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Nashville Statement: When Christians disagree about sex
The recent Nashville statement has brought conservative Christianity’s relationship with sexual issues front and center into the mainstream media. USA Today describes the Nashville statement this way, “A coalition of conservative evangelical leaders laid out their beliefs on human sexuality, including opposition to same-sex marriage and fluid gender identity, in a new doctrinal statement.” If you are familiar with the ministry Authentic Intimacy, you know how deeply I care about sexual theology and God's truth. I've spent the past five years teaching and defending a biblical view of sexuality. Cultural trends have caused vast confusion around homosexuality, gender, and other sexual issues, and we need to be clear on God's design for sex. But I am also concerned that the message of the Gospel isn’t lost in our dialogue about sex.  Our commitment to unity must be as clear as our theology of sexuality. It’s just as important that you know how to respond when you meet a Christian who disagrees with you as it is for you to know where you stand on LGBT issues. After all, Jesus said that we would be known “by our love for one another,” not necessarily by our theology of human sexuality. Research indicates that whether or not you believe that God condones same-sex marriage may have more to do with your generation than it does your commitment to Jesus Christ. We can’t simply write off everyone who has a different view of sexuality as “not one of us.”  Unity within the body of Christ is very important to God. Jesus over and over again emphasized this point. But here’s the catch. Jesus didn’t just want us to be united with each other, but to be united in Him. A “Christian” isn’t just someone who claims the label, but one who embraces the Savior. This means that we can’t ignore theology and how people live for the sake of getting along. Hence the tension to integrate two essential truths: we are called to be united with our spiritual brothers and sisters, yet we are also called to stand on the truth of God's word. So, how should we respond when other Christians have such different views on important sexual topics? How can we possibly work together and be unified if we can’t agree on God’s design for sexuality?   What’s the real issue? AW Tozer wrote, “The question before us, and the question that really matters, is simply what do you think of Christ? And what are you going to do with Christ? Every question we might ever have can be boiled down to the subject of Jesus Christ.” Tozer’s wisdom also applies to conversations about sexuality. Before we ever talk about gay marriage or sexual ethics, we have to talk about the more important foundational issues of what we believe about God, the Bible, and human nature. Our lack of Christian unity through the sexual revolution may actually have very little to do with the sexual questions of our time.  Differing views on gay marriage, cohabitation, pornography, and gender aren’t primarily what divide us. These are just the external issues that have exposed the confusion of what we believe about God and His Word. Do we believe the Bible is authoritative, divinely inspired, and relevant without cultural revision? Do we believe that human nature is at heart rebellious and damned without God’s intervention? And what do we really believe about Jesus? Do we believe He was a nice teacher who made people feel good, or that He is the Son of God, deserving of our worship? If we disagree on the answers to these questions, we have far greater problems than addressing issues like pornography and homosexuality. Our confusion about sexuality is rooted in our confusion about God. As we interact with fellow Christians, let’s start by affirming these foundational truths that have for too long been neglected in our seeker-friendly churches. We can know how to be united in Christ when we agree to study and apply the Bible. The challenge is that we can’t just study and apply what the Bible says about sex. We must also study and apply what the Bible teaches about love and Christian unity. Are we applying passages like, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32)? Are we pursing unity through humility as Paul taught in Philippians 2? As he wrote to Timothy, are we patient, kind and gently instructing those who disagree with us even as we teach the truth "in and out of season?" Seek to understand. We know from history that sincere men and women of God have sharply disagreed on many interpretations and applications of the Bible. I have met with many Christians who have a sincere faith and belief in God’s Word but who are confident that God would be ok with same-sex committed relationships. We can't simply walk away from each other because my brother celebrates something that I believe the Scripture teaches is sin. How do we pursue truth together? The first thing I want to do in this situation is to understand that person’s perspective. I might ask, “Why is this important to you?” or “Tell me about how you came to that conclusion?” Sometimes this leads to a theological discussion, but most often there is a personal reason. The person has a good friend or relative who is same-sex attracted and can’t reconcile God not approving of a loving sexual relationship. Or there is a story of Christian bigotry and hatred towards the LGBT community. By listening and learning, I have earned the right to share my convictions about God's design for sexuality and why it is so central to Christian doctrine.  I’ve learned that even if I don't agree with a fellow Christian’s theology of marriage and sexuality, I may have something to learn about the struggle of translating God’s love into their world. For generations, the Christian church has upheld a God-honoring theology of marriage, but has often failed to demonstrate God’s love and grace to hurting people. Christians have also been rightly accused of applying a biblical teaching about sex only to some sins (homosexuality, premarital sex) while ignoring others (pornography, seeing women as sex objects, using sex selfishly in marriage). How much of the current sexual revolution is a backlash against the Christian dogmatism, hypocrisy, and judgement against those in sexual sin and brokenness?  We have as much to learn as we do to teach. If we cut off the conversation at the point of disagreement, we have no room to challenge each other according to the Scripture, pursuing Christian unity. I’m not suggesting that we solve these important issues through compromise, but that we strive together to know the mind and heart of Christ. Dialogue does not mean compromise. Of the seven things listed that God hates in Proverbs 6, none of them are sexually oriented but included in the list are arrogance and causing division among God’s people (verses 6-19). When we stand before God one day, we will not only be accountable for how we held to His truth, but also for how we extended His love to one another. We need each other. Not just those in our own denominations and demographics, we need the body of Christ. We need to know why the twenty-somethings see the LGBT movement as a civil rights issue. We need to hear from the older sages who can teach us church history and reflections of wisdom from many years of following Jesus. We need to embrace fellow Christians who have very different experiences and who read the Bible through a different lens. While the Bible and God's design for sexuality haven't changed, our culture is continually shifting, presenting new information and challenges in how we articulate a biblical perspective of sexuality. As Paul wrote, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." None of us, including me, has this one hundred percent figured out. I’m constantly learning from people who have different experiences and viewpoints. Their input doesn’t make me change my view of biblical sexuality, but helps me refine how I live it out with sensitivity and conviction. Even though we are one, unity among Christians will never just happen. We have to work at it, value it, pray for it, and pursue it. Christians are to be different from the world not simply in our theology but also in how we treat one another. As disturbing as the vast theological divides around sexuality is the vitriol, arrogance, and name-calling among Christians. What if God uses us to reach the world not only because we get the theology right but also because we are able to humble ourselves and be gracious to people with whom we may sharply disagree? What if the world marvels not at our brilliant explanations but at our unexplainable ability to pursue truth across denominations and generations?     Follow Up Resources from Dr. Juli Slattery: Blog: Why I Care About Your Sex Life Podcast: We Are All Sexually Broken Podcast: God Created You To Be Sexual
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The Importance of Sexual Discipleship™
For the past few years, I’ve been using this term “sexual discipleship™” to describe the passion behind the ministry Authentic Intimacy. I’ve noticed that when people hear me put those two words together, they are intrigued. Although you may have been discipled in your walk with Christ at some point, chances are, that discipleship never permeated questions about your sexuality. (Presione aquí para leer en español). I grew up in the church with loving, caring parents. They did their job having “the talk” with me and sporadically offered dating advice. My youth group and Christian school had days and even weeks with a focus on purity, dating, and sexuality, but they addressed these topics tenuously. The teachers seemed nervous, measuring their words, and the kids just felt awkward. As I've grown into adulthood, the same strategy seems to have been implemented regarding sexuality—a class or book occasionally offered to teach about sex in marriage; the church’s general approach toward sexuality is to offer pockets of sex education. Let’s compare that approach to how culture tackles the topic of sexuality. It is everywhere! In every media outlet imaginable, we are confronted with an aggressive message of how to think about marriage, sexual activity, dating, and sexual identity. Even godly, committed Christians are far more likely to think like the world on sexual issues because they have been trained to do so. The church has offered sex education while the culture is sexually discipling us, forming our opinions and worldview on everything sexual. What Is Discipleship? We often throw words like discipleship around without taking the time to consider what they actually mean. A discipleship approach is very different from an educational model. The essence of discipleship is expressed through Moses’ charge to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the decadent culture of the Promised Land: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, NIV) There are three critical elements in Moses’ teaching to parents that still apply thousands of years later: A clear understanding of what is right, what is wrong, and the lordship of God in our lives A daily integrating of that teaching into everyday life A modeling of what it looks like to walk according to God’s commands If we want to know what sexual discipleship™ looks like, we can just take a look at the world. Honestly, they are modeling it masterfully! The world's system has its own great commission. They are doing a fantastic job of converting us into disciples of their worldview and sexual agenda. Much of the media, news outlets, and educational leaders are aggressive about passing on their sexual values to children and adults. You are shunned and ridiculed if you express an opinion that differs from these values. Looking at the outlets representing the world’s system, do you see a clear doctrine or vision of what they believe about sexuality? From what you observe through entertainment media, news outlets, the government, and educational system, is the messaging about sexuality from the world consistent? You bet it is! From preschoolers to senior citizens, the world’s sexual mantra is loud and clear. Turn on the news. Browse through random magazines. Flip through satellite television channels, surf the Internet, walk around on a college campus, and you will see very consistent messaging. In fact, our children are barraged by the world’s sexual doctrine everywhere they turn. Tweet: Our culture doesn’t just preach sexual immorality, it readily and effectively models it. @DrJuliSlattery It is conceivable that your children may never see what it looks like to live with sexual virtue and purity. However, they will inevitably be exposed to hundreds—perhaps thousands—of examples of what sexual immorality looks like. Sexual discipleship™ is a lot more than a “talk” or retreat teaching about sexual purity. It means walking with people through the journey of sexuality through all the stages of life and addressing questions that arise from life experience and cultural pressures. Sexual discipleship™ goes beyond sex education. Biblical sexual discipleship paints a complete picture of sexuality as not simply something to avoid but a great gift to be treasured, celebrated, and reclaimed. What Must Change Parents often ask me how and when to talk to their children about sex. Before we ever talk to our kids about sex, we need to be sure that our own sexual worldview is grounded in truth. The vast majority of Christians have very little idea of how to integrate their sexuality with who they are as children of God. Those who are single don’t understand why God would give them sexual desires without an outlet of sexual expression. Those who are married don’t know how to tackle problems like no sexual desire or a spouse who looks at porn. We don’t know what to do with traumatic experiences of sexual abuse or how to get out from under the shame of past sexual sin. Why do sexually related topics cause us to feel nervous and awkward? The expression of sex is sacred and private. It should be held in honor and handled with wisdom. However, this does not mean that purity equates to silence. After all, the Bible does not shy away from addressing sexual themes throughout the Old and New Testaments. Some biblical teaching is so specific (particularly the Song of Solomon) that modern translators have “toned down” the interpretation to make it more acceptable for today’s readers. At Authentic Intimacy, we want to invite men and women into a conversation that promotes sexual discipleship™. What would happen if Christian parents and the Christian community were committed to defining, teaching, and modeling a godly sexual worldview? What if several times a day, we were given positive messages and examples of God’s beautiful design? Through our blog posts, podcasts, speaking events, social media, books, and website, we hope to be part of a movement to see these changes happen.
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Healing After #metoo
By: Dr. Juli Slattery As you watch a flood of #MeToo tags come through your social media feed, what is your reaction? Maybe you feel sick to your stomach, need some time to let the grief wash over you, or experience a rush of anger. Me too. How does something that is so hidden and pervasive finally come to light after decades of colluding in silence? I celebrate that women (and men) who have been told to be quiet can finally speak their pain out loud.  My hope and prayer is that #MeToo doesn’t end with the boldness to speak of what has happened to us. But that in time we also begin to use a similar hashtag representing that we have been healed and redeemed. Coming into the light is just the first step of God’s work in our lives. The tidal wave of sexual exploitation in our world will not subside until we recognize sexuality as a great spiritual battlefield. It is sadly ironic that some of the same people decrying sexual abuse are leaders in Hollywood who create countless films that objectify women and present sexual pleasure as a commodity traded as freely as baseball cards. This cavalier and humanistic attitude toward sexuality, pornography, and the “hook up” culture are clearly propagating the tragedy highlighted with the hashtag #metoo. What to do with Humpty Dumpty The nursery rhyme is familiar to us. Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall All of the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again How many women and men have I met who feel exactly this way as a result of the sexual exploitation they have experienced? Below the veneer of self-confidence and independence lie shattered pieces of purity, identity, innocence and trust. Even an army of psychiatrists and counselors (all the king’s men) fail to erase the shame, the memories, the anger, and the brokenness. Many survivors spend a lifetime trying to escape the dark messages written on the soul during brief moments of violation. As you're reading all of the #MeToo stories online, or even sharing your own, can you relate?  A Surprising Healer As a Christian psychologist, I am thankful for recent advances in our understanding of the impact of trauma on the brain. Counseling and medical intervention can help, but they can never heal. It is why I am passionate about exalting the ONE, who came to bring healing to all of those who have been oppressed, victimized, and abused. At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus quoted a prophecy from Isaiah: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, Because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, They will be called oaks of righteousness, A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3 Pointing to this ancient passage, Jesus declared this as the purpose of His Incarnation. He came to bring a great exchange: exchanging ashes for beauty, mourning with gladness, and despair with praise. Beside this passage in the margin of my Bible I have written, “This is your call on my life. July 2011.” This was the passage the Lord gave me while on my knees, before knowing that I would start a ministry to women (and later, men). This is why Jesus came to the earth and also why He prompted me and Linda Dillow to found Authentic Intimacy. While posting of your experience with sexual abuse is bold and purposeful, if it stops there it offers no hope. We want to tell you clearly, you are not alone and there is hope. Jesus is the God who sees your pain, who hears your cries in the night, the God of all comfort, and the One who can bind up your broken heart. He can release you from the prison of your sin and the darkness of your shame. Celebrities online, women of Hollywood, Christian leaders, and all of our dear friends, He has “been there.” Why did the God of the universe suffer abuse, ridicule, and torture at the hands human beings? So that He would be the “man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief,” identifying with us in our deepest pain. One of the names of God is “Jehovah Rapha” which means “the Lord who heals you.” Unfortunately, many Christians do not acknowledge God as the Healer of our sexual brokenness. The unspoken lie we believe is that sexuality is beyond God’s ability to heal, to redeem, and to restore. God has been gracious to bring many men and women across my path whose lives declare that God is the Healer of all brokenness, including within our sexuality. The book Surprised by the Healer gives an intimate portrait of nine real women who suffered abuse, betrayal, shame, and sexual pain but have discovered profound healing through the Lord Jesus Christ. If the hashtag #MeToo grieves you, don't stop there. It's time to be Surprised by the Healer. Follow Up Podcast Episodes from Dr. Juli Slattery*: #138- My Long Journey of Healing from Childhood Abuse #154- Healing Doesn't Happen Overnight #169- Your Wounded Heart   *Accessing these may require a membership to Authentic Intimacy.