Sex, Singleness & Marriage in the Kingdom of God

Though most souls affirm that beauty can be expressed through sexual intimacy, few know how to nurture. Many of us learned about sexual intimacy in the shadows of pornography far removed from the light of relationship.

This explicitly charged discipleship model has trained us to view sexual intimacy as a private concern worthy of celebration. It makes personal gratification the measure of success. If a man finds satisfaction with his wife, he deems that to be good for society. Similarly, if he finds gratification with a woman who is not his wife or with another man, he thinks society should affirm those expressions of private sexual appetite. According to the wisdom of our postmodern society, most all expressions of sexual fulfillment are deemed valuable and worthy of affirmation. Too much brokenness and hurtful judgment already exists. In other words, those who limit intimacy to traditional, heterosexual marriage stand opposed to human fulfillment and flourishing.

This approach to sexuality has increasingly taken root in the church. After all, Christian Messiah came not to affirm the legalism of his day but to promote love. Jesus never directly addressed the complex issues associated with homosexuality or polymerous relationships. He was too busy caring for the sick, hungry, and broken. Moreover, some think that since God created both sexes, he will welcome all expressions of sexual intimacy. In other words, Jesus longs for every soul to experience sexual fulfillment, joy, and acceptance. Still the question remains: is the popular narrative really how Jesus approached human sexuality?

It is not. Jesus calls us to live out our sex life within the context of God’s law.

More than Sex

To be clear, Jesus does care deeply about human flourishing and by extension human sexuality. The scriptures frequent touch upon sex, praising its good expressions and criticizing its abuses.

But Jesus does not believe human fulfillment is derived from sexual intimacy. Rather, Jesus locates love and acceptance in the soul’s relationship with God. Despite the blind musing of some authors, the historical narratives reveal that Jesus never married and never enjoyed sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Jesus experienced the favor of God outside of the context of sexual intimacy through his fulfillment of the law (Matt 3:17). He then goes on to call his followers to this same level of purity irrespective of their sexual urges, declaring, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

This proves to be an exceptional moment in redemptive history. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, the progenitors of humanity, violated the very simple first Law of God which consisted of avoiding the fruit on one tree. When they ate the forbidden fruit, they corrupted their nature and then bequeathed that brokenness to every human being who came after them. Because of that first transgression against the Law of God, human sexuality, physicality, and reason were forever bent towards evil. No soul could obey the law. Men and women were forever separated from God for holiness could not fellowship with corruption. They were many things, but purity was not one of them.

When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled once and for all the payment for sin. By his blood, he cleansed all who would repent and believe from the penalties and moral stains of their evil deeds. The very power that enabled Jesus to keep the Law operates in the soul of every believer, producing experiences of joy, contentment, and fulfillment. In other words, human flourishing comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ which enables men and women to enjoy the favor of God.

A Quick Word on Singleness

This fulfillment can be achieved irrespective of a person’s marital status. The thief on the cross never knew the joys of Christian marital intimacy and yet entered heaven full of joy (Lk 23). Jesus notes, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven (Matt 22:30).” Picking up on Jesus’s eternal focus, Paul writes, “he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better (1 Cor 7:38).” The apostle is asserting that singleness and a lack of sexual intimacy does not negatively impact the soul’s experiences of spiritual fulfillment. The married and unmarried can both know the joys of salvation. Instead of hindering happiness, singleness and abstinence founded upon the gospel often help facilitate one’s relationship with God.

Sex in the Kingdom

For sexual intimacy to support human flourishing, it must align with God’s design for the sexes through the saving grace of the gospel. In Genesis 2, God made men and women in-part for the purpose of life-giving sexual intimacy. Jesus reaffirmed the Genesis mandate in Matthew 19:4-6 and condemned adultery. While marriage certainly fosters procreation, it also should foster spiritual growth of the husband and of the wife for it is based on expressions of selflessness. Theologian John McArthur writes, “The two key attitudes in a successful marriage are self-denial and self-giving, both of which are contrary to human nature but made possible to those who trust in God through Jesus.” The husband is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).” The wife is to humbly support her husband, affirming his leadership (Eph 5:22,33). Admittedly neither spouse will perfectly reflect Christ. But in these moments of failure, the beauty of mercy and meekness cemented in the marriage covenant shine as each spouse both asks for and extends forgiveness to the other. In this context of selflessness, sexuality flourishes (1 Cor 7:3). Both the husband and the wife enter intimacy to express their love for the other. In-turn, they discover the fulfillment of selfless love. Sex becomes the most intimate expression of the ethic of the kingdom of heaven which states, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them (Matt 7;12).”

Sex Outside Marriage

When intimacy sneaks its way outside of the marriage union, sexuality becomes an expression of personal consumption. Instead of seeking to affirm her partner, the adulterer exploits her partner for her gain. Once she has her physical urges met and emotional wants stroked, she dispenses with her partner regardless of his sense of satisfaction. Since he is not invested in her success, he too can turn their one-night stand into an unflattering Instagram post. Trust evaporates. According to an article in the Atlantic, intimacy divorced from commitment proves to be less frequent, more medical harmful, and less fulfilling than the sexual intimacy found in long term relationships. In other words, sexual freedom produces less sexual intimacy.

It also leads to spiritual death. The apostle Paul notes that “neither the sexual immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality” will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Those who insists on sleeping with their boyfriend, a having office romances while married, and enjoying open marriages will not enter by the narrow gate. Adultery left unchecked will ruin the soul.

Your Mind And Sex

But according to Jesus, adultery is not the only form of sexual malfeasance that wrecks the soul. Jesus cares just as much about the woman fantasizing about her neighbor as he does about the man who sleeps with his coworker while on vacation. He strengthens the religious prohibition against adultery to include the heart saying, “everyone that looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” To be guilty of adultery one never has to be in the same room with the object of his or her lust. No clothes need come off. To lust, the soul needs only to covet sexual intimacy with someone who is not his or her spouse to be guilty of lust. Once the mind meditates, explores, and expands upon ideas of intimacy outside of marriage, it joins Adam and Eve’s open rebellion against God, declaring the human heart to be the arbitrator of what is good and right. Sadly, the mind that refuses to mourn its lust, preferring to hide in a lifetime of dirty images, will never know comfort of salvation.

The Solution to Bad Sex

To avoid spiritual death, the soul must put forth every effort to be rid of lust. Jesus notes in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better to lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” The savior of the universe does not want Christians to fight lust with physical mutilation. The context of Matthew 5 reveals that Jesus is discussing matters of the heart. He is calling his listeners to perform open heart surgery to remove all sources of sexual sin.

In 2003, outdoor enthusiasts, Aron Lee Ralston, slipped while climbing in Utah and found his arm pinned against a mountain by a bolder. After waiting five days for help and having exhausted his water, Ralston took matters into his own hands. He pulled out the 2-inch blade from his pocketknife and slowly and methodically cut off his arm. Over the span of 2 hours, he sliced his way through skin, arteries, bones, and eventually the nerve. He amputated his arm to save his life. Had he kept his arm, he would have died.

The Christian should take the same radical approach to lust. If his smartphone provides his hearts with avenues to lust, he should drop his cell service. If her Netflix account fosters sexual fantasies, she should drop it and be thought a neanderthal by her family. If that Facebook connection allows one to dream about sexual intimacy with an old high school sweetheart, the believer should quit Facebook and be thought unfriendly. The Christian should realize that unchecked adultery leads to death and hack off anything that would cause the heart to stumble into lust. If the believer takes the knife to his heart, Christ promises to help. The God who fulfilled the law will empower the soul to pluck out its eye and to cut off its hands. The soul that fails to discover freedom from lust proves it has truly mourned its sin. In other words, the heart that does not fight adultery is most assuredly already being destroyed adultery.

Why Fuller House Is Failing Christians

fuller house blogD.J. Tanner is back! Actually according to the first episode of Fuller House, she is back twice over. It turns out that Stephanie Tanner is a not only the world’s coolest aunt but also an up and coming D.J. whose stage name is D.J. Tanner. This revelation working in tandem with a few low cut dresses and dialogue that mentions Boobs, the Karma Sutra, and homosexual marriage has Christians all turned around. What was once a platform for good family values has now descended into the cultural abyss of unrestrained worldliness. Or at least that is what Christians are writing in their reviews of the show. What happened to those good old Tanner values?

What Happened?

Not a lot; and, yet everything. In short, the Tanner values grew up with the culture. In the 80’s and 90’s, America was beginning to embrace the sexual revelation. Divorce was just becoming common place. Homosexuality had begun to infiltrate everyday culture.  Sex outside of marriage and cohabitation remained on the fringes of late twentieth century morality.

Today’s culture has progressed well beyond those 90’s limitations. Homosexual marriage is legal, almost 50% of American adults are single, and an ever growing number of babies are born out of wedlock. Fuller House is simply taking place on a new cultural stage. All those famous Tanner hugs now occur in a world where conversations about homosexuality, the karma Sutra, and sex outside of marriage have become normative. The show reflects the culture once again.

I think Fuller House has disturbed many Christians because it shows just how much our world has changed over the last 30 years. The show dashed the evangelical world’s last hope for a new Leave It To Beaver sitcom. The age of the moral majority has faded into the past. In short, Fuller House has revealed that Christians no longer even get to set the stage for conservative, family values. After all the new D.J. Tanner clearly did more than D.J. at all of those parties. Fuller House has the pulled back the curtain on good o’l fashion American values and revealed a society driven by self-actualization via sexuality. Understandably, Christians hoping to finally have a wholesome show that reflected their conservative values were disappointed.

fuller houseBut despite their disappointment, Christians are still watching. Fuller House still has all the hugs, the loyalty infused dialogue, and cheesy dance moves that families love. Even those Christians complaining are looking forward to a better second season. As one fan wrote, “I’m hoping season 2 is more family friendly.”  Such expectations reveal that the convictions that drive some Christens to complain do not drive same Christians to actions. Netflix knows this. As Candace Cameron Bure said in response to the criticism, “it’s been proven that any press is good press. — even with the overwhelming amount of negative reviews, the show landed a Season 2 renewal less than a week after its launch.”

How Do We Respond?

So how do we respond to the cultural shift taking place in Fuller House? How do we respond to the show in a real and meaningful way?

First, we need to move away from the panic buttons. We shouldn’t complain that our sinful world is sinful. After all, Satan is the ruler of this world.

Second, we don’t have to retreat. We need to avoid the temptation to start forming monastic communities built around Fire Proof movie nights.

Third, we need to engage the world with love and truth, realizing that the media world and that most of our neighbors don’t share our values. To love this lost and dying world, we must love people where they are (not where we want them to be). We must seek to reach the people we can influence. Once our neighbors embrace Christ then and then only can, we start moving them to a Christian worldview. Then and then only can we be surprised when they dress and talk like the world. If we try to reach people by jamming 1990’s morality down their throats, we will become more annoying than Kimmy Gibbler.

And while no one has to watch Fuller House, those Christian who do interact with the show need to learn from the family comedy. We need to realize that our culture has changed. Our neighbors have more in common with the world of Fuller House than Full House. Instead of fuming in anger,  we need to lovingly reach out to the people of today’s world. Change will not come via the message boards. Change will come via the kitchen table.

The Tanners are all grown up. Are we ready to engage their world…our neighbors?

Ready, Set, Pick Your Gender!

transgender blog 2Ready, set, pick your gender! Yes, that’s right. British school children as young as 4 have begun switching genders. According to the Telegraph as many as eighty 3-5 year-olds in England will want to dress and act like the opposite sex. Admittedly, 80 British primary students do not constitute a statistically significant number. (There are more than 900,000 primary students in Great Britain). But the number and the increasing number of non-profits supporting kids with transgender feelings signifies that the transgender debate is gaining steam. Are we ready to parent our kids through these choppy waters of the sexual revolution? Here are three things to consider.

Three Biblical Responses

  1. We don’t need to panic or start throwing our transgender neighbors overboard. We need to extend love and compassion to them, realizing that their struggles are very real. And then, we need to offer them the hope of the gospel.
  2. We need to start charting a biblical worldview for our kids. We need to teach our kids the full counsel of God. When it’s time to read Genesis 1-2, I Corinthians 5:1-5, and Ephesians 5, we need to talk to our kids about gender, sex, and marriage. Instead running for the topsails when our kids bring up sex, we need to thoughtfully engage them and encourage them to keep the questions coming. We need to foster of spirit of openness with our children. And then, we need to teach our kids how to sail through life by modeling male leadership and demonstrating biblical femininity within the home. We need to show our kids about God’s view of gender. Jesus doesn’t think gender is a choice. Let’s make sure our kids know God’s plan.
  3. Let’s be patient. Studies have shown that around 80% of kids with transgender feelings will re-identify with their biological gender. Practically, we don’t need to panic when our son puts on a play dress. Nor should we worry that all of our little girl’s friends are boys.  At 4, most kids have no clue what they are doing and have no clue what being transgender means.  And we shouldn’t expect them to. There is a reason why preschoolers have parents and can’t apply for credit cards and mortgages. What adult in his or her right mind thinks preschoolers can understand the ramifications of hormone replacement therapy or a sex change operation? Instead of asking our kids to make decisions they cannot hope to fathom, we should patiently teach them biblical view of gender. We guide our little boys to be masculine, selfless leaders and our girls to be feminine, thoughtful helpers. And in time, most kids will embrace their God given gender.

What About The Other 20%?

But what about the other 20%? How do we help children who honestly feel that they are trapped in the wrong body? How do we help our kids and their friends overcome their angst, their fears, and their suicidal thoughts? Shouldn’t we want all kids to feel happy and fulfilled?

And the answer is a resounding yes! But according to Jesus, happiness and fulfillment are not found within. As Christians, we should never encourage people to recreate God’s will so that he matches their feelings. Instead, we should call people to recreate their feelings to match God’s will. Notice what Jesus says in Mathew 16:24 ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Bending the world to match our mental perceptions does not bring us closer to God. Self-realization actually only brings separation and harm. Just ask Jewel Shuping who had her psychologist pour drain cleaner into her eyes, enabling her to fulfill her lifelong dream of being blind. Steering our lives by the stars of human ingenuity always leads us away from the peace of God and often into physical harm. To find the joy of eternal life, we have to abandon our earthly desires and set our minds on the things above. Nothing else will make us right with God. Nothing else will must us happy.

Recently, the former psychiatrist-in-chief of John Hopkins Hospital, Dr. McHugh, noted that those who undergo a sex change do not gain peace. They continue to struggle with depression after surgery.  After all, a sex change cannot truly change one’s biological nature. Hands, hips, chromosomes, and a whole host of other things cannot be remade this side of heave. Salvation cannot be achieved with the scalpel…only destruction. True hope is found in Christ alone!

In 2016, we will continue to see more and more stories about transgender kids. And some of us will directly encounter a child wrestling with transgender leanings in 2016. But, we don’t have to be scared. The Bible clearly and compassionately speaks to gender. We have access to real hope: Jesus!  Are you and your kids ready for the transgender debate?