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Responding When our Faith Is Challenged in Pop Culture

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It should come as no shock to Christians that the Bible’s teaching on sex is unpopular in the wider culture. This has (to varying degrees) always been the case. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Bible’s teaching on sex is no longer viewed as merely outdated or irrelevant but rather unloving and hateful. Even pop culture is reminding us that we must be ready to articulate what we believe and why. 

When contemporary Christian music artist Lauren Daigle was asked about her view of homosexuality in an interview earlier this year, she responded by saying, “I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” Daigle may not have been expecting the question, but many Christians understandably expressed their disappointment with her answer. 

Another wake-up call for Christians has come from the conversation surrounding the most recent season of The Bachelorette. Regardless of your familiarity with or feelings about the show, the conversation surrounding it reminds us how odd and even offensive our views seem to a watching world.  

Without going into the details of the show, Luke, a professing Christian, told Hannah, the Bachelorette and also a professing Christian, that since becoming a follower of Christ he had decided to save sex for marriage and that he wanted to make sure Hannah was on the same page. Hannah was clearly not on the same page, claiming that she felt “judged” and offended by Luke’s comments. Luke, in turn, responded to Hannah (and to follow-up questions from others) with what amounted to nervous stuttering and back-pedaling. He didn’t appear to change his convictions, but he did seem unprepared to articulate his beliefs.

Sadly, these two recent incidents reveal the mentality of many Christians when the topic turns to sex. On the one hand, some professing Christians cry “Judgment!” and resist any sort of confinement or boundary on their sexual choices. After all, God’s grace is sufficient, right? Or as Hannah, the Bachelorette, said, “Jesus still loves me.”  

On the other hand, some Christians try to live within the boundaries set in God’s Word and expect others to do so, though they are unable to articulate why those boundaries exist and how to respond to someone who pushes back against them. This second group takes heavy fire in the public sphere for their beliefs, which they may take to be vindication.  

In light of these wrong responses, the question becomes, How should Christians respond when the topic turns to the Bible’s teaching on sexuality? To answer that question, we need to know why we believe what we believe. 

Because we know how our culture will respond to the Bible’s teaching on sex, Christians often feel pressured in the public sphere to adapt their message to one that will be more attractive or acceptable. At the heart of this type of response is actually a much bigger issue. While it indicates a lack of understanding of God’s design for sex, it also indicates a lack of understanding of God Himself.

Some Christians try to follow “the rules” of sex because they think that this will earn God’s favor, grant them better marriages, or somehow earn them a dividend. This is an attempt to seek the blessings of God without appreciating God Himself by trusting in the “why.” Keep your head down and be obedient because eventually it’ll pay off. So what, then, happens if your spouse is unfaithful? What happens if you never get married? Does that mean that all bets are off? Why would God make sex something to be enjoyed and then not let me enjoy it? Surely He just wants me to be happy, right? 

Let’s not get the cart before the horse. Go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God created many good things for us to enjoy. But He knew that we would distort His good gifts if left to our own wisdom, to the point of reckless endangerment and rejection of the Giver. So He gave us boundaries in which the experience of those good things would be at their absolute best. A lack of respect for those boundaries leads to idolatry, where we distrust God’s wisdom and desire for our good, and we give our hearts to the pleasures of the immediate. 

Yes, if you sin, Jesus still loves you. But His love doesn’t take the form of a conflict-avoiding parent who never disciplines His child. If someone you love is charging off the edge of a mountain, wouldn’t you do everything you could to keep them from falling to their death? Is it loving to let them keep going, knowing what the end result will be, all because you don’t want to offend them or confine them or “judge” them? Christ’s love doesn’t leave us; it transforms us. God’s grace is not a license to keep on sinning. It is freedom to trust and therefore obey in love (Romans 6:1-2, 15). 

And also, yes, it is true that God’s plan for sex has not changed in spite of different “awakenings” in our culture throughout history. God does desire that sex be reserved for a covenantal marriage relationship between a husband and a wife and that outside of those boundaries sex becomes a perversion of something holy. But it’s about so much more than checking a box that qualifies us as #faithfuloverfamous. It’s about whether or not we trust God over ourselves.  

When we know His plan and His command according to His Word, do we trust that His plan is better than our own? Christians who respond faithfully to this command are getting grilled publicly for what the world would claim as an antiquated view of sexuality. But rather than trying to soften the blow of your beliefs to a hostile audience, stand your ground. Know why you believe what you believe. And understand that the people we’re talking to are living in darkness. 

The nature of these conversations reveals not only a difference of belief about sex. It reveals a difference of belief about faith and what the Bible says and what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ. This should be a warning flag indicating that the person we’re addressing may not be a follower of Christ. So rather than focusing solely on this specific command, focus on their hearts toward God Himself. We, as Christians, must stop treating the symptoms before offering the cure to the disease.  

If the marriage relationship is a symbolic picture to the world of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:22–33), then what’s at stake with our sexual purity? When we are physically intimate with multiple partners, partners whom we haven’t entered into a covenant with, what does that communicate to the world about the relationship between Christ and His bride? Is this not a clear indicator of idolatry, of unfaithfulness to our first love, of distrust that the All-Satisfying One can actually satisfy? 

God did not place parameters around the good things that He created because He’s mean and wants to hold a carrot in front of our noses without ever letting us taste it. He knows that we will distort His good gifts. That we have a tendency to love the gift above the Giver. So He gave us boundaries within which we can fully enjoy His gift. And even though in our sinfulness we may crave more and more of that good gift, instead, by God’s grace, we trust the Giver and willingly submit to His wisdom and lordship out of our love for Him and because we know He loves us.

And so the truth of God’s Word is actually the most loving response we can give.

Mandy Hewitt has been on the Radical staff since the summer of 2015 and currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Administrator. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
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