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...
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
In this 5-part series on The Pathway to Purity we have defined and explored the key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity. This post reveals the final marker: Love Your Neighbor.
You might be thinking, How does loving my neighbor have anything to do with my sexual integrity? Good question! So let’s explore 3 ways that loving others is connected to your growth in sexual integrity -- and good character in general.
Loving Others Ensures Self-Care
The above statement may seem contradictory. Isn’t loving others focused on others? How, then, could such an outward focus have such an inward benefit?
Jesus told his followers (and his opponents) that the greatest commandment was to love God and “love your neighbor as yourself.” He even stated, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40) Notice the qualifier on how to love your neighbor: as yourself.
You cannot love others well if you do not care well for yourself. Therefore, loving others will ensure that you are taking care of yourself. This means you must reject any lies of shame that attack your worth, properly care for your body and soul, and establish healthy boundaries against temptation and toxic environments. Such self-care allows you to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Practical Tip: Ask yourself (or a trusted friend) in what areas of your life are you not exhibiting good self-care. Choose one area to work on improving and establish a plan for pursuing better self-care. Invite someone to hold you accountable to your plan.
Loving Others Guards Against Selfishness
Let me be clear: self-care and selfishness are not the same thing. Self-care is about establishing and maintaining proper health in body, soul, and mind for the good of others. Selfishness is about pursuing your own desires to the detriment of others. Self-care is really self-love in its purest form. Selfishness is truly self-hate; it abandons the Golden Rule toward yourself.
God’s Word instructs us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
The key word in this passage is humility. You and I are to consider others more important than ourselves. Notice that this passage doesn’t teach self-denial, as if you and your interests are unimportant. No, the instruction is about attitude and focus. The attitude is humility and the focus is others. A selfish, self-hating person can have neither humility nor altruism.
Sexual sin is always self-centered. It feeds selfishness, leading you in the opposite direction from loving your neighbor. Therefore, it is critical to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Then you will have a brotherly love that overflows onto your neighbors. (1 Pet. 1:22)
Practical Tip: Get out a piece of paper (or a Notes app on your smartphone). Write down the names of 3 people you care about. Next to each name write down at least one way this week that you will consider them “more significant than yourself.” Follow through on your commitment to exercise humility and focus on their interests above your own.
Loving Others Multiplies Grace
What is the ultimate effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it simply that your sins are forgiven? Is it merely that you are offered a place in heaven with God? These are great and wonderful truths, but I believe the ultimate effect this Good News has is that it compels everyone who embraces it to share it. The grace found in Jesus cannot be hoarded.
Why must you share this Good News with others?
If you really want to grow in your integrity, make it a habit to give away all that Jesus has given away to you -- grace, forgiveness, kindness, joy, peace, hope, love, Himself. The effect of grace in a life that is gripped by it is always multiplication. Love others as God has loved you. There are no regrets in multiplying grace.
Practical Tip: Is there someone in your life who needs to hear your story, no matter how many steps you have taken on the Pathway to Purity? Ask God to bring to mind someone that needs the hope of grace. Pray for courage to step out and share your story with them.
If you would like more resources on your journey to greater integrity, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by Dan Allender
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Life is hard even in the best of circumstances. It gets a whole lot harder when trying to overcome sexual struggles and strongholds. We instinctively know that problems of any kind are rarely solved by information alone. And especially when the problems are personal. Personal problems require personal solutions. In short, if you want to heal from sexual brokenness and pursue greater integrity, you will need friends who can help you along the way.
This post is the 2nd in a five part series on the Pathway to Purity, helping you recognize and engage the key markers for living a life of greater integrity.
Make Some Friends
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Many may try to travel the Pathway to Purity fast but they don’t get very far. It’s a hard road. It was made for walking, not running. And to walk it well requires help along the way. No one can successfully master this pathway alone. No one!
The idea of needing friends in life is not new, even if we don’t always understand what true friendship is really all about. Life consistently proves to us that we are better off in community than isolation. But this doesn’t mean we always intentionally pursue community, especially when dealing with personal and painful struggles. And sexual brokenness qualifies as a very personal and painful struggle.
So, what are the benefits of making friends on this Pathway to Purity?
First, let me define true friendship. “A friend loves at all times…” (Prov. 17:17a) A true friend is one who works for your best at their own expense. In other words, a friend is someone who loves you. It’s that simple. Love always seeks the highest good of another.
There are 3 main benefits to making such friends on the Pathway to Purity:
Friends Encourage Growth
Encourage means “to inspire someone with the confidence to do something.” Good friends are good cheerleaders, consistently reminding you that the journey you are on is a worthy one; that taking the next step is not only right, but good.
The Pathway to Purity is a road we must travel throughout our whole lives, only “ending” when we die. We won’t reach the “destination” of complete wholeness and “purity” until we are at home in heaven with God. Therefore, we have many steps to take on this journey, and some steps aren’t as easy as others. A life of integrity is marked by humility, grace, accountability, healthy boundaries, suffering for doing good, and much more. We need encouragement to keep growing in these attributes, and good friends can encourage us in this growth.
Friends Comfort you When you Fall
Everyone stumbles on the Pathway to Purity. Everyone! And most stumble many times, even if they have been walking the path for a long time. Stumbling is frustrating, sometimes humiliating. When we fall, sometimes we don’t want to get up. We feel like just crawling into the ditch and dying. But to remain down on this pathway will ensure that you never experience the beauty and joy that comes by continuing.
When (not if) you stumble it is critical that you have friends who can come sit with you in the ditch and comfort you. In the moment you stumble you do not need instruction, you need comfort; “consolation, reassurance, support.” Out of this comfort your friends can give you perspective, reminding you why you stepped on this pathway in the first place: to grow in God’s design and purpose for you. Good friends can help you take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and stand back up on the Pathway to Purity.
Friends Challenge you to Keep Going
In the same way that everyone stumbles on the Pathway to Purity, everyone wants to quit at some point. Everyone! And many do quit. But one of the key factors that will keep you from giving up completely is to make friends early in your journey. Remember, no one successfully masters the Pathway to Purity alone, and if you “want to go far, go together” -- with some friends.
There are lots of obstacles and challenges on the Pathway to Purity. There is pride, fear, temptation, fatigue, past wounds, shame, just to name a few. If you think you can overcome all these on your own you are in for a very short trip on the Pathway to Purity. Overcoming these challenges requires the power of God and loving accountability from some friends. A true friend keeps pushing you to move forward even when the journey gets difficult.
Do you have some friends, true friends, who are traveling with you on this Pathway to Purity? If not, pause right now and pray for God to show you who He wants you to reach out to for such friendship. Be patient with yourself and with the process of building true friendships. But be persistent! You need friends on this journey...
For help finding a support group in your area, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.
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His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. 2 Chron. 17:6a
I'm not a theologian, but I love God's Word and read it every day. One of my favorite ways to read through the Bible is chronologically. In case you didn't know, the content of the Bible is not laid out in the order that it occurred in history. This year I'm once again reading the Bible chronologically.
Sometime in early June I found myself reading in the book of 2 Chronicles. This is a book that highlights much of the nation of Israel's early history as they struggled to establish a unified kingdom (very unsuccessfully, I might add). There were many kings who came and went, most of whom were not good kings, regularly summarized by these words, "And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." But a few kings would have positive things said about them, that they obeyed the Lord and walked in his commandments. One such king was a man named Jehoshaphat.
While Jehoshaphat was certainly not perfect (no king is other than Jesus), he had this said of him: His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. (2 Chron. 17:6a) Wow! What a wonderful badge to be pinned on the chest of any human being. These words leapt off the pages of Scripture and sunk deep into my soul. Oh, Lord, how I long to be labeled with such words of commendation.
What does it mean to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord?"
Courage is defined as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." I think everyone (especially men) would like to be described as courageous. We want that noble quality that emboldens us to face difficulties with bravery, even heroism. But anyone can exhibit the actions of courage, even those of poor character. What separates the merely courageous from those who are courageous "in the ways of the Lord?"
To boil down "the ways of Lord" you could simply go to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And in another place in the law (Lev. 19:18) it says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
These are the two passages that Jesus drew from when millennia later he would be asked by a religious leader what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This is the way of the Lord: to love God and love others in obedience to God's law.
But the Scriptures did not say that Jehoshaphat simply acted courageously in the ways of the Lord. It says his heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. Why is this significant? Because it is from the heart that we live. What is in the heart is what makes a person righteous or unrighteous before God (Mark 7:14-23). It was Jehoshaphat's heart that was being commended by God, not merely his actions.
How can you and I have this same commendation pinned on our lives? In exactly the same way it was for Jehoshaphat: to obey God from a pure heart. Are there areas in your life in which you are not obeying the Word of God? Or are you obeying the "letter" of God's law but with impure motives, maybe trying to impress people instead of truly serving God for His own sake? Check your heart and ask God for boldness of character in the face of temptation and opposition.
The world we live in today is begging for us to blend in and abandon our Christian beliefs. You and I have a choice: to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord" or to "do what is evil in the sight of the Lord." What is in your heart to do today? May you grow in courageous love day by day...
by Dan Allender
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