Possibly one of the toughest aspects of credibility today
I want to take one last look at how we can establish credibility before a watching world, and this may be one of the toughest, given our culture and time.
What does it mean to live with sexual integrity? THIS calls for real faith. And courage.
First, what I mean by sexual integrity is NOT a one-dimensional argument of heterosexuality vs. the LGBTQ community. And similar to the real percentages within our society (that the LGBTQ are a profound minority in terms of real adherents), the concern over sexual integrity in the church is predominantly a heterosexual problem.
Just as our culture has wholesale abandoned a biblical view of sexuality, so within the church, vast numbers of people have abandoned any prevailing sense that sex belongs only within marriage. We can view this from opposite ends of the spectrum. First, in terms of desirable pursuits, our culture is drunk with sexuality. Sex represents, for many, the highest of all possible highs. So, even among professing Christians, a majority of our rising generations are asking, “What’s wrong with being sexually active as long as it’s consensual?”
And from the other end of the spectrum, our culture has adopted a pretty consistent (and harsh) assessment of people who insist on rules. Rule-keeping is archaic. It’s viewed as petty, even restrictive or oppressive. And who wants to be viewed like that? So Christian leaders, especially parents, have lost their nerve. It’s less that Christian leaders have endorsed unbridled sexual activity and more that our leaders have gone mute. And in the silence of a credible, calm rationale for sexual faithfulness, the revolution of self-rule has carried the day in the West.
Sexual brokenness is in everyone because all of us are fallen. By total depravity, we mean that every aspect of our nature is affected by sin — our minds, emotions, bodies, wills, and yes, our sexuality. And sexual extremes are not new phenomena. Commands in Scripture imply errant behaviors, so why did God call out so many sexually specific commands? Because people were doing all the things that the LORD knew were broken and destructive. And by the time of the New Testament’s writing, Greece and Rome were rife with what many now think is a “new” level of sexual expression. It’s actually very ancient.
So what can help us, both in what we desire and what we don’t want to be? Let’s never forget that all of God’s commands are about His design for us — God’s good design.
This means that the contemporary obsession with free expression sexually is ignoring the reality that God designed us to work in a certain way and that violating that design is not just a question of guilt but also a matter of damage. Violating any design is destructive, whether that violation is acute (what traumatic bodily damage occurs in a high-speed car accident?) or chronic (what bodily damage occurs over 20 years of a bad diet with no exercise?).
But we also believe in redemption. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers (in a profoundly sexually deviant city) that a broad list of sexual sins led to destruction and judgment. Yet “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11. This means that there is hope for anyone who would recognize their peril and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and transformation — many who populate Trinity every week.
If our physical sexuality is an expression of God’s covenant love (see Ephesians chapter 5), then God’s design is not oppressive. It’s literally life-giving (as in human conception).
So this also is a matter of faith, not sight. We live in a community also! We live for one another and for one another’s sexual integrity. We can encourage those married and those not; praying for one another; working hard to not tempt one another; and championing faithfulness in every heart and every arena.
And before we single out this one particular aspect of faithfulness as impossible, 1) how is this any different than any other impossibility? Jesus taught us that what is impossible for man is possible for His Father. And 2) why is this any tougher than any other quality of Jesus’ character being formed in us by faith? Which is easier? Generosity? Courage? Kindness? They’re all basically impossibilities for our feeble human efforts. And they’re all equally beautiful aspects of how Jesus is.