Does The Bible Tell Me So?

Here’s a quick bible quiz.  Tell me where it asks someone to become a Christian.  How about this one – where does Jesus say that I should accept Him into my life/heart?  Find for me the “sinner’s prayer.”  Where does it say to go to church?  When did Peter become a Christian?

Should I go on?  You get the point.

As protestants we love to say that the Bible is ultimate authority.  Whether protestant or not, we all agree that it is authoritative.  The problem is that it is not authoritative in the way that we often want it to be to make our point.

What we want are simple clear rules, answers and one liners. No where is this more clear than in the realm of singleness, dating, and marriage.

I remember when I was in my twenties the big push in much of evangelical dating (just typing that phrase is sort of disturbing) was the idea of courting.  Now I don’t really have a problem with courting per se.  But what these folks tried to do is to say that their version of courting was the biblical way to find a spouse.  What I failed to realize at the time is that they had absolutely no biblical backing for this.  As I’ve written before there is not a biblical dating model.

But we want so bad for it to be simple.  We want a tweet sized answer to sexual ethics. #whatcanIgetawaywith #justifymyactions

What’s funny about this is that many on the evangelical right keep arguing bible verses that aren’t clear and others that don’t even exist while many of our more liberal churches are arguing contextual loopholes against those very same “verses”.

For example, one night I was having dinner with some friends and the topic of homosexuality came up.  One gentlemen said, “Jesus said that it was an abomination.”  Uh which verse was that again?  In a different conversation a friend said, “Jesus never addresses homosexual marriage.”  Sort of, except that He does address marriage.

The problem is that when we try to make verses mean something they don’t or insert our Christianese into the bible we set ourselves up to be discredited or worse set someone else up to fall when they later realize it.

But the problem with the other way of looking at the bible – using the context of a particular verse that we don’t like to say it doesn’t mean that or “the bible doesn’t really say. . . ” – is that we end up all over the map

Here’s what I mean.  Sticking with the “hot” homosexual issue, I’ve heard some pastors and leaders say that the bible really doesn’t say explicitly (as in an exact sentence) that a monogamous homosexual relationship is wrong.  They say that whole point is the one on one relationship for a lifetime.  They point to the couple of verses that deal with the homosexual act and say that it wasn’t talking about one of these types of relationships.

The problem with that – and it’s a big one – is that the same could be said of a lot of other things. So I ask the people who believe this are you then ok with:

  • The bible doesn’t say explicitly say that two unmarried people can’t have sex
  • It doesn’t say that two unmarried people can’t live together, have sex together or even have children together – so why even worry about marriage
  • The bible says nothing about viewing pornography, masturbation or reading shady literature.
  • It says nothing about oral sex.
  • It doesn’t say anything about appropriate dating behavior.

So basically by this argument, until I’m married, short of sex with an animal, I’m good to go. You can say that’s a slippery slope argument, except for the fact that we are already there in our culture.

(Whats ironic of course is that neither side seems to follow the very explicit instructions on divorce and remarriage.  Did anyone picket state capitols as almost every state instituted no fault divorce? Do they stand outside divorce courts?  Do they avoid making wedding cakes for two divorced people getting remarried?)

The key to all of this is obvious of course.  No straight reading of the bible by anyone without an agenda could lead you to believe any of the above was acceptable.  And there in lies the key – the bible as a whole is authoritative and it shows us what is right and wrong.  It’s not rocket science most of the time.

The bible does indeed speak to sex and marriage.  From front to back actually.  It always speaks of them together as a good thing or apart as a bad thing.  There is zero exception to this.  Sex has a purpose higher than orgasm.  It’s apparent that it is from God for marriage and all other uses are out of bounds.

What does this have to do with singleness and the church?  Everything.

We are confronted with a culture that has been and is still in a sexual revolution.  Our answer to that can not be picking one liners from scripture and trying to make them say things they don’t.  When we do that, we end up arguing over stuff that we don’t have to. It also can’t be ignoring the whole of scripture so that we can do what we want.  When we do that we take away any authority whatsoever.

The bible does lay out the answers – it’s just not tweet-able.

Don’t Be A Fool For “Love”

My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, Proverbs 3:21

Ahhh Wisdom.

Over and over again the scriptures point towards wisdom.  God asks Solomon what he wants.  Solomon asks for wisdom, because he knew he was in big trouble without it, and God grants it – and everything else.

If it is one thing I think we’ve forgotten how to teach share, it is wisdom.  This is true both in the secular world and in the church.

This lack of wisdom is seen everywhere in our culture.  It’s in our government, our marketplace, our entertainment, our sports, our schools and universities.  It is for sure seen in how we think about relationships, marriage, singleness and the idea of love.

Our wisdom has turned into head knowledge and our discretion . . . well that is just completely out the window at this point.

The problem is you can’t get to wisdom with soundbites, youtube videos, tweets, and hash tags.  WIsdom takes time and is proved right by it’s actions.

Now this lack of wisdom is seen when it comes to the church and singleness in so many ways it’s hard to even know where to start.  We look around and see the sexual immorality and all that goes with it and we just want it to stop.  The church is constantly reacting to it. But the problem is that rather than change a culture, we mostly offer rules, pledges and platitudes.  We look more interested in morality than helping people live to the full.  And you know what it’s not working.  At all.  We’re not even close.

Why?  Because the problem is WAY bigger than we are willing to see and we refuse to rethink the whole thing from the ground up.

We need to push the restart button on the whole thing, starting with what we teach our kids.  And I say this having taught adolescents for the last twenty years.  As I look back over that, I’d say that I taught them a lot of truth, but I’m not sure if I did a very good job of helping them be wise.  I have more to say about this later and I want to think about how we should teach our kids about marriage, celibacy, and all that goes with it.  I’m honestly not ready to write that yet.  I want to seek a little more wisdom first . . .

What started me thinking about this whole idea oddly enough was the song by the Doobie Brothers called “What A Fool Believes.”

It’s a song about a guy who meets up with a former flame.  Now it isn’t clear whether they were former dating partners or a crush or something else.  What is clear in the song is that the man has had a flame for this woman in his head the whole time, while the woman never carried the flame at all.  In his head he has/had something with her – but only in his head.

When I think of the Christian single men I’ve known over the years (including me) I can’t count the times I’ve seen this sort of thing.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

Here’s what I think.  I think that in most churches, when it comes to what we teach men about women, we teach them to be fools.  Not on purpose mind you, but as an unintended consequence – albeit a gigantic one.

Now maybe we don’t teach women to be wise either.  But we sort of do.  We teach them that they are the sheep and the guys are the wolves.  We tell them to be careful, to choose wisely.  We tell them, watch out for his patterns and if he has a sexual past.  He’ll want that from you after all.  Heck we even encourage them to dress wisely.  Don’t put yourself in a bad position we say.  Yes I get that it’s not perfect.  But I’m willing to bet that most Christian women can tell you what to look out for, that they need to guard their emotions and what is attractive to men and what isn’t.  I know because in the past I’ve taught all of this.

But our men?  Not so much.

We teach them to be nice.  We are taught to pursue/chase but not who to pursue or how. We are taught to keep our pants zipped but nothing about what to do.  I’m willing to bet that most Christian men can’t tell you what to look out for, how to protect themselves, how to approach a woman and almost none of them can tell you how female attraction works. Basically we don’t teach our men anything about women that will actually help them get married.  Then we sit around and complain that Christian men don’t know what they are doing.  Exactly.

We are taught to be nice, but not to be wise.  The ironic part of that is, wisdom in a guy is extremely attractive because wisdom breeds confidence and crushes insecurity.

A wise man does not chase the girl.  A wise man is not desperate.  A wise man knows who he is and doesn’t have to pose as a nice guy.  A wise man knows how to talk to a woman and which ones to talk to.  A wise man knows when a woman is attracted to him and when she isn’t and knows how to handle both.

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might – Proverbs 24:5

Have you been taught to be wise or nice?  What are you teaching others?

 

Are You Prosperous?

A couple of weeks ago someone emailed me and asked if I would write some about singleness in the context of Jeremiah 29:11.  This is of course the verse that says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Basically, what this person was asking about is if God wants to prosper me and I desire a spouse, then why is He not providing one?  They rightly pointed out that you could try your best to follow God and still seem pretty non-prosperous.  Why do people point to that, especially as it relates to singles?

This is a really important thought, not just related to singleness but certainly including that.

First of all, a lot of times this stuff gets served up to singles as spiritual platitudes by often well meaning friends and churches.  It fits under the “Everything Happens For A Reason” group.  Things like, “This is God’s best for you”, “Just wait on God,” and “God has someone for you.”  Now any one of those could be true in a particular situation but they shouldn’t be tossed out as truth for every situation.

This particular verse is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. 

To begin with we can’t just pull sentences out of the Bible and apply them to the question I’m currently asking.  We have to look at what it says in the context that it was written. Mainly it is important to ask who is it written to.  In this case God is speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites who at the time are in exile in Babylon.  In the sentence before, God says that after 70 years he will bring them back to Israel.  So in a straight up reading of that scripture, in context, God is promising something to the Israelites at that time (which by the way He delivers on).

But I think it’s fair to go beyond that a little.  In other words when you look at the whole of scripture I think it’s fair to say that God does have good plans for his people.  Now granted His people screw it up about 90% of the time, but God’s plans for us are good not bad – always.  I think this scripture (when included in the full context) is a good picture of an example of that.

But even there the example doesn’t stop in verse 11.  A huge part of our problem is we pick what prosperous means, and then we demand God give it to us.  But what does prosperity really look like?  If you read even just the next sentence you get a picture. “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

In other words, God is most interested in us and Him.  Seek ME!  Find ME!  I’m HERE.

I once heard a 20 year old single mom speak on this in front of about 3000 people.  She had been abused, abandoned, and neglected.  She lived in community living, was trying to work and go to school.  She stood up there and read this scripture (all of it, not just verse 11) and then after sharing that God wanted us to seek Him she said, “I AM PROSPEROUS!”  She said it with such authority that Jesus might as well have been standing at the mic. She got it!

We are prosperous if we have Jesus.  We are not if we don’t.

This idea that I can look at my singleness and just assume that God wants to give me a spouse is not a very good approach.  If I were you I sure wouldn’t hang my theology of singleness on a verse about the Israelites.

But here is what I would do.  I’d trust what the whole of scripture says about God’s love for you.  You see God does care.  He is interested in your singleness, dating and everything else.  He promising to lead you if you will seek Him.  And He for sure wants to lead you to life to the full.

And here’s one last thought.  What if your identity was in Christ, not singleness or in whatever you see as prosperity?  What if you saw yourself as prosperous to begin with?  If you really believed that, lived out of it even, how would that change how you view your singleness?  How would it change how you interacted with the opposite sex?  Which do you think is more attractive – someone who views themselves as prosperous or someone who doesn’t? It’s a lot easier to love someone out of prosperity than out of neediness.

So let me ask you, Are you prosperous?  Do you approach your singleness out of need or prosperity?