Jan 23 2013
Marriage is Body and Soul

I've edited this email. Changed the name, some of the circumstances, etc. I showed my response to Sherri, our producer, and she thought a lot of people might want to read it, because so many deal with this sort of thing.

I don't claim to have "all the answers", ever.  I do know that God loves "Vanessa", and her boyfriend, more than I can put into words.

 

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Hi Brant,

Four years ago, I met a man who was a Christian, and we started dating. Eventually we became intimate, and I've felt horrible about this, and my relationship with God has almost come to a total standstill.

I am feeling extremely convicted and even fearful of what God will do because of our disobedience. When I bring it up he gets angry and says that why do I choose to obey this and why not everything else the Lord says?

He gets my mind going and makes me think that maybe I'm wrong to think that shouldn't be a part of our relationship especially since we have already had that be a part of our relationship. He says we're going to get married anyway, so there's nothing wrong with it.  I'm confused what the Bible says about this, based on what he's telling me.

Please help me. I'm tormented because I feel like I'm putting my boyfriend before God and I don't want to go to Hell for this.  But if I don't give in I feel like maybe I'm being foolish to try and change things now. 

Thank you for reading this!

Vanessa

 

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Hey Vanessa,

THANK YOU for your honesty.  I'm not sure if I'll provide the best guidance, but I will be as honest as I can be, while I'm typing hurriedly!

There are no sins worse than others.  They're all tragic, and represent rebellion against the only true, lasting love we'll ever have.

I've been married nearly 23 years, and have a dynamite marriage, and it's still true: He's it.  Marriage is a wonderful analogy, or shadow, of the love He has for us, but it's not the full picture of the love God has for us. 

Rebelling against that love is painful for awhile, and then ultimately numbing, because we become less human, less the way we were supposed to be.  We stop feeling, and things lose their joyfulness, and their color.

Will you go to Hell for your sexual sin?  Jesus told the "righteous" people, whose hearts were proud, that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before them!  The real question isn't, "Will this sin send me to Hell?" It's "Do I want the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do I even WANT God in charge?" - because, guess what, that's who's in charge when everything is restored. If you do want Him in charge, and you have made Him king NOW, demonstrate it.  As I type that to you, I type it to myself. There will be plenty of proud, upstanding, moral people in Hell. Too proud to want God as King, really.  We all sin, and Jesus has already paid the price for that. It's a question of the heart, now.

This said, some sins are WAY more impacting than others.  Marriage is saying, "I commit body and spirit to you."  And sex is a commitment of body, but outside of marriage, it's not backing it up with the lifetime commitment of the soul.

It's been proven, particularly for women, that sexual contact forges an intimate bond that goes WAY beyond mere physical exercise.  You are sharing your soul with someone who is not returning that exchange.

I suspect we all know this deep down. His body is writing a check that his soul is not willing to honor, not now.

This is very, very UNLOVING.  Very selfish of him, and, frankly, if he doesn't understand how a woman works, how a woman's heart works, or the link between sex and your very identity… Why would he be a good husband?

Marriage is ALL about putting AWAY your selfishness.  And he's demonstrating he wants to have his fun regardless of cost to you, so far as I can tell.  I don't get it.

All sin is equal rebellion against God, but sex is ridiculously powerful, and the consequences are identity-changing.  You become less YOU.  

If he's not willing to serve you in this area, to honor your desire to please God, to guard your own heart - and you should, you're NOT married - I'd dump him.  Perhaps after explaining it, lovingly, he'll "get it", and respect this, and you can make a new start, with pre-marital counseling involved.

I'm always amazed, too, at the "Well, we're GOING to get married," defense. Sometimes people do wind up getting married, sure, but if it were a sure thing, why aren't you already married?  Finances are used as an excuse, often, but it's usually CHEAPER for two people to live together than apart.  So…?  

Maybe there's a lingering sense that a commitment like marriage isn't the best thing right now…?  Fair enough. No sex until your soul will cash that check your body's writing.

That's my take.  And yes, the Bible is quite clear that sex outside of marriage is sin, just as lust is, according to Jesus.  (The commandment against adultery is often given a crafty "Well, this doesn't apply to us" spin, but there it remains. In our modern culture, we just can't STAND the idea that God wants us to live with sexual limits, because we worship sexual autonomy above all other things, no matter the cost. But yes, God cares about our sexuality. It'd be odd if He didn't, as powerful as it is!)

We're all sinners, but we can't use that as a justification to just keep doing what we want to do.  If he's a "believer", great.  "Even the demons believe," it says in James.  Does he have a heart for God, a desire to grow in love? He's demonstrating he values his own urges more than you, and that's not a good prescription for a long-lasting marriage, that's for sure.

Even if he doesn't agree, Biblically, a good future husband would protect the heart of a woman he loves, control himself, and quit taking advantage of her weakness. He'd help her get where she wants to be.  

And that's what marriage is, as it turns out.  Clearly, much as he wants the sex part of marriage, he doesn't want the part where he has to be a man and take responsibility for the wonderful gift he could have in you. You can bring that man out of him, perhaps, by saying, "This is the way it's going to be, or we're done.  Now, what do you want?"

God bless you, and I'm praying he grows up.  

Either way, you're playing with a strong hand.  Your longest-lasting, best, most passionate lover, body and soul, is with you, and will never leave you.

Best,

Brant

Apr 15 2012
Sex and Loneliness and Jesus

"Please tell me: What was the name of that book you were talking about, about the struggle to live a celibate life, even in the midst of loneliness...?"

I got a lot of calls like this.  I'd talked about the book, Washed and Waiting, and hoped many would read it. When they called, I felt like I needed to give a disclaimer, in case someone would be offended for whatever reason.

"Just so you know: This book is incredibly relevant for everyone, but the writer is writing about his homosexuality."

And no one seemed to blink.

"Well, that sounds like exactly what I need to read, and..."

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A friend gave me this little book this week, and I read it in two sittings. Honestly, there's not much here I haven't already thought about, but I couldn't have written this book, for a simple reason: I don't have license to write it.

I'm married, sexually content, and have been since age 20. I barely remember singlehood. Sure, there are many struggles, and my own where-is-God? questions, but when I go to bed, my flesh-and-blood lover is there. So if I wrote this, you could critiicize it as mere theory. And preachy. And it might even sound like one of the recent spate of high-profile pastors, trying to out sex-talk each other to sell stuff and attract new customers. ("See?  Isn't married sex awesome, everyone? You should really have a super-sexy marriage like me, everyone!")

...yes, thanks, pastor. Problem: Most people aren't married. And many who are married can't have the awesome sex life you enjoy talking about. So there's that.

Oh, I could write this book... but I wouldn't be bleeding on the pages.

Wesley Hill did. And he wrote it in the midst of his loneliness, not on the far side of it, as though he applied three quick principles, and fixed it.

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"Faithfulness is never a gamble. It will be worth it. The joy then will be worth the struggle now. In the end, I think this is how I am learning to live faithfully as a homosexual Christian." - p. 79

Let's be honest: When most of us want something, REALLY want something, we'll rearrange our theology to get it. We'll develop new belief systems, no matter how gymnastic our thinking must become, to justify what we really want. This is one reason so many modern stories don't work: The writer presumes the evil people are the interesting ones.

That's exactly wrong. The most interesting people are the ones who align their behaviors with what they know to be true, rather than the other way around. Any great hero story involves someone doing something they don't want to do, rather than giving in, and taking the easy, or the obvious, way out. These are the stories that resonate over ages, because they are heroic.

And Hill strikes me as a hero.

He is not shying from the tough questions. He engages the relevant scriptures. He asks, how the Gospel could possibly restrict love? How could the church seriously expect people who are homosexual to abandon their deepest longings? How can these longings actually be met? Aren't the Biblical texts essentially cruel?

What is he to do, during his nights when his loneliness, and longing for sex, reaches the level of overwhelming? Why are heterosexual Christians allowed marriage, but he can't experience it, unless his orientation is reversed? How is this possibly consistent with the idea of a loving God?  

Those are just for starters. And any book on this topic that didn't address these things, for me, isn't worth recommending.

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So Wesley Hill shares his answers to these questions. No, it's not math, and it's not another "Christian" self-help book. Your struggles aren't neatly resolved at the end of the equation. But what he offers is Jesus-centric hope, for those who yearn so desperately for something that God is - I almost don't want to say it - denying them. It hurts. 

I'm not doing him justice, but these ideas are all fleshed out in a single chapter, if you want to read the book:

We all want things we can't have. Every one of us. 

God takes us very, very seriously. This is why there are consequences. Our lives matter.

In the New Testament, when the passages deal with homosexuality, the text very rapidly turns to his stunning redemptive effort for all of us.  He condemns homosexual behavior, and then, "amazingly, profligately, at great cost to himself, lavishes his love on homosexual persons."

We can't understand ANY of God's rules, apart from the greater story.

God simultaneously love us, and threatens what everyone wants, by nature. He wants to transform all of us, without exception. No one "naturally" forgives their enemies. It hurts.

Living with unfulfilled desires is not exceptional for humanity. Not even close. It's the rule. 

Even married people - perhaps most of them? - are living lives (in Thoreau's words) "of quiet regret."

God works through pain.

Having sex does not, contra our culture, make one "fully alive". Jesus is our God-example of the fully-lived life. And he was celibate. This destroys our reigning cultural lie.

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A last observation from this chapter, "A Story-Shaped Life", the one that struck me the most: If you are resigned to living a celibate life, a self-denying life, despite your loneliness, because you love God...

You WILL be rewarded.

Jesus makes it clear, for those willing to give up houses or family (and surely, Hill adds, something as profound as sex) for him.  You'll be rewarded a hundred times over for what you are doing.  And not only that, but God is actually praising YOU, and glorifying YOU.  That seems impossible, and doesn't fit our theology, for most of us, but Hill unpacks the scriptures that say so. It's a fact.

Homosexual, heterosexual, divorced, single, married and miserable, whatever: God sees you. And a heart that is turned to Him is incredibly pleasing to him. People don't tell you that enough, I'll bet. But after reading this book, I want to remind you: You will be rewarded. Your struggle against sin has a name: Faith.

I read this and thought of my friends who are gay, my friends who have left homosexual behavior behind but struggle with same-sex attraction, my friends who are heterosexual and desperately don't want to be single but are, my friends who are in marriages that are disasters, with so little seeming hope.  I know I can't relate to you on this particular struggle, not like Hill can. But reading him, I'm reminded I am part of your family, and honored to be part of it. It's a family that is transforming me, too. Meantime, you have a special status with a God who knows your name, your story, your struggle, your loneliness.  And your story is going to take a wonderful turn.

Hill:  

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am learning to do this. I am learning that my struggle to live faithfully before God in Christ with my homosexual orientation is pleasing to him. And I am waiting for the day when I receive the divine accolade, when my labor of trust and hope and self-denial will be crowned with his praise. 'Well done, good and faithful servant," the Lord Christ will say. "Enter into the joy of your master."

Feb 01 2012
"I Found Out Today One of My Co-Workers is Transgender..."

 

Here's a question from an Air1 listener.  I forwarded it on to a friend of mine, who handles the questions often in his field of counseling.  Thanks for the great question (I changed the listener's name) and Ray, thanks for your willingness to answer.

Your honest questions, by the way, are always welcome. We have a terrific pastoral staff at Air1.  They can be reached at 888.YES.AIR1.

 

Hi Brant.

I found out today that one of my coworkers is transgender. We had a sensitivity training seminar talking about what terminology to use and how to act around this person. This is the first transgender person that I will have encountered. I want to be friendly and "normal" around this person, but I'm nervous. I believe that God chose gender for each person, so I don't agree with the lifestyle this person has chosen. How would you advise me to act? And, could you please pray for me?

Thanks.

Chelsea

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Hello Chelsea, 

Friendly and normal is great place to start. It's natural to feel nervous around a new person and if in the process of working together you make a mistake and do the opposite of what your sensitivity training has taught you, just apologize. From a Christian perspective my thought is this...you are responsible to love your neighbor and do unto others how you would have them do unto you right? That's it! We are free from the law of sin and death to love others and judge ourselves so that we live before them as a witness. Even if you disagree with your new coworkers way of life you don't need to say so. Instead find the common ground you can agree on. You might be really surprised what you come to like about this person. 

This is a great opportunity for you to practice valuing someone who needs it. Be a blessing! I know sometimes Christians feel that if we don't "represent" God by telling the pagans that they are living their lives wrong; then as Christians we are condoning the act of sin in a persons life and God is upset with us. But this untrue, in fact by befriending your coworker you are placing value on them. Which is what God did with the woman at the well and many other biblical examples. Jesus was the friend of sinners after all.

One of my favorite quotes by Sy Rogers says this: "People do things (sin) for reasons. This doesn't make their sin okay but it does make it understandable, forgivable, and correctable." You don't have to be a therapist or know why your coworker has made the choices they have. You are not responsible for their lifestyle you are just responsible to live your life before them as a witness as to how good of an advocate God is.

Who knows...maybe if your coworker gets to know you close enough perhaps he or she will ask why you are so different. You can say: God's love, grace, and mercy. You can let them know that God loves them too just like they are (when we come to God in relationship he always takes us further). The point - like in our own lives we needed to find Jesus first before any thing else could be addressed. 

Lastly, take the transgender issue out of the equation. In reality it doesn't matter if someone is gay or straight. It matters if that person is reconciled to God through Christ. Everything else is symptomatic of how surrendered one is.

We are all getting over something in our lives even with Jesus. I'll keep you in prayer that you have the courage to be a friend to this person that is new because being new at work is sometimes hard. 

In Christ,

Ray Sullivan

For more resources: 

www.syrogers.com

www.servingsouls.com