We have recently completed a teaching series at Freedom Church entitled “Blurred Lines – Godly Sexuality in a Confusing World”
We looked at the importance of understanding our identity in Christ and that there is a better story. We challenged the way that we related to each other and how we might build healthy relationships, whether married or single, identifying that each status was a gift to be treasured. We were challenged by the use of Pornography in todays society and how it is as much of a problem in the church as it is outside of the church. Finally, we discussed sin, shame and grace and realised that we have all made mistakes and that Jesus does not condemn us, but he does convict us of our wrong behaviour and challenges us to live differently.
The response has been fascinating.
I have had so many comments from singles, marrieds, young couples going out, the elderly and the widowed, appreciating the fact that we are talking about an issue that many people find challenging.
To them I say “Thank you! Your encouragement has made all the time spent studying, praying and thinking so worthwhile”
I have had church leaders from other churches, say that we have made a brave decision to open up the conversation. Some even said they would probably never talk about it in their church.
To them I say “Please do talk about sexuality in your church. The world is talking about it, your children and their friends are talking about it – which narrative do you want them to hear?”
And yes, of course, there have been others who have been disappointed because we didn’t cover some aspects of sexuality, or we were not clear enough on every verse in the Bible that challenges our sexual behaviour.
To them I say “I understand. This is a big topic and one that I and Sarah Long (who helped shape the teaching and did an awesome job in delivering much of it) spent a lot of time considering what to include and what to leave out. The conversation hasn’t finished even though the present teaching series has. We will cover some of this again in the future.”
I was fearful when we decided to cover this topic. Fearful that I would be misunderstood and fearful that something would go out on social media that would falsely represent how Freedom Church was grappling with this issue.
But, having completed the four sessions of teaching and held an open night for any questions that may have arisen from the topic (which itself created even more questions to answer!), I am so glad that we are talking about this. I may not have got everything right, but I am glad the discussion has begun and I look forward to taking this conversation further over the next few months and years as we continue to grapple with uncertainty.
One of the most common questions that I have been asked in recent weeks is “this discussion around sexuality is all great, but what does the church think?”
I understand the desire for clarity, but the church is a broad group of people that between them think very differently about a wide range of issues… it is much bigger than just my opinion. Even the way we grapple with scripture over the topic of sexuality can become a dividing point. While I may personally hold a conservative position on the issue, due to what I see as clear teaching in the Bible, another person will hold the exact opposite view. Can we disagree on these tricky issues and still be part of the same church together? I believe we can as long as we are able to grapple with these challenging questions in love and respect of each other – finding ways to disagree well.
Malcolm Duncan in his recent book on church unity entitled “One For All”, studies Jesus’ famous prayer for unity in John 17 and makes this comment:
“Shallow unity will avoid the question and paper over the cracks. Shallow unity will seek peace and harmony over truth and conviction. Aggressive fundamentalism will dismiss the conversation, disregard the views of those with whom it disagrees and refuse to listen. What would biblical unity look like? It will keep the Bible open and keep a commitment to robust and challenging love even more open. It will wrestle, discuss, debate, argue and interrogate the issue. It will refuse to deny a place in the Family of God to those with whom it disagrees even if it is unable to bless their view or participate in rites and rituals that do so. It will not sacrifice truth on the altar of grace but nor will it sacrifice grace on the altar of truth.”
As a church leader I want to give the clarity that truth brings, but I also want to ensure it comes with a complementary dish of grace.
Freedom Church and its Leadership Team fully adhere to the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith, which provides great clarity on the primary elements of our Christian faith.
I also want to re-iterate, as I mentioned in Part One of Blurred Lines, that I believe Gods design for our sexuality and identity is laid out in Genesis 1. That in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth (v1), he proceeded to make humans in his own image (v26 & 27) creating them male and female and encouraging them to be fruitful and multiply (v28). Then God looked at what he had created and saw that it was very good (v31). We were made in the image of God, we were made for sexual intimacy between man and woman, in a life long committed relationship, and God thinks this is VERY good.
God loves his creation, God loves His people. I personally believe he is less bothered about the labels that we have placed on each other and more focussed on the person themselves and the way that we treat them – People REALLY Matter.
I am passionate that the doors of our church should be wide open to all, so that as many people as possible, made and loved by God, can freely find the way back to their Father and Encounter Him for themselves.
This is why we regularly say at Freedom Church that Everyone is Welcome. Whatever your story, disappointments, church experience, race, age, gender or sexuality – you are, and will always be, welcome.
That is the message of the Gospel, that is what the church thinks and it really is good news for all the world.