We’re Fighting the Wrong Sexual Immorality Battle. Primarily, At Least.

The evangelical army struck back again this past weekend after the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country by a 5-4 majority. Evangelical leaders from Russell Moore to Albert Mohler to Matt Chandler to Randy Alcorn signed a statement, entitled “Here We Stand,” standing against the SCOTUS decision.

I’ll state this: homosexuality is a sin, as the Bible says. But my ultimate issue is not that the SCOTUS made same-sex marriage legal. My problem is that we in the church, in the Christian culture, have made same-sex marriage the primary target of our “sexual immorality radar” when there is a much bigger problem at hand. It’s a problem that, in my belief, each Christian has dealt with in one way or another at some point in their life.

Lust. Sexual lust. Sexual temptation.

How many Christians look at pornography regularly? How many Christians lust after their co-workers regularly? How many Christians have affairs, emotionally or physically? How many Christians fantasize about sexual sin? How many Christians don’t treat their wives the way they should?

I think marriage is not the cornerstone of humanity that many Christians think that it is. The real cornerstone of humanity is an individual relationship, or lack thereof, with Jesus. Basically, whether people are trusting in Jesus or not. And daily, the Christians of this world fail in trusting Jesus with their sexuality.

I know I do. I know that I lust after women every day. I know that I’m tempted sexually every day, and often I think thoughts I should not. There have been times in the past I’ve engaged in behaviors that were sinful and inappropriate. I’m still a virgin, by God’s grace, but there were a couple times I could have lost that. Praise the Lord that I avoided that. But the fact remains that I have sinned sexually before and will continue to.

I am not alone. Nearly daily we can read of people who have:

  • cheated on their wives/husbands,
  • been involved in child pornography,
  • been arrested for sexual harassment and
  • conceived children out-of-wedlock.

And Christians are not free from those things. Christians are right there in the thick of it all.

However, when it comes to sex and sexual sin, the church in general shies away from talking about things like this in a real way. We’ll do one of two things: we’ll skirt around the issue, or we’ll go all-out condemnation. We rarely sit down and have an honest and real conversation about where we are in our sexual lives, married or not married.

It’s uncomfortable to have those conversations, but it’s super necessary. God gave us the church, the body of Christ, to encourage, challenge and build up one another as fellow believers in Jesus. God didn’t give us the church so we could have an army to attack the issues of the culture. God gave us the church so we could have an army to attack the sin in each other’s lives.

And if we spend all of our time repeating the same mantra of “the world is doing things the wrong way,” we’ll miss the fact that we as Christians are doing things the wrong way.

So please, church, as you rant and rave and post and tweet about the decision, please, for the love of God, ask yourself where you stand in regards to your sexuality and what God’s standard is. Odds are, you’re falling short in some way. I mean, we’re humans, we’re bound to fall short. Three simple steps towards growing:

Recognize the forgiveness and grace of the Gospel. God doesn’t leave us hopeless in our sin. He gives us grace so that we’re not defined by our mistakes or our failures. He doesn’t hold our sin against us.

Examine your thought life and your actions and see where you’re falling short. This will be hard and will take time, but it’s the first step towards growing in godliness.

Share where you are with a brother/sister in Christ and pray together for strength and victory. This is why we’re a church. This is why we have brothers and sisters in Christ, to fight sin, to pursue Christ, to encourage one another.

Don’t let this historical event be yet another occasion for you to trumpet how sinful the world is. Let it be a reminder that you as well are sinful and missing out on the best God has for you in your sexual lives.

Let us not be like the Pharisees who cast the first stone without examining ourselves first. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 shows us the way:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.


Bristol Palin’s Second Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy Deserves Grace Too. Just Like the 5700th Time I Lusted.

Twitter can be a wonderful place for news, opinions and the occasional funny meme or cute photo. If you don’t follow @CuteEmergency, you’re missing out on some incredible things.

As I scanned through the Trending Topics, as I’m prone to do often, I saw “Bristol Palin” on the list. Curiosity piqued, I clicked and found out some news. She’s pregnant out-of-wedlock, for the second time. A big deal was made of the first baby, which was announced during her mother’s run for the Vice Presidency back in 2008. And I’m sure that soon there will be a big deal about this baby too.

A lot of the early analysis, if you look at Twitter, is calls of hypocrisy for Palin’s extensive work with pro-abstinence organizations such as The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the Candie’s Foundation. And I’m sure there will be more.

Palin announced the news on her blog on Patheos.com:

I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant.

Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.

At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace.

Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.

When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher.

I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.

But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.

My little family always has, and always will come first.

Tripp (her first child), this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.

First thought: good luck on not getting any lectures, because in our social media world, that’s all she’ll get. Anyways.

This situation reminded me of somebody very close to me, someone I know very well, someone who struggles with sin too. Me.

See, I struggle with lust, particularly when it comes to sexual temptation. I haven’t let it get to a point where I’ve had sex or had a kid, but it’s been present in my life for a long time. It’s a daily struggle. And daily, I give into my lust, often simply by looking too long at a girl in a sinful way.

Yeah, I said it in public.

Anyways, I daily have to remind myself of the grace of God that Christ earned for me on the cross because I can get really frustrated with my lust. I can get really mad that I lust after girls. I wish I could just look at them the right way all the time, but I don’t. It’s a sinful thing I’ve been praying about a lot, but it’s not going away yet.

I think we have a problem in the church culture when we expect people who make mistakes to fix them immediately if they’re a Christian. There’s no grace period, especially if it’s a mistake that’s already been publicly made. I know that I struggle to give that grace to myself.

There’s no Scripture that says we will totally kill our sin in our lifetimes. And even if we make one ginormous mistake that we swear to never make again, we will most likely make that mistake again. Bristol Palin is a perfect example of that. As am I.  I swear to myself that I’ll never look at a girl lustfully ever again, but then I do, and I feel like crap.

(Side note: This is why I think “resolutions” are dangerous, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

Since we are sinful people living in a culture of shame and not of grace and compassion, our first reaction to each other and to ourselves is to condemn and to shame those who mess up publicly. But really, we should be the first people to give grace and love and support.


Imagine there’s a young girl in your church who becomes pregnant by her high school boyfriend. He can’t handle the pressure that comes with it, so he quits the relationship. She comes to the church, alone, desperate for help. The church does the right thing and helps her pay for doctor’s visits. The youth pastor and his wife are there, supportive all along the way, even showing up for the birth of the baby.

A couple weeks after the baby is born, she stands in front of the congregation with her child, a gorgeous baby boy, and gives an impassioned testimony about the grace of God in her circumstances. She says her goal is to raise this child to the glory of God. She also speaks about the dangers of moving relationships too fast and the importance of saving yourself for marriage.

Three years later, you see a little bit showing in her belly. You soon hear that she’s pregnant again.

What’s your first reaction?

My first reaction in this hypothetical: Some people never change. What the heck is she doing?

Jesus’ first reaction:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

He doesn’t condemn this woman who has surely done this before. He loves her, does not condemn her, then instructs her to sin no more. He’s certainly not going to encourage her to sin anymore or let it casually slide, but in the middle of her darkest hour, her deepest sin exposed, He loves.

Bristol Palin sinned, and she acknowledges that. The woman caught in adultery doesn’t plead her case, doesn’t deny that she did what was accused of her. She just receives the grace. I hope and pray Bristol Palin does the same, receives the grace of the Gospel as she goes through this ordeal for the second time in a very public way.

Let this be a reminder to us in two ways. First, there’s always the possibility that we’ll commit the same sin a second, third, 5700th time. Second, grace from God is there each and every time. Let’s give the same grace. Please avoid speaking in a condemning way of her. God’s already skipped over that part and loves her. Let’s be people of grace.

Racism Doesn’t End Here. It Ends at the End of Days.

I know my title sets me apart from a lot of Christian voices who have spent tons of time over the last few months calling for racial reconciliation and interracial conversation over the multiple shootings involving African Americans.

This thought struck me over the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag hoisted above the state capitol building in Charleston, S.C., the location of the most recent tragedy. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up over the last few days with lots of articles, quotes, opinions, pictures, etc. It reached its height yesterday with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and other leaders calling for it to be lowered. Confederate flags are becoming an endangered species here in America.

With everything that happened with the shooting in South Carolina, it has become a symbol of the racism all across America. And now that Wal-Mart, Amazon and a number of other retailers are removing them from their stores, there’s a shortage of that symbol available for purchase.

Even if every Confederate flag is burned/incinerated/thrown away/never seen again, it won’t change a thing. It may be a symbol of the “old South,” but, unlike the swastika of Nazi Germany, it has rarely been used, to my knowledge at least, as a symbol of racism. I could be wrong. I’m more than happy to be wrong if I am wrong. But…

Taking away the Confederate flag is akin to removing provocative billboards with scantily-dressed women on highways. If you take out the billboards, that won’t kill the lust in people’s hearts. It will simply take away a reminder. And while those things can be helpful, they won’t solve the issue. Honestly, in my opinion, it’s not even a step in the right direction.

Thinking politically/socially for a second: any kind of removal of a cultural symbol is a difficult thing to completely justify. Imagine if the government wanted to remove crosses because it offended people. There would be a serious uproar. Imagine if the government wanted to remove gay pride flags because it offended people. There would be a serious uproar. This is one of those classic cases of you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Honestly, in my opinion, I’d be OK with the flag being taken down. Personally, I wonder why it’s not the South Carolina state flag or United States flag flying over their Capitol building anyways.

So what’s the solution to the flag problem? Do you take it down or do you leave it? I don’t know the answer to that. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about the sanctifying work of Christ that heals human hearts. This is about the Holy Spirit cleansing a man from the inside out. Racism will never be killed on this side of heaven. Dylann Roof’s primary heart sin may have been racism. But we all have our own racism. Maybe it’s lust. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s greed. Maybe it’s (insert sin here). We can get rid of things on the outside to try to help us kill the things on the inside, but it won’t be the silver bullet.

The silver bullet comes at the end of all days.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5, ESV)

We can do all the work we can this side of heaven to kill racism, but the work must be focused in the human heart. I’m not saying we should ignore people’s complaints and concerns. We should listen to the under-represented and under-heard. Good gracious, we should listen to them and do whatever we can to comfort them and show them the love of Christ.

But taking down flags, passing laws and even removing words from the vocabulary will not change the human heart. Only by meeting Jesus can individual hearts be changed. Only by the world meeting Jesus can racism be killed. That comes at the end. That comes when Jesus returns and sin is put away forever.

I can’t wait for that day.

But until then, let’s have the conversation, let’s engage the community, let’s be a part of society. Not just our personal society, but all of society.

Remember: the only step in the right direction is a step towards the cross, a step towards surrender to the Gospel, to the Christ behind the Gospel.

The Destructive Labels of Current Christian Culture

I’m really afraid that, in our current Christian culture, we attribute certain labels to part of what it means to be a Christian that often end up overshadowing who we really are: believers in Jesus. Let me give a few examples.

Calvinist/Reformed. This is the subset I’ve run into most in recent years, especially in the college-age setting. Thanks to popular evangelical leaders like John Piper, being considered a “Calvinist” is what’s cool, what’s hip and apparently what’s biblical. If you’re not a Calvinist, well, you’re missing out on some serious things. A church I went to in college had a pastor on staff whose goal, as he explained to me one time and to my surprise, was to help people learn about the Calvinist/Reformed viewpoint and help them understand that it was true. You’ve got to know the five points, you’ve got to love reading commentaries and you’ve got to be super stubborn about what you believe.

Republican. This is the one that is a little more subtle. While some Christians will openly declare that, in a way, you must be Reformed to be a Christian, this is implied. If you’re a Democrat and you go to an evangelical church, you might be in trouble. Even if you have just a couple liberal tendencies, you might be in trouble. All for more gun control? Agree with some parts of the welfare system? For goodness’ sake, you’re not up in arms about the gay marriage case in the Supreme Court? Watch your back.

Baptist/Presbyterian/etc. Something about all the recent hoopla surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention bothered me. There seems to be this pride in being insert-your-denomination-here that could lead to an exclusivity and arrogance very similar to the Calvinist/Reformed group. It’s the same concept: you don’t do it our way, you’re doing it wrong.

At the end of the day, these labels and these groupings are incredibly destructive in my view for a couple reasons.

Exclusivity. Christianity is by nature an exclusive religion. You must be saved in order to receive the blessings and be called part of the crew. But once you’re part of the crew, what’s the point in formally dividing things up even further? I understand that people interpret Scripture different ways and, in some of those instances, the different interpretations aren’t salvation issues and are thus OK to wrestle with and discuss. But the “you must be one of us” attitude that comes with it is unloving and un-Christlike.

Arrogance. It’s my way or the highway, these people say. If you don’t buy all five points, are you really a Cal…I mean, Christian? There’s a lack of humility that leads to listening and humbly seeking to understand another vantage point on an issue. The pride then shows itself when comments like “so proud of what the Southern Baptists are doing” and “here’s what Calvinists get right” perpetuate themselves all across social media.

Wrong identity. Our primary identity should never be the fact that we belong to a certain political party or a certain theological viewpoint. And while those who claim Calvinism/Republicanism/Baptist may not say that their primary identity is those things, their actions display otherwise. Since our identity is easily shaped and shapes so much of what we do, it’s really easy for those factions to morph from a bit piece of our life to everything we are and everything we’re driven by, which then affects our words and actions.

To be transparent here, I’ve been that Calvinist snob as recently as a year ago. I was that Republican snob in middle and high school. I was never really that Baptist snob because, by the time I understood what the denominations meant, I had some kind of understanding that you could be a Christian in different denominations.

Here’s the thing: Calvinist/Baptist/Republican/etc., those are all identities we give ourselves. By virtue of being self-given, those identities are faulty and will never be satisfying in this life and most definitely not in the next. We are who God says we are, and He doesn’t say that we’re Calvinist/Baptist/Republican. He says we’re loved, forgiven, adopted, called, being sanctified, one day glorified.

The point of the Gospel is that we don’t have to look for our identity in anything else: our sin, our political views, our theological views, our gender, etc. We simply have to look, as cliché as this is, to the cross. There all our answers are found.

Four Reasons Why I Need God

I was in the shower this morning and the song “Lord, I Need You” came to my mind. It’s a fantastic song because it’s so darn true. You can make the argument that it’s cheesy and simple and your typical Christian worship song, but it reminded me of a few things about God and why I do desperately need Him in my life each and every day.

Because without Him, I’d be…

1) Purposeless. Being a Christian gives me a purpose and a direction for my life. I can turn to the Bible and see where God has given me a reason to live – to give Him glory with everything I do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

2) Hopeless. Those who don’t follow Jesus have no real hope in this life or the next. They spend their lives searching for something to put their hope in. I need God because I need something to believe in, something to hope in for the future.

3) Strength-less. God gives me strength through the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His Word. I’ve noticed particularly over the last coupe days that I feel weak when I don’t rely on the truth of Scripture and don’t ask God for strength. I only have so much strength.

4) Grace-less. God gives me grace for my sins, forgives me for my shortcomings. Without God, I’d still be defined by my sin and destined for hell. With God, I’m defined by His grace in me and destined for eternity with Him.

That’s why I need God.

An Open Letter to Karen Fitzgibbons

I swore I’d never write one of these on this blog, but before her name blows up all over the place, I want to make sure she gets this too. If you don’t know who Karen Fitzgibbons is, read this story.

Dear Karen,

My name is Zachary Horner. You don’t know me, but I’ve heard a few things about you. You posted a fairly insensitive post on Facebook that got you a lot of blowback from people on social media. I even know of self-professing Christians who shared your post in a very condemning manner. That upsets me.

So this is my attempt to share my thoughts with you.

First of all, I’m sorry that you’re receiving that response. No individual person should EVER be the target of the hate and vitriol I’m sure that you are receiving, no matter how horrible the crime. I understand speaking to you in-person in a strongly-worded way. That’s how Jesus operated. He confronted the Pharisees to their faces and told them where they were wrong. But the social media nuts who are blasting from their computer screens are helping no one. I’m also sorry that you lost your job and I hope that you can find a way to support yourself soon.

Secondly, I don’t agree with what you said. It is unfair for either side to blame any societal tension on one side only. Since we’re all sinners in need of a Savior, no one is free from blame. The cop is just as guilty as the citizen. The black is just as guilty as the white. God doesn’t see race. He cares for all His children. He particularly cares for the marginalized. And, let’s be honest, in some cities in America, African-Americans are marginalized. I appreciate your honesty, but I don’t appreciate what you were honest about. You didn’t explicitly say you were asking for segregation, but you said you were close to it. I hope that you never reach the point where you want it. I don’t know what it was that brought you to this point, but I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit works in your heart just as I hope He works in mine.

Third, Jesus loves you. Jesus didn’t come to heal the people who got it right all the time, He came to heal those who were outcasts, who were sinners, those who didn’t have it all figured out. I sincerely hope and pray that there are people around you, that there are Christians, black and white, who will genuinely and lovingly take the time to speak with you and share the Gospel with you. Whether or not you are a Christian already, the Gospel is true and needed each and every day of our lives. I hope that you hear the message of grace.

Lastly, I want to apologize for all the Christians who rant from behind their computer keyboards or even just judged you and condemned you based on what you said. I admit to you that I’ve done that many times. I’ve seen something someone has said on Facebook and shook my head in disgust/frustration. We don’t have to agree with what you said. I don’t. But we must love you. We must speak out against injustice and racism, but that doesn’t mean we condemn those who commit it. They are people who need the Gospel, like everyone on the planet.

Karen, I would love to talk with you more about this. Feel free to reach out to me if you get this. I’m serious. My e-mail is zacharyhornereu@gmail.com.

May the grace of God rush over all the criticism and condemnation I imagine you’re feeling right now. And may Christians, including me, love you as God loves us – in the midst of our darkest moments.

Grace and peace,

Zachary Horner

Life Songs, Pt. 1: I’m going through a process to stop seeing women as objects

Note from Zach: This is part 1 of a 14-part series in which I explore 14 songs that have meant something to me in my life. The order of these songs is not reflective on anything regarding their impact or depth of meaning, they’re simply done in alphabetical order of the artist.

“There are so many things that I don’t understand
Like why am I so lost if I have a captain?
I’m tossed back and forth by deceitful winds,
And if it all falls, look within.
I’ve been breaking hearts way too long
I did this from the start, now I’m all alone.
So focus on the heart if you want a home
I can’t settle for that cardboard box no more.”

One thing I love about Andy Mineo’s artistry is his transparency, especially in the album Heroes for Sale. He’s willing to talk about things and share personal feelings and concerns. One of the best examples is the song “Shallow” featuring fellow Christian rapper Swoope.

“Shallow” is all about how shallow men can be in their thoughts about women, even Christian guys. It’s something that I admit that I’ve struggled with. In the first verse, Andy talks about a conversation with his mother and he reveals where his heart is:

But let me be blunt, no pothead,
I’m going through a process to stop seeing women as objects
‘Cause the meaning of marriage is not sex.
It’s so much more, this ain’t no beauty contest
When you play that game then somebody’s always got next.
If charm is deceiving and beauty’s vain, then I bet
The standards that we judge most people with are nonsense.
I put too much emphasis on my preferences,
Dang, I’m feeling shallow just addressing this
‘Cause God loves me despite of how much a mess I am
And I’m writing off shawties whose bodies is less impressive like, dang.

When I first heard this, I nodded in agreement. It was my junior year of college and it hit me square in the eyes.

This is a conversation topic that doesn’t come up often generally in Christian circles. But among guys, talking about how a girl looks is common. For Christian guys, at least for me, there’s a conflict. Yes, we admire the beauty of certain girls, especially the ones we’re dating/engaged to/married to. But actually talking about that beauty brings some conflict.

We all have to go through a process to stop seeing women as objects because the meaning of marriage is not sex. And it’s a difficult process because our sinful hearts mix with our appreciation for female beauty. There’s something (the appreciation for beauty) that is in and of itself good and even godly in the proper context. But throw in the sinful nature, and it’s a mess.

That’s why I love this song. Andy talks about his heart and his attitude and I’m right there with him. I face that temptation to only look at a woman’s value based on her appearance. Especially for someone who’s single. And Andy’s willing to talk about it in a song.

That’s why this is one of my Life Songs.

The Gospel of the Old Testament Is the Same as the Gospel of the New Testament.

Psalm 106 is a retelling of the story of the Israelites, God’s people, the chosen nation. And for 43 verses, it’s a mess. It’s probably the worst indictment of any people in Scripture (don’t hold me to that). If I were an Israelite and I read that being written about me, I’d probably feel pretty bad.

The author basically goes in on them. One passage (v. 16-23):

When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the Lordthe earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

This is a pretty serious indictment. We get to see part of the punishment and part of the reason for their disciplining. They worshipped a metal image. They “exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” They put their heart and their intentions in the wrong place. Only because Moses stood in the breach did they escape annihilation.

It’s a pretty sad and somber Psalm. Until v. 43-46:

Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.

“For their sake,” the Psalmist says, God “remembered his covenant, and relented.”

This is the Gospel of the Old Testament. The Gospel of the Old Testament is that God sticks with His people, even when they are rebellious and disobedient. There’s still a law-keeping requirement, there’s still an insistence on making sacrifices and such, but at the end of the day, even when His people are rebellious, God does not abandon them completely. “When he heard their cry,” the Psalmist writes, “he looked upon their distress.” God could have abandoned them in their distress and taught them a lesson. But instead of abandoning them completely, He stuck with them.

And because He stuck with them, we get Jesus down the road and we get complete and utter salvation.

God’s grace takes a number of different forms to us now, those of us in the new covenant. One of them is the fact that He sticks with us, that He never leaves nor forsakes us. And we get to see a sweet picture of that throughout the Old Testament.

The Christian Bachelor: My Exploration of Christian Dating Culture

Savannah and Maggie go with Caleb to church on Sunday. Caleb is asked to speak at his church during the evening worship service about the process of the show and what to look for in a relationship. There’s a Q&A at the end and Caleb is asked if he’s made a decision yet. He chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m not going to answer that,” he says. “Both Savannah and Maggie are wonderful sisters in Christ. It’s not an easy place to be. I’ve got a tough choice to make.”

Some of the congregants want to take pictures of Caleb with Savannah and Maggie afterwards. Caleb complies, but later, as he talks to Savannah, he’s not sure that was a great idea.

Caleb: “I just wonder what that means. Am I putting myself on a pedestal as a celebrity through this, when really I’m just trying to see if I can find the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?”

Savannah: “I understand, Caleb. Was there anything about it particularly that bothered you?”

Caleb: “I became a celebrity. And I don’t want to be a celebrity.”¹

I recently finished the eight-episode run of The Christian Bachelor, my first foray into Christian satire. That part of it was a lot of fun. But really, I wanted to poke fun at while explore the ramifications of reality dating shows as well as Christian dating culture.

Here are some things I wanted to hint at through the story.

The celebrity culture of reality TV meets Christian culture.

You know those trashy magazines in the grocery store aisle? I know this is a cliché, but I often see Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants gracing the covers and some of the stories teased on the cover. Sometimes, contestants do something so nuts and so crazy that it makes national news. For instance, Sean Lowe, the 17th Bachelor and self-professed Christian, stirred conversation when he announced he was saving sex for marriage and was labeled the “Virgin Bachelor.” There’s a sense of celebrity that’s attached to the central character of Bachelor/Bachelorette shows.

In the scene I shared at the top of this post, there’s a glimpse of that in the church Caleb attends. Anytime a Christian makes waves in some mainstream culture institution, the church goes nuts over it. “It’s one of ours! Look at the platform! Look at the opportunity for the Gospel!” There’s a lot of pressure on those people that is not necessarily fair.

But that’s the Christian celebrity culture. Those people in the spotlight have to be perfect. They have to do everything right. If they slip up once, there’s an instant judgement.  And we see all their slip-ups because they’re in the spotlight. It’s unfair. It’s unrealistic to expect that people will be perfect. The best ones admit their weaknesses as part of their growth in faith.

Christian dating is chock full of rules and expectations.

Let’s go over the format. There are six dates planned over a period of five weeks, and Caleb will also spend time in the houses with the women as well as go to church every Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night during those three weeks to help determine who will be the blessed woman he will pursue.

Two women will be eliminated after dates 1-5, which leaves two women for the final date, a trip to Israel to walk around the Holy Land, walk where Jesus walked. All the dates will be in public. No bachelorette will be given alone time in a room with Caleb. Caleb must leave the Bachelorette residence by 10 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. on the weekends.²

The rules of Christian dating have a stronghold on evangelical culture. I can’t tell you how many lists I’ve seen that describe rules for dating, things to look for in a husband, five kinds of girls you don’t want to marry. That kind of attitude towards dating puts a lot of pressure on relationships.

If we look at Scripture, there are no clear rules for what dating is supposed to look like, the speed, the timeline, the “steps.” Just about the only rule that applies to dating is that you save sex for marriage. That’s it! Yet in Christian culture, we outline all the “requirements” for a good relationship. The fear then becomes for some that, if we do one thing “wrong,” we’ve screwed up the entire relationship and there’s no hope and it must be ended.

Dating is a huge risk! Laying your feelings and your desires out there is a risk. “Guarding your heart” is mostly done, I think, out of fear instead of some righteous desire. So what if you feel really strongly about someone, or you really like a lot about someone? Feel it! Express it! What’s wrong with taking the risk?

We date in ways similar to the world. And that’s perfectly OK!

I think the world dates a lot better than we do sometimes. Are there differences that are destructive? Sure, the sexual freedom being the biggest one. But the world has set up the proper, in my mind, blueprint for dating. Long phone conversations, double dates with other couples, dinner and a movie, all of those things aren’t in and of themselves Christian.

For instance, the first one-on-one dates during The Christian Bachelor. Caleb gets dinner and has an after-dinner activity with the prospective bachelorette. That’s such a normal dating thing to do. Sometimes we get so obsessed in Christianity with doing things so differently than the world (a good motive) that we completely rule out everything the world does (not good). The world came up with a lot of awesome things that we rip off! I mean, I ripped off The Bachelor concept for this blog. The world is often a lot more creative than Christians.

So don’t ditch things the world came up with just because it’s from the world. They’ve got some good ideas. Also some bad ones, but not everything they do is awful.

Chick-fil-a would be the best sponsor for a Christian television show.

I mean, seriously, come on. Not even close.

I hope you guys enjoyed this look at Christian dating and reality TV cultures. If you want to see the full “show,” just click here!

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner Fiasco Reveals Something We Miss Almost Every Time

Christians’ insistence on hitting back hard at public controversies has yet again made us look like insensitive fools who don’t actually care about people but care more about being “right” instead of doing both.

Matt Walsh:

What he most closely resembles is a mentally disordered man who is being manipulated by disingenuous liberals and self-obsessed gay activists. Far from having the appearance of a genuine woman, he reminds me of someone who is being abandoned to his delusions by a culture of narcissistic imbeciles. I feel a great deal of compassion when I gaze upon this tragic sight — especially because post-op “transgenders” very often regret their decision, and in many cases attempt suicide — but few share my love or concern for him.

But if you read the rest of his piece, there was no love or concern. There was simply an insistence on calling him/her “Bruce” and over and over again stating that he/she was a shame to women and killing feminism.

Albert Mohler:

How in the world is it possible that with a straight face the culture can all of a sudden begin speaking of a living person in the past tense and now speaking of a new person in the present and toward the future – who knows for how long? But in its essence that actually points to the impossibility of the whole transgender project. It speaks to the fact that the secular worldview behind this and even those who are the religious enablers by terms of their argument can’t deal with the fact that Bruce Jenner, is still very much alive and is still very much in public view. Now going by the name Caitlyn, but referring to Bruce Jenner in the past tense, isn’t actually fooling anyone, including the people who insist that’s exactly how Bruce Jenner should now be addressed.

There was mention of compassion and love, but most importantly, Mohler said, was insisting that gender transition was impossible.

I agree with facets of Walsh and Mohler’s arguments. Caitlyn/Bruce chose to sin in rebelling against the creative nature of God in designing him/her the way he/she originally was.

But is that the most important thing that Christians really have to say in all of this? Must we spend all this time insisting on things being a certain way that we forget to show love, that we forget to actually have compassion on people?

One thing that gets overlooked in this whole scenario is the root issue behind these changes. My guess, and I could be wrong, is that people who want to change genders feel some sort of dissatisfaction with the way God made them. And that’s the root cause of any type of sin – a dissatisfaction with the way things are. And that’s not always a purposeful, sinful choice. Perhaps their life circumstances have made things hard for them, and they’re looking for an escape. Perhaps someone said something derogatory to them once and it stuck, causing them to make the change they did. There could be a number of reasons. Whatever it is, there was a discontentment with their current circumstances and they did whatever they could to make a change.

Let me be honest: if a friend came up to me and said he/she was considering changing their gender, my first reaction would be to tell them to not do it because it’s wrong. But here’s what I should say.

Following Jesus leads to so much more satisfaction than changing your gender. Following Jesus leads to so much more satisfaction than drinking a bunch of alcohol. Following Jesus leads to so much more satisfaction than lying to get out of trouble at work. Following Jesus leads to so much more satisfaction than viewing pornography. Following Jesus leads to so much more satisfaction than over-eating.

The thing that gets lost in all of these messes is the root issue behind the person choosing the path they do. Oh, we’ll talk about the culture’s root sin: ignorance of God’s Word, neglecting the way God has created things, etc. But we don’t want to dive deeper and look at where there’s probably a lot of hurt.

In a preview of the Vanity Fair cover story:

Jenner tells (reporter Buzz) Bissinger that Bruce was “always telling lies.” (She even describes doing public appearances after winning the gold medal, where “underneath my suit I have a bra and panty hose and this and that and thinking to myself, They know nothing about me. . . . Little did they know I was totally empty inside.”) Caitlyn, she says, “doesn’t have any lies.”

Jenner felt “empty inside.” It’s reported that he/she also struggled with “gender identity disorder,” a medical condition that causes people to be discontent with their gender.

I can’t speak to the process of the medical condition, but the only hope for fixing any kind of mental or emotional hole, for mending that brokenness, is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s a relationship that Bruce/Caitlyn can still have! I believe that no gender transition can take away a person’s opportunity to be a child of God.

But Christians often miss that part, miss the idea that there’s something much deeper to be fixed than the person’s faulty view of gender. There was probably some depression and anxiety, some insecurity, some feeling of loneliness. And, for whatever reason, Bruce/Caitlyn thought that changing his/her gender was the right way to go. What are we as a Church doing if we fail to let people know more than that him/her doing that is sinful? While that may be true, Jesus didn’t just walk around saying everything that everyone was doing was sinful. He also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I relate to that depression, anxiety, insecurity and loneliness. I’ve been there. I’ve never had the urge to change my gender, but I’ve committed sins in response to those feelings of depression, anxiety, etc. And just because I didn’t change my gender doesn’t make me any better than Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. As the body of Christ, we need to be far more concerned with the root feelings and issues that lead to decisions like this. It’s a shame that in Christianity we like to try to fix the surface problems when the root issues are far more common and, in my opinion, far more deadly.

It’s in approaching those issues where we have the better opportunity to live like Jesus, to show compassion and love. We can still confront sin and say that something is wrong, but we also have the opportunity to do far better things than just condemn. Love is telling the truth, but not just in the area that’s staring you in the face, but in the areas that are deeper and more impactful on the person.

Can’t we just be the Good Samaritan to these people?

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:33-37)