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)
by Jonathan Daugherty
If I'm honest, I don't really want to write this article. Not because I don't believe the title has merit, but because the issue of sexuality is such a hot button between the two communities mentioned. Orthodox Christians are often viewed by those in the LGBTQ community as archaic and anti-love, whereas those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often viewed by those in the Christian community as "sinners in the hands of an angry God." What can be done to resolve this "battle" of sexual ideologies?
For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I am a Bible-believing evangelical Christian. So, automatically there will be assumptions made about my worldview. I believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and I affirm such confessions of Christian beliefs as The Apostle's Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I am, as some might say, a conservative Christian.
But I don't hate anyone in the LGBTQ community. And I invite my Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. However, we must do so without abandoning the foundation of our faith. We must love as Christ loved -- in grace and truth.
There are three key things that I think Christians can (and should) learn from the LGBTQ community. And by learning these we might establish a bridge for conversation and relationship. We might even discover that at our core we are more alike than we are different.
1. We all want a place to belong.
I have listened to many stories of those who identify as LGBTQ+ and there is often a common refrain when it comes to a person finally "tipping the scales" to fully embracing their sexual orientation: "I was welcomed with open arms by the (fill in the blank with LGBTQ+) community." The longing to belong is strong in us as human beings. When we find a place that accepts us, we tend to move in that direction.
So, Christian friends, what can we learn from this? Might it be that we don't hold out open arms to those who are different from us? Maybe we need to learn a lesson here about the kinds of environments we are creating in our churches. Are we inviting people just as they are to come explore Jesus and our Christian faith, or are we creating a moral obstacle course for people to pass before they can gain access?
Hear me clearly on this point: It is not our job as Christians to change people's behavior (or their heart); we are called by God to introduce people to Jesus, and walk with them as they grow in Him. And how can we do that if we construct so many obstacles before they hit the front door?
Jesus sought out the most broken people to show He loved them. Religious people didn’t like that, including the Pharisees who murmured about Jesus letting the woman anoint his feet, “If He knew what kind of woman she was He would not let her touch Him.” (Luke 7:39)
Broken people responded so well to Jesus because He essentially showed them, “You belong here with Me.” Their behavior changed after being with Jesus, not before. Christians need to understand the power of our belonging together with Christ, and should extend that fellowship to others as Jesus did.
2. We all want an identity that is unique and celebrated.
One of the hardest questions to answer is "Who are you?" This is a question of identity. And it's easy to construct our answers based on external factors, such as job, family, hobbies, and reputation. One element that is central to being human is sexuality. So, it makes sense that this would be an area in which we want to "stand out" as unique in our identity. But at what cost?
I remember the "old days" when there were only two distinctions between sexual orientations and gender identities: heterosexual and homosexual; male and female. But today, by some reports, there are dozens of distinctions of sexual orientation and gender identity! Why so many variations?
Everybody wants to be somebody. In other words, we all want a sense that we are unique in the world. And the truth is, we are. Fingerprints, DNA, and even body odor are distinct to every human being on planet earth. You and I are born unique. But sometimes we want to plant a flag (no pun intended) that declares this to the world. Sexual/Gender identity can be an easy (and obvious) way to do this.
Christian friends, the LGBTQ community does an excellent job of defining and celebrating a person's uniqueness based on their sexual/gender identity. Could the same claim be made of you and me based on our identity in Christ? Do you know who you are in Him and how you are uniquely gifted for His purpose? And do you celebrate this gift of God's grace in a way that is attractive and life-giving to those who are far from God?
When Christ is at the center of our identity there is nothing that can destroy or diminish our value and significance.
3. We all want our lives to matter and our voices to be heard.
I have a Google Alert set for LGBTQ. This means that every day I get a report from Google on all the news and articles related to anything with LGBTQ connections. Every day lots of news comes up! One thing I notice over and over again is the relative consistency and persistency of the messaging for LGBTQ rights and the predictible attacks against those who oppose such rights. But what's the real message here?
A group of people (LGBTQ) with a shared worldview and common goal are crying out to be heard and to make a difference in the society.
What can Christians learn here? What is our primary message? It is that "God so loved the world" that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sinners like you and me. (John 3:16) But when our message simply becomes a reaction to the latest shock news we find ourselves being grinded into dust by the political and media machines, rather than offering hope and life and freedom to "those who have ears to hear."
Let's also remember that all of us come to God with our own baggage and sin. A lot of our baggage and sin we don’t realize is harmful or even that it exists until we have spent time with God. Often, in His wisdom, He waits (sometimes years!) until the time is right to point it out to us and invite us to unpack it. We must offer the same grace to the LGBTQ community by focusing on welcoming them and introducing them to God, then allowing God to work with them as He sees fit in His timing.
My Christian friends, what then should the church's response and role be to the LGBTQ community? Might we stand together and declare:
Love is actually the common language Christians share with the LGBTQ community, even though our worldviews for how to present and practice love are very different. But might we have the courage to demonstrate the same love that Jesus Christ demonstrated to us, that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Would you die for the sake of a LGBTQ person?
This morning I read these verses from Ephesians 4:14-16,
...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As I survey the world around me I notice a common trend occurring in our western cultures: childhood is remaining long after childhood. This is universal, affecting every demographic -- even God's church. Many followers of Jesus are succumbing to the false idea that God's love means He doesn't mind childishness. After all, we are saved by grace, right? But doesn't love require reproof?
Our ministry is focused on helping sexually broken individuals and families find healing and hope through the power of Jesus Christ. We provide resources and training tools to also help Christian leaders be better equipped when helping people break free from sexual struggles or strongholds. To minister effectively it is imperative that we hold in balance grace and truth. When imbalance occurs between these two perspectives, the essence of love is lost.
I have 3 teenagers, two girls and a boy. I love them dearly. And my love is expressed to them in varying measures of grace and truth. Would I be loving my children if I never corrected them? Would I be loving my children if I gave them everything they wanted? Certainly there are ways to discipline and correct that are kind and gentle, but discipline and correction are not optional if I am to love my children well.
God deals with us in the same way. He loves us dearly. And His love is expressed in varying measures of grace and truth -- perfectly revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, who was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Would God be loving if He never corrected us? Would God be loving if He gave us everything we wanted? God certainly disciplines and corrects us in kind and gentle ways, but His discipline and correction are not optional if He is to truly love us well.
Today there are many who want to deceive us into believing that love doesn't require correction and accountability -- which is why so many remain stuck in childhood! We live in a world that reasons with its eyes and thinks with its emotions. If it looks good, pursue it. If it feels good, do it. After all, if it looks good and feels good it must be good, right? The Author of Good, the Creator of everything, would disagree. We are to live as He designed us -- to be holy and set apart, those who truly love in word and deed. In short, those who grow up.
It is time for courageous love to step forward in God's church. Time to "speak the truth in love" and not cower to the false teachers in society who present a "love" that may look good on the outside and feel good for a moment, but in the end leads to bitter division and a trail of broken hearts and immature character. True love is rooted in truth and expressed through grace for the purpose of growing us up into the likeness of Christ.
This year resolve to be a courageous lover, one who mirrors your heavenly Father to the broken world around you. Doing so will make you a beacon on a hill and provide hope and direction for those who need more than a mere facade of love. Let's show the world what "grown up" love is all about.
For to us a child is born,
Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it. The cold(ish) weather (I live in Texas, so 'cold' is relative). The festive music. The delectable food. The brief moments of kindness that interrupt the usual flow of humbug hostility and division. I love the Christmas season, but I love the Christ in Christmas far more. Here's why...
My work puts me in front of broken and desperate people all the time. Their lives are marked by deep pain and debilitating strongholds. They all want the same thing: relief from their pain. They have all been hurt, and most of them have also hurt others. They carry shame, fear, anger, and myriad other emotions often too deep for words. In their hearts they cry out: Where can I find relief and hope for something better?
God hears the cries of desperate people. And He answered the deepest cry of every person's heart through the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ.
Christmas is the celebration of the long awaited Savior of the world. He was God's answer to all the brokenness that results from sin. Jesus was pure. He was good. He was kind. He was true. He was love. He was all the world ever needed to be reconciled to God. He was (and is) our Hope.
But how does Christmas (the coming of Jesus to the world) matter to recovery?
Christmas reminds us that God knows our needs even before we ask.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden God did not wait for them to be contrite or ask for help before He clothed their nakedness. No, Adam and Eve were in the middle of playing the blame game with makeshift foliage underwear while God took action to slay an animal and give them proper coverings. This was the foreshadowing of the sacrifice to come in Jesus Christ, covering our sins once and for all.
In recovery it isn't always so easy to know what is needed. After all, would you really need recovery if you knew what you needed and how to obtain it? But God is rich in mercy and grace, having already put into motion the very answer your soul needed before you could even ask the question. May you discover in Christ God's covering for your sin and shame.
Christmas keeps us humble.
Make no mistake about the fundamental message of Christmas: the world needed a Savior! I know this message is not popular in our modern age of technology and hyper-intelligence, but it is still true. No one can cheat death. No one escapes accountability before God. And no one is without guilt before the Creator.
Recovery is only successful when humility is at its root. The proud are not teachable, therefore they are not changeable. Until there is brokenness and humility there can be no recovery. The vulnerability of the Son of God lying in a manger as a baby reminds us that since we cannot claim superiority to God and He was willing to humble Himself to such a lowly state, we too must embrace humility if we are ever to be changed by Him.
Christmas reveals that Light overcomes darkness.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
The above Scripture comes just before the opening Scripture of this article. What a vivid description of what recovery feels like -- seeing a great light that dispels the deep darkness all around.
Jesus Christ coming into the world was the Great Light. He exposed the darkness of sin's effect; the lies, the greed, the hatred, the violence, the divisions, the lust, and so much more. But the darkness could not overpower the Light in Christ. Even death (the greatest darkness of all) could not contain Him. Light won. Light always wins!
Recovery requires uncovering what is in the dark. The secrets. The wounds. The shame. Light must be allowed into the dark places in order for healing and wholeness. Praise God that He didn't leave us in the dark! Let us celebrate the Light we have been given in Jesus Christ. For He is why Christmas matters to recovery...
I had a great conversation with Dr. Juli Slattery recently about the #MeToo social media explosion surrounding the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. (This conversation will air on our Pure Sex Radio podcast later this month.) Juli asked my reaction as a Christian man to some of the blanket accusations against all men (i.e. "men are pigs", "all men are predators", etc.). I want to expound on two thoughts I shared with her in hopes of encouraging you to recognize and seize the gospel opportunities that can emerge when such news breaks.
#MeToo Breaks my Heart for the Wounded
When I heard the news about Harvey Weinstein and then the flood over other Hollywood insiders and various other leaders accused of sexual harassment my first reaction was heartbreak. This kind of news exposes once again the degree to which sexual sin wounds people. Lives are changed dramatically by such trauma and it is evidenced in the emotional pain that erupts even years after the abuse ends.
But my heart isn't the only heart to break over such injustice and abuse. God's heart breaks too. In fact, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, could carry the #MeToo banner Himself. He was abused and maligned, treated unjustly. He identifies personally with the painful feelings of being hurt at the hands of another. He knows better than anyone what it feels like to have someone else's brokenness dumped on Him.
But in the heartbreak I hear whispers of hope. As the stories piled up one after another of the abused and hurt, I saw opportunity after opportunity to bring the Good News of the suffering Savior, Jesus, to each of these wounded, and often angry, victims. Their experiences of abuse need not be the end of the story. Maybe this is the time in their lives when they can encounter what a real man should look like. And he looks like Jesus.
#MeToo Demands that Men of Integrity Step Forward
After feeling heartbroken my next reaction to the #MeToo story was somewhat defensive, but in a good way. I thought, Wait a minute! Not every man is a slug of a human being who only victimizes women. There actually are good men, men of integrity who follow God and seek to reflect His goodness in the world around them. Yeah, we need these men to take a step forward and offer their strength in gracious and humble ways. Such men can bring healing and reconciliation to the wounded. Such men reveal the heart and love of Jesus.
This is what must happen when the gospel takes root in a man's soul. He must not only allow God to transform his own character, but also be willing and obedient to pour this hope and healing out onto those around him. The time has come for godly men to "go public" with their godliness, because true godliness is not abusive nor demeaning. True godliness is walking like Jesus, touching the wounded and marginalized with compassion and truth.
Men of God, if you are with me take a step forward today and offer your strength in humility to those who are feeling weak. Maybe this is reaching out to a local crisis center to see how you can assist. Maybe this is stepping in or speaking up at work when you see questionable behavior or speech. Maybe this is being more intentional in praying for all those who have posted or wished they posted #MeToo on social media.
Don't be afraid to join the conversation. We know you aren't perfect. But the road to healing and reconciliation isn't traveled by perfect people. It is traveled by courageous people who "love [their] neighbor as [themselves]." Will you be courageous and fight for justice and healing? #MeToo