Irony of ironies; all is irony.
Mark Driscoll has been a hot item on the blogs recently, in case you haven’t heard. He spoke at a small Christian college out east somewhere, and is doing a conference in that town over the weekend on another hot-button topic.
How does the church address sex?
We have a wide range of opinions about how the church should address the issue. Driscoll, of course, represents one extreme. If the Bible doesn’t say its bad, then God says its okay between a married man and woman. I think that is a fair representation of his view. On the other extreme are those who seem to feel it best if we just don’t address the topic much at all. Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum.
Ed Stetzer posted an article this week called, “The Bible and Sexuality: A Closer Look” and stated 5 principles for dealing with the issue.
First, we need to move beyond discomfort on the subject…
Second, we need to answer the critical questions people are asking…
Third, when talking about sex, hype does not help…
Fourth, teaching on sex, or at least the same levels of teaching on sex, is not for everyone…
Fifth, we need to talk more, not less, about sex.Yes, the Song of Solomon is about a relationship and, yes, sex– let’s grow up and stop pretending it’s only an allegory. I know this is shocking to some, but let’s get honest. God is pro-sex, and I am thankful for the Song of Solomon which shows that clearly.
His principles make sense to me, in general.
Here’s my problem. This is not theoretical to me. I have been preaching through Proverbs on Sunday mornings and I am now ready to delve into Proverbs chapter 5. It’s a whole chapter on sex. And chapters 6 and 7 focus on the topic, too. Sunday morning, I’m talking sex.
Here’s Proverbs 5:15-19:
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
That is not a text I will probably read responsively on Sunday morning. It is direct. It is explicit. The Bible talks about sex and it pulls no punches.
So, for me, the “how do we address sex in church?” issue is not a theoretical one. It’s very practical. I have to do it Sunday.
So, here’s my thoughts on how to handle this hot-potato issue:
1. God made us male and female and called his creation very good. Sex was made by God as a gift to husbands and wives. We need to remember that. If I act as if sex is dirty, shameful or disgusting, we insult God’s creation.
2. Sin has, in fact, made sex into something dirty and disgusting for many people, because we have turned from God’s plan, ignored his ways and embraced immorality and impurity. So, I cannot treat sex lightly, or feed into the sexually-charged culture in the way I treat the topic.
3. Some topics deserve to be treated in private, not in public. If you want to know my opinion about certain practices, ask me in private. I’m not going to address them here or from the pulpit. I will address them appropriately, but not publicly.
4. Using sex and sexual topics as a means of attracting a crowd to the church is, to me, a sort of ecclesiological prostitution; what one cult used to call “flirty fishing.” It is my role to address sexual topics when they come up, but it is not my role to be a sex therapist or to promote sexual activity among my members. Using a series on sex to promote church attendance just seems crass to me.
5. Thank God my dad taught me verse-by-verse expository preaching. Pick a book and preach through it. Then, when a subject comes up, you can just blame the Bible! I’m not addressing sex on Sunday because I’m a perv, I’m addressing it because I’ve finished chapters 1-4 and now it’s time for chapter 5. So much is solved by preaching verse-by-verse.
6. Preaching about sex is like walking a tightrope. This is a real part of real people’s lives and the Word speaks to it directly, apologetically and unashamedly. I need to do the same. However, I need to be tactful, respectful, avoid crassness and crudity. Walking that tightrope is not easy. Especially when you are my size (and age).
Sunday is going to be an adventure.