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

Aug 12 2012
"Why Aren't There More Songs Telling Us Not to Sin?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a question from Facebook: "Why aren't there more songs telling us not to sin?  There's lots of the happy stuff, God loves you, etc. but the Bible is full of warnings not to sin, so why aren't there more songs like that?"

A fine question.  I'll try to answer, and then guess what the responses would be, based on years of conversation about this very stuff with Christian radio listeners.

Q: Why not have lots of Christian songs that are telling people to stop sinning?

It won't work, for one thing.

Q: Ah, you mean it won't sell!  People just want the happy-encouraging fluff stuff, and so when we take a stand for truth, it just won't sell. That figures, because our culture is just so messed up.

Nope, that's not what I mean at all. Oh yes, it can sell. There's part of us that WANTS to feel guilty. We'll hear something and think, "Wow, that's spiritual. What a moment. I'm so convicted."  I listened to a Steve Camp album years ago, and he was big on that. Honestly, it made me feel kinda good about myself to sing songs about how disgusting we all are, how ashamed we should be. Weird, but true. I'd feel so sorry for my sin, and then keep sinning, and feel even worse about it, and I felt like feeling worse about it somehow made God happy. There's a huge market for "I'm-not-doing-enough" in books, too.

Q: But shouldn't we use music to correct people?  Maybe musicians and radio stations just want to take the easy way out and avoid speaking to Big Issues, and confronting people.

Actually (I love being "Actually Guy") there are few things EASIER than "confronting people" with books, or speeches from a stage, or on the radio. Telling people they oughta do this, oughta stop that right now, oughta be better, oughta pray more, oughta be MORE RADICAL RIGHT NOW, or oughta quit lusting or whatever?  Easy. 

It's not relational. It costs you nothing.  And, in an affluent Christian culture that often welcomes it, it can actually help you GAIN things.  Like notoriety, respect, and money.

Yes, there needs to be loving correction, and even loving confrontation, in the church. We need to encourage people to put off the things that slow them down, and tie them to their old lives.  But let's quit replacing the hard work of actual relationship with hoping a guy with a guitar on the radio does it for you. 

Q: But bands have done it before. Why, I remember back in the early days of CCM, they took a STAND every night, every concert.

And then went on being humans, often cursing each other, getting in fistfights with each other, and then trotting right back on stage to do a scripted altar call. And many made good money doing it. When you don't know the people on the stage, when you don't really see into their lives, into their families, they risk nothing in telling you what you ought to do. But when someone from your actual life, your actual I-see-this-person-in-real-life actual life dares to do this, well, that person is risking something. 

In many cases, the very fans who loved that the artists were taking "stands against sin" were battling the exact same sins in their own lives, and wondering why they can't just work up the resolve to get past them.

Q: What about taking on a prophetic role?  You know, like the Old Testament prophets, who told people to quit sinning?

I'm not sure you would like that. The prophets spoke into the religious culture of the day, and blasted the refusal to give their hearts to God, in the interest of selfishness, money, control...

I do think that would be entertaining. I was just reading in Micah today, about how religious leaders would support people as long as those people were under their control, but the minute someone questions them, they'll turn on them. I do think that would make a great song. Or later on, where God's angry at how Israel's priests will only do their thing if they get paid, all the while talking about how "dependent on God" they are.

Jon Foreman from Switchfoot did "Instead of a Show", borrowed directly from Isaiah 1 and Amos 5, about how God hates our religious meetings and festivals and talkfests, when we're so slow to actually be merciful and pursue justice. That makes for an interesting listen. I know other artists do this kind of thing, too.

I like that he sticks with the Biblical text, both letter-and-spirit. The danger: It's really easy for those of us with chips on our shoulders to consider ourselves "prophetic".  But honestly, when people say, "We need more songs about sin," I suspect they don't mean songs about corporate sin, or songs challenging a religious establishment.

Q: Well, if we can't sing about sin, we're missing the point of the Bible.

Oh, we can sing about sin. Many of our artists do it, but they tend to start with their own. This said, though, amazingly, sin is not the point of the Bible.

Jesus is. 

He's the first Word, and the last one. He's the point. 

I hear people saying, "Yeah, yeah, I hear about 'all this grace stuff', but we need some real Bible-preaching, and..." - and I'm amazed. Like we've all absorbed "this grace stuff". Like we've mastered it. Like it's just a bit part of a larger story, and just a way to help us get our acts together.

Like it's all just about us.

Like grace is the "milk" part of the Gospel, but the real "meat" is more law. Like Heaven - the Kingdom in its fullness! - will be about more rules, just doing them right-er this time. Like we've so conquered the challenge of extending grace and mercy to people, that now we can move on to the better-and-higher stuff, telling people to stop doing stuff they already know they shouldn't be doing.

Plus, let's face it, "Stop doing that!" isn't an awesome hook for a song.  

Q: But good songwriters could do it.

Good songwriters go for the heart.  Heck, good art goes for the heart.  But moralism does not. Moralism never gives poeple goosebumps.  Grace does. Moralism is a mask; grace unmasks.

Grace makes for a great song. This isn't surprising, because it's His love that brings us to Him.  No wonder people are aching for grace.

Q: But don't songs that tell people not to sin help people stop sinning?

I was very convicted by Steve Camp's music. Over and over and over. And I kept sinning. If our message can be boiled down to "stop sinning", we'll wind up in one of two places:  Despair, or delusion.

Q: So there's no hope.

Now we're getting somewhere.  It's almost like we need someone to step in and save us, huh?  Someone to stand between us and the wrath of God.  Someone to cover us.  

There's something wonderful about reaching the end of your resolve, reaching the end of your hope that you can get your act together.  Something incredibly humbling, incredibly freeing, and - most shocking - incredibly not about me.  

It's about Jesus.  Here's to songs that remind us of that.