We had a really good discussion at our small group on Thursday night about sexuality and marriage, and a number of key points came out, which seem relevant to a whole host of other issues as well. Here’s a summary of our conclusions:
God’s people have always been called to live differently. Genesis was written in the world where other cultures worshipped many different gods, participated in fertility rituals and treated women as goods and chattels. The account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 promotes a radically different picture of who God is, of what it means to be made in His image, and what it means to be male and female. When we live in light of this teaching and we will find ourselves at odds with those around us. That is why, as the apostle Peter puts it in 1 Peter 1:1, we are strangers in the world, and why our experience as Christians is so often that of exile and persecution.
Our identity is not something that we choose. The essence of sin is that we choose for ourselves who we are, and that we change our identity as we see fit. This is not only true of sexual identity but in many other areas of our lives and it is a large part of our general rebellion against God. As believers, our identity comes, however, from being in Christ and accepting the identity that He gives us. This involves fundamentally changing how we view ourselves and others, and such a change can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us at the very deepest level.
We all fall short of what God intends. So often the church only seems to focus on homosexuality but there are many and different ways in which we fail to live up to God’s teaching, and we need to address issues such as sex outside marriage, pornography etc. etc. recognising that, according to Jesus, our thoughts matter as much as our actions (see Matthew 5:27-28, Mark 7:22-23). We truly need to be a community of grace pointing one another towards to cross of Christ where alone we can find forgiveness and healing and renewal.
We need to offer a positive alternative. So often we can say that a particular behaviour or attitude is wrong, without offering the necessary help or support that someone is looking for. This is where it is so important that we create a church where everyone finds welcome and support, where there is a safe space to enable people to be real one with another, where there is genuine love and friendship and support.
We need to tell a better story. The evening ended, after the study, with folk talking about their favourite TV series. We are all influenced by the media we watch, and we need to be aware that each has their agenda, to influence how we think about issues such as sexuality and marriage, and to promote acceptance of an ever wide range of lifestyles. Our church needs to be a place where we have testimonies of God changing lives for good, where the witness to the work of the Holy Spirit is so compelling and so attractive others are drawn to our story and discover the joy of obeying and loving God.
Our ultimate fulfilment is not in this life. The agenda of the world is that this life is all that matters, and in most cases that sex is the ultimate fulfilment of our identity. As Christians we are called to have a different perspective – that all things will be made new in Christ. Even the best and most satisfying marriage will be as nothing compared to being in the presence of our Saviour, and, whether we are called to singleness or marriage, we need to always keep this ultimate reality in mind. Otherwise there really is little point in self-denial: “Eat and drink (and have sex), for tomorrow we die”. Such indeed was the view of the pagans in Corinth and such has been the attitude of the world ever since. But what was Paul’s response? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”(1 Cor 6:19-20)
There was a lot of ground covered that evening! But even so, at the end, we still felt there was so much more much we needed to discuss and to pray over. I really want to thank the group for their openness, their honesty and their willingness to wrestle with the tough questions. Next week we are going to continue our exploration and look further at the implications of the fall. Others will be very welcome to join us, and even if you can’t make it, do leave a comment or a question on this blog. This really is a debate well worth having.