baptism, in Absolution and in Communion.  Christ has given sex to you as a gift to be opened on your wedding night.  The sin nobody talks about only taints this gift.  It doesn’t destroy sex because not even our sins can destroy a gift from God.

It’s time to bring this sin into the open.  Take it to the font, to confession, and to Communion.  Don’t be afraid of it.  It’s not more powerful than our God or His forgiveness.

Right.  Let’s start at the beginning.

1] I don’t know what the sin is, because you have not named it, though you accuse the practice of not saying the word of empowering the sin.

2] It’s called masturbation, wanking, spanking, and many other items.

3] The Bible verse that mentions that this is a sin is… pastor…?  I’ll be waiting for a long time, because there are none in the cannon as confessed by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (which is pretty much the same Bible as the rest of Protestant Europe and North America).

4] “What you want to know is why isn’t it spoken about in your church?”  Nope.  First of all, it’s a cultural taboo to talk about in public.  Bestiality, transsexualism, homosexuality, all of these things that are 1.5% or less of the population’s issue we can talk about like people in a castle flinging night soil over the edge.  This is a pile of poo right in our own midst, so to speak.

Secondly, after people freak out that you’re saying this in the first place, someone is going to smack you back into place for naming a sin born out of human tradition instead of God’s Word.

There are a whole BUNCH of things here that are not true or not spoken of in God’s Word.  Since you’re a Lutheran pastor you won’t mind me going to Scripture and plain reason, now will you?

The truth is by not mentioning it we empower it.”  ASSUMING your point (which I do not) that wanking = sin, I would have to correct you!  

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 3:11-12

First, remember that Jesus purposely lived the teen years.  He could have entered the world as an adult, but He didn’t.  He specifically wanted to redeem teenagers who often feel irredeemable.  Second, remember that Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He was without sin.  Jesus was tempted to do what you give into.  He felt the burn, the obsession, the irresistibility of it.  Yet, He didn’t give in.  “

Jesus didn’t sin.  Since you have done nothing to demonstrate that masturbation is a sin there is no scripture to say that Jesus did or did not masturbate, just as there is no reference to him moving his bowels, washing his stomach, or peeing.

True pleasure and relief are found in Christ, and He gives all of Himself to you in Baptism, in Absolution and in Communion.  Christ has given sex to you as a gift to be opened on your wedding night.  The sin nobody talks about only taints this gift.  It doesn’t destroy sex because not even our sins can destroy a gift from God.”

Um… the number of times that masturbation is advocated or involved in sex therapy beggars the imagination.  There is as much proof that masturbation taints marriage or defiles it as the rest.

None whatsoever.

In order for you to convince me, I have to assume that something is a sin that God doesn’t call a sin.  I have to assume Jesus didn’t do what 96% of males admit to doing at least intermittently (possible, but I have just as much ability to argue that he did without sin just as you can say that he did not, without sin.  We’re both just arguing from silence, which is nothing but hot air.)

I’d much rather talk about things that Jesus really does say are sins, looking at someone for the sake of their strong/earnest desire (what gets translated as “lust” in the Sermon on the Mount though it is the same verb Jesus said about his desire to have communion with his disciples…)  Pornography, we totally agree as evil.  Fornication (sex before marriage), adultery (sex outside of marriage), homosexual acts (NOT temptations or feelings), these we can all agree with, we can see in scripture, and we have God’s Word on how to deal with.

But I must refuse to join your supposition, pastor, for one additional reason.

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,[d] puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

You are trying to argue asceticism, avoiding a physical pleasure, without the foundation of God’s Word.  You tell me, Do not handle, do not touch.  And you do, indeed, appear wise with a natural, human-logical argument.

But God’s Word tells me your extra rules won’t make me holier.  And I’m commanded not to be led astray.

So, in Jesus name, may God bless  you and keep your extra man-made rules far away from me.  Perhaps I masturbate as the clearest path to follow God.  Perhaps I do not, as my conscience and knowledge of my Lord and his Word dictate.  It’s really none of your business.

So mind you, sir, and I invite you to get off of God’s throne and let him mark out the rules for your fellow man.  Teach them to avoid these first, and we will return then to this topic after…

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