The social media has been buzzing with all kinds of posts, many from Christian groups predicting doom and gloom; the beginning of the end, and a slippery slide into further sexual confusion and chaos. And of course, those who support same-sex "marriage" have been displaying their colours, planning further changes and wondering why others can't live and let live.
I believe that it is in times like this that we need to remember the words of Paul in Philippians 1:27; “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The question I'd like to raise and address in this article is how do we conduct ourselves in a godly manner in the midst of such circumstances? And I'd like to offer three suggestions.
First, we need to point the finger at ourselves.
Jesus said it pretty plain – that we need to remove the plank from our own eye before we take the speck out of someone else’s eye – and when it comes to the decline of sexual morality, I can't help but wonder if we have only ourselves to blame. Why? Because of our own inconsistency. We know what God's Word says about sexuality (and I'm not referring here to just homosexuality); and yet we have not adhered to it very well.
13 The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body... 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. [1 Corinthians 6:13b, 18-20]
I know it's not the case with everyone, but for far too many people – in the church – we have not been honoring God with our bodies. By and large, our actions have not lived up to our message. While we talk about sexual immorality being wrong, you wouldn't know it by our behaviour. Sex before marriage; sex outside of marriage; pornography; immodesty; and adultery. Add to that Jesus' clear teaching in Matthew 5:28; "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" and you can see that we are in pretty bad shape.
This is not just a problem outside the church. This is a problem in the church. So when we, the church, point to others about sexual sins, the world points back at us and wonders why we are being such hypocrites. And regrettably, they have a point.
Part of the reason why the church is in such bad shape is simply because the church is open (as it should be) to all everyone. We don’t make visitors sign a statement saying they have it all together before they are let in. Truth is, if we did that, no one would be in. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all need help. We have all failed. We stumble in many ways. I get that. We are not perfect.
But those who know better, those who have been walking with the Lord, growing in their faith; they too will fall to the temptations of the flesh - and all too often the church ignores it. Fortunately, there are also times when there is repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. After all, that’s why we are here. If someone falls in sin, we are to restore them gently. That's what we do. But the world doesn’t see that. The world sees a church that is not practicing what it is preaching. More than "restoring" the church has been "ignoring".
We do it all the time. We poke criticism at some sins while ignoring others. We lay down the law (even though we don't adhere to it) on sexual purity - but we don't focus too much gossip, or anger, jealousy, greed, and even gluttony. If we point at some things, while ignoring others; we are being hypocrites.
The bottom line is that we (the Church) haven't set the best example we could; and in the process we have undermined our credibility to be a voice of truth. So when we respond to the collapse of sexual morality in our society, we need to begin by pointing the fingers at ourselves.
What can we do about it? We can repent. We can admit our failure. We can admit our hypocrisy. And where there has been sin, especially where the sin has been public, there needs to be repentance that is public. We don't often do that because we like to portray a clean image. The image is already messed. It's time to come clean - publicly if we must.
Second, we need to remain calm.
While the decision in the United States is important - and it will have an impact on Christians - it is not the end of the world and we should not act as if the sky is falling or as if God was caught by surprise.
We get all up tight because the government is not adopting Biblical values. Well, of course they are not. Why would they? We are not living in a predominantly Christian society so why would the world choose a godly way – especially when the church isn’t doing all that well to begin with? It just doesn’t make sense. For us to be surprised or “up in arms” over a decision made by a people who don’t adhere to Christian values, and expect them to do so, is unrealistic at best and hypocritical at worst.
I am not suggesting that this isn't important - what I am saying is what else should we expect? If God is not the moral authority upon which we base our society, then why would we expect the values of society to reflect those of the Bible? We can't! So when decisions are made, like the USA did recently, or Canada did 10 or so years ago, we shouldn't be surprised.
1 Peter 4:12 reminds us, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."
The truth is, throughout most of the past 2000 years Christians have been living and dealing with societies that were fundamentally opposed to Christian values.... and it was during those most difficult times when the Christian faith stood strong - and when the church made the most impact on society.
If you think things are bad now, remind yourself of what the world was like when the church was first starting out. It didn't start off in a wonderful and supportive community. Take a look at how Paul describes society in Romans 1:29-32.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
It was awful back then, and yet, the church grew. Seems to me like we're only going back to where we began. As bad as things are getting today, the truth is, we've been there before. Yes, it is contrary to God's Word. Yes, it is disappointing and it will be devastating to society. But that is also the times when the church has been the most prominent; salt and light.
So what are we to do? We remain calm, we need to pray, and we need to stand on God's Word. It is not the end of the world (at least, not yet) and in the darkness we have the opportunity to reflect the light and love of Jesus.
Three, we need to stand on God's Word.
We are not all that good at addressing what God's Word has to say about sexuality. More often than not, we look at the negatives. "Don't this... don't that...". We don't focus on what God's Word does say (positively) about sexuality.
God is not ashamed of our bodies. God's word is not afraid to speak about sexual intimacy. You just need to read Song of Solomon to see that.
We also see it right in the beginning - when God created the heavens and the earth. And after God created all things, he created man. But it wasn't good that man was alone. So what did God do? Well, what he didn't do is create someone to go golfing or fishing with Adam. He didn't create a hunting partner or a business partner. He created a woman; very distinct from the man. "Male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).
And He created them very deliberately the way that He did so that they can experience sexual intimacy. It seems that sex, between a husband and a wife, was God's idea right from the beginning - and it was good! It wasn't shameful. "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame" (Genesis 2:24-25).
That was the way God created man and woman; to enjoy their sexuality within the context of marriage.
But like many other things that God created for the "good" man has turned around and used it for sin.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27).
When it comes to what is right or wrong; it's not about what I think - it's about what God's word says. And when it comes to sexuality - it's really hard to not understand what God says about it. The references in the New Testament (see Romans above) are clear, as are the references in the Old Testament. "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" (Leviticus 18:22). "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable." (Leviticus 20:13).
The bottom line is that regardless of whether a person is homosexual or heterosexual or simply confused by it all, as followers of Christ, we are all called to a life of sexual purity. Homosexuals and heterosexuals must equally abstain from the temptations of the flesh.
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And that is what some of you were. 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 6:9-11).
It's easy to read off the list of those who won't inherit the kingdom of God and miss out on the most important part of this passage. It's in verse 11. "And that is what some of you were". Past tense! Something has changed! They were washed. They were sanctified. Yes, even the sexually immoral.
Jesus didn't cast stones at the woman caught in adultery, but he did tell her to leave her life of sin. That's what we're here for - to encourage one another to leave a life of sin; all sin, not just sexual sin. And we're all in it together. We've all sinned, and we all need the grace and forgiveness of God - which he gives freely to all who would come to him. He's not out to get us. He's out to restore us.
Today, perhaps more than in any time in at least recent history, we, the church, need to be clear on what God's Word says about sexuality. But it's not something we need to hold over someone's head to beat them; and it's definitely not something we should expect the "world" to embrace with us; but it is definitely an opportunity to live out the message found in 1 Peter 2:11-12:
"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the [unbelievers] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
By doing so, we will be conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; and for His glory.