Challenges Ahead of the Church
With the Lord’s interaction with the Samaritan woman in mind, the faithful Christian Church faces several challenges.
#1: Address the driving force behind the narrative: pursuing individual happiness.
The modern sexual narrative clearly differs from God’s word in its propositions and practices. At some point, that must be addressed. Why? To win? No—that’s not why Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman. We must do it because compassion calls for it: if it is sinful, it is also enslaving. John 8:34:
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
The main reason we cannot just “live and let live” or celebrate sexual diversity is because to live in a way contrary to God’s word isn’t freeing—it is enslaving. Love demands that we not turn away from those who are sexually broken.
But it is more than sinful: it is sinister. It co-opts God’s design in us that our souls would be joyful in the Lord. That principle in us is perverted into the pursuit of physical happiness. In effect, we must keep in mind that the soul is more important than the body—because as we see in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: it is. This will keep us away from potential pitfalls like an over-emphasis on the person’s lifestyle—something the church has historically been rightly blamed for (like when the disciples returned to Jesus at the well they wondered why He spoke to a Samaritan woman.)
- Sure trans and bi and homosexual is sin and no one who practices these as a lifestyle will be saved (1 Corinthians 6:10—is very clear) but helping someone turn away from brokenness requires more than using the Law.
Remembering the soul is more important than the body will also help us rightly categorize their anger, their insults and their efforts to cancel us. In other words, those things come out of a sinful, suffering soul that has been challenged. It is sinful and sinister and yet it issues from a soul that is convinced happiness—now—is the highest good and not the greater joy in the pursuit of God now and heaven in the next life.
- It is looking for happiness in brokenness and it will fail in this life and be condemned in the next.
#2: Breaking down echo-chambers.
The modern culture can be compared to a mason jar filled with glass marbles. Each marble is next to but not in the next. Rub them hard enough together and they won’t join (like Play-Doh)—they will shatter. Our culture has become like that mason jar: each marble is a person who curates his life including in it only those voices and influences that make him happy.
This is especially obvious on social media. Indeed social media has been training our culture to make echo chambers. TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat—not a single one of the most popular social media apps makes our community for us. This is also true for music and video streaming services. These each require us to make our own community—that’s part of why they have become so popular. It makes sense then if I’m looking for influences that will make me happy I will include only those and actively exclude those that don’t. Hence, I am sovereign over my marble—I am the god of my life.
There are a number of problems with this (obviously). One of the largest is this cannot cope with reality. God hasn’t wired this world or His providence so that we can act like gods over our lives. No one can do this. This is why, as a culture, we have never been angrier. We have never so lacked the ability to disagree. We haven’t had so much difficulty just speaking to each other. We can’t have conversations in which we disagree without the threat of getting canceled, ignored or marginalized.
- People will not be coaxed out of the so-called “safety” of their echo chambers.
The one way to break down the echo chamber is the gospel. The gospel shatters my small marble that I am protecting with huge emotion with a message that tells me what’s in my marble is actually garbage—and real beautiful and free life is found somewhere else. Of course we know this is the path to freedom but it is destructive before that.
#3: (AIC, 35) Addressing the modern identity narrative: identity, freedom and power.
Identity. Christian teaching about sexuality no longer makes sense because the modern view is that “…sexuality is crucial for the expression of identity.” Our sexuality is the pathway to unlocking our true and deep feelings and desires—to be authentically “me.” “I am truly who I am when I am having sex with whomever I choose or I’m expressing whatever sexuality makes me happy.”
- “…identity is now found in one’s desires, while in the past it was found in one’s duties and relationships with God, family and community.”
“Be true to yourself” and “live your own truth” or “no one can tell you who you are but you” are the repeated mantras and they are everywhere. The modern self is based on feelings and there is nothing rock solid or unchanging about feelings—feelings can change depending on what we eat. This is all very fragile, isn’t it? My choice and my feelings are supreme and it is up to me to pursue what makes me happy. And everyone needs to get on board with making me happy.
Freedom and power. Believe it or not, it is no surprise that this is also Critical Race Theory’s ascending hour. CRT supercharges all of this: the CRT lens says the world is made of the oppressed (who are unhappy) and the oppressors. In a culture committed to personal happiness, of course it makes sense that those who stand in the way of this pursuit are actually “oppressors.” The sexual traditions and teaching from ancient texts are repressive and constraining: they are oppressing our ability to express ourselves sexually so they must be ignored
Is it any surprise the millennials and younger generation consider themselves religious “Nones” or no religion? “The meaning of life is to determine who you are and to throw off the shackles of an oppressive society that refuses to accept and include you.” Isn’t this the message of the Oscars, The Little Mermaid, Frozen, Mulan, Million Dollar Baby, RuPaul, Caitlyn Jenner, Lia Thomas and “Be all you can be”?
There is a power element here as well. This we see in categories like “micro-aggressions” and safe spaces, statue removal and approved censorship. For the so-called “oppressed” their use of language trumps all others—try refusing to call a person by his chosen pronouns: there have been educators fired for that! Our culture is now giving power over to those who are consumed with personal happiness uninformed by reason, wisdom or religion. The young now dictate to the old. It is a Machiavellian culture modeled after the Lord of the Flies.
#4: Rooting the church’s teaching in its full theology rather than simply its ethics: placing human sexuality in the broader framework of the Bible.
Historically, the church has had mainly one sexual message: No sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. While that is a true representation of biblical teaching, it minimizes all the rest of the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality. This was pointed out in an article written by a woman struggling with homosexuality written to her pastor: “Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew about my Sexuality.”
From the AIC, 40:
Christian theology answers that sex is part of the image of God–it must image God and in particular, His redeeming love. Sex is not about enhancing one’s power but about mutually giving up power to one another in love, as Christ did for us. The Christian answer to “Why must sex be within heterosexual marriage?” gets us into the very heart of the gospel. We should not, then, present the sex ethic without rooting it in the Bible’s doctrines of God, of creation and of redemption….So what is sex for? It is a signpost pointing to God’s design of saving love, and it is a means for experiencing something of that same pattern of love at the horizontal level between two human beings that we know at the vertical level in Christ.
This is our missionary moment.