Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shhhhhh….Don’t Talk About IT!

Last weekend I spoke to over 200 university students at a conference sponsored by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. The topic: Sexuality. As I was doing my final preparations last week for the three talks I was to give, I received a phone call from a woman who used to attend our church (she no longer attends because of relocation, not because she was mad). She had called to inform me that her son would be in attendance at the conference and when he heard that I was the main speaker his comment to his mother was, “Oh, Pastor Lee—he’s the Sex-Pastor!” Now I’ve been called a lot of things, but that’s a new one! Apparently this young man had heard me speak on the topic some time ago and it made quite an impression on him. Whether the impression was good or bad, I’m not too sure!

Some may think the word sex and the word religious or God or spiritual don't even belong in the same sentence with one another. And yet maybe the two are more closely related than we think. It’s rather difficult to talk about one without talking about the other. Let me explain: it’s hard to talk about sex without talking about how we are designed as human beings. Which leads to a deeper and more profound question, “Who made us?”

Most of the time whenever Christians or those associated with the church talk about the subject of sex, we begin the conversation at the wrong place. More often than not, we use as our starting point the numerous prohibitions about sexual behavior in the Bible (plentiful, to be sure!). As a consequence, we shroud the subject matter with a cloak of negativity. Simply put, we are ashamed to talk about, dare I say it—our sexuality! However, God is not the least bit ashamed or embarrassed to talk about sexuality. In fact, he does a rather masterful job of explaining it in the first two chapters of the Bible—Genesis 1and 2. And every time Jesus and Paul spoke about the subject in the New Testament, they always seem to start the discussion by pointing back to Genesis 1 & 2 (cf. Matthew 19:3 and I Corinthians 6). What God was not ashamed to create, we should not be afraid to talk or think about.

Let’s be honest to God! We in the church are not at our best when it comes to the issue of sexuality. We are known more for what we are “against” than what we are “for.” So it’s no surprise that when a Christian group decides to discuss it, controversy lurks right around the corner. And the conference last weekend was no exception! The Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (GLBT) campus group was up in arms about the conference. They managed to circulate misinformation and rumors about the sponsoring organization Inter-Varsity, as well as about me, the conference speaker. The campus GLBT was operating with the erroneous assumption that the whole conference was intended to target the gay community and denounce homosexuality. Because of those misguided assumptions they organized protests, registered their complaint with school officials and even attended some of the conference sessions.

What impressed me most was how the conference organizers chose to address the concerns of the GLBT representatives. Admittedly, we’ve not always won a lot of style points by our attitudes and actions toward those in the gay community. All too often the church is viewed as homophobic and oppressive. The gay community in this case was upset, angry and ready for a fight. But on this day I saw something different. What the GLBT encountered last weekend from these Christians was not quite what they were expecting. I witnessed courageous Inter-Varsity campus leaders leading the entire conference in prayers of humble confession for our sins of indifference, arrogance and self-righteousness toward those in the gay community. We asked THEM to forgive US for our sometimes less-than-Christian attitudes! But we were also unapologetic about our belief in God’s original design for marriage and human sexuality as portrayed in Genesis 1 & 2—a belief that the church has unanimously held for 2,000 years.

Here’s what I learned through my weekend experience. We need to speak about sexuality, but we need to speak with a different voice—a voice that affirms the positive, noble, redemptive and virtuous view of sexuality presented in the pages of Scripture. We need to speak with kindness and humility—not with arrogance and anger. And we need to enter into conversations with those confused about matters sexual, but do so with sensitivity, saneness and the scent of Christlikeness.

Let’s talk about IT,

S t r e t c h e d