Last year, the #MeToo Movement rushed into the homes of the American public with an almighty roar. People from all walks of life suddenly detailed on their social media platforms ways in which they had experienced sexual abuse. Americans were appalled to learn of the sexual harassment and assault carried by their loved ones in silence for many years and the church sadly was not left untouched. The social media phenomenon flooded into sacred spaces and revealed the ghastly way in which sexual harm often lay just under the surface in churches in the form of the #ChurchToo Movement. Are Christians even qualified anymore to speak on sexuality, or has our lack of integrity permanently disqualified us?
On the contrary, last year’s turmoil has produced a wake into which the Bible can speak truth into issues of sexuality, sexual abuse and sexual orientation. As the conversations on sexuality regularly devolve into a cacophony of confused voices, we have an opportunity to rise to the occasion and lovingly engage our sexually frustrated society with peace and good understanding. As we seek to contribute positively to the kingdom of God in this way, I suggest we consider these four basic truths, contemplate them, observe them in our own lives and then compassionately share them with our neighbors.
1. Human Sexuality is Complex.
When we speak of “sexuality,” we generally refer to someone’s sexual orientation (“straight” or “gay”), but the category should be much broader than this. A person’s sexuality includes desire and less tangible features, such as driving emotional connection and desired personal intimacy. We should also include genitalia in the discussion of sexuality, as the Bible connects the physical form of human beings directly to their sexuality.
For our purposes, we will say that sexuality is a state of being in which humans possess potential to express complex desires for intimacy with other humans. This means that all people possess sexuality, even if they never physically express it with another person. Humans tend to idolize sexuality in degrees for a host of complex reasons, and we will do well to listen, pray and study closely God’s views of sexuality in light of the ever-changing views of our neighbors.
2. Human Sexuality is Good.
Some people tend to view sexuality and the body as evil in every way, but this is not the case in the Bible, where we learn that God created sexuality as good. Just as God created Adam and Eve, he has privileged us with the ability to create life through sexual reproduction in the unique covenant of marriage. This intimate creativity is God’s chosen method of creating human life and it is good. The physical, emotional and relational pleasure produced by a holy relationship are gifts from God, and he desires that we enjoy this gift. God did not create people as sexless and passionless humanoids and does not expect us to behave that way. Indeed, Jesus as the Son of God came to us as a human male (Luke 2:21), and, in his sexuality as a single, celibate and yet sexual person gave glory to the Father in his perfect life. If Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God is also a man with male genitalia, we cannot view God’s creation of sexuality as anything other than originally good, regardless of its common distortions.
3. Human sexuality is broken.
On the other hand, the Bible teaches that sexuality currently is broken, like a shattered mirror or an impure diamond. Sexuality and all related categories like reproduction, attraction, sex drive, and genitalia, although originally good, are now potential instruments of disobedience in the hands of mankind. Not only can humans willingly turn their sexuality (and by extension genitalia) into opportunities for evil (as in the case of rape or abuse), even our own bodies may seem to turn against us through no choice of our own. Faithful women may experience miscarriage or godly men may be born intersex (with both male and female genitalia) through no clear fault of their own.
Demonstrations of fractured sexuality are everywhere in the Bible (rape, incest, adultery, barrenness) and thus we can acknowledge both the normality of these afflictions and the chaos that they sow among people indiscriminately. What is intended to bring man and woman together in beautiful complementarity and create life in children can cause the most dangerous of snares (Matt. 5:27-30) and the most agonizing of torments (think of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2). Every person has experienced or participated in some sort of sexual brokenness, directly or indirectly, and like stones thrown into still water, these experiences can produce effects that ripple through our lives and create overpowering waves of pain.
4. Human sexuality is redeemable.
Disciples of our Lord are disciples of our Lord’s promises, and he promises restoration and guidance in navigating the raging sea of sexual frustration. Jesus teaches us that our sexuality is important and vital to who we are as humans (Matt. 19:4), and therefore must be guarded in both marriage (Matt. 19:3-9) and singleness (Matt. 19: 10-12). God has not thrown away human sexuality like a dirty dishrag, and neither should we. Jesus liberates the repentant believer from shame, guilt and despair related to sexual sin and invites them to “go, and sin no more (Jn. 8:11). In this process, God is gentle and kind, and he promises that those who keep his words will never see death (John 8:51), including his followers with complicated sexual situations like the adulterous woman in John 8, prostitutes in Matt. 21:31, and eunuchs in Acts 8.
No area of human life, especially sexuality, is beyond the loving reach of God’s restorative acts. On this side of heaven, we cannot know fully the complexities of sexuality, but we can glimpse how God through Christ embraces and then corrects the repentant (1 Cor. 6:11) to have life abundantly (Jn. 10:10) in his love. Church, let us remember these truths and incorporate them into turning our collective sexual frustration into loving God and loving our neighbor (Matt. 22: 37-40) in life-giving and creative ways.