Last week I had the privilege of teaching how God formed his family in the Exodus story and what it means to the Church today. We talked at length about how God has called His family to live as a distinct community within the pagan world. As soon as we get the audio you will be able to find the three sessions at porterbrookstl.com.
The Spirit has done an amazing amount of work on my heart in this area, pressing out what the distinct community actually looks like. It’s one thing to study, exegete and preach what a community is suppose to look like. It’s an entirely different exercise to pastor the local church to the same goal. After teaching Sunday on the Festival of Booths, the Lord continued to work on my heart. What does it look like to live dependent on God, faithful to His word and engaged in community? What does it look like to be called as an empowered community distinct in and with the pagan world?
It didn’t take long for the exercise to become a reality. How does the church engage the world with something like gender identity? It’s a hot button issue, now that Target has chosen to allow open restrooms to our friends that identify with a different gender. This of course has become a moral outrage in the Christian communities that I have the privileged of being involved it. Not that the communities as a whole are outwardly making statements, but as many things in the social ecosystem, one persons comments can be taken as the opinion of the majority.
I’ve seen the arguments, the Bible teaches that this is wrong. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam that identifies as Eve or even an Eve that identifies as Adam. It doesn’t take much to see that sexuality is something that is deeply important to God. So the question begs why?
I believe that we find at least a hint of why in the book of Ephesians.
Wives and Husbands Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)
We clearly see here that Paul draws an analogy to relationship between a husband and a wife and Christ and the Church. There is an implicit sexual nature to the analogy because the one thing that a husband and a wife have that is explicit to the relationship is sex. Biblically, sex is for the marriage, a bond that is meant to be shared and nurtured through the physical act of consummation. As a Christian this teaching shouldn’t be new or anything ground breaking. I’m making the case for the moral outrage. The issue with attempting to draw the moral backlash from these verses is that God through Paul is speaking about the relationship between a man and a woman whom has been called by God to be in the family of God. Someone who’s heart has been changed by the super natural act of the Holy Spirit described in Ezekiel 36:
I Will Put My Spirit Within You “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:22-32 ESV)
So the question still begs, how does the Christian react? Again, the answer can be found in Ephesians 5.
Walk in Love Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:1-5 ESV)
We are to walk in love and be imitators of God. The same God that came down and loved us when we were enemies of Him. When we hated Him to the point of death on a cross, He loved us. Our job as the church is not to make some moral outrage and boycott Target, that is the reaction of the world. That’s the reaction of a pagan nation when something doesn’t go politically the way that they feel is right. Do we boycott McDonalds because they help in the sin of gluttony? Do we boycott every business that hires people what are living together but are not married? Of course not, so the issue isn’t in fact a moral issue.
So what is the real issue? The real issue is our hearts, Christians. We only want to love, when it’s convenient and comfortable for us. Someone who looks very different or has a completely different world view causes tension in our hearts and it’s a tension that we want to avoid. How can I love this person whom looks and acts counter-cultural to my own beliefs? And in that statement lies the very insidious sin in our hearts. We still believe that the faith that was given to us was for us and in reality, the faith that was given to you as a gift from God is the faith causes you to engage a culture that is not like your own with the same love and grace that Christ engaged you with.
Or have we so quickly forgotten the Gospel that saved us, is saving us and propels us into the world?
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)