Jesus, Sex, and Controversy

One thing that continues to puzzle me about writing and blogging is why some posts get more attention than others.

There are obvious reasons, such as when a post is controversial or speaks about a current event in a new way.

For example:
How many people would read this if it had the word sex in the title? How many people would read this if it had the word Jesus in the title?
How many people would read this if it had both sex and Jesus in the title? (Or how many of you did read it for that reason?)

These days it seems like people get more excited about a sex scandal, or a reality star’s sex change, than they do about war, politics, or faith.

The heart of the problem is that our definition of sex has a controversial connotation, but Jesus often does not. Somehow the name of Jesus doesn’t have as much impact on our culture today as sex does.
But why? Is it because we want to keep him safe? Is it because we are afraid making him controversial will turn people away? Somehow this lie has snuck in to the point where we felt the need to keep Jesus safely confined, instead of letting him push the boundaries like he always intended.

Because when Jesus first came, he was the most controversial topic of the day. Everything he said and did was far from safe. He shared meals with society’s outcasts, he spoke to those that any “good” Jewish person would shun, and he healed people that everyone else ignored. If the internet had existed at the time, his name would consistently be trending and your Facebook news feed would be covered with stories on him.

The actions and messages of Jesus were so different and so alluring that the controversy alerted people to the fact that he was nothing like everyone else. It showed people that he represented a promise of something better, because it was something that pushed beyond safe boundaries.

We have lost the radical message that made Jesus so controversial. It is important to note that this message centered around love, not hatred. There are Christians today who do supposedly radical things and make headlines, but they are not representing the love of Christ. They have created their own agenda based on incorrect assumptions, and it is controversial in a negative way.

There are always going to be critics, regardless of how positive the message is. Some people won’t ever hear the message, because it wasn’t controversial enough to outshine the Caitlyn Jenners or Jim Duggars of the world.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV) are still applicable today:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Whether it be blogging, speaking, or writing wordy comments—the way we discuss ideas should not look the same as the rest of the world around us. Hateful words and ignorant criticisms are pretensions that go against the knowledge of a loving God. We do not need to be overly controversial or have click-bait titles. Take hearts and minds captive by lifting up love, rather than waging a war of angry words and edgy messages.The radical love of Jesus is strong enough to grab attention on its own. 

Do you think Jesus is controversial?

How is his message different from the ones we hear today?
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Sex and Seventeen

For some reason, even though we have cancelled our subscription and no longer pay for it, every few months a Seventeen Magazine lands in our mailbox. The pop of color and twinge of teen no longer interest me the way it used to, but yesterday in a moment of boredom I decided to flip through its contents.

One article caught my eye: The Sex Files


The feature included confessions and reflections of senior girl’s feelings about their sexual encounters. The noble aim was to help girls have some background knowledge to make decisions that won’t get lost in the heat of the moment.

Here are the statistics that stood out to me:

– “You may think you should just ‘get it over with,’ but 84% of girls say its okay to graduate high school as a virgin.”

 

 
– “59% of girls who have hooked up have regrets about it.”

 

 
– “The younger girls were when they lost their virginity, the more likely they were to regret their decision.”

It is interesting to think back to my view of sex at seventeen. It wasn’t really too long ago, in the grand scheme of time, but I have crossed big mountains and borders in my opinions  over those years.The funny thing is that the year I was seventeen was probably when I first started on that trip, because I started that year with one point of view and ended up in a completely different camp.

Summer before my senior year I turned 17 (I have one of those annoying late birthdays compared to everyone else). I was dating a guy who was a year older than me so he was about to go to college in the fall over 2000 miles away. We were optimistic, or at least I was, about the possibility of long-distance success. Sadly though, I would’ve done almost anything to please him. I realize now that my self-confidence at the time was down in a crater somewhere, but a womanly word would rocket me up to feeling important in his eyes. I was also under the impression from my high school peers that you had sex when you were in love, but I still waited because I was never really sure.

Thanks to God, the relationship ended. I am incredibly lucky it did too, otherwise I probably would’ve been one of the 59% who regretted their decision. I thought I had been in love, so the breakup shattered me into confused pieces, but God gave me a ladder to climb out of my crater and find what true love really was.

The next summer, before I turned 18, I was dating a new guy and felt like a new person too, but this time it wasn’t because of him that I felt different, it was because of God. For once I felt that I was on a path God lead me towards, even though that meant leaving in the fall to go to a small Christian school over 2000 miles away. My view on sex and love had flipped because it no longer depended on some guy, but on God.

Seventeen Magazine found that 84 percent of girls say it is ok to graduate high school as a virgin – though I doubt that is what they think their peers would say. Yet I wonder how many of those girls actually did graduate as a virgin. My guess is not all of them, and I bet that their regrets about that decision is probably why they say it would be ok for others to do so. They know that in high school, we are just too young and naive to really understand what love is, which is why we don’t understand sex either.

It took me awhile to realize it, probably because my youth group didn’t talk about sex more than telling us not to have it, but now I know what real love is because I haven’t had sex. Waiting has given me clearer vision to truly understand God’s love and plan for my life.

Last week we talked about how we must decide our reasons for abstinence on our own for it to really stick. That can be helped by mentors and friends, but it truly is a decision we must formulate for ourselves.

My own personal reasons could ramble on forever but I will summarize them in four short points:

  1. I should reflect God’s image and holiness in everything I do, especially how I conduct myself sexually.
  2. I better understand the commitment of marriage to last forever when I know that sex is what unites two people into one representation of God’s love and commitment to us.
  3. I can’t trust my hormones (aka the “natural feelings of attraction”) to tell me what love is because things can change.
  4. By not having sex I am better able to understand what love really looks like with God and with each other – love that is selfless, love that can stretch across thousands of miles, love that can truly last forever.
There are a lot of points in between those points, and I certainly still have a lot to learn, but I hope this helps you to think about your own reasons for waiting (or not). Don’t follow the definition of sex and love that culture or your friends tell you – again this is why it is important to go to the boundaries and redefine those things for yourself.

What are your reasons for waiting or not?
How has your definition of sex and love changed since you were seventeen?

America (in)dependence – Where Freedom Falls Short

Happy fourth everyone! This holiday is always funny to me, I like the irony of celebrating the treason committed by 56 men signing a remarkably well-written document in the heat of summer. Plus the fireworks are good too.

It is clear though that this treason is no longer what we truly celebrate on the fourth of July each year, instead we celebrate the bigger notion of our country, and the even bigger dream of freedom it represents.

What does that freedom really include though? And what does it cost us?

Monday night I caved in and went to see the movie Magic Mike with two friends. I had pretty low expectations, which were unfortunately proved true, but it was a good experience to help me see where our culture is at. I will probably write another post on it soon so stay tuned.

There was a scene that stuck out to me in relation to today being the Fourth of July though. One of the many dance scenes in the movie included a special tribute for the very occasion of Independence Day. The boys marched out in camouflage uniforms, did their thing, then lowered their ranks till they were down to nothing but some very small red white and blue thongs. As they struck their final pose, their audience hooted and hollered for the grand finale of a large American flag to be lowered behind them.

is this what makes our country great?

My response – a strongly sarcastic “God Bless America” under my breath. My two friends I was with still say that was the best joke I ever made (not hard to believe) and the funniest part of the night.

Let’s be honest though – I wasn’t trying to be funny when I said it. Admittedly, I tend to use that phrase more often in times of frustration or despair than as an exclamation of pride. That was it’s initial usage anyways, to say a small prayer that God may bless this country, that He would save it from evil and help it to live up to its noble intentions.

On this Independence day, I would say we need that prayer now more than ever. We are supposed to be celebrating freedom, but is freedom really free? What cost have we paid for these things, or who else is paying the cost for us?

Don’t get me wrong I think the ideal of freedom is a great one, and it is part of why I can support our country, but we must admit that we fall short of true freedom in many places. Some people would bring up immigration, our prison system, or various human rights violations around the world. After seeing a movie like Magic Mike – the first thing I think of is our bondage to sex and the importance it has gained in our culture.

The way that Hollywood portrays sex, in movies like Magic Mike, makes it seem carefree and fun. Maybe it is in the moment, but they don’t emphasize the way that it imprisons people in loneliness, traps them into unhealthy relationships, or forces them to view love as defined by sex. Sex can be a good thing, the way God intended it, but the way that our culture has championed it as an independent choice free from consequence is a lie that only breeds further dependence.

Women in real strip clubs or prostitution houses, ones who are stuck in a system we allow, they are not free. Those traded into human trafficking who are herded like cattle for these industries, they are not free. The girl on the news, who was raped and abused, she is not free. Even the men, who are locked into the unrealistic expectations generated by Magic Mike of Fifty Shades of Grey, they are not free.

As a Christian, I hesitate to say that I am ever truly independent, or that I want to be. On one hand I completely support the tolerance freedom allows, and I support the belief that we all have our right to choose what we believe in. Yet I must remind myself that when I committed myself to following Christ, I gave up all independence to surrender myself to God’s will – and in all honesty, I am much happier without that freedom. When I trust his commands for my life instead of what culture demands of me, I am happier. That includes taking God’s word on sex instead of Hollywood’s.

It is difficult when everything about our American culture denounces rules and regulations, things that hold us back and restrict the dream of freedom. I think that’s why a lot of times people turn away from the church, because they don’t like to be told what to do. But we must remember that we are broken people, we all sin, and when given independence we often trade that for other forms of slavery because we don’t know how to use it correctly.

Celebrating freedom today is a good thing, it is good to remember what the founders of our country fought so hard for. It is also good for us to remember that we need to keep fighting for it. Freedom does have a cost, and personally I would much rather be a servant of Christ than a slave to sex or drugs or money. Believe it or not, true freedom is found when we submit to God first, then we can really hope for God to bless America.

What holds you back from true freedom?

 
How could we improve as a country to actually give freedom to everyone?

Followup – the Morning After our Sex Talk

Ha sorry I just need to laugh for a moment at that title…. that should certainly grab some attention.

Anyways, thanks to those of you that shared your thoughts on yesterday’s post “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The length of some of the comments proved this is a very complicated topic inside many larger discussions. Also, it is completely dependent on your personal religious values and beliefs.

Personally I am a Christian – so I believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, who came in the flesh to proclaim the good news of God’s love and mission to restore all of humanity back to a relationship with Him, and who then died on the cross to be resurrected three days later to save the world from sin in a triumphant victory over death.

That is the text book definition though, and we all know that a mere definition doesn’t include all the rippled effects of what being a Christian means in my life. Please remember that your connotation of Christian might be completely different than who I actually am (remember my post on “Define Christian”) – we must all erase our pre-existing understandings if we are truly to meet in the middle on anything.

On that topic, I have no problem with you believing something different than me. I am always happy to hear your thoughts so keep them coming, even if it doesn’t necessaily match my point of view.

Back on the topic of sex, it is becoming clear to me that in order to truly spread a message about the importance of purity or waiting till marriage to have sex, we need to move past the answer that we don’t have sex simply because the Bible tells us not to. Making it a rule isn’t going to enforce the reasoning needed to supplement our reasons for what decisions we make.

I am currently a college student, so my peers and I are experiencing one of the times in life where we leave our parents rules and reasons to create our own – and it is both a dangerous and a wonderful thing. It is dangerous because it feels more natural to rebel and do what we want, or what our hormones tell us we want. Then we take those things and create our reasoning for why it is right, turning it into our own reality and truth. In the Relevant Magazine article titled “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It” Dr. Jenell Williams Paris explains it this way:

“A young child may follow [the rule to look both ways before crossing the street] solely because of the power of her parents’ authority, which is appropriate.” However, “As she grows, the child [continues to look both ways] but for a deeper reason that she owns herself. She sees the broader context of traffic, understands the benefits and dangers and makes choices accordingly. Rules are external and authority bound: Maturity requires knowledge of why to do the right thing, not just what the right thing is.”

Once something is rooted in as our own personal reality of good or bad it is much harder to change that opinion or go back. These roots form the branches of our life, they ground us in to our beliefs, to our values and even connect us to our culture so that we may grow as individuals intertwined. It is good for us to form personal reasonings of why we do things, then we are more likely to commit to them and make them our own.

I feel that this is where our answer to the sex issue starts: we must decide for ourselves the reasons why or why not to have sex, believe in them fully and then commit to living them out. No abstinence program or sex education will be fully effective if we simply tell kids what to do and don’t allow them to think for themselves. No sermon or small group message will make an impact unless we allow it to grow on its on terms. We can plant seeds, but we must also disturb the soil to challenge pre-exisiting definitions and cultivate discussion. That is my hope here.

Stay tuned and next week I will give you my personal reasons why I abstain from sex, and hopefully we can all grow together a little more in the process :)

What are your personal reasons why or why not to have sex?

How did you come to that decision – was it on your own

or because someone else told you to?

Other thoughts?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Less than a year ago I started diving into some burning questions I had about what purity really means, especially as a college student. I have spent hours pouring over blogs, books, and articles looking for a perspective that addressed all the frustration I was feeling. When I couldn’t find that perspective, I realized that the frustration came from a sense of being left behind. Why wasn’t anyone speaking to the college students, those of us who are facing one of the most challenging sexual periods of our lives? There were things covering purity in high school, in marriage, or being celibate and single. Some articles tried to address the issue of college relationships, but they were all written by older campus pastors or professors who have since been married. Their point of view was, of course older and wiser in most ways, yet it also left out the genuine struggle of being stuck in this period of waiting. After all they were past waiting, but I am looking at several more years of virginity and patient frustrations.


So I am going to start talking about it. This is a blog about how we define things and how God defines things. I want to challenge how we define sex, love, purity, and relationships to find out how God defines it. This means I am going to head for the boundary lines; the first one being the line between the Christians who simply say sex before marriage is bad and the other people who don’t believe that’s true.


Go ahead and give me your reasons. I am standing with one leg on each side, ready to hear everything you’ve got. Don’t try to convince me to come to your side though, agendas don’t build friendships and a tug of war means I might lose an arm. I want to know because I want to listen to you first. I know what I think, and I won’t change my mind, but I still care about what you have to say. This is a place for discussion, so let’s hear it.


Do you think sex before marriage is wrong? Why or why not?


What’s your opinion/definition of sex in general, or of love?

How the Media Objectifies Men Too

The victimization of women in the media has become a very popular topic in the last ten years. It has become almost common knowledge that the photos of women in magazines are photo-shoped and Hollywood has turned women into mere sex objects. It’s a harsh reality that subconsciously hurts thousands of girls, and thankfully there are a good number of groups promoting awareness about it all.

However, something that isn’t acknowledged as often is what Hollywood has done to men.

Two things have recently brought this to my attention more than ever: the chart-topping novel Fifty Shades of Grey and the highly anticipated summer movie Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum. To be fair, I will admit that I have not read the book, nor have I seen the movie yet. It’s possible that both may have viable story lines or some redeeming qualities, but at the surface they are both fueled solely by sex (feel free to debate with me). That alone should be a flare in our minds: these are dangerous, in more ways than one.

This cover of Entertainment Weekly pretty much speaks for itself on what the main attraction of the book is