In a world where our sexuality is a focal point, it’s not surprising that understanding sexual struggles (and sometimes resulting sin) can be problematic. It shouldn’t really be surprising — the Church and culture speak different languages. The key is understanding why and how to humbly move forward in grace and truth.
One of the biggest problems within the Church is that we may not fully understand the difference between temptation (or struggle) and sin. On the other hand, we seem to be quite good at categorizing our struggles. For example, any sexual struggle is said to be a bigger issue than any other struggle. There even seems to be bigger and lesser struggles within sexual struggles.
Paul made a point to speak of the significance of sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18), but that significance isn’t really about being lesser or greater, rather how sacred our bodies are. The Church in Corinth clearly didn’t understand that significance.
In order to understand and respond to sexual struggles, we have to understand some fundamental concepts. Here are five things the Church must remember:
1) Everyone is made in the image of God; all should be respected.
As males and females, we are perfectly created in the image of God. Humanity, different from the rest of creation, is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We are therefore created with a sacred connection with God and live in that unique and blessed relationship. No matter what struggles we may face, everyone deserves dignity and respect because His image is within all of us!No matter what..everyone deserves dignity & respect because (God's) image is within all of us! Click To Tweet
Respecting others doesn’t always mean we agree with others; rather, we extend love to one another (John 13:34). I often use the example of my children. They will misbehave and I won’t agree with them, but I will never stop respecting and loving them. There’s a way to live in that tension.
2) Everyone is born broken; no one is perfect.
Ever since Adam and Eve decided to disobey God, all future generations are born broken (Romans 3:23). We are still perfectly created in God’s image, but our brokenness has marred that image within us. That means we’re not perfect and naturally lean away from God. The good news — we’re all in the same boat. But that doesn’t mean our brokenness is God’s intention for us. On the contrary, God wants us to enter into a transforming relationship of grace and truth.
3) Everyone struggles with something; we simply point to Jesus.
In our brokenness, we deal with struggles and temptations of many kinds (sexual or otherwise). It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, each day is filled with struggles. No struggle is greater or lesser, they are simply struggles. Our brokenness is found when we give into those struggles.
It would be hypocritical to point at someone’s brokenness without first dealing with our own (Matthew 7:5). That means if someone around us is working through a part of their sexuality, believers should be exemplifying (that is, being an example of) the grace and truth of the cross, not identifying the struggles of others. Believers simply point to Jesus and show how grace and truth has transformed us.
4) Everyone is offered grace and truth; Jesus deals with our brokenness.
We are all offered Jesus. We all have the opportunity to realize that we can’t deal with our brokenness by ourselves (or even with the help of our culture). Jesus is the only one who can offer perfect grace and truth (John 1:17).The Church need not add ‘road blocks’ where certain struggles are singled out. Click To Tweet
Jesus deals with our brokenness; we don’t need to add additional steps. That means we encourage authentic discipleship by where people are able to move forward in their spiritual journey. The Church need not add ‘road blocks’ where certain struggles are singled out. Not only is that not profitable, we don’t have the authority to do so.
5) Everyone has an identity; we celebrate when someone chooses Jesus.
How we work though the previous four, will determine our identity. We’ll either have our identity founded in our brokenness, or in Christ. Both are options, and God allows us to choose (Romans 6:23; Galatians 5:16-17).
When we find Jesus, that doesn’t mean we will fully understand or even believe. The disciples certainly didn’t (you can read about that here). That means that when someone encounters Jesus, we need to celebrate and encourage the beginning of that journey. Don’t worry, we’ll celebrate when they start understanding grace as well! In fact, we’ll celebrate along the way!
Working through Sexual Struggles
Our sexuality is unique. It connects the image of God within our lives with our relationships. This is especially true of marriage. The ‘one flesh’ created within the union of a man and woman, personifies that relational image of God.How we live out and experience our sexuality will flow out of our desire to want to follow Jesus. Click To Tweet
Any sexual ‘struggle’ can lead to marring the image of God within our lives and thus impacting our relationships, if we engage in them. To be clear, the temptation itself isn’t a sin, but when we allow ourselves to engage in that struggle, then we continue to deface God’s image within us. Everything from pornography, lust, adultery, sex outside of God’s definition of husband and wife, or gender changes, will affect God’s image within us (1 Corinthians 6:12f). It should be said, however, that some people are faced with things like intersex, and I extend as much grace as possible to those individuals. We must support their journey through their medical decisions.
As the Church (followers of Christ), we need to understand these truths, but more importantly, respond to these truths in an effective way. How we live out and experience our sexuality will flow out of our desire to want to follow Jesus. The Church needs to respect that journey of faith and encourage those who are living it.
How do you view sexual struggles and the Church’s response to them?
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