Talking Sex with Sy Rogers
Not talking about sexual issues does not help anybody. It does not make us holy, it does not make us relevant in a world that does talk about sex every day - promoting values that hurt and mislead people. One of the things that the Spirit of God is addressing at the end of the second millennium is issues of sexuality not just in the world, but also within the family of Christ, because everybody is a sexual creature and we need redemption in that area as much as any other area of our lives.
When I was based in the States I used to host television and radio programmes which specialised in sexual issues. I found that 99% of the people who contacted us with a sexual struggle were Christian people. They were struggling with things like homosexually-related concerns, masturbation, pornographic images, attractions beyond their marriage. Even though they had moral knowledge and believed what the Bible said, it did not make them immune to their human passions. Nor did it cause those passions to evaporate.
One day a man telephoned me 'live on air' threatening to commit suicide. He told me that he had been a born again believer for 22 years and went to a big (and famous) charismatic church which prided itself on having all the answers.
He struggled with homosexual feelings, he said, and he knew that these attractions were not something that God wanted him to act on. "But", he said, "knowing this has not helped me get rid of these feelings and attractions. I began to realise that I needed support, but every time I went to ask for help invariably before I could open my mouth and say 'help me with this problem', somebody would make a 'queer' joke, or a derogatory comment, or say something ugly about a homosexual person."
He began to feel that the church with all the answers did not have an answer for him. He felt weary after 22 years of closeted struggle, shame and frustration. He knew that living an openly gay life was not the answer for him, but he did not know what the answer was. It's not that he wanted to die, he said, he was just sick and tired of his existence. He figured God would understand.
So he was sitting in front of the television preparing to commit suicide when the Lord told him to turn on the television and there I was sharing from 1 Corinthians 6 :9-11. The New Testament church in Corinth was having some problems with maturity, because those new believers had grown up in a very pagan society - sex was big business in Corinth, sex and being sexual and sensual was highly esteemed, not much different from society today - and so there were sexual problems in the church.
"Some of you here", says Paul to them, "slept around before you were married, and some of you committed adultery, and some of you earned your money in the sex business, and some of you were homosexual. People who persist in living this way do not inherit the kingdom of God, some of you used to be like that, but now you're not. Your sin is forgiven. You have been justified because of Jesus. You have a new identity."
This is the only biblical record that we have of ex-homosexuals existing in the New Testament church, 2000 year old evidence that some of the members of the New Testament church in Corinth came out of homosexual backgrounds, along with other sexually sinful backgrounds. And the man who had phoned in said, "Why did I have to wait 22 years to hear this simple message? Any Bible College graduate should have been able to share it with me". And he broke down and wept.
In the Bible God addresses sexual sin and provides us with examples of sexual sinners being redeemed, but many Christians have never thought about this.
When the prostitute crashed the dinner party at the house of the religiously correct they were scandalised that such a bad girl would dare to darken their door. She did not throw herself at the feet of the religious people who could only offer her judgment. She threw herself at the feet of Jesus who was shockingly called 'the friend of sinners'.
How many of us are fearful of being nice to 'sinners' because we are afraid that we will be misconstrued as approving of sin? Yet the second commandment is 'treat other people as you'd like to be treated'- God gets to be the judge, we get to be considerate, respectful and nice.
Jesus did not say to the woman, "You're going to burn in hell you filthy harlot!" Instead he said, "Though your sins are many and I know all of them, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, your many sins are forgiven". The first time I read that I thought: What a novel approach to evangelis!. Jesus didn't try to win an argument: "Don't you know you're living in a way that God doesn't want, don't you know how sinful you are, don't you know you better stop it or else?"
Next there's the woman caught in the act of adultery. They dragged her out to kill her and Jesus was asked, "What's your position, Rabbi? You know the Law says what she's done is punishable by death and she was caught in the act!" And Jesus uttered the immortal comment, "Yes, she's guilty. But you without sin cast the first stone at her".
That would be like Jesus saying to us today, "Go ahead and condemn the homosexual, the prostitute, the adulterer, and the fornicator because you're right, they're guilty! They are wrong and you are right! Does that make you feel better?" What if Jesus were then to peel off each of our carefully polished masks and tell everybody else what he knows about our darker secrets?
The point is not 'is she guilty?' Obviously she is. The point is when we are found guilty we want to be treated with mercy. We say, "Be merciful, patient, forgiving and understanding towards me because I'm just an imperfect, unfinished human being", and the Lord says, "Treat other people as you would like to be treated".
And to the woman Jesus says: Whatever drove you into adultery, it was a wrong choice that nearly got you killed. Don't commit adultery again, leave your life of sin, go and make better choices.
Then there is the Samaritan woman living with her fifth 'husband'. Imagine you're living in sexual sin and you go down to the cafe at a time when hardly anybody else is there to avoid seeing someone you know. You're sitting there having a latte in the morning with your newspaper when a stranger sits down at your table, looks at you and says, "That latte will not quench your deepest thirst and neither will your lover".
What would you say? The Samaritan woman says, "I am thirsty. What will quench my deepest thirst?" And Jesus says to her, "I have living water, and it will not only quench your thirst but it will be an unending supply". His answer changed her life. How many people don't even realise they are thirsty?
Proverbs 27: 7 says, "He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet". In psychological terms that means sexual temptation has little power to trap the person who has grown up feeling valuable and loved, because that person doesn't need sex to feel loved. But for the person who has grown up feeling unloved and not valued, sexual temptation will be strong, because bad love seems better than no love at all.
Children who grow up in homes where they are neglected and ignored score lower on psychological tests than children who grow up in homes where they are beaten, because bad attention and inappropriate affection is better than none at all.
This may help you understand why intelligent Bible College graduates are capable of making morally wrong choices. It's not a head issue - "If I just get enough biblical knowledge I won't have to struggle with my passions". People struggle with their passions in spite of biblical knowledge, because they are human with emotional and relational needs that may not yet be addressed properly.
We need to understand that people have reasons for the things they do, and judge them with mercy as God does.