[This post is a follow-up to last week’s post entitled: Why Abstinence Isn’t Working In America. I would encourage you to read that one (before this one) if you haven’t already. I think you’ll benefit from the background that post (and the numerous comments) will offer in setting up this post.]
It seems that many of you who read and commented on last week’s post felt good about the premise of celibacy – especially as it relates to the shortcomings of abstinence – but still questioned how celibacy “looked” when lived out. In a couple of my responses I alluded to a life of discipleship…. And you responded with, “yes, but…”
And that’s where I want to begin today.
Discipleship – at its core – is the same today as it’s always been. It’s about following Jesus. Radically. Unequivocally. Above all else. Counting the cost and committing your life to it.
But that kind of life – that kind of disciplined, self-sacrificing, Kingdom-oriented life – looks foreign in our 21st Century America. It sounds “old-fashioned”… and uninteresting.
It doesn’t fit with the ideas we have about relationships and sex in 2012. Instant gratification, sex without consequences, satisfying our every appetite, and not delaying or denying ourselves a single pleasure because we might just die if we do. … Or so pop-culture and mass-media (or even our own inner urges and emotions) might have us believe.
I wish there was a secret I could share with you that would make discipleship easy, or fun, or cool… because if it was, I think we might be more willing to commit to it. But until we (as Christians in America) decide to prioritize holiness, righteousness and self-discipline over and above that which is easy, fun and cool — we will struggle to engage in the hard work of discipleship.
And our sexual sanity will suffer as a result.
Why? Because there’s an enemy waging war against us – constantly trying to find a way to come between us and the God we follow.
Our desire to be desired and loved.
Our obsession with satisfying our own needs…
It all serves for footholds that the enemy can use to create a wedge between us and God. And before long that wedge becomes a chasm… or so it would seem.
And instead of turning to the God who can help us, who can heal us, who can make us whole and help us to feel the love and acceptance we so desperately crave… we turn away from Him in shame, guilt and disbelief that we are still considered “acceptable” in His sight.
Discipleship – regardless of the context or situation — is about working out our salvation with Jesus. It’s about putting ourselves in position to experience God’s graces. It’s about yielding ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and doing what we can do, while allowing God to do… what only God can do.
It’s a dance. One in which we allow God to lead us… while playing an active (but submissive) role.
And this is probably the biggest challenge for us.
Dancing the dance.
We’d prefer to operate within a system in which either God has all the control (which means that all responsibility is taken off of us, and we can simply trust that “whatever’s supposed to happen ultimately will”) or that we’re in control (and God will either bless everything we decide to do – or leave us alone if we don’t “play by His rules”).
But it’s not like that…
It’s a dance.
So with this dance metaphor before us, let us consider what our role might entail as a dance partner to the Divine in the work of discipleship.
We must always appeal to Scripture – first and frequently.
What does it have to say – about sex, healthy relationships, and following Jesus? How was this sexual tension lived out back then? How did those who professed a faith in God deal with the urges and temptations that were likely just as present back then?
[We must always exegete the text (within its full context) before we can hermeneutically pull it forward and attempt to discern what it means for us here today.]
As we read, study and attempt to live out what we see in the pages of the Bible, and as we do our best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we’ll need to be willing to live differently than the world around us.
It makes sense that we would also appeal to tradition.
What does the “great cloud of witnesses” that have come before us have to say about the challenges we face as sexual/relational beings… created in the image of God? How have they understood God’s Word, and God’s claim on their lives as a holy and chosen people, and how did they live that out? How can we learn from them and the example of faithful living they have modeled for us? How can we learn from their successes… and their failures?
We might also appeal to reason.
God has given us the capacity to think. To understand right from wrong. To make decisions based on logic and sound reasoning.
And now is the time to think… because we know that when it comes to the “heat of the moment,” reason is often shutdown, locked up or throw out of the window!
What does our own sound mind and judgment tell us (especially in light of what we read in scripture and see in our tradition) about engaging in sex outside the confines of a marriage relationship? When the pressure’s not on, and we’re able to think clearly, how do we understand God’s desire(s) for us in regards to our relationships with others?
When we consider our own life history, what does it tell us about the power of sex? Or relationships? Or even our ability to connect and bond with another human being?
And how about the feelings of pain, loss, despair, agony, grief, and rejection that we feel when relationships come to an end… not to mention the additional feelings of guilt and shame that tend to come with being more “physically active” than we believe would be honoring to God (and the other individual).
In this regard our experience should – should – be a very powerful influence.
But for some reason we tend to overlook it (or forget it), believing – hoping – that “this time” things will be different.
And there’s so much more that could be said…
Our culture has made a god of sex. And too many professing Christians are feeling tempted to bow down.
Our call to follow Jesus – forsaking all others – includes the sexual fantasies and realities that we are tempted to indulge in.
It includes a call to be holy – set a part – as God’s children.
It’s a call to keep everything – EVERYTHING – under the lordship of Christ. Keeping it all in proper perspective – and choosing a Kingdom perspective – through which to live and love and have our being.
All of the things we’ve ever heard about discipleship apply here. It’s time to refresh ourselves as to what that all includes… and then commit ourselves to doing our part – and allowing God to do what only He can do.