let me tell you a story...
I have the incredible privilege of leading a group for gender and sexual minority students at Bethel University. The backstory is fun, but suffice to say, without question, God plopped me into this unique space. This is like the story of my life—unique spaces.
This is my second year leading this group, and I’m slowly learning what it looks like to actually lead. I am encouraged as I sit and listen to the stories of students, but I grow increasingly discouraged as I explain many of the same, simple doctrines over and over to college age students who’ve never been taught about their sexuality, who’ve never been taught about singleness, and who’ve never understood how to walk faithfully amidst their persistent same-sex attractions.
As an adult in my church, I have to wonder what’s being taught to our children and teens in the area of sexuality. It seems like a painful “nothing.” And that is . . . what’s a strong enough word? Reprehensible? Worthy of judgment? Awful? Unloving?
My dream is for all of us to be able to lovingly articulate God’s overarching sexual ethic revealed in the pages of the Bible. To confidently know what we believe, and to transmit that faithfully to faithful young men and women who will continue the chain of teaching.
God has a plan to reconcile the world to Himself, and we are a part of that. So what does understanding biblical sexuality have to do with making disciples?
Inside the Church we need to be able to effectively communicate why the Church’s historical doctrine of sexuality is still valid today. We need to communicate well and transmit this knowledge and passion to our teens. We need to grow up disciples from within our Body.
Outside the church we also need to be able to speak conversationally to those that do not have a relationship with Christ and often don't understand why they need one—in a world where sexual stewardship seems archaic and ridiculous.
For me it starts with the love story God tells through the Scriptures: Him pursuing us to be His own, and how we came to be not His own.
I have been captured by this love story since early on in my faith. So as the Lord began to help me understand how to articulate a biblical sexual ethic, a turning point came when I read something that an old friend wrote years ago. She talked about the overarching sexual ethic in the Bible- Old and New Testament alike. This viewpoint has helped me tremendously in talking to others.
My former boss used to always tease me about how often I talked about “the grand love story in the Bible of God coming to find His people.” So seeing that story encompass the realm of sexuality was an easy step for me.
So I’d like to tell you a story . . .
Imagine with me, for a moment, life before Adam decided to eat the fruit that Eve offered.
The Trinity involved all of itself in creating man in their image.—male and female, in God’s image.
All sin and deceit were absent.
Adam and Eve looked at each other with delight. They enjoyed each other.
They walked often in the garden with God, perhaps asking questions. Perhaps sometimes in the companionable silence you can have with a good friend. Perhaps God explaining His delight in the things they walked past.
Imagine walking with God through your neighborhood while He explained the various trees He had created and why He liked the pointy leaves of the oak tree and the long wispy leaves of the willow. His enjoyment of the tiny ants, working so busily alongside the soaring blue heron.
Perhaps they would ask why He had created Eve with the kind of hair he did. Would they ever get tired of hearing God explain the things they had in common with Him? That they could love, because He was love? That they desire justice because He is just?
There was never a doubt in their mind that they were wanted by Him, that He loved spending time with them, that He loved hearing their thoughts. And even when it was just the two of them, the conversation continued easy and relaxed. Eve knew that Adam loved her and enjoyed her. Adam felt Eve’s respect as he worked in the garden to care for their environment. Eve understood that she was created specially and uniquely to be a helper alongside Adam. Adam, in gratitude, saw how God met a need he hadn’t even understood when He created Eve.
There was order in everything. No gender questions, no sexuality questions.
God is genderless, but He chose to use gender to express Himself and His characteristics. He used language of masculinity and femininity throughout the Scriptures to reveal His nature and qualities.
God the Father is a Spirit, not human. And yet He chose to create us as sexual beings from our very inception.
Jesus constantly used the world around Him to teach deeper truths about God. God knew that we would struggle to understand Him, but we could see what is around and in us. He uses our sexuality to teach us about Him and His character. He uses marriage to show us that ultimately we will be His Bride. He uses our unmet felt needs and desires to show us that we will never be fulfilled here—they point us to Him. He uses our physical differences as male and female to show us how the Trinity is the same and different, deferring to each other, respect-driven, glory-driven, pointing to the others. He hates divorce because He is a covenant-keeping God and wants us to value covenant. Married or single, we long for intimacy, to deep relationships that point us to intimacy with our Creator.
Imagine Him designing everything around Adam and Eve to teach them the truth about their Creator and His reckless love for them.
Until they ate the fruit. Until they decided that they, themselves, had a better plan for their lives than God did.
Think of all that shifted in them once sin entered.
Hiding in relationship to each other and to God
We live in a world absolutely devastated by sin and the effects of sin. Nothing is untouched. Nothing unstained. Every crevice in us corrupted.
Still image-bearers, still valuable beyond measure, but deeply wounded and scarred.
My ideas, thoughts and feelings about sexuality—marred by sin.
My ideas about gender—marred by sin.
All of our desires are disordered.
Yet we long for relationship, because we are designed for relationship. But this longing often leads us down sinful paths.
We long for acceptance.
We long to be valued.
We long to be just enjoyed and loved for who we are.
But so often we look to get these normal and created needs met in sinful ways.
We are all on a level playing field. All stained and marred by sin’s corruption. All in need of a Savior.
Jesus offers to remove our sin and fill the huge well of our needs with Himself. But that fulfillment comes in following His ways. His plan for sexuality is good and life-giving. It does not lead to desolation.
We (the Church) have not been good at understanding this doctrine and passing it down effectively.
Let’s resolve to start today to understand and learn to speak.