- on September 9, 2015
Sex, Christianity and Culture: Created Goodness, Sinful Distortion and Redeemed Potential
Deciding to write a blog on sex was purely a cheap and easy marketing ploy to get more readership. Selling sex seems to be working for everyone else, so why not try it to get more readers on The Quest website. In fact, before this blog was completed we had to go through an image/photo change regarding this topic…not wanting to offend, though wanting to bring attention to the subject at hand (thanks Jared for the help) Though I am being a bit tongue in cheek, the reality is that we are saturated in a culture obsessed with sex, and it’s pervasiveness is non-ending, from the TV shows we watch, to the magazines we buy, to the clothes we wear, and even to the shampoo that sells.
And living in a sex saturated culture has seemed to force us into two moral or theological camps. There are those who are interested in the topic and want to dialogue on the pressing sexual issues and struggles of the day and how they affect who we are as Christians. And though Bryan’s latest blog article is on dating and not sex, it is evident by the responses that we are a community of people hungry to discuss the relevant issues of our day that we find important, and these usually involve discussions about the opposite sex. Then there are those who want to have nothing of the dialogue, and would rather push it off to some obscure corner, hoping it goes away. Test in theory: Encouraging some young adults on the church staff to read an email I wrote regarding this topic, I titled my email with the subject, SEX, SEX, SEX. Of course, the email was never received because our computer system blocked out the receivers from my email due to the nature of the subject. I had to go downstairs and ask that the emails not be blocked. Apparently using the word sex in some workplaces will fire up all kinds of warning signals.
Though we can laugh at the situation with my email at work, it seems to be that this response is very much like our Christian culture, which upon hearing the word sex, would often rather run and hide than have an open talk on the issue, which in turn leaves us with nothing more than the influence of our surrounding culture which has little to say of value concerning sex and it’s proper context within the marriage covenant. The late theologian and ethicist Lewis Smedes, wrote this about the issue of sex, and the two errors of idolatry we often fall into regarding this topic:
“It is simple to make an idol: slice one piece of created reality off the whole and expect miracles from it. The miracles may be positive or negative; they may heal or hurt. If the idol has the power to heal, you keep it around you; you touch it, kiss it, rub it, or manipuate it any way you can. If the idol threatens you, you place a taboo on it, which means that you do not touch it, do not even mention it, for fear that familiarity will have a hurtful backlash. Idols work both ways: we make an idol of something either by expecting too much good from it or by fearing evil from it. Making an idol of sex happens both ways. We make an idol of sex by first isolating one dimension of sexuality–the genital. Then we either expect everything from it that we need to be happy or we fear that it will hurt us. Either way, sex has become an idol.”
Now I am not a naive college director, with my head in the sand not knowing what is happening in our community, and what everyone is up to in their time away from church on Wednesday nights. We are a community who has used sex outside of the marital covenant (I Cor. 7:1-16), and in the process have made an idol out of what God intended for marriage. And we are a community who would rather not even discuss the matter out of fear of some sort of contamination, or disgust, or embarrassment, or fear, or conviction. It is neither right for us to engage in sex outside of the marriage covenant, making an idol of it, nor is it right for us to not be frank on the matter, hoping that the topic will just go away, and that everyone would figure out things for themselves. That only does more damage to us in the long run. We have the option to leave ourselves in front of the TV and learn from the messages they preach on sex, or to listen to the word of God and the messages he preaches on sex.
If this is not already an issue, or struggle, or peer pressure point for you, then it will certainly be at one point in your life, and probably sooner than later. You will most likely face issues and frank talk regarding sex when you are single, dating, married, and at some point as a parent. Basically, always! And I would much rather look at what the Bible has to say about sex, than what the LA culture around me is screaming so loud.
That is why, from Jan. 26–Through Feb. 23 I will be teaching a four-part series on “Sex, Christianity and Culture: Created Goodness, Sinful Distortion and Redeemed Potential.” In those four talks I want to take an honest and open look about what God’s word has to say about sex, and how that compares and contrasts to what the culture around us is teaching.
January 26: Sex, Christianity and Culture
February 2: Sex: Created Goodness
February 9: Ash Wednesday Service
February 16: Sex: Sinful Distortion
February 23: Sex: Redeemed Potential
In this series I hope to do four things: 1) Give an overall view of comparison and contrast between what the world says about sex, and what the Bible says about sex. 2) I want to look at the “created goodness” that God intended sex to be, which is in a committed, monogamous, marriage covenant. 3) I want to look at the way we use sex and get into all kinds of “sinful distortion” when it is not in the proper context of the marriage covenant. And what are those distortions and how do they affect us? 4) I want to look at the “redeemed potential” of sex when we have fallen into sin and not expressed that gift from God in the proper marriage covenant. How does God heal and renew and transform us?
I know that we are a big and varied community, coming from all kinds of different backgrounds, with all kinds of different issues and baggage. I know that we are a community that struggles with many of the same things, and a community that feels isolated at times by the struggles we do face. I know that we are a community not only pressed upon with the overwhelming sexual temptations in the world around us, but at times can barely overcome the powerful influence of the Los Angeles culture and its degrading value upon sex. But the good news is, that wherever you have been, and whever you are, we serve a God who is faithful and just, and loving and merciful, and whose grace exceeds beyond what we can possibly fathom.
As I close this article I am reminded and touched by the moving scene in “The Passion of the Christ” where the woman who is cleaning up Jesus’ blood (portrayed as Mary Magdalene in the movie) reflects upon the time when Jesus publicly redeemed her from those who wanted to stone her (John 8). It is a beautiful and moving scene of what it is like for a loving and gracious God to redeem what has been lost or distorted by the world around us and our sinful nature, and to make it new, transforming us into new people. In some way or another we have all been affected or will be affected by the Fall (Genesis 3) and the sinful nature in us, causing us to struggle, and fight against what we know to be truth (Romans 7:14-25).
As we head into the holidays, I would like us to carefully and respectfully reflect on this issue, and if you are so moved, please share you feelings, thoughts or ideas below, so that we can better move forward into understanding and truth regarding sex, and what the Bible has to say about it.