This past Sunday at Highland Church, Sally Gary and I talked about the one thing that churches either don’t ever talk about or talk about way too much.
We talked about human sexuality, and what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus in today’s world. Sally has written about her experience with same-sex attraction in an incredible memoir “Loves God, Likes Girls” and her ministry has helped Churches and Christian Universities all over the country think through how to talk about sexuality in a more productive way…and what being a disciple means today.
And if you are a Christian, that is the question, not which side of LGBT issues do you fall on, but what does being a disciple of Jesus require of me?
In their non-religious book, “Premarital Sex in America: How Young Adults Meet, Mate and Think about Marrying” the authors (research psychologists) have interviewed tens of thousands of young adults to find out what they think about when they think of sex. And they found that there are really two core themes that people in the West are inundated with:
1. Sex isn’t really that big of a deal
2. Sex is the only thing that matters
We’re constantly told that you can’t be fully human if you don’t express your sexuality in whatever venue that you feel appropriate…and that anyone who tries to constrain you is really just holding you back. But here’s a question? Who’s telling this story and why?
Yesterday Sally made the point that sex is the capitalist market’s best method for selling just about everything. We make fun of the commercials with the girls in bikinis selling some totally unrelated product…and then we go and buy that product. Maybe that’s the most damning thing about our current world – the reason that these incredibly degrading advertisements keep coming…is because they are working.
Our church partners with a ministry that helps rescue girls from sexual slavery in other parts of the world, because we know that we shouldn’t sell sex. It is too sacred. But the ugly truth is that we are exposed to selling sex everyday, because Madison Avenue knows what we don’t talk about.
Sex still sells.
Do you remember what Jesus says to the woman at the well in John 4? Does it surprise you how quickly Jesus gets into her sex life? Not just to fix her, but because Jesus is going to go directly to the parts of our lives where our hearts are.
It’s important to remember that Jesus isn’t trying to take anything away from us. He’s trying to give us the best possible way to be human. And to the woman who is struggling to find “the one,” Jesus’ solution isn’t to try and fix her marriage(s) – it is to give her Himself.
The Idolatry of the Family
Listen, I affirm the classic Christian view of sexuality, however, I don’t think that most Christians have any idea how much that view actually challenges all of lives/marriages/relationships.
And that brings me to why, I think, the American Church has had such a problem talking to the LGBT community.
Think about the way Churches talk. Think about how many sermon series, and blogs, and all the Christian books you’ve heard about how to have a “Christian Marriage” or how to have a better “sex life in marriage.” We’ve even got Christian bookstores called “Family Christian.”
In fact, if you are a celibate, single Christian, or if your experience is as a sexual minority trying to follow Jesus, it is incredibly difficult to belong fully to a church. And from time to time you might even wonder, “If Jesus was a single man, who was known for being friends with prostitutes and friends with both men and women alike….is it really Jesus we are worshipping?”
We’ve reacted to the kind of Victorian prudish Christians we saw before us and we’ve arrived at a place of idolatry.
We’ve reached for Jesus and sometimes we’ve actually grabbed something more like Norman Rockwell’s vision of the American family.
I think one of the reasons that the American Church and the LGBT community have had such problems having productive conversations is because often what the Church has been guilty of saying is “You can’t worship the same idols we worship.”
What we really should be saying is that while sex is a good thing, and family is a gift from God, it is also a dangerous thing. Like all good things, it can be made into an idol very easily.
Part of the reason the church has responded so poorly to the gay community is because we (along with many others) have placed the weight of worship on sex. And sex, even the best sex, can’t bear that weight. Most churches I know, have very little problem welcoming people who wrestle with greed or a bad temper, but if you’re divorced or a sexual minority it’s hard for us to know what to do with you.
It’s why two weeks ago, Jeff Childers and I, after preaching about God’s gift of singleness and celibacy, found ourselves surrounded by single Brothers and Sisters saying, “We’ve never heard that sermon before.”
Because idolatry has lots of symptoms.
Now I happen to have a pretty good life, and a family, and a wife, all of whom I love very much. But, on my better days, I don’t love them as much as I love Jesus.
And if that sounds harsh, then we really need to reconsider what it means to be Christian.
The Christian response to any and all kinds of sexuality is discipleship. If you believe in historic Christian theology, then you believe that your body is not your own. You didn’t make it, you don’t sustain it, and ultimately you aren’t going to raise it.
Your body belongs to God.
And so does His Body…the Church.
And I think Jesus wants His Body to look a lot more like Him.
Because reading through the Gospels, it seems like Jesus’ first response to everyone was always one of love and kindness.
So here’s what we challenged people to do at Highland…We believe that the Church and LGBT community overlap in certain places, and one of them is the Anti-Bullying initiative. If you are a Jesus person then you are committed, not to a position or sound byte, but to a posture of being for people.
Following Jesus means you are called to not laugh at those jokes, to not allow someone to be shamed and ridiculed, we are called to stand up for people on the margins in loving and kind ways.
And just like Jesus, we are called to honor the image of God in everyone.