Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community

From the Gospel Coalition 

I looked nervously across the table, fidgeting with my coffee cup. Do you realize what you’re asking of me? he questioned. We’d been meeting for more than an hour, talking about his struggle with same-sex attraction and his decision about whether to enter into a more intentional relationship with his boyfriend. He’d been part of our church and community group for a couple of years, always intelligent and effervescent, exhibiting many marks of a mature Christian. Yet my friend’s dark internal struggle had finally reached its culmination, and here we were together in a coffee shop, grappling with the reality of his decision.

Do you realize what you’re asking of me? I did. I was asking him not to act on his same-sex desires, to commit to a celibate lifestyle, and to turn away from an important romantic relationship. Yet as I reflect on that discussion, I now realize I didn’t fully understand what I was asking of him. I was asking him to do something our church community wasn’t prepared to support. I was asking him to make some astonishing and countercultural decisions that would put him out of step with those around him. In many ways, I was asking him to live as a misfit in a community that couldn’t yet provide the social support to make such a decision tenable, much less desirable. No wonder he walked away.

Several years have passed since that conversation, but it’s convinced me of the vital relationship between sexuality and ecclesiology. There are many churches like ours that believe there are two possible paths for followers of Jesus to live obedient sexual lives: heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence. But among churches that are committed to a biblical sexual ethic, there are few, I’m afraid, that make living out that ethic possible for the average person dealing with same-sex attraction.

I’m now convinced any church that holds a traditional view of sexuality must also foster a radical practice of Christian community in which living out a biblical sexual ethic becomes possible and even attractive.

This is a great article on the need for Christian community to a place where living a godly, counter-cultural life plausible, practical and attractive. While it focuses on Christians who have same-sex attraction, there’s lots in here that is true of all single Christians. Though this is an important distinction to remember

Those of us who are heterosexual must realize, however, that even though God is calling us to the same thing (chastity), our LGBTQ friends will experience this calling differently. When heterosexuals commit to chastity, they do so knowing they may meet someone, get married, and be able to have sex. When those tempted by same-sex attraction commit to chastity, though, they’re doing so knowing that unless God changes their sexual desires, they may never know the intimacy of a sexual relationship.

Of course for those of us who are still single in our mid-thirties, the possibility that we may never marry is very real. And, speaking on behalf of women, we live every day with the unforgettable sadness that every day that passes brings us closer to the possibility of never having kids. It does often feel like I have to bear this burden on my own. But Christian community should provide a better way.

Now picture the other scenario. Bob’s been introduced to Jesus by a community group at the invitation of a colleague. The group shares deeply and vulnerably, confessing sin and praying for one another. As Bob struggles with the prospect of chastity, he looks around the group and sees ways others in the group have embraced hard things because of the gospel. At least two other singles in the group are straight and have also embraced chastity. There’s a married couple who are honest about their struggles and failings but committed to not leaving each other despite the immense pain. Another person wasn’t willing to participate in the fraudulent activities of her company, and lost her job because of it.

In this scenario the demands of Jesus don’t lessen for Bob, but he does look around and see he’s not the only one being asked to lose certain things for the gospel. He sees a mixed community of married and single, same-sex attracted and straight, all bearing their crosses together and helping one another bear those heavy burdens. Our gay friends must see a church community in which all of us—not just those who battle same-sex attraction—are facing the demands of the gospel and the struggle against sin.

This is so important. I’m thankful for my married friends who are honest enough to share their struggles with me. Because it reminds me that the grass on their side of the fence has just as many muddy puddles as the grass I’m standing on. When I see the hardships that come with marriage, I’m much more likely to see the goodness of singleness. This is how I persevere.

But here is the most important challenge for churches.  Honour singleness & demystify marriage.

Another way we can create healthy countercultural plausibility structures is by removing marriage from the idolatrous pedestal on which it’s often placed. At times marriage, and the presumed sexual joy therein, is cast as such an objective for Christians that it starts sounding like the supreme goal, surpassing Jesus himself. Talk about “family values” cements this idea, suggesting God’s basic desire for human flourishing is for you to be married and start a family and, if you’re not experiencing that, then hurry up and try.

But the great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, isn’t describing love between husbands and wives or parents and kids but love between Christians in a church community. The Bible sees the church, not the nuclear family, as the primary level of relationships in our new kingdom life.

Further, we must return the New Testament’s high honoring of the single life. Whenever we treat singleness as a “second tier” calling or minor league to marriage we’re communicating to our single brothers and sisters that they’re experiencing less of the full human experience. This is obviously not the case. Jesus was single, and he was the perfect human. Paul advocated for singleness and even dubbed it a “higher calling” than marriage: “He who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Cor. 7:38).

Imagine a community in which many celibate singles, both same-sex attracted and straight, are taking full advantage of their singleness as they live the life of the kingdom together. Imagine a community in which sex and marriage are seen as good gifts but not ultimate gifts—indeed, things a follower of Jesus can live without. In such a community, the possibility of a single life of chastity wouldn’t be the fate worse than death it’s sometimes portrayed to be.

In short, we should not call our single friends to sexual abstinence until we create the social environments (plausibility structures) that make such a life meaningful and viable.

Spot on. Read the whole article here.

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Don’t focus on the absence

The is what I call ‘the messy shelf’. It’s a space on my bookshelf reserved for all the books I’m currently reading.

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The Jesus Story Book Bible usually finds its way here. Today I used it to at our local pre-school to tell the story of Zacchaeus and his life changing friendship with Jesus.

The next book along is John Stott’s Through the Bible Through the Year. It’s a great devotional book that takes you through the Bible in a year, with a Bible reading and a daily reflection each day. I’m almost at the end and I’ve loved reading it. I thought that sharing part of today’s reflection on Revelation 4:1-6 would be a perfect return to blogging after a rather long absence.

It is immensely significant that, when John peeped through the open door, the very first thing he saw was a throne, symbol of the sovereignty, majesty and kingly rule of God.

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We seize on the assurances of the Revelation that one day there will be no more hunger or thirst; no more pain or tears; no more sin, death, or curse, for all these things will have passed away. It would be better and more biblical, however, to focus not so much on these absences as on the cause of their absence, namely on the central dominating presence of God’s throne.

 

 

More from Lady Gaga: Judas

Whatever you think of Lady Gaga, her videos are certainly spectacular. Her new song Judas is no exception.

Obviously lots of biblical imagery here. Over at Pop Culture Christ Joel tell us what he thinks she is doing with this mash of Bible stories.

See, this song is not about Jesus, Judas or any other Biblical figure. It’s a song about betrayal and an unhealthy relationship. The imagery skirts around the real issues and in some ways acts as a smoke screen for what is really going on. The woman at the heart of this song is a woman betrayed by the man she loves. He sleeps around on her and she knows it. And she keeps coming back to him. Her self-esteem has been devalued to such an extent that she doesn’t feel she is worthy of a loving relationship. Her “Judas” has manipulated her and abused her emotionally. She is the victim of an abusive and destructive relationship. She wants to love the virtuous “Jesus” but “Judas is the demon [she clings] to”. She is trapped in a relationship where she is not truly loved but has been fooled into thinking that she doesn’t deserve better. She believes that she is beyond repentance and he is more than happy to perpetuate this lie.

Read this whole article here.

Two kinds of wisdom

James 3:13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Knowing how to helpfully teach this passage to 8-11 year olds must be a third kind of wisdom. But I’m much happier spending my time on this than spending it writing essays.

The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage

I spent most of my afternoon reading The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage: 6 Things You Need to Know About What’s Really at Stake by Erwin W. Lutzer.

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I think this is an excellent book that encourages all Christians to think biblically about a delicate issue. But it doesn’t just encourage thought – it encourages action.

The thing that I like most about this book is that, in his intro, Lutzer first grounds us in the truths that are so often forgotten by Christians as we discuss these issues

We must lower our voices in this debate, speaking with respect and dignity. No matter how strongly we oppose the homosexual agenda, we are first of all called to be Christians who have the privilege of representing Christ to all the communities of the world, regardless of class, colour, nationality or “gender orientation”. […] We must never speak of homosexuality as if it is the one sin worthy of the eternal flames. Yes, the Bible does condemn homosexuality, but it also condemns a host of other sins that are rampant in the best of our churches. If all we do is shout at homosexuals across a chasm, be assured we will hear only the echo of our own voices ringing in the air.

Those sins are not only rampant in our churches, but in our lives as well. A point which Lutzer takes up in chapter 1.

We must repent of the double standard that sees the sin of the homosexual behaviour in a different category than adultery, premarital sex and pornography. We must plead guilty to the charge of bigotry, for we have acted as if our sins are minor in comparison to those of the homosexual  community, whose sin we think are of a different nature and category. This attitude of condemnation has caused us to lose our voice in the wider culture.

In my opinion this is our biggest problem. Why does the gay community think we are judgmental? Because often times we are!

This book is easy to read and quite short and yet covers a great deal. Lutzer discusses the effects of same-sex marriage on the tradition marriage (grounded of course in the Bible’s covenant based marriage), as well as its effect on children, the issue of adoption, the common arguments in affirming same-sex marriage, how and why the church should act and our continuous need for repentance, humility and hearts that seek God always.

At the beginning of the book Lutzer shares his motivation and thought process behind writing the book. He ends with this interesting paragraph.

Let no one say that we have to choose between loving homosexuals and opposing same-sex marriage. Biblically, love is defined not as license to legitimatize sinful behaviour of any kind, but love helps us to see there is a better way. Obviously, we must be as concerned about our own sins as we are about the sins of the homosexual community. We must be concerned enough to speak out about any action, heterosexual or homosexual, that violates God’s intended plan for marriage and the family.

Food for thought.

Meditation of my heart #1

Oddly enough, the last year and a bit that I have spent at bible college has been the worst time for my personal bible reading and prayer times. Not that I don’t want to do these things, but my life seems to be so much busier than before college, and college work always seems to come before everything.
But I want desperately to change my priorities.

In an attempt to be better at holding myself accountable for this I am going to try to blog regularly about what I am reading and how it is affecting me. I hope you enjoy a sneak peek into my thoughts. My prayer for myself (and for you) is this –

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

So I start today with 2 Corinthians 1.

Paul talks about a time when he was ‘completely overwhelmed’ (v8). Paul’s circumstances were so bad that he says ‘we personally had a death sentence within ourselves’.

It is fitting that I read this passage today because I feel completely overwhelmed by things at the moment too, although I have no right to complain when compared to Paul.


Paul gives us an incredible example of how to respond to these times in our life.

However we personally had a death sentence within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. (v9)

God raises the dead! Thats incredible! And this is who calls us to trust him. Why would we not trust a God who is powerfully enough to raise the dead?

He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us; we have placed our hope in him that he will deliver us again. (v10)

Chances are that I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed. Paul also encourages his friends to help him, and I can help my friends in the same way –

and you can join in helping with prayer for us, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many. (v11)