America has a unique heritage of freedom, where you can live as you choose so long as you harm no one else. “Live and let live,” the saying goes.

These days, a new list of so-called “victimless” sins has emerged demanding to be made legitimate. It includes the use of marijuana, consuming pornography, engaging in prostitution, and perhaps most fashionable, taking part in homosexual acts—or at least approving of them. Society struggles to see the harm in these actions. A thoughtful discussion of whom these acts are really hurting is overdue.

/// The person ///

What harm can two guys entering a “marriage” in Massachusetts have? Questions like these take a calloused approach to the very people in question. While the world views it as cruel to deny the wants and inclinations of a given person, in Christianity, we know that we owe it to people to warn them against self-destructive acts.

If the Bible is really true (and we know it is), it is easy to recognize what is and is not a sin. Sin is that which separates us from God, and sexual sin is particularly apt to drive a wedge between God and man because it bends our desires away from Him and toward our flesh.

Therefore, we should not encourage people to enter into agreements and arrangements—be it cohabitation or same-sex unions—that institutionalize a sin pattern and make it harder for people to get out of these lifestyles. At the same time, we must remember that everyone is prone to sexual sin, and we should not think that our sinful desires are less grievous to God.

/// Other people ///

Sins committed by “consenting adults” often have unexpected consequences to other people. Every person has other family members, neighbors and a community around them. When we give into temptation to please ourselves, we hurt others emotionally, and in other ways.

As we plunge headlong into accepting “victimless” sins more and more, the real people who will feel the effects will be children and future generations in the end. Sin never happens in a vacuum, and its price tag ultimately comes due.

While the average person today may not take part in prostitution or same-sex relations, the Scriptures warn against even giving approval to them (Rom. 1:32). What one generation tolerates, the next embraces. With every action, we must remember the little people who inherit our views: namely, children.

/// Society ///

If a counterfeiter makes fake $100 bills in his basement, then uses them at a store to buy goods, who is hurt? First, the store itself is harmed, because it accepted as legitimate something that is not. Second, it hurts other shoppers, whose real money is devalued, because the fake kind is accepted on the same footing.

In the same way, when we substitute real love with fake “love,” such as substituting the sexual act between a married couple with pornography, it cheapens love everywhere. You cannot prop up counterfeit love without bringing down true love. As C.S. Lewis said, lust cannot enter Heaven, not because it is too powerful, but because it is too weak. So while many sins are popular and accepted within society, they still act to harm society as a whole. In other words, society becomes the victim.

It may feel compassionate to say, “Live and let live,” but in the end we are only letting the people die spiritually. As Lewis said, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Real love points to truth in a gracious manner. Real love warns, lest we live and let die.