10 Pieces of “Hard Stuff” We Need to Talk About More/Differently in Church

Note: This is the third part in a five-part series about talking about the hard stuff. Find the first part here, and the second part here

Enough prefacing. Here are 10 things we need to be talking about more or speaking about in a different way in the church context.

1) Sexual sin/addiction.

I’ve written about this before. The church often approaches this topic in one of two ways. Either we’re super condemning of it, and by default those who struggle with it, or we don’t talk about it at all. Especially overlooked in this area are pastors who fight against these things on a daily basis on a personal level. But this should be primary among our conversation topics because, as 1 Corinthians 6:18 reminds us, “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Since this kind of sin cuts deeper than every other sin, we must talk about this more and more.

2) Mental illness.

I wrote about this in the same post as sexual addiction/sin. I’m just going to quote that here:

When you deal with something like mental illness – depression, anxiety or anything like it – you feel alone, like you’re the only one suffering. I think back to my church experience and I can’t remember anyone in my local church context really tackling this. I read an excellent book by Perry Noble called Overwhelmed in which he actually talked in-depth about it from his personal experience, but for the most part it’s touched with kid gloves if it’s touched at all.

This is the absolute last way it needs to be handled. I’m not saying we need to overwhelm people who are already overwhelmed. We just need to be open to the conversation actually happening and be willing to not know all the answers.

3) High school kids.

A lot of what I’ve heard in the church echoes a lot of what I hear in the education world in which I am currently employed when it comes to high schoolers. You judge it by the numbers, take little time to actually invest in the lives of students and speak disparagingly of the kids when you’re not around them. I was at church about a month ago when I overheard someone talking about some high school-aged kids they ran across while driving and they were super critical of them and their parents, without even having spent time with them. So we do talk about them, but we don’t take the time to actually invest, to consider them as people, to love them as we would want to be loved.

4) Actually loving LGBT people.

This one is particularly relevant. With the recent SCOTUS decision, there’s been a lot of talk of loving gay people but still standing for truth. Unfortunately, we spend more time standing for truth and not actually loving gay people. We also spend more time talking about what it means to stand for truth. Those are conversations that need to be had, yes, but let’s not forget to actually talk about what it means to actually love those in the LGBT community.

5) Alcohol.

The common narrative, particularly for young people, about alcohol is that it’s bad always, and you should never do it. We speak about the negative consequences of getting drunk and all that. Let’s not forget that it’s illegal if you’re under 21. Like sexual sin, we most often take a condemning approach instead of saying, “Hey, alcohol is illegal to consume if you’re under 21. Here’s the reasons why it’s not good for you to participate in consuming it. But once you turn 21, here’s how to be smart about it.” We’re too busy telling kids not to do something instead of why not and then how to be smart about it.

6) Feelings and emotions.

This is one that is particularly close to my heart because I deal with feelings and emotions in a more intimate way than most, at least that’s what I’ve been told. I sway back and forth with feelings and emotions sometimes by the minute, and it can drive me up the wall without any real reason for those feelings. This one can be tied in with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Anyways, I don’t feel like I’ve read much in how to deal with feelings and emotions in a proper way, other than the occasional conversation or blog post on dealing with anxiety or stress. It’s a tricky subject to discuss because it’s different for everybody. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.

7) Racism.

There isn’t a better time than now to be honest about this and have in-depth, personal, loving, gracious discussion.

8) “Secular” music.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that we handle this wrong most of the time, particularly with youth. We act as if this is the end-all, be-all problem, that if only we could get them to listen to Christian music alone we could fix them. Not all “secular” music is bad. In fact, there’s some that have positive messages that I’m pretty sure Jesus would endorse in songs like “Honey, I’m Good.” by Andy Grammer (even though it has three pieces of profanity) and even “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West (even though it has much more profanity). For the most part, we just write it off without giving it time.

9) Dating relationships/marriage.

Gosh, I feel like I was never prepared properly for dating. It became so much about “seeking God’s will” that I would quit relationships or pursuing relationships whenever I “felt like” God was “calling” me away from dating. It was such an unstable mindset to have. I’m afraid that, to single people, we’re not always honest about all the difficulties in feelings especially. The proper expectations aren’t discussed, and therefore things become particularly uncomfortable and awkward. Yes, we can never be fully prepared for dating because it’s different things for different couples, but we could do so much better than we are now if we actually talked about it honestly with guys and girls.

10) The Gospel.

If we actually dove deep enough into the Gospel, I think it would shatter what we view as Christianity. Christianity is so much more than being good enough. It’s being not good enough and seeing Jesus be good enough for us. If we let the Gospel permeate our faith as it should, we’d have a whole different approach to this thing we call life. We’d be able to see that sin is just a part of who we are. We’d be able to see that we will sin the rest of our life. We’d be able to see that it’s OK that we do that because Jesus was sinless for us. We’d be able to see that no one is beyond saving, that God can redeem the harshest of sinners. But that kind of talk is crazy, right?

Check back soon for part 4 – 10 More Pieces “Hard Stuff” We Need to Talk About More/Differently in the Church.

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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.

Why Don’t We Talk About Sexual Sin For a Minute?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this post back near the end of January of this year, but for some reason held onto it. Until now.

With all the uproar in the church these days over the redefining of gender and sexuality and marriage, conversation about sexual sin ends up turning into a bashing of the homosexual agenda and lament for the future generation. It seems like a rare thing in the church to have an honest conversation about personal sexual sin.

It makes sense, in a way. After all, it is the only sin that a man commits against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). It’s very personal, and can usually lead to a lot of shame. But I think fewer things are more important to be open and honest about with one another because of the great deal of shame that can come with it.

The Old Testament provides two examples of godly men who fell to sexual sin. But the biggest different between the two is most revealing about how we should respond to any sin, including when we’re guilty of any kind of sexual immorality.

David

You can read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. Short story: David hangs out at home instead of leading his troops in battle, shirking his responsibilities. He sees a naked Bathsheba on the roof of her house taking a bath. He sleeps with and impregnates her, and then has her husband killed.

In 2 Samuel 12, he is confronted by Nathan, a prophet of God, about his sin. “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” Nathan asks in v. 9. “You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.”

David’s response: “I have sinned against the LORD” (v. 13). With this simple response, he acknowledges his folly and his sin.

The last recorded act of David is him building an altar on God’s command in response to another sin he had committed (2 Samuel 24). He even turns down a free threshing floor offered to him because he did not want to “offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (v. 24). God responded to the action by relenting on a plague that He had put on the land.

Solomon

You can find the beginning of the downfall of Solomon in 1 Kings 11. “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these women in love” (v. 1-2).

Sure enough, Solomon’s heart was turned away to follow after these other gods. Verses 9-10: “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded.”

There is no mention in Scripture of Solomon acknowledging his misstep, repenting of his sin and returning the the LORD. He seems to have some remorse in the book of Ecclesiastes, but there’s no drastic change or moment of repentance/confession like his father David.

Three Takeaways

Sexual sin pulls our heart from pursuing God to worshipping other things.

A really interesting theme I’ve noted in 1 Kings so far is how important the heart position is to God. God was mad with Solomon “because his heart had turned away from the LORD.” Yes, Solomon had acted in a way that was sinful and disobedient, but God’s primary disappointment was in Solomon’s heart position.

Like any sin, sexual sin leads us to value and prioritize other things over God. Solomon’s sin lead him away from God and to worshipping other gods. He built “a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:7).

When our lusts drive us to pursue sexual fulfillment instead of joy that comes from the LORD, which is eternally satisfying (Psalm 16:11), we fall short and we begin to worship sex or lust or the person we’re having sex with or lusting after. We cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and sex.

David was honored even though he sinned. In the same way, our sin does not prohibit us from God’s favor.

When confronting Solomon with his sin, God specifically mentioned David as the reason he didn’t take the kingship from Solomon right away – “…I will surely tear your kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days…” (1 Kings 11:11-12). When speaking to Jeroboam later, God even refers to David as “my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statues” (v. 34).

It’s so encouraging to me to see that David is not condemned because of his sin. No, instead he is later praised and his name is remembered for many generations. And God holds him in high esteem. It gives me encouragement that, in spite of the sexual sin in my life, the lust, the sinful thoughts and desires, God still loves me and can still use me.

He can also use you, and most definitely still loves you.

The difference comes in how they responded to being confronted by the Word of God.

David heard from Nathan, God’s prophet, and he repented and chose to continue serving God in obedience. Solomon heard from God Himself, and there is no mention of any such repentance. Solomon’s name is not honored later the way David’s is.

How we respond to God’s Word being put into our life in light of our sexual sin is a key indicator of where we really are with Jesus. Do we value God’s Word and want to change in light of it, or are we simply consumed with our ways and ignore His truths? When we’re confronted by God’s Word, whether through reading or hearing it from someone, what’s your response?

The final thing I’ll say about this is what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11 – “Neither do I condemn you; now, go and sin no more.” The grace of God covers those who deal with sexual sin and temptation. We who are believers can say that our past sins and our present ones and even our future ones are forgiven because Jesus was perfect for us in this and every area.

So live forgiven.