Monday, November 8, 2010

Married for God - Chapter 1

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

Chapter 1 – A word about baggage and grace

I found it fascinating that he started the book here. Upon reflection, it made perfect sense – we have to understand & accept the grace of God, and his forgiveness, in dealing with our sexual pasts before we can think clearly about God’s plan for marriage. However, it’s a hard chapter to start with, and I suspect, personally challenging for many readers (especially engaged couples). To turn the page and see in bold writing, The bible speaks to those whose sexual pasts are spoiled (p21) – was certainly getting right to the point!

Unless you are a committed Christian, I suspect starting at this point would get a lot of readers offside. Now he is clear he is writing this book for Christians. But even, so, I wondered if it might have been helpful to at least discuss why sexual sin is a problem and why it affects so much of one’s self. As we talked in our group about why sexual sin seems to be so hard to move on from, we came up with this:
  • Sexual intimacy is so personal and intimate
  • In Christian circles, there is a stigma attached to sexual sin, more so than most other areas of sin
  • We tend to be more open about struggles in other areas, but not about sexual struggles
  • If it’s willing intimacy, there has been a deliberate decision to sin at each time
  • If it’s unwilling intimacy, there are also issues of abuse of trust and betrayal
  • Amongst many (Christians and almost all non-Christians) – there is a denial of it even being sinful, or a deliberate attempt to justify behaviour (‘it felt good’, ‘we are in love’, etc)

He makes it clear that all struggle in this area, from some degree or another:
Personally, we have our own histories of sexual experience or inexperience; of hopes fulfilled or deferred; of longing or aversions; of fulfilment or frustration; of fears, anxieties, delight, regrets. What we have done or not done, how we have been treated or mistreated by others; all these things shape what we believe. (p20)

The three things he talks about are:
  • The bible speaks to those who sexual pasts are spoiled (eg. the church at Corinth)
  • Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and restoration to those with spoiled sexual pasts (eg. John 8:11)
  • God’s grace enables us to live lives of purity (1 Cor 6:9-11)

As I re-read this chapter, I wonder if the reaction one has to it, is a good indicator of one’s heart about their own sinfulness in this area. If one reads it, thankful and rejoicing that they are forgiven and that God offers grace, even in this area – they have acknowledged their sin and are aware of its danger. However, if one reads it and is outraged or offended, perhaps they do not truly believe they have sinned. This could have important implications for pre-marriage counselling, or our own ability to move beyond & deal with our own past.

One final interesting discussion we had was this: do we need to stop assuming (if indeed we do assume) sexual purity (or virginity) in young Christians? Research suggests that more teenagers are having sex at a younger age, with 14-16 year-olds regularly involved in sexual activity. As we minister to a generation of youth and young adults, who have had minimal Christian input and are living in a highly sexualised culture – do we need to be more open and honest about the bible’s teaching on sexual purity, and about the risks to physical, emotional & spiritual health that result from sex outside of marriage? Have you thought about this and what have you done?

Some things to think about:
  1. Did it also surprise you that this was the topic of the first chapter?
  2. How hard is it to trust in God’s grace when thinking about sexual sin? Why?
  3. Do you need to be reminded of God’s grace in dealing with your or your husband’s sexual past?
  4. How could you include dealing with this in the marriage-preparation that you do with engaged couples?
  5. How do you address the issues of sex, sexual sin and purity to the youth and young adults that you minister to?

On Wednesday: Chapter 2 – Married for a purpose

No comments: