These are questions that were texted to me in response to the sermon, Christian Marriage and Culture. See the sermon summary at http://wp.me/p18dcU-7I. Please feel free to comment and engage in the discussion.
Q1: What is one of the most significant ways God has encouraged you in your marriage to Kris?
(answered live) The biggest strength, or encouragement in our marriage has been our common commitment to Christ. I know that Kris is as or more committed to following God’s will for her life and relationships. And that includes our marriage. A common submission to Christ has strengthened our willingness to submit to one another.
Q2: As an employee of a public institution committed to non-discrimination and political correctness, how do I take a stance? Just by modeling marriage, not speech?
(answered live) Modeling is going to be the foundation of any message you want to give. I believe there are times when you can share what God has given you in marriage. And there are times, when people ask, for you to communicate what you believe. And when we communicate we must do it with clarity and compassion. We have to understand that unbelievers are trapped in sin and by their own power can never be freed from its control.
Q3: Is it enough to demonstrate Christian marriage, or should we also prescribe it to unbelievers through laws, etc?
(answered live) This is a good question and part of the larger “Christian and Society” debate. The truth is that laws won’t change the human heart. If they could, the Israelites would have been godly people because they had the law of Moses. But we are citizens and we have a responsibility to vote in ways that we think will provide a safer, healthier, more secure society. Paul tells us to pray for those in leadership so we can have peace and the freedom to spread the message of the gospel. We also have a responsibility to do what we can to leave behind a better society for our kids and grandkids. And we have, by vote, the ability to define what “better” is. And for Christians, Scripture shapes that definition.
Q4: If procreation is part of God’s design for marriage, how does contraception fit in?
Procreating is part of God’s design for marriage. It was part of Adam and Eve’s initial call (Genesis 1:28). Today, contraception is certainly part of most people’s idea of family planning. Even those who use “natural family planning” (ie “the rhythm method”), do family planning. It’s my opinion that there may be good reasons to delay, or stop having children. We live in a fallen world with many different kinds of complications. Economic situations, family situations, or health situations should all come into play when planning. I don’t think planning for your family diminishes God’s creative work. God is a God of order and wisdom. And it fits for me that we would use wisdom to plan for when to have children and how many to have. I do think Christians need to be discerning about what kind of contraception they use. Some are abortifacients, which mean they work by eliminating a fertilized egg. As someone who believes life begins at conception, contraception should only be used to keep fertilization from happening.
Q5: You used the term “gay Christians”. Do you think it is possible for someone with homosexual temptations and/or lifestyle can be a Christian?
I used the term because that is how they described themselves to me in their written comments to me. I would rather use the terms, there are Christians with same-sex attraction. I don’t think there should be a hyphenated term (gay-Christian, straight-Christian) used for Christians. If we are in Christ, he is our identity. I think someone can be a Christian and struggle with same-sex attraction. And I think if someone who is truly in Christ they will become convicted that homosexual activity is a sin. John 16:7-8 “but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment…” One of the things the Holy Spirit does is convict us of sin. This may take time. And it may be a long series of struggles. But I can only surmise that if someone is never convicted of sin they may not have the active presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
Q6: Encourage those who have children or spouses who don’t want this and they have no control over their child or spouses decisions.
This is a special challenge. There are many who struggle with having God’s ideals set before us and then feel like it is totally out of reach. And sometimes that is because the people in our families are not as committed to the same goals as we are. In 1 Corinthians 7 there is an encouragement for those who are in these kind of marriages. Remember, as a believer you bring something honorable to the family (v.14). You bring the presence of God to your family. And through your prayers and your godly example of Christ-like love, your family has an opportunity to be impacted with the grace of God through you. 1 Peter 3:1,2 describes this kind of opportunity and responsibility. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” I think this same principle applies to men in this situation.
Q7: Isn’t it naive to think that all we need to do is marry a Christian spouse and all will be well? Life is not so simple. Isn’t the work of the Holy Spirit necessary on a minute by minute basis as well?
Yes, that would be naive. Life isn’t simple. And while marrying a spouse who is a growing Christian will help, it won’t remove all difficulty. We know that if we’ve lived the Christian life very long. Becoming a Christian doesn’t end the struggle. In fact, in some ways it intensifies the struggle because we are now being challenged and tested so we will grow into Christ. It does take a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. And it requires an ongoing submissive spirit. But even then, there is pain, misunderstanding, weakness and struggle. But as we devote ourselves to walk with Christ and with our husband/wife, we will discover new joys, hopes, strength and security.
Q8: Regarding fidelity. — is there such a thing as emotional infidelity? Leaving emotionally but not physically? Since there is spiritual infidelity perhaps there is also emotional infidelity.
(answered live) The spiritual infidelity that we spoke about is between us and God. It is a metaphor that God used to describe the intense violation of our covenant with Him when we walk away from Him. I believe there are times when we open the door to infidelity by creating emotional bonds with others. This is a step toward infidelity. I wouldn’t equate emotional distance with infidelity. In some ways it doesn’t matter the kind of separation that takes place because God’s great desire is restoration. God is in the business of reconciling. The book of Hosea is the perfect demonstration of this. God pursues the unfaithful. With strong, disciplined love, He opens the door to healing.
Q9: How do you think showing love and compassion looks to those who perceive our judgements of their “essence” as critical?
That’s a great question. And I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. And for some, this is such a dividing line that there will be nothing we can do. First, we need to treat everyone with value. Every person is created in the image of God. And because of that, no matter their convictions or lifestyle, they are of value. Second, we probably shouldn’t be quick to argue our positions. We should take time to ask questions, listen and build trust. Third, we need to care for the whole person and not just define them by their attractions. Fourth, our greatest goal, as Christians is not to change people’s minds, but to lead them to the Savior who loves them and died for them. It is this introduction to Jesus that is our only hope for real transformation.
Q10: It has been proven that runoff from the plastics we use alters the sex genes in utero. Tribes close to the factories that produce bottles have an epidemic of All female births. We alter God’s design.
I don’t know about the specifics of what you’ve mentioned. But your last comment is true. Ever since the Fall of Genesis 3, we’ve been altering God’s designs. As people, we are in rebellion against God and that means we make bad decisions, either purposefully or accidentally.
Q11: How can I judge that one persons claim that they are attracted to the same sex isn’t accurate, and may indicate that God’s plan was for that person to be born As the opposite sex?
I think if someone says they are attracted to the same sex that is probably accurate. But being attracted to something doesn’t mean it is the plan of God for someone. I was attracted to french fries and that got me heart surgery (insert humor). Attraction and gender are two different issues. One is purely biological (gender). The other, it is believed by most, has many contributing factors. Someone may not be able to change what they are attracted to, but they can, with the work of the Spirit of God, establish a lifestyle that brings glory to God and honors His design for creation. As far as judging goes. We are to discern what the Scriptures say and how that is to apply to life. And the Scriptures are clear (Romans 1:24-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Revelation 21:6-8) that sex outside of God’s marriage-covenant design is sin.
Q12: What about the argument of equality for all (for same-sex unions and benefits)?
I understand where that is coming from and I think that is the way our culture is headed. I don’t necessarily think that we would have to go that way to protect individual rights. And I’m not sure that we have always listed marriage as a right. But it is headed that way. That is why I think believers will have be strident at defining what marriage is biblically. Our culture has already redefined it.
Q13: How are you going to handle gay Christians in our church (members)?
I think we have to define the terms. If we’re talking about Christians that have same-sex attraction, but are trying to live a biblically Christian lifestyle (celibacy), involvement wouldn’t be an issue. But if we are asking about someone who claims Christ, but is living a homosexual lifestyle, then we would address that as we would other sinful life-choices. We have a member covenant that calls us to a godly lifestyle. We also have a statement on the Affirmation of Marriage as part of our Statement of Beliefs. If you don’t affirm that, membership is not available to you.