Friday, 14 January 2011

Living for Christ in a super-materialistic, super-sexualised world

Another email question I recently received was about sexual self-expression. Here's what I said. (Incidentally - I explored this same question some time back in an article on AFES WebSalt.)

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Modern Western society is so sexualised, that sexual self-expression, and sexual satisfaction, has become essential for real life, real existence. If we can't have "good sex", we might as well die. One term for this is "sexual essentialism". To be truly human, it's essential to be sexually active and fulfilled. Otherwise, you're not truly human.

In contrast, the Bible says the way to have a full life, both now and for ever, is to trust Jesus. Jesus came to give us life to the full by laying down his life for his sheep (John 10:10-11). Eternal life is to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). To come to Jesus is to come to God (John 14:6). Jesus gives us more relational and personal fulfilment than the world can ever give, because he gives us personal relationship with God. In Christ, it's possible to be content and happy, even if we're single & celibate - or poor or sick or jobless or homeless or anything else (Philippians 4:11-13).

If we trust Jesus and want to follow him, then he calls us to exercise self-control: Rom 8:6-9; Gal 5:22-25; 1 Thess 4:3-6; Titus 2:11-12; 1 Peter 1:13-16. That is: we're shouldn't do anything just coz we feel life it, but to think about whether it'll bring honour to Jesus, and whether it's good for the other person. Just coz we're angry, we shouldn't abuse someone or plot revenge against them - even if we think they deserve it: in your anger do not sin (Ps 4:4; Ephesians 4:26); love your enemies, do good to them, pray for them (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35); do not take revenge (Rom 12:19a). Similarly, just coz we have sexual thoughts about someone doesn't mean we have to act on them; we need to learn to control those thoughts.

This self-controlled life doesn't have to go on forever. One of the biblical pictures of heaven is that of a wedding (Revelation 19:7; 21:1-4). Heaven is better than sex. If we trust Jesus, we have the sure, divine guarantee of being welcomed into his arms for ever.

Again, in today's culture, this is hard to believe, because our culture is so materialistic and hedonistic. If you can't touch it & feel it, then it's not real. Which of course means love isn't real. You can't touch and feel love; you can only touch someone's body (or your own, for that matter...), and feel arousal. That's why sex is more important than love these days.

But the reality is that personal relationships - which are the basis and channel of love - are more important than physical pleasure. People who are physically weak, sick, or disabled, can be really, really happy, if they're surrounded by people who love them. That love doesn't have to be sexual - it could be parents, friends, or carers.

Relationships are more important than sexual fulfilment. The Bible says that in Christ, especially in his death & resurrection for us, God loves us fully and completely, by giving us relationship with himself (Rom 5:8; 8:37-39; 1 John 4:10, 12, 16). Our challenge is to make this love, this relationship - the love of God in Christ, our relationship with God through Christ - the most important guiding principle in our whole life.

In a super-sexualised, super-materialistic, super-hedonistic society, living for Jesus is super-difficult. Well, Jesus never promised us an easy life. Quite the opposite: he warned us that following him would involve dying to self. The only way we'll pay that cost - in sexual self-control, or anything else - is if we really, truly believe that Jesus is worth it. So - just keep reading the Bible! Keep finding out about Jesus, how wonderful he is, what he's done for us & how excellent it'll be to see him face-to-face in glory.

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