by Jonathan Daugherty
I have been listening to personal stories of sexual brokenness and pain for 20 years. Many such stories are filled with regret of choices the individuals consented to. This is why I am concerned with the cultural narrative that has been forming in recent years regarding consent as the only value that matters in sexual choices. I beg to differ.
The following are three reasons why I believe consent is an inadequate measurement of whether a sexual decision is right.
Consent is not always equally valued or applied
Are all "yeses" equal? The moral revolutionaries would have us believe that consent is an empirical, static metric. As long as there is "mutual consent" then any and all sexual behaviors between all parties involved is acceptable. But is there "wiggle room" within the definition of consent?
Consent is defined as "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something." What if what I think I'm agreeing to isn't the same as what the other person thinks they are agreeing to? How do you measure consent at that point? This is where the seemingly clear waters of consent get really murky.
"But she (or he) said Yes!"
This is likely to become a regular "defense" in the consent culture. Both parties initially agree to whatever the behavior is and then one party later "redefines" their yes into a maybe, or no. How are such cases to be determined? How does one prove that consent was actually established? That's the problem, because consent is subjective.
Consent doesn't eliminate regret
Another fallacy of the consent ideology is that it assumes that if one gives consent they must stand by their decision in perpetuity. But can't one consent and then later regret their decision?
I have many regrets of decisions I have consented to. One time in high school I 'consented' to eat a bowl of hot menudo just hours before an all afternoon track meet under the blazing sun. I later very much regretted having consented to eat that bowl of cow intestine soup. Imagine how much higher the stakes are for regret involving sexual choices!
How will the advocates of consent respond to people who admit they said yes to certain sexual behaviors with certain someones and then later deeply regretted that yes? Is that allowed? Are there repercussions for the "offending" party, even if consent was granted by the regretful party?
Also, decisions about sexual behavior are rarely made with one's full mental faculties. When adrenaline and dopamine start flooding the brain as a result of sexual arousal, the frontal lobe is less active (this is the part of our brain that helps us reason and be logical; like brakes on a car). So, it is conceivable that some "consent" can be borne of "in-the-heat-of-the-moment" thinking that doesn't exhibit the full use of one's own brain. (This is no excuse for poor decisions, just one more factor to consider in light of the consent fallacy.)
Consent doesn't really care about the other person
Anytime we look to man made constructs for moral or civil frameworks, we end up with systems that ultimately harm more lives than they help. Such is the current "consent construct" that is sure to leave countless broken lives in its wake of ambiguity and regret.
The Bible says that "the whole law" hinges on one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) In other words, the moral and civic framework that God established is not focused on my consent (what one allows to be done to them), but rather on the ultimate good for my neighbor. Are my actions going to help them thrive as a person? Will it lead to ultimate good in their lives?
The secular consent model of sexual choices keeps me focused on me; my consent. Even if it is framed in the vernacular "mutual consent," that is a misnomer. The focus is still on each individual's self-consent that goes something like this (although with likely more subtleties and 'romance'):
Person A: "I want to have sex with you. Do you consent?"
Person B: "Yes. I want to have sex with you, too."
Sounds mutual, right? But each individual is still focused on what they want. Person A wants to have sex with Person B. Person B wants to have sex with Person A. Neither are really thinking about the ultimate good of the other. In this case, "mutual consent" is overshadowed by "I want" thinking.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that God's framework of "love your neighbor" eliminates personal desire. But it does reorder the emphasis of focus from ME to YOU. Something the current consent ideology cannot do.
To Christians it should come as no surprise that God's ways are best; for us individually and as a society. Let us not be swayed by "cleverly devised myths" that lead us away from the good and loving Law of God. His guidance leads us to make choices that are truly beneficial to others and to ourselves. And God's Word applies to every choice, including sexual choices, with or without our consent...
God invented sex and marriage. Christians know this, but often don't understand why such inventions are important, or how to live in them well. There is much confusion surrounding God, sex, and marriage.
Here are just a few recent headlines that indicate the confused state of our culture (and even the Church) on matters of sexuality:
Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Pastors Grapple with Methodist Church's LGBTQ Stance
Human Sexuality Tops List of Subjects US Clergy Struggle to Address
Is there any clear picture of what sex and marriage are all about? Or are we doomed to continue fumbling around in the dark halls of moral relativism and pass the buck to the next generation to try and figure it out?
I believe God has spoken on this subject. And he is not ambiguous.
God is pro-sex
Because God invented sex, he is for it. In fact, the first command God gave to the first man and woman was "have sex." (Gen. 1:28) God is not some cosmic killjoy against pleasure. He made sex. He made it pleasurable. But he also made it to symbolize something far more than it has come to mean in much of our culture.
Sex is the most intimate, powerful, pleasurable union that a man and woman can experience. It creates a bond like nothing else. Chemicals are released in the brain that magnify pleasure and fortify the "imprint" of the other person. The two truly do "become one" in this intimate act.
God created this powerful connection of sex to give us a picture of the kind of powerful connection he desires with us; a oneness with our Creator. But because sex is so powerful, God made it to be a protected activity within the boundary of covenant. In other words, sex isn't casual from God's perspective. It is covenantal. That's why God also created marriage. (Gen. 2:18-24, Matt. 19:3-9)
God is pro-marriage
Marriage is the lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. God instituted this to be the context in which two become one. And sex is the consummation of this oneness. But why is marriage the exclusive relationship for sex?
The simple answer is "because God said so." (Exodus 20:14, Deut. 5:18; and God's Word is more than a sufficient answer -- it is the final authority on all matters.) But we can also see in God's design some good reasons why sexual activity is reserved only for marriage.
Health -- A single sexual partner over a lifetime virtually eliminates the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. The exclusivity of sex in marriage protects from potential disease.
Intimacy -- Marriage is designed for a man and woman to grow together: sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Infidelity (including porn) hinders intimacy.
Oneness -- "The two shall become one." God's design for marriage is for two to become one, not three or four or twenty. Exclusive 1-man-with-1-woman sex in marriage strengthens and deepens the bond of oneness.
Faithfulness -- Sex outside of marriage (in any form, including pornography) erodes trust. The exclusive nature of sex in marriage helps build faithfulness by each spouse "forsaking all others" in favor of unity with each other.
God is pro-love
The design of sex in marriage is deeply rooted in love. This is the heart of the metaphor God gives us in the picture of marriage: covenant love. Thus, sex is meant to be the physical expression of covenant love. And it's beautiful. It's giving. It's sacrificial. It's sacred.
But we must not mistake all sexual feelings as being love, nor think that "love" is always to be expressed in sex. We can love without being sexual. And we can certainly be sexual without loving (although, this is not God's design!). God calls his followers to love all people, but not to have sex with all people. Sex is exclusively reserved for marriage.
Love is doing good for another at your own expense. God is love. He did the ultimate good for us at the expense of his own Son dying on the cross for our sins. Through faith in Christ we are called to live in the same way toward all our neighbors; to love them sacrificially. But just because I love my neighbor, maybe even have strong, deep affection for them, does not mean I am to be sexual with them.
Because God is love, and God is also holy, love adheres to a standard. It is not subjective.
God is pro-truth
Sex and marriage and love, oh my! These are big topics with big ramifications. This is why they must be rooted in truth. And all truth finds its source in the Creator. God is the standard. Therefore, when examining sex and marriage and love, we must look to God and His Word as the final authority. This is where we all get uncomfortable.
Truth, by definition, is exclusive. If A is true, then non-A cannot also be true. For example, if Sally is pregnant, she cannot also not be pregnant. Pregnancy is either true or false. Truth is exclusive.
When God makes declarations about sex, marriage, and love, we do not have the luxury of claiming opposite views as simultaneously true. Either God's Word is true or it is false. If it is true, it cuts us all to the bone: "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20) Truth is the great equalizer. We have all sinned. (Rom. 3:23)
Therefore, the question we must all answer is, "Do I believe God's Word?"
Is God's Word true regarding sex? Is God's Word true regarding marriage? Is God's Word true regarding love and truth? The answer to these questions determines the consequences we must face. Not that our belief determines what is true (remember, truth is exclusive), but that the consequences we face are determined by what we believe about the truth. If our lives do not line up with the truth, it is not the truth that suffers.
Where do you take your confusion or frustration about sex and marriage and love? Might you spend some time searching God's Word, engaging other Christians, or fervently praying? God is the Creator of sex and marriage, and he is the source of love and truth. And he promises to respond to those who humbly seek him will all their heart.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." --Matthew 7:7-8
If you're in the San Antonio area, please register for the God, Sex, and Your Marriage conference on March 23, 2019 at Community Bible Church.
Click here to register
It seems like everyone these days wants to be part of a "cause"; something that moves people to reach beyond themselves and see good multiplied. Yet, at the same time, we have a huge problem. It's called addiction and it isn't going away. Compulsions of every kind can be found throughout our society. But there is hope.
I'm thankful for the many group leaders, counselors, pastors, and others who are passionate and committed to helping addicted people enter recovery. But sometimes when an issue (like addiction) saturates a community it can be easy to lose zeal and effectiveness in addressing it.
If this loss of zeal and effectiveness in recovery ministry is occurring, how can we bring about a "recovery revival" throughout a society that is increasingly growing numb to the effects of addiction. Here are 3 keys to launching and sustaining such a revival.
3 Keys to Recovery Revival
The foundation of true recovery is God's Word. We were made by God to reflect His image -- His character of holiness, truth, and love. But sin in us disfigures this image and draws us to the very things that enslave us in addiction (lust, greed, power, fame, etc.). We need rescue from our sin. Enter Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God's Son and entered humanity to live the life we couldn't, died the death we should've, and rose from the grave to give us what we don't deserve: reconciliation with our heavenly Father. Jesus is the source of true recovery.
Jesus was said to be "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14b) He was God in human form. He had no sin, no imperfections, no addictions. His "cause" in life was to set captives free:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound...
Jesus declared the above verse was fulfilled in Him. (Luke 4:16-21) He was the hope for the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captive prisoner. He was our "recovery"; the One who could break the chains of sin that separated us from God.
If we are to see a recovery revival it must be grace-based and truth-directed. We must extend compassion to the addicted as we lead them to the truth of God's Word. In other words, we must introduce them to Jesus.
The longer I live and the more years I am in ministry to sexually broken people I am convinced that every movement (for good or bad) boils down to leadership. Therefore, it is essential that recovery leaders are transparent and "real."
When I first started in ministry as a vocation I remember thinking, "Man, no one is going to listen to me. I don't have a Master's degree or any kind of formal education in addiction recovery or therapy." And every time I tried to go after such degrees, God closed all the doors. And I didn't know why until years later.
I'm not anti-education. I'm very much for learning and growing. But what I discovered along the journey of ministering to addicted people is that the most powerful thing leaders have to offer to others in recovery is themselves. It is your story, not your knowledge, that will inspire others to join you on this wonderful adventure of recovery.
So, if you want to see a recovery revival sweep through your community, be courageous and share your story with those who need the courage to share theirs. When leaders get real, it opens the door for true recovery.
Everybody is broken. Sin has infected us all and affected us all. No one can claim they have been unharmed by sin. Some might claim they haven't crossed the line into addiction, but I don't think that is necessarily relevant when it comes to birthing a recovery revival. See, if everyone is broken, then everyone can benefit from recovery.
Sometimes we complicate the "intake" process for people coming into recovery. We want to explore their history, their frequency of acting out, their specific compulsions, and much more. And this can have value to a person's recovery, but not for their entrance into recovery. Everybody must be welcome to enter a grace-based recovery environment. The only qualifier is a desire to get better.
Imagine if we didn't prejudge people entering into recovery. If we drew no lines around gender or race or religion or behaviors. Instead, we smiled, put our arms around their shoulder, and said the best words any broken sinner could hear, "Welcome. We're glad you're here. What's your name?"
True recovery is an invitation to everybody. We cannot control how people will respond to the invitation, but we can choose to treat all who enter with respect and love and truth.
Is God stirring you to bring a recovery revival to your community? Then get busy doing whatever He is calling you to do. May many more captives be set free!
Click here to learn more about Grace-Based Recovery
by Jonathan Daugherty
Do you ever wonder if we live in a country (USA) that is so blessed with "creature comforts" that we have become "flabby" when it comes to our spiritual fitness? We have so much, yet everywhere I turn I see increased dissatisfaction and misery as people clamor for more and more and more. When will it ever be enough? Is there ever an end to the discontent and anxiety of those believing the lies of entitlement thinking? (let's chew on that one for a few seconds...)
I actually believe there is an end to such discontentment and anxiety, but to pursue it requires incredible strength and resolve because it goes against all that our culture promotes and worships. The answer to ungratefulness and dissatisfaction (and addiction!) is found in God's grace.
I realize that many of my writings, whether in a blog, a newsletter, or a book, tend to come off as a rehash of the same old theme: grace! For any of you who have read many of my writings, you might be thinking, "Geesh, here he goes again on the 'grace thing.' Doesn't he know how to write on any other topic?!" I apologize, but only for the fact that the message seems not to be getting through on a larger scale to believers throughout our culture. Grace is the theme of true life for the believer, and until we understand (and embrace) this truth, we too will fall victim to the whining and moaning of the increased throng of the dissatisfied.
So, what is it that makes grace so amazing? Why is it so essential to true life and real contentment? What makes God's grace indispensable, not merely a side issue that we can take or leave on this journey of faith?
What makes God's grace so paramount, so essential in this thing called life is that without it there would be no life at all. It was by God's grace that he even considered creating us to enjoy him. His grace is woven throughout all of creation, offering us breathtaking examples of his beauty and majesty. His grace consistently and persistently pursues mankind, even going so far as to lay down the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order that we wouldn't perish but instead enjoy life forever with him. Grace is fundamentally essential to life, in all its layers!
But is grace really enough? This is the question our culture is so accustomed to asking, isn't it? "What is enough?" And we ask it about everything, don't we?
And the list goes on. We as believers should be the first to notice the fallacy in such thinking, but often we ourselves are swept away in the rush of discontent and we find ourselves believing the subtle lie of the enemy (which hasn't changed from the beginning), "What you've been given by the grace of God -- it isn't enough." As we swallow the hook of that lie, we (just like the unbeliever) become pawns of the devil, twisting and turning in whatever direction he desires.
I'm not saying we shouldn't want to improve and even take risks in following Christ (in fact, to follow the Lord is a great risk Jesus himself told us to weigh carefully). But we need to remember that we are promised discomfort in this life if we follow Jesus. We are promised trouble, hardships, suffering, and even hatred from the world if we take this Christianity message seriously. And this makes sense if you understand that this world is not our home. But in the discomfort, in the trials, in the illnesses, in the losses, is grace really enough?
I believe that until we come to a place where we say with authenticity and conviction, "God, your grace is enough," we will never know true life and never experience real peace and contentment. Believer, God's grace IS enough! If he were to provide nothing else for us in our entire existence, save his grace, it would be enough - MORE THAN ENOUGH! Do you believe this? Then cling to it in all of life's seasons.
God's grace is powerful for transforming lives, for in it we find something of the essence of God, the truth that he really does love us with an everlasting love. His compassion is overflowing, His salvation is permanent, His mercy is great and His faithfulness reaches beyond the heavens. When you come to the place of understanding and appreciating the limitless grace of God, you finally reach a place in your life that transcends circumstance, that is beyond the physical, material world that appeals to the rottenness of our sinful flesh. You enter a place of peace, untouched and unmarred by anything this life can throw at you in hopes that you fall. And even when you do stumble, God's grace is there to pick you up.
I pray you will embrace God's grace today and every day. It really is enough...
by Jonathan Daugherty
I don't think anyone would argue with me if I said that there is a lot of confusion in our American culture surrounding the topic of sexuality. Turn on any news feed or hop on any social media platform and you will be bombarded with all kinds of ideas about sex and sexuality. And right in the mix you will find many professing Christians tangled up in the same web of sexual confusion.
This article is for Christians who struggle to answer the question, "What is sexuality?" While this article won't answer this question exhaustively, at least it might help give you a framework to respond to this question with biblical clarity and Christlike compassion.
In God's Image, Male and Female
To answer the question "What is sexuality?" it is important to start at the beginning. God created sexuality. It is stated this way in Genesis 1:27,
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Therefore, whatever sexuality is it originated in the mind of God and is tied in some way to His image, or His "reflection" in the world through human beings. We will come back to this reflection idea a little bit later.
The distinctions in human maleness and femaleness are intentional. God did not make humans some homogeneous, amorphous creatures. He created us male and female, specifically unique and distinct in our design.
Therefore, human sexuality starts with design: we were made in the image of God, male and female.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
After God created human beings he gave them this instruction:
And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
One of my favorite things to say to Christians is that God's first verbal command to the first human beings was, "Have sex!" That's what "be fruitful and multiply" means. Therefore, another important part of sexuality is the act of sex -- and it's effect: multiplying.
At this point you might be thinking that the culture seems to be "obeying" God quite well on this instruction. After all, lots of people are "being fruitful and multiplying." But before you jump too quickly to this assumption, it's important to understand that God provides a specific context for this act of sex: holy marriage.
Two Shall Become One Flesh
God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, and performed the first marriage ceremony. The story is found in Genesis 2:21-25 (emphasis mine),
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
God brought Adam his wife, Eve. And, of course, Adam flipped out with delight! Just as God designed him to respond. After this marriage ceremony between one man and one woman the writer of Genesis goes on to say,
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Human sexuality was made by God for its fullest expression and enjoyment within the covenant bond of marriage between one man and one woman. This is how we most completely "reflect" God's image in the world; the oneness between a husband and wife. (This is usually the point of greatest contention among those who do not hold to a biblical, Christian worldview.)
But sexuality is not merely about gender or sex or marriage. It is about Jesus Christ and His Church.
Christ and the Church
One reason why I believe so many Christians find it difficult to define sexuality is because they fail to understand the larger context into which it fits. Sex and sexuality often remain locked only in the physical realm and many don't see the spiritual connection. But the apostle Paul helped us get a glimpse of this mystery when he wrote these instructions to husbands,
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:25-32)
God created sex to be a metaphor of something far greater than what we can only see in the physical. It is ultimately meant to be a picture of the love and intimacy Christ has with His bride, the Church. This is a mystery because we cannot fully experience this kind of unhindered intimacy with Christ in this life because of our sinful nature. But we have been given a picture in our sexuality of what is to be between us and Christ one day in our eternal home in heaven. And what a day that will be!
What About Desire?
We have looked at God's design for sexuality; male and female reflecting His image.
We have looked at God's context for sexuality; one man with one woman in the covenant bond of marriage.
We have even looked at God's purpose for sexuality; a tangible picture of the kind of intimacy Christ has with His bride, the Church.
But what do we do with desires when it comes to defining sexuality? What is the biblical perspective on desire?
The Bible actually says very little on the topic of sexual desire until it crosses a line of sinfulness. For example, adultery is forbidden by God. But this isn't merely a physical act. Jesus said that "lustful desires" are equal to adultery in their sinfulness before God (Matt. 5:27-28). But what about sexual desires that are not lustful?
I believe God extends tremendous grace to us when it comes to desire. We must remember that the world is stained by sin, and we even carry sin in our being. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that no one has desires (any desires, not just sexual) that are not distorted in some way due to sin. This is why sexual temptation can be so appealing; our sinful nature longs to disobey God. And the enemy works hard to point our sexual desires toward outcomes that dishonor God and distort His image.
But rather than trying to "police" desire, it might be best to focus instead on God's clear design, purpose, and context of sexuality and then ask ourselves if our lives are faithfully reflecting God's image. From there we might gain a better understanding of our desires and how we might align them to trust and obey God more deeply.
So, what is sexuality?
Human sexuality is being made in God's image, male and female, to reflect His covenant love with our bodies through fidelity to His Word and His Ways. There is power and passion and purpose wrapped up in all that it means to be human; "male and female He created them."
As Christians, we are called to live by God's design and for His purposes. And why wouldn't we want to? When we understand the gospel and God's gracious forgiveness, the only proper response can be to worship Him in spirit, mind, and body...
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)