Sex. Life.

virginA single friend, who’s attracted to girls, came to me recently. She’s a Christian and believes that Christ loves and accepts her as she is. She also believes that the Bible prohibits a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender. I prayed with her and we talked together about what the Bible says and about the struggles she is facing.

Another single friend, who’s attracted to boys, also asked my advice. She’s a Christian and believes that Christ loves and accepts her as she is. She also believes that (outside of marriage), the Bible prohibits a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite gender. I prayed with her and we talked together about what the Bible says and about the struggles she is facing.

Both conversations were difficult. And in both cases I questioned what I’d said. It goes against the views of many of my friends and family. It wasn’t the easy thing to say and it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. It feels judgmental and uncomfortable. So – why bother? Why not say ‘live and let live?’ Or ‘find your own path?’ Why not keep my mouth shut?

Arguments for staying silent: You’re just a smug married, telling others how to live. Pointing the way down a path you’ve never walked. Mouthing off on something you know nothing about.

Or this: How dare you lecture about issues of identity when your own sense of it is so screwed up? How dare you speak for God when other Christians disagree?

I hear these arguments, loud and clear.

And if it were just my personal opinion, then I’d keep it to myself. But I don’t believe it is.

I don’t know what’s best for me or other people. But God does and I believe that He has the right to tell me how to live.  I believe that the Bible is true; and it doesn’t change. I believe that God is loving and He works for my good. And I believe that I love others best by pointing them to this truth, just as they do the same for me.

At the same time, I don’t think our culture always gets it right.  Not on the importance of external beauty, not on equating self-sufficiency with strength and not in the myth of “sexual fulfilment.” Here’s how the culture sells it: true life is found in sexual self-expression. So if you’re not expressing yourself sexually, you’re not living.

This has massive implications. If sexual fulfilment is ‘life’, then we’re declaring a heck of a lot of people (singles and sexless couples for example) as ‘incomplete’.  Not to mention that the Jesus who promises to give ‘life to the full’ seems to have missed out on it Himself. What’s narrow and frustrating is not the Bible or its sex ethic. It’s a culture that equates ‘real life’ with sexual expression.

The world claims to be inclusive by offering the possibility of a relationship with someone special.

But Scripture guarantees the relationship we were actually made for:

A Lord who serves. A Comforter prepared to say ‘no’.
Someone who knows who He is: and knows who you are too.
A Fortress: who shields you in His arms and protects you from harm.
An Encourager: daring you to risk and catching you when you fall.
Faithful, even to death.
Patient enough to talk through your fears.
(Embarrassingly) proud. Declares to the world: ‘This is who I love. Aren’t they beautiful?’
Strong enough to stay, no matter how hard things get.
Weak enough to serve and make themselves small.

This is the relationship we were born for and this is the partner we all dream of.  He offers himself to us all, and in the same way we are all called to subject our desires to Him – me as a married woman and you, whatever your gender, your marital state or your attractions. Sexual fulfilment – whatever our orientation – is not what life is about.  And the good news is more inclusive than our culture can even imagine.

8 thoughts on “Sex. Life.

  1. Thanks for this Emma, I agree with you and it’s a useful reminder I think. As someone who is single, it’s always good to remember that Jesus remained single and quite clearly was in no way deficient, incomplete or unfulfilled (and Paul also). I remember hearing of a young adults group at a church that had been named “Pairs and Spares” in reference to couples and singles. Terrible name! We are not some kind of spare part just because we’re single. I have to say in my own church there are lots of singles and I don’t even think of myself in terms of my relationship status – it’s irrelevant. Which is great.

    This is diverging slightly, but some of the ways that Christians have reacted to Vicky Beeching’s coming-out have disappointed me. I have heard a bit of talk about her seeking sexual fulfilment over God’s word, being led astray by her carnal desires or making an idol out of a sexual relationship. I think that is very unfair to her. She is an educated and thoughtful theologian who has thought long and hard about what the Bible says with regard to same-sex relationships. She has come to a conclusion based on this that the Bible does not condemn faithful, committed same-sex relationships. (She is certainly not saying that the Bible condones fornication or promiscuity.) Her conclusion is not one that all Christians agree with, but it is her honest conclusion following careful analysis. Therefore, for people to imply that she is somehow putting a sexual relationship above God’s word is simply false. People are certainly free to disagree with her theologically, but it’s unfair to say that she is failing to subject her desires to God. She has stayed single up to the age of 35 but she has now been convinced hermeneutically that she need not remain so.

    I totally agree that God has a right to tell us how to live, but we do need to be open to challenging our own theological viewpoints (otherwise, our theology itself may be an idol to us). When walking alongside gay (or same-sex attracted) people, I think it’s worth looking at both sides of the argument. Books like Unconditional by Justin Lee, and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines are useful for people to read if they hold a traditional stance on same-sex relationships. Perhaps their theology won’t change one iota, or perhaps it will – but either way we’ll be better equipped to journey alongside our gay friends. If you’ve already done this, then bravo! ;)

    Thanks again for a throught-provoking and helpful post.

  2. I’m sorry Sam I disagree about Vicky Beeching. Being an intelligent theologian hasn’t got anything to do with being an intelligent Christian or living the Christian life in an intelligent way. We are in churches where there is no teaching about repentance, practising self control, dying to our sins, putting to death our sinful nature, or taking every thought captive etc, etc. The Bible is clear that only opposite sex relationships are designed by God. I saw a video that Vicky Beeching had posted to support her beliefs and it was clear the person who had made the video didn’t understand basic teachings of the Bible. she isn’t a true theologian in the true sense of the word. That video stated because the teaching of homosexual relationships being an abomination to the Lord was an old testament teaching it is no longer in effect. In that same Bible passage are verses talking about having sex with animals being an abomination too. The same teaching ideal therefore cannot condemn sex with animals in this present age also if we go along with the theology taught in that video. There is your answer, it’s as clear as daylight. So is the fact that the genitalia of a man and woman are designed to be compatible with each other. I’m sorry I haven’t commented on the blog, but yeah it was very good !

  3. Great post Emma. Jesus is the lover we were created for and the only person we will find fulfillment in. His relationship with us is the only one we will ever know that will not injure, use, abuse or victimize us. His love is perfect because He is love.

    None of us get out of this life undamaged sexually. We are violated by those we trust or by total strangers. Sometimes it looks like violent rape and sometimes it is gentle or even so ambiguous we struggle our entire lives with what to call the transgression. We are harmed and we harm others. We are named by our abuse and by our abusers. We come to view the God-given gift and metaphor of sex through the cracked lens of our violation.

    Our desires are corrupted, and being mis-defined by our abuse, the rules of the game are set and we seek to place ourselves into relationship with those who affirm what we now believe about ourselves.

    We cope with the pain of being violated with our own sinful behavior. We find or make our own answers apart from God and the result is someone must pay for our pain. Sometimes it’s others and sometimes it’s we ourselves who must pay. Either way it is sin and spiritual violence we perpetrate or invite others to perpetrate on us.

    I know it sounds particularly dark stated this way, but our attractions and desires are tainted and we cannot trust them to guide us into what is right or what is even simply good for us. The only guidance that’s reliable is that which conforms to the nature of God as revealed in His Word and the Person of Christ.

  4. David, I’m very tempted to address your comment in detail but this just isn’t the place to do so. It wouldn’t be fair to Emma aside from anything else! Perhaps I shouldn’t have made my comments here in the first place. I guess my main point was just to say that many of us as Christians who are journeying with gay people haven’t actually looked at the alternative theology in detail – i.e. read the books that explain it. It sounds like the video you watched hasn’t explained it well at all. Vicky put up a long reading list of recommended books on her blog a while ago. Anyway, I’ll leave it there. Thanks.

  5. Thanks Sam. ‘Pairs and spares’ eh? Unbelievable.
    I’ve written a bit more in today’s post: but I quite agree – we can disagree with Vicky theologically, without criticising her personally. And accepting the Bible isn’t the same as refusing to consider interpretations that differ to our own: the very opposite.

  6. > We are in churches where there is no teaching about repentance, practising self control, dying to our sins, putting to death our sinful nature, or taking every thought captive etc, etc.

    David, I hear you but for those of us with minds that are… a bit unusual, I can assure you that all those things you wish to have taught can be present every hour of the day already, adding anxiety and stress. It does for me at times – every thought gets examined and re-examined, every action and underlying motive analysed. Emma touched on this very well in her post on scrupulosity in June. Put me near a normal church when I feel like that and I am ashamed; put me in a church teaching as you wish and I am affirmed in my actions and bound to my mind.

    I’ve decided to comment because I’m not sure if you’re aware that’s how it is for some people, and curious how you would address that pastorally in your church?


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