Men’s Spiritual Leadership And The Bible

One of the most overused, misunderstood, and confusing things in the church is the idea of leadership.  This is especially true when it comes to men in relation to women. It’s my hope today to make that even more confusing.  Just kidding.  Maybe.

Before we get biblical so to speak, let me throw out three simple thoughts on leadership. Being a leader is not super complicated.  It requires really two main things.  First you have to be going somewhere.  Second, someone has to be following you.  Just because you strike out in a direction does not make you a leader.  That just makes you going somewhere, which is great.  But to be a leader means that you actually lead others.

Secondly, it’s also important to note that leadership is not contingent upon being a “good” person.  That would make you a “good” leader in a sense.  But as I’ve mentioned before you can be a bad person and an effective leader.  Hitler had a ton of followers.  As awful as that was it would be ridiculous to say that he was not a leader.

Jesus was of course the greatest leader in history by any definition of the term.  He changed the world order.  As a follower of Jesus our hope is that we can lead people towards Him and His kingdom.  Which brings us to point three – we have to first be a follower of Him in order to lead towards Him.  I want to clarify that before we start looking at leading others because even though we can learn a lot about leadership from looking at Jesus and how He led, if we aren’t actually following Him then really we aren’t going to the right direction to begin with.  And remember, direction matters.

Now all of that seems pretty straight forward.  So why is it that we are all so confused in the context of singleness and marriage?  There are a lot of reasons.

Some of it has to do with the fact that in order to sound more with the times in our culture we have sort of used the word leadership in some places that aren’t necessarily biblical. They sound biblical but they add to the confusion.

One of the places this happens is when we say that the man is the spiritual leader of the household when he is married.

What most people refer to is the scripture in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Paul is giving instruction to the people of Ephesus about life and in this particular part talks about husbands and wives.  He says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ as the head of the church.  He commands the husbands to love and give themselves up for their wives and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.

Now whole books have been written about this and I have only a few hundred words here so we are going to keep it in the context of our conversation here.

The first thing to note is that this is not conditional.  Just as the vows you take on your wedding day are not conditional.  When you make the vows you don’t say, “I promise to love and cherish and not forsake you if you do these certain things”.  No your promise is unconditional.  Until death.  That’s the vow.  It’s a covenant not a contract. This is similar. Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands love your wife if you feel in love” or “Love your wife if your romantically attracted at the time” or “love your wife if she is nice to you”.  Nor does he say, “Wives submit to your husband when you feel like its a good idea” or “submit to your husband if he’s earned it that day”.  It’s a command for each person regardless of the situation.*

The second thing to note here is that the word leadership isn’t used. The word head is used to name the role, and the instructions to the man (instructions for the head) describe what he is to do.  But nowhere is he called the leader.  It’s not that he doesn’t lead.  As the head, Christ leads the church – by loving it no matter what.  But he does have positional authority.  Leading is a part of the job description, but it’s not the job title.

Now here is where everyone freaks out.  We don’t like that.  So what happens is one of the following:

Some say, “It talks about mutually submitting before that . . . ”  That is just a terrible argument.  You can say, “What was true for Ephesus isn’t true now.” That’s an argument.  I disagree with it.  But that makes some sense and I can respect it.  But pretending Paul doesn’t mean what he says is weak and intellectually dishonest.

Some want to abuse it.  This happens when we give men the role (head) without the instructions (love, give your self up etc).  This is where men can abuse their position.  This has for sure happened throughout history and still happens today.

But most in evangelical culture today want to say essentially, “Men, this is your position, if you do everything right and earn it.  Your wife will let you know when that is.”  I know that’s a little sarcastic.  But this is really does seem to be the message.  Do it all right and then it will all go right.  That last sentence is dangerous on a lot of levels.

We like the term “spiritual leader” because it sounds better than head.  But what we end up telling guys is: If you lead well, you’ll be the head.  What we need to instead say is: you’re the head, so lead well.  When we get this wrong, we basically want men to take on the responsibilities that he has without giving him the role that he should have.  Why would anyone want that?

Once you’re married – from a biblical perspective, you’re the head.  You can either be a good one or a bad one and your wife is not necessarily the grade card on that.

Wow! We just covered a lot of ground not very deeply.  You still might be thinking, “what in the heck does this have to do with me the single man?”  In my next post I’ll give you some thoughts on why how you view this is so important.  For now I’d ask you to think about exactly that.  How do you view all of this?

*I understand that there may be extreme conditions that would be exceptions – such as abuse etc. but we have turned everything into an exception and it isn’t working out well.

Condemned To Celibacy?

Recently I attended a conference on healthy sexuality.  It was very well done and the spirit of the event was super encouraging to say the least.  Within the many different topics and conversations was of course the discussion of how a person who is attracted to the same sex should live out their life.

Now this wasn’t a conference where people were demanding that anyone live a certain way and it was all non-confrontational, but the general answer was that from a biblical perspective that person should not be engaged in a same sex sexual relationship. In other words they should live a celibate life.

In response to this, one person said, “So basically we are condemning them to a life of loneliness and isolation.” I’m quite sure that this person was far from the only one in the room thinking that way.

I’m not going to dive too far into the topic of homosexuality today (I have a couple of posts that I can share if I ever decide I want to go viral).  But instead, I want to respond to this person’s understanding in a very different way.

I can’t speak for him, but I can deduct that the reason this gentlemen said what he said about celibacy is at least two fold.

First, in evangelical culture, we have completely left out the call to celibacy, the gift of celibacy and those who for one reason or another end up unmarried and yet desiring holiness.  Literally we have spent about 500 years of protestantism screwing this up.  It’s a real problem.

Because we have no place for or theology of celibacy, we then only dust it off for special cases.  Because we have no place for a heterosexual to pursue the call or gift of celibacy, we look like idiots suggesting that the homosexual should be “condemned to that”.

This comes from the Church’s nuclear family idol.  Marriage and family are seen as THE path to holiness and wholeness.  You can’t go around preaching that message for decades and then dust off the other path for a few people.  But that is exactly what the evangelical leadership of our generation has attempted to do.  Obviously that’s not working out very well.  This comes partially from an adaptation of a secular belief into our evangelical culture.

That is the secular belief that sexual fulfillment is a right.  Not only do I have the right to sexual fulfillment, but in the secular culture, I have the right to fulfill that sexual desire in just about any way I want (assuming everyone is an adult and “consents”).

Now evangelical culture has not adopted that belief.  Instead they have adapted it to their own framework.  The evangelical culture says that each person, at least each man, can not possibly contain their sexual desire.  It must be fulfilled.  The message is that it is controlling you, bigger than you, bigger than your moral agency, bigger than your spiritual maturity.  Therefore the only answer available to holiness is marriage.  Marriage makes you an adult.  Marriage makes you mature.  Marriage makes you holy.

Now let me be clear in case you are new to the blog.  I’m extremely pro marriage.  I think that most people should pursue marriage.  But, we cannot assume that in our theological, and practical teaching.  In fact, by assuming that we hurt not only those not called to it, or unable to achieve it, but we hurt even those who do get married.

If the way to holiness is marriage then what we are saying is that the person called to celibacy, the person with the gift of celibacy, the person born without desire to get married, the person who can’t get married, or the person who doesn’t desire the opposite sex, cannot be holy on their own.  By doing this we are literally agreeing with secular culture that sexual desire must be fulfilled in order for a person to be whole and holy.

This is basically what Justice Kennedy said in the supreme court decision on Gay Marriage.  He writes of those wishing to marry, “Their hope is to not be condemned to live in loneliness, . . . ”  Sound familiar?

If celibacy is something that someone is “condemned to” then we are all in a lot of trouble.

Was Jesus “condemned” to celibacy?  Paul?  The early Church Fathers?  The Pope? Do we really want to see celibacy as a punishment?

This is what we have helped set up.  This is why we can’t afford to answer the culture by adapting it into a Christian Version. Its why our answer to an increased delay in marriage, and people fulfilling sexual desires in ways other than marriage can’t be simply – marriage will set it all right.

Instead we have to rescue the celibacy of the New Testament.  We have to rescue the idea of family from a focus on the nuclear family to a focus on the family of God.  We have to have a more complete theology (or picture if you will) of how celibacy and marriage are both pictures of the Kingdom and both paths to holiness and wholeness.  If we don’t, then we all lose.  It will get worse.

The Church, including and starting with each of us in it, is the only hope of something different.  We have to be counter cultural, not just sub-cultural.  Read that line again.  It might be from the Lord.

We have to lead, not follow, not just respond and react.  If the Church (read all of us) don’t step back and consider the whole picture of celibacy and marriage, no one else will.

You Should Do More, You Just Can’t Be In Charge

One of the things that always bothers me is when we assume single people should do more ministry.  This sort of thought process happens all the time for several reasons.

It comes from the pulpit because pastors either misunderstand or misuse what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7.  Without going into too much depth here as I’ve written extensively about this, Paul is not saying if you are not yet married that you are therefore not distracted and able to be a better, more focused Christian.  He is instead saying if you are not distracted by a desire to get married, it could be that you have the gift/calling of celibacy and that would be a good thing.

But this is where this gets really ironic is that the same people telling you to “take advantage of your singleness” in ministry don’t want you to actually lead the ministry.  Perhaps what they really mean, is that while they can, they want to take advantage of your singleness.

You see it’s fine if you want to serve in the nursery or maybe the youth, on the worship team, set up and tear down, and in the rare church you might even be able to lead a small group.

But, if you want to be a pastor or elder, better think again.

Most places won’t explicitly say it.  Which in my opinion is sort of cowardice.  But there are those who will say it.  And honestly while I completely disagree, at least they come out in the open.

What’s interesting with most of these folks is that they don’t claim it’s completely biblical, it’s instead mostly biblical.  Haha.  Seriously.  Follow along.

Al Mohler reasons that pastors should be married because of the logic of scripture and the centrality of marriage.

For the logic of Scripture he points to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9  which both essentially state that the elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife and manage his own household well etc.

But another point of logic here might say that the person who is writing these instructions is . . . wait for it. . . not married.

In Mohler’s version of the Kingdom, marriage is central.  This is true of many of our churches, not just him.  He’s just saying it out loud so to speak.  But the problem is that marriage is not central to the biblical kingdom*.  Marriage is from God.  And if you are not called to celibacy, then by all means you should pursue it.  Paul says it, if you are distracted with that drive, which almost all of us are, then go get married.  It’s natural and good.  But it’s not for everyone and even many of the folks who long for marriage won’t attain it.

Here’s another problem with the “logic” (which I still question if any seminaries actually teach logic).  What happens if you hire the pastor and two years later his spouse dies.  Can he still be your pastor?  Is there a time table on remarriage?  That’s just one of a bunch of examples I could list.

Also he drops the “logic” that all the relationships inside the church will be more natural if the leader(s) is married.  In other words, how can you be an example to all the married men or lead the single men to marriage or minster to married people if you’re not married.  That makes sense.  It seems to me by this “logic” that I’ve never been 50 so I probably can’t minister to those over 50.  I’m not rich so it would be hard to minister to rich folks.  I’m not poor so the poor are out.  Basically I should only do ministry with white middle class people younger than me.  That’s an interesting plan.

But the main reason folks don’t want single pastors is because we all know that no man can overcome or control in any way his sexual desire.

Mark Driscoll writes as much in a blog responding to an email question that literally asks, “Does God still call men with the gift of singleness into pastoral ministry?

Driscoll answer is no, well sometimes, but it won’t go well, or they all die. . . Haha.  I mean this guy is something.

First Driscoll points out that Paul and Jesus were single but they both lived hard lives and died.  Because of course married people don’t live hard lives and die?  Ummm.

Secondly he of course quotes the same verses that Mohler does.

But he goes further – he says that much of what he learned as a pastor he learned as a husband and father, which I don’t doubt (although it gives me some pause with his style). But the catch here is that he was never actually single.  He got married at 21.  Of course he learned it after he was married.

But he goes really big on this idea that a single pastor couldn’t possibly with stand today’s sexual temptations.  He states:

I have known only a few single men who were pastors, and the majority of them disqualified themselves morally.  I know thousands and thousands of pastors and only one is a single pastor who has not disqualified himself and has a church that is healthy and growing.

Wow, just wow.  First, there are many ways to be disqualified.  Ahem.  Also we’ve seen plenty of married pastors be “disqualified”.  Third, you do not know thousands and thousands of married pastors that have a church that is healthy and growing.  I could go at this all day.

Both of these folks admit that they can’t really say that a single person biblically can’t be a pastor.  It’s just that they can’t be.

This is all so bad.

It just completely eliminates a whole lot of people, completely dishonors those called to celibate service in the Kingdom, is completely confusing to young men trying to find their calling, and honestly just continues to send us to back to the cycle where the church is for the people with a current nuclear family.

 

* Marriage is becoming less central in the secular culture as well.

The Church’s Uncoupled Teaching Problem

My last two posts I’ve been responding to a post from Relevant that Scott Sauls wrote dealing with the Church and its focus on the nuclear family and lack of focus on singles.  I want to respond to one last part today.

I want to restate that I’m not trying to pick on Scott or attack him in any way.  I appreciate that he is at least identifying that there is a problem in our evangelical culture when it comes to this issue.  I also believe that he represents where a lot of people in our circle are at.  That is, they see there is a problem, but they don’t realize how deep it is and that a lot of the assumptions they are making are actually deeply flawed.

In the last post we looked at the idea that God will either bring you someone or He won’t and if you aren’t married then He just hasn’t done so yet.  I actually think the main reason that Scott brought this up is not so much to offer a terrible platitude to singles but to try to say that unmarried folks can have just as rich of walk with Jesus as married folks.  Let me say a huge Amen to that.

I think more and more church leaders are waking up to that idea.  However, the way in which they view that unmarried life is lacking and it is a huge reason we have all the confusion that we have.  So let me respond to that here.

Scott writes:

Rather than feed the false view that the single life is the unfulfilled life, the Church must renew its vision for singleness as a high and honored calling—one that was shared by the Apostle Paul and Jesus, no less—that positions uncoupled men and women to serve God’s Kingdom with unhindered focus, creativity and zeal.

 

We need to quit using the word singleness as catch all.  Here’s what I mean.  When we talk about singleness as a calling, at least biblically, we are talking about the call to celibacy.  We have to get this.  This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that we can’t afford to take short cuts on this issue.  We have to define what all of these things are.  There are people who end up celibate in one three ways (from birth, by choice, or by the sin of man).  Then there are those who are called to be married, the divorced and the widowed.  All completely different.

Being unmarried is not the same as being called to celibacy.  Paul and Jesus were not called to date indefinitely.  They were not widowed or divorced.  They were not forced into singleness because they couldn’t get a date or interact with the opposite sex.  Was Jesus hoping to get married and God was just good to Him by not giving Him a spouse? We have to actually think this through.

More importantly, we cannot afford to continue to equate all unmarried people with what Paul writes in 1st Corinthians. Uncoupled?  Really?!  All uncoupled people have unhindered focus, creativity and zeal? This makes my head want to explode.

If that is the case then all “uncoupled” people would be closer to and more mature in Christ than married people.  Why would we want anyone to get married?  Do they offer a logic course in seminary?

A person who is called to celibacy does have a distinct and high calling.  It is way more than just not being married.  Instead it is a calling, gifting and/or choice to live with a singular focus on doing God’s work from an unmarried context.  It is not a calling away from something but towards something.  It’s not seasonal.  It is a picture of the future and a special place in the Kingdom now.  We should indeed see this as a high and honored calling.  We don’t.  At all.  In fact we have no plan for these people.  But it starts with recognizing it as different and unique and not just an outcome for all people who don’t happen to be married right now.

When we don’t separate it out we end up with a completely confusing and unfair message to both the people who have this high calling and to those who don’t but aren’t currently married.

We are failing to honor and support those who are called to it and therefore end up not allowing them to offer all that they can to our Church family.  They are getting ripped off and so is our family as a whole because their gifts go unused or at least under utilized.

At the same time it’s unfair to those without this gift.  We end up essentially saying to the single who feels called to get married, “No worries. This is so great you can focus more on the Lord.  If you get married that means less Jesus for you.”  Is this our message to them? Is our message to the married folks that they can’t be as focused on Jesus?

It also puts undue pressure on the people who are single but not called to this high honor. To try to call them to something that they are not called to and not trying to choose.  To say that they should or could look for a spouse but also be undistracted by it is frankly sort of asinine.  A straight reading of 1 Corinthians seems to me to say, “If you are not distracted – stay single and follow that calling.  If you are distracted – go get married.”

The bottom line here is that Paul’s teaching is not referring to singleness as we know it in our culture and we need to quit teaching that it does.  We also do need to offer the honor that Scott is suggesting to those that are called to it.  If we did that one thing the whole game would change.

The Protestant Celibacy Problem

A couple of years ago I was asked by a campus pastor at a local Catholic University if I would be willing to sit on a panel about vocation and represent the unmarried people who don’t feel called to celibacy.  I said yes and was excited by the opportunity.

Now this is sort of funny but I was the only protestant in the room and perhaps the least educated.  Ha!  I was for sure the least educated person on the panel which included: the president of the university and his wife (married vocation – and they had been married for decades), a nun, a Jesuit Priest and a priest whose job it was to help students who felt they might be called to celibate ministry (becoming a priest or nun) discern that.

We went around and shared about our vocation/place in life.  A lot of questions from the audience were centered around how you can figure out what you are supposed to do. Everyone on the panel was great – I was in very solid company and would gladly share a stage with any of them, any time.

But the person who stood out the most (and not just because we kept agreeing with each other) was the priest.  This guy was unbelievably smart.  He also had ways of explaining the call to full time celibate ministry that I had never really heard articulated before.

What he and I both immediately hit on is that the first decision you have to make is to follow Jesus.  There is no close second.

The way he said it was great.  He said essentially, “The first vow we all have to make is to Jesus – to be committed to Him.  Then we can make a second vow – either to God to be in celibate ministry or to God and to another person.”

As I listened to this guy speak and essentially lead our time, I found myself over and over thinking a couple of things.

1. The students that go to see this guy are super fortunate.  I don’t believe he would lead them to do anything out of an agenda.  The man wanted to help people find their calling – whatever that was.  I truly believe he would be one of the wisest people they could ever consult.

2. If you’re a protestant or lay person who feels called to celibacy, you are screwed.  Because there is absolutely no help available.  I mean zero.  None.  Nada. Nothing.  Not even a whiff.  You get the idea.

Look I know that not every priest is like this, far from it.  Not even every priest in his sort of position is like him.  I get that.  But at least there’s a chance.  At least there is some sort of process.  There’s some sort of guidance.

The problem starts with the fact that nowhere growing up in the protestant church will you hear that there is even an option of celibacy.  You might now and then hear someone mention it as they skip over it in the passages in Matthew 19 and 1st Corinthians 7 on the way to talk about marriage.  Or worse they might misinterpret Paul and say that the singleness he’s talking about is seasonal.

So we start with almost no base knowledge at best and wrong information at worst.  But if by some miracle you actually feel sort of called to it or have a conversation with a wise believer who teaches you something about it, there is no one to help you discern it.

Now if you are dating someone, we’ve got counsel out the wazoo.  I mean we can counsel you how to date (or how to “court”).***  There is premarital counseling and about million books to choose from.  Heck now-adays you can even go to pre-engagement counseling. If you’re married there is of course marital counseling – heck it’s pretty much a badge of honor in the church to have been to that counselor.  Marriage is hard after all.

However if you are questioning your call to celibacy – good luck.  There’s no pre-celibacy counseling.  Unless of course you are struggling with same sex attraction – then we are all about it.

If somehow, on your own, you figure it out and begin to live that way, there’s no counseling or support for that either.  Name the last time you heard someone honor a person who made that choice.  Yeah I can’t think of a time either.  So figure it out on your own, then do it alone.  The thing is, the call to celibacy is not a call to being alone.  But that is the way we’ve set it up.

Not only does this keep people from entering this vocation, it also could keep someone from marriage. If you don’t have a clear vision of the call to celibacy and what it is, how can you decide if you are called to it or not?  If there are no models of it or no honoring of it – why would anyone even consider it?

Both marriage and celibacy demonstrate different things about the kingdom.  Part of the reason we are losing on the marriage front is that we have completely punted on the celibacy front.****  Hear me clearly Protestant leader friends – You can not have a true theology of marriage without a right, well thought out, robust theology of celibacy.

Most of us aren’t called to this.  But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the vocation or those who are (or might be) called to it.

The bottom line is we need to stop reacting to our culture, take a breath, and start at the beginning.

 

***We offer very little to either sex about how to get a date, what is attractive or effective for finding a spouse.  You are more likely to hear about waiting for the one and what not to do while waiting, than about how to go get a spouse.

****For an interesting read on the cost of this check out my internet friend John’s recent post.  It’s an interesting take.

Flee Means Get Out Now

If you’ve grown up in the evangelical world at all, then you’ve heard the following advice: “flee from sexual immorality”.  I remember reading this in 1st Corinthians 6 back when I was a teenager and always referring back to it.  It was of course easiest to agree with when I wasn’t dating anyone.  Haha.

This is actually an important idea, even if we can sometimes become legalistic about it or use it to beat up on people.  But at it’s core it is right.  Paul himself writes that sexual immorality is to be fled from because all other sins are outside the body while this has to do with not just the physical and doesn’t just hurt someone else, but against your own body, which should be a temple for God.

But if we are going to understand this idea we need to realize what this really looks like. And to do that we need to define some ideas.

To begin with, we need to define what sexual immorality actually is.  I mean if we are going to flee from something it might be a good idea to know what it is we are fleeing from. There are of course a lot of ways to look at this question.  Some people will point out that in the bible the term usually refers to sex, prostitution, and the like.  In other words, they would say, the bible is silent about oral sex, masturbation etc.

Other people leave the physical all together and jump to what Jesus said about lust in Matthew 5.  They would argue that having feelings of lust in any way or context is sexual immorality.  I’ve already discussed this verse here.

In reality we have to look at the bible as a whole in the contexts of the writers and then ask what would count in our society now as sexually immoral.  But for a simple definition for today let’s say this:  Sexual immorality is the fulfillment of sexual desire outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship.  

Assuming that definition the question becomes how do we flee from that.  This is where I think we mess up.

We need to actually be committed to it.  This is why our definition of sexual immorality is so important.  Am I just committed to not having sex (which is easy if I’m not dating someone) or am I committed to avoiding all sexual immorality?  This is why this is not only a single person question but for everyone.

Secondly we need to get into our heads that flee means just that.  Paul doesn’t say to endure sexual immorality, or work through your sexual immorality, or even to overcome sexual immorality.  He says basically, get the hell away from it.  So what does that look like?

Flee means avoid the situation to begin with.  Now I get how this can be taken to the extreme.  Never be alone with the opposite sex or don’t go dancing are examples.  I’m not suggesting that.  I mean I guess almost anything can lead to immorality if we let it.  But I think there are some common sense things here that we can do.

Fleeing is not, let’s get naked and then not have sex.  It’s not having a secret life online that no one knows about.  It’s not traveling alone and having a girl over to your hotel room.  It’s not drinking a lot and then hoping nothing bad happens.  We could go on and on, and create a nice comfortable list.

These are indeed important to flee from.  We can set ourselves up by having people who know what we are doing when dating someone, setting up online accountability, and generally not having a secret life.  We should live in the light, not in the dark.

But the number one way to flee sexual immorality?  Don’t date the wrong people. Now again that always sounds easy when we aren’t dating anyone.  And yet so many of date the wrong people over and over.

Here’s the kicker you need to flee from it early on.  I think that guys fall into sexual immorality most of the time through their eyes.  Women fall into it through their emotions.  I understand that these are general truths, but I think it’s pretty fair.

Here’s what I mean, guys chase the hot girl, and women give in to the guy that gives them the butterflies so to speak.  This puts us in the position to give in.  Once we are in we start tossing all of our qualifiers out the window.

You need to flee early.  I’ve seen it again and again over the years (and I’ve done it).  It starts out with “She’s hot but not really that deep spiritually.  She’s exploring it though”. “We’re not dating, he’s not a Christian.  We’re just friends” (followed by smile). This soon turns into, “I know I shouldn’t be with him, but I can’t help what I feel.” This is followed by sexual immorality.

The longer you go down the road with someone you “shouldn’t be with”, the harder it is to turn around.  Once you are emotionally invested it gets harder to leave.  Instead we rationalize and justify more.  If we “feel attraction” to someone we know isn’t right, then fleeing sexual immorality means not dating them – not just hoping we don’t sleep with them.

Fleeing is a choice and while we always have the chance to flee, the earlier we make it the better chance we have of following through.  Fleeing means getting out early, not running up to the line and then trying to stop last second.

What does it mean to you to flee from sexual immorality?  Do you flee early or late?

 

 

 

Must You Lust?

Many years ago I was at a men’s weekend golf outing.  It was an incredible time where we spent time golfing, getting to know each other and talking about Jesus.  Every morning and night we would circle up and someone would lead with a thought about Jesus.  But before that at each meeting one or two men would share their story.  They could share whatever they wanted about their life, usually a little of their past and then where they are now.

One night as one man in his late twenties was sharing, he shared a shocking secret with the group.  He said that he had never masturbated.  Now of course I knew from my evangelical training in avoiding all things sex that this was impossible.  After all, 99% of men masturbated, and the other 1% lied about it.

The problem was I believed him.  He wasn’t bragging about it, and no he wasn’t a teen groom and he didn’t even have the call of celibacy.  He just hadn’t done it.  What in the world would we hold him accountable for.  What promise could he keep?  Hahaha.  Man we are messed up.

There is so much that goes into the assumptions we make about men and singleness/marriage/sex that has been perpetuated by both our culture and the church that I can’t even begin to get into it all.

Let me begin with this.  I get that Christians are trying to help.  I respect the heck out of the desire to have men who live virtuous lives.  I agree we need that.  But how we go at that makes a huge difference in whether we actually help men achieve it.

Here’s the basic message to young men.

You WILL want sex.  All the time. While not exactly wrong, you must do everything you can to not think about it.  But you will.  Looking at a woman and wanting to sleep with her is wrong and pretty much the same as doing it.  But you will pretty much walk around doing that exact thing, forever, no matter what.  Victory over this is not really possible.  But you should be held accountable for it.  Women are holy and only give in because men demand it.  If it weren’t for men being controlled by lust, women would basically never sin. Therefore it is your job to be nice, not want sex until you are married and then be “the man sexually“, all the while knowing that you will still lust after every other hot woman that you see.

What kind of plan is this?

First, the desire for sex is not wrong.  In fact it is a huge part of why we get married.  We are created to be sexual beings.  We will desire sex.  We will be attracted.  None of that in and of itself is sin.  Read that again.

The bible does not say, “don’t desire sex”.  It does say, don’t be controlled by that desire. (OR ANY OTHER DESIRE).

Second.  Looking at a woman and thinking about sex is not the same as having sex with her.

People love to point at Matthew 5:28 and say that Jesus is saying that if you desire sex with a woman, that is the same as sleeping with her.  Well not exactly.  I don’t have space here to go into the whole thing although it’s for sure worthy of a post in and of itself.  But we need to stop using this as a way to beat the crap out of Christian men.

To begin with we need to understand that Jesus is giving a whole message (the sermon on the mount) that goes all together.  He has just stated that you need to be more righteous than the Pharisees.  In other words, they were following the letter of the law and Jesus is saying, “let’s get at the heart of it”.  He then basically says, “Here are some examples.” Take out the subtitles – It’s one sermon.  (Notice how we don’t have a bunch of messages about anger, oaths, fasting/religious activities etc. and we don’t suggest cutting body parts off.)

Jesus is also not equating looking at a woman with sleeping with her.  Without going into all of the Greek here, He is saying the sin of adultery starts before sex.  It has more to do with coveting the woman and actually considering how to be with her.  In other words, looking at her with the intent to engage in that activity.

Lust is actually not a sexual term per se.  It is a term of desire – where it becomes more of coveting of something.  I can lust after a lot of things.  James clearly writes that desire is not sin.  Even sexual desire.  Sin can come from evil desire.  But it doesn’t have to. The question is, where is your heart.  If a person’s heart is not right, that is when the desire (lust) grows into sin.

Jesus is saying it starts in the heart, not that every temptation or thought is equal to committing the sin.  This is why Paul writes to take every thought captive.  The battle starts in the heart.

Bottom line is – we don’t have to do it.  We’ve confused the idea that we will always struggle with SIN with the idea that we will always struggle with a particular sin.  But in truth we can grow and have victory over certain sins through Jesus.

So how do we get victory?  I will share more about that.  But the point here today is that we are not destined to give in to the lusts of our flesh.

What have you been taught about men and sexual desire, lust and sexual sin?