It is equally honest to say that nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists. In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least, anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct. It is the ultimate oxymoron. A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually. It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NIV). There is a disconnect between identity and activity.
So too, in the world that is rapidly embracing and recognizing homosexual relationships as normal and normative, the space for deep and meaningful male-male or female-female friendships among the young is rapidly shrinking to the vanishing point. “The stigma against sodomy,” Esolen rightly notes, “cleared away ample space for an emotionally powerful friendship that did not involve sexual intercourse, exactly as the stigma against incest allows for the physical and emotional freedom of a family.”
Add, then, the estrangement of boys from boys and girls from girls, in a world in which intimacy always raises the suspicion of sexual desire. This is a bleak horizon to contemplate: plenty of sex, mostly empty and unrewarding, with much less love and friendship.
What really shook me about Boy Three, though, wasn’t his traditional values or strict religious beliefs. The thing that threw me was how much he pressured me sexually. Unlike Boy One, who had at least respected me enough to try to abstain, this guy — this man who repeatedly told me he’d chosen to dedicate his career and life to God — forced me into the most uncomfortable sexual situations and conversations I’ve ever endured, pushing and prodding me further and further outside my comfort zone.
In my opinion, if the (ecumenical) Churches of Christ want to maintain a distinctive and coherent identity going forward they should increasingly focus upon articulating a robust and distinctive theology as it pertains to two specific church practices which I believe, unlike with acapella worship, will continue to characterize the movement for the next few generations.
These two practices are the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper and a believer’s baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
Contextualization is an important component of effective Gospel ministry. The Gospel is an eternal, transcultural reality, but it comes to us within the context of a human culture. Contemporary Christians should carefully seek to discern the difference between Gospel truth and cultural tradition. They should then present the Gospel in a manner that is culturally relevant, taking care to practice the cautions I outline here. By doing so, they can create effective, indigenous churches.
The gospel is not simply the best self-help news out there, nor the hottest parenting or marriage techniques to transform your kids and your communication. It is the message that God, through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, has made a way for sinners to be forgiven and transformed. We have been and being redeemed, day by day, situation by situation. Even our failures and ongoing battles with sin testify to this message. Asking forgiveness, admitting failure, honestly facing our weaknesses and temptations – these do not deny our message. Instead, they can testify to its truth. Jesus saved, is saving, and will save us – sinners though we remain!
This verse cannot mean that we should—or even that we can—be unaware of our own giving, any more than we could be unaware of our praying, fasting, Bible reading or evangelism. To try to make it mean that would remove the discerning, thoughtful elements of giving, praying, fasting, and all spiritual disciplines.
When the Left Behind producers and fans start implying that those who criticize the movie are anti-Christian… well, that flies in the face of clear evidence. The Good Lie, starring Reece Witherspoon, is only the latest example. Look at Of Gods and Men, which earned Oscar attention and earned a 93%… 93%!… positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Literature deserves its prestige for one reason above all others — because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little bit more wisdom, goodness, and sanity.