You won’t like this: K-I-S-S-I-N-G

I am doing some writing for a curriculum for young adults who are thinking about marriage.  Naturally (for me) K-I-S-S-I-N-G came up!  And I found a very interesting quote:

Sexuality touches every area of human life; even something as simple as a kiss can have social consequences (after The Kiss, you go from being the girl next door to being his girlfriend) and emotional consequences (you hadn’t realized you like him that way until then).

Kisses can play on our psychological and spiritual registers.  But sexuality, even mere kissing, is also, unavoidably, bodily.  After all, we define a kiss by body parts: a kiss happens when lips meet a cheek or a hand or when two set of lips rub against each other.  Kissing can make our bodies tingle.  And kisses can be slobbery; like other sexual deeds, they are messy in their embodiment.

Real Sex, Lauren Winner, page 33.

I’d recommend the book, but not K-I-S-S-I-N-G, until it’s time.

Why are you fighting with each other?

When you stop to think about the reasons people get mad at each other, what do you find?  Something has been violated to be sure, but what?  What about anger?  There is none who avoid anger – not even Jesus did.  Of course His anger wasn’t unrighteous but what made it righteous over against unrighteous?  (BTW, an excellent book on anger is Robert Jones’ book “Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem“.) Or, given my last post with the voice-over from John Piper, what about politics?  How do people of great conviction navigate in that realm?  Are we supposed to believe that it is ONLY a dirty profession with callous and self-serving people?  I’d hardly call a man like Henry Hyde a self-serving dirtbag!  They’re out there to be sure, but ALL of them?  I think not.

So, folks getting mad at each other?  Why?  Or angry, why?  Or politics, why? I’ve been thinking  about this lately as I consider my parenting: I’ve got a pile of kids and a pile of mess.  Verbal sparring is a reality but why?  I think part of our problem is that we are actively engaging people not on the basis of whether something is right or wrong (in the objective and biblical sense) but right or wrong as I define it.  We define right and wrong in one of two ways only: internally (I write the rules) or externally (someone else writes them).

I’ve watched VERY young children act out in amazingly sophisticated ways.  Any parent will tell you that little Johnny and Susie weren’t taught to say “no,” they just do it.  That grows and blooms into a worldview where we easily define what is right and wrong and that’s what we pursue in relationships.  We hold two rulebooks in our hands all the time: mine and God’s.  Think of a balance: my rulebook on the left, God’s on the right.  If we hold these two rulebooks equally, then if you violate God’s rule or mine, the consequences (as I meet them out) are the same.  Other options include mine over God’s (my response to your violation: harshness, coarse language, grumpy, silent treatment…you get the idea); God’s over mine (my response to your violation: gentleness, firmness, restoration-aimed…you see the difference?).

Back to the balance: in my left hand, is my rule book. My “rule book” is life according to me.  It is how you should act.  It doesn’t usually include how I should act, just you.  (Maybe a chapter in there about me but many in there about you.)  They include things like: don’t criticize me unless I ask you to; don’t instruct me unless I ask you; don’t fail to call me back when I call you; don’t send me texts; vote R–; don’t drink PBR…you get the idea.

When you violate one of my rules, what have you done?  Have you sinned against me?  No.  You’ve violated a preference; you’ve acted in a way that I’d rather you didn’t.  In the end, who cares – I need to get over it (in the church we call this “Christian Freedom”).  When it concerns my rulebook, I can’t compel you to act as I would want you to.  Here’s the catch: I STILL try because at the heart of it all I think you SHOULD obey my rules just as you would obey God’s.  As I pursue my rules in your life if you fail to obey, we fight. All of this is wrong, of course.  You would be right to tell me to pound sand as I ask you to obey my rules.

Now, in my right hand I hold God’s rules as we read them in the Bible.  If you violate one of them, I’d be right to confront you, be angry, etc.  God gives His people the right to be in each other’s lives with His rulebook.  If you lied to me, I would be right to warn you that’s a sin against me: you would’ve violated a rule that God clearly gives in the Bible to govern our conduct (Ephesians 4:15).  If, however, you told me truth in the “wrong place” (my rule) then I’d have no right to get chapped at you.  How many spouses (men especially) get ticked because the other confronts in a place they’d rather not have to deal with it?  Man, do I hear that a lot (even lived through that one)!

Let’s review:

Rulebook #1 (mine) = preferences.

Rulebook #2 (God’s) = sin.

If you find yourself in a sparring match you would be well served to ask if you are holding up your end of the fight because someone has violated one of your precious preferences.  If so, get over it and yourself.  Put down your weapon and realize that the other person is no more obligated to obey your preferences than you are to obey his.

If we were more inclined to hold to the Word of God in the Bible and ask people to hold to that as well and that only, we would fight less.  Ask someone close to you to help you with your list of preferences that drive them crazy – I’m sure it won’t take long.

Brothers and Sisters II: Audience

We have a problem in our relationships.  If you’re single, you’ve likely struggled with this problem.  If you’re married, I could show you how you have the same issue. When it comes to relational intelligence, we stink.  I’ve mentioned several reasons for this in previous posts using K-I-S-S-I-N-G as a doorway for discussion.  My most recent post (of a similar name) pointed out that our married relational problems oftentimes stem from our pre-married relational conduct.  In other words, once you’re married, you’re playing like you practiced.

Last time, we looked at the first of three aspects of living as brothers and sisters.  Authority had to do with the playbook; the rulebook.  It’s a fair question: how do you know when you’re doing it right?

Should you kiss?  How do you know?

Should you stop your hands at hers or are her other parts within the limit?  How do you know?

Should you open up your hopes and dreams to him even though you only recently met?  How do you know?

What are the answers to the “how do you know?” questions? This is authority’s question.  Many would say, “whatever both people agree on.”  That’s the standard answer, I’d agree.  What if the two parties don’t agree?  Who is right?  Does she win or does he?  How do you arbitrate?  Most often I think the answer lingers at “whatever I feel comfortable with.”  Our “default” setting is me.  What if “me” is not right?

If I choose the wrong authority, and, therefore, the wrong standards, then at least two people are in for some trouble.  Also last time, I asserted that many Christians default to this standard and in so doing basically claim that the Bible has nothing to say to us.  That’s a serious issue as well: what else are we willing to say is outside of the reach of the Bible?

Why do we do this?  Christian, why do you turn away from the Bible’s guidance in your relationships?

Audience.  I think it has to do with audience. Now, how you answer these questions of authority reflect your intended audience.  What I mean is “who are you trying to please?”  You know what I mean by this.  Have you ever done a job for a co-worker or a friend and done something similar for a boss or authority figure?  Isn’t there a slight (or more) up-tick in quality for the latter rather than the former?  Especially when bonuses are at stake?

Who are they?  The audiences, I mean.  For whom do you do what you do?  It’s pretty simple, actually.  Whoever sits on your heart’s throne – who’s opinion matters most to you – is your audience.  Whatever rule book he (she) uses, you use.  We do all things for a reason and that reason is always a person.  Who’s the person?  Who are the choices?  There’s “me,” and “God.”  That’s it.  In other words, you do what you do either for your own good, glory and gain or for God’s.

This is seen in many places:

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17)

The Two Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40)

The Royal Law (James 2:8)

The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Only-Love-Matters (Galatians 5:6)

The Act-Like Men (1 Corinthians 16:14).

In these passages we are repeatedly directed first to God and then to others; never to ourselves.  There are only three personal actors in the universe and it is strange that never are we told to act only for our own good.  But we are regularly (repeatedly) told to act for God’s and for others.

In the Bible in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul tells us that we should live in such a way (by faith: 5:7) as Christ is pleased (5:9), “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him [Christ].”  Christians know what this is like – but we all do, really.  We all live for whoever or whatever is most important to us – our treasure drives our heart (Matthew 6:21).

Christians would say that Christ is our audience.  I would believe any Christian (at first) who made this claim.  But the issue is not so simple (says Jeremiah).  Let’s backtrack a little: say you are in a relationship with a girl (guy).  Whoever is involved competes for the title “audience.”  By that I mean the one who sits on the heart’s throne.  If you’re trying to impress her, you’ll do whatever she wants because you want her to think much of you (you’re the audience).  Her approval, affection, attentiveness – whatever – is what you long for, so you’ll shape your behavior so that you’ll get what you want.

The other way to do this relationship is that God would be the audience.  It would be for His pleasure, for the good of His church, according to His plan and His rules.  This foundational commitment is found in places like 1 Corinthians 10:31 or Colossians 3:23.

How do you know for which audience you are living?  What rules are you using?  Audience starts with authority, but you already knew that.