An example from history - the Roman world of the New Testament era
In Kyle's Harper's excellent book, "From Shame to Sin" (in a Harvard University series of books) he describes the sexual code of first century Rome (the world of the New Testament):
- Adultery was defined as sex with a married woman - but a married man was not committing adultery if he had sex with slaves or prostitutes! And many married men did have sex with their slaves and with prostitutes, and nothing was thought about it.
- Women were to be chaste before marriage (at the age of around 14-16) and pure within marriage, but men could play the field in the decade before marriage (at the age of around 25) and then they could play the field afterwards - provided of course that they didn't play the field with an already-married woman. In other words there were double standards for men and women.
- Homosexual acts were divided into two groups - one allowed, the other not: Allowed: sex with boys or sex with male prostitutes. Not Allowed: passive sex.
- Adultery was defined biblically - as any sex outside of marriage
- The standard before and after marriage was the same for both men and women: no sex before marriage and no sex outside of marriage
- Homosexual sin was redefined most radically: ALL homosexual acts were wrong, and that included acts between men and acts between women. What is more this sin was regarded as the one that demonstrated more than any other mankind's rebellion against God and his creatorily design.
In the world in which we now live, the following sexual mores hold true:
- After marriage, adultery and porn is OK provided you don't get caught for the former
- Before marriage, for both men and women, sex and porn are OK
- Homosexual acts are divided into three groups: not allowed: with children; sort of OK - promiscuous sex; totally permissible: sex in a long term partnership
We're not called to judge those outside the church, but we are called to judge those within the church, and God's standard is very simple: sex is right within a heterosexual marriage, and outside of marriage sexual immorality is one of the sins which will bring down God's righteous wrath.