Hardly a week goes by without another social media parade marching by in celebration of the sexual revolution. Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Davis, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Obergefell and on and on –the talk of sex is everywhere (and not a drop you should drink). It’s almost impossible to turn on the tv or scroll through your phone or open the paper (what are those?) without being bombarded by pictures and stories and headlines that all have to do with sex–not just sensuality (which would be bad enough), but the castigation of those who uphold traditional sexual boundaries and the applauding of every permutation of sexual activity (“infinite diversity in infinite combinations” as one political fundraising letter put it).
How should evangelical Christians and evangelical churches respond?
Here are five suggestions:
1. Do not be shrill. Remember: at any time, anyone can listen to almost anything you say. There are no “private” thoughts on Facebook. Any post or comment you write or share or like or pass along can be read by friends, opponents, and strugglers. This doesn’t mean we can’t speak clearly or strongly or with passion. But if you just need to emote, go on a long walk and pour your heart out to God. Let’s show the world that Christians are reasonable and unwilling to revile in return. Happy warriors not shrieking sirens.
2. Do not be silent. If you said “Amen” to the first suggestion, don’t miss this one. I suppose giving up is one way to end the culture war, but it hardly seems consistent with the whole salt-and-light business Jesus talked about. There are more people who agree with you than you might think. Every time we speak up–thoughtfully, respectfully, winsomely–we help others see that the revolution has not overtaken all of us. If all the Christians remain quiet and refuse to defend the truth (or themselves), we will not only do future generations a disservice we will inadvertently lend credence to a lie that says traditional views are no longer possible or plausible.
3. Do not neglect singles. The sexual revolution rests on two mutually exclusive propositions: sex has no meaning and that meaning must be expressed. On the one hand, we are told that there is no “essence” to sexuality, nothing inherent in sexual activity that gives it a natural shape or meaning. And yet, we are told that the worst thing we can do to anyone is repress their sexual expression. So sex is nothing and everything at the same time. Sex is essential to our identity, but the essence of sex is arbitrary. Into this mess, the church can speak a better way. Sex is a divine gift, but it does not define us. The church must grow as a place of welcome, hospitality, and purpose for single people. We must show that even if the world thinks there is something cruel and unusual about celibacy, Christians know that the fullest, most deeply human existence is not inimical to this path. After all, we worship a single man who never had sexual intercourse.
4. Do not outsmart yourself. I’ve often been asked, “How should we minister to the sexually broken? How can we reach out to gays and lesbians? What pointers do you have in talking to friends and family members who are same-sex attracted?” There are plenty of people with far more experience in these areas, but my humble advice is not to overthink things too much. No doubt, there are unique challenges in ministering to gays and lesbians, but the way we phrase the question can unintentionally place such persons in a category outside the bounds of normal human existence. Whatever the particular struggles, let’s not forget that we are more like each other than we are different. We are all created in the image of God. We all struggle with a sin nature. We all need a Savior. We are all idol factories. We all want to know we are loved. We all need to repent and be forgiven. Ask questions, listen, share, pray, turn to the Bible, show compassion, point people to Jesus–that’s the basic charge for all of us with anyone.
5. Do not be scared. God has seen tougher stuff than this. God has a plan. God will accomplish his purposes. No matter what the President or the Supreme Court or Apple or ESPN decide, Christ will keep building his church and the Spirit will keep doing his work through the Word. Turn every thought of panic into a commitment to plan and an attitude of prayer. Our God tends to do his best work when the odds are most stacked against him.