God’s Calling – there’s no time like the present

[Please don’t read into this that I am saying we have no responsibility to train the next generation. Then again, my readers are way too smart to draw that conclusion form this meme.]

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Mega-Pastor Puts Down Person with Disabilities

John MacArthur, in his sermon The Eyewitness Account of Creation, preaches on Genesis 1 and 2. He takes the position that these chapters record a literal and historical account of creation and that all history and science stems from the events of the opening pages of Genesis. I have no quarrel with those who hold that literal position (unless they denigrate fellow Christians who think otherwise) nor with Christians who see those passages as not literally but figuratively descriptive of God’s work in creation.

In the sermon, MacArthur compares the Genesis account with Darwinism and finds that Charles Darwin comes up short. Fair enough. Many Christians agree based on their understanding of the Bible. Yet MacArthur does not confine his sermon to preaching the Genesis passage and comparing that record to deficiencies he sees in Darwin’s theory of evolution. He instead turns to ad hominem attack on Darwin himself.

After calling Darwin a “stooge for atheistic humanism” and a “twisted individual by all accounts”, MacArthur then lists all the mental illnesses and physical disabilities Darwin is reported to have suffered:

Charles Darwin (Wikipedia)

Entire books have been written on the subject of Darwin’s psychological problems. Listen to this; he suffered from depression, agoraphobia – that’s fear of crowds – insomnia, vision alterations, hallucinations, malaise, vertigo, shaking, tachycardia, fainting spells, shortness of breath, trembling, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle twitches, spasms, tremors, cramps, colic, bloating, headaches, nervous exhaustion, skin blisters, tinnitus, and sensations of loss of consciousness and impending death.

According to Darwin’s own testimony, his problems began at 16 years of age, and by the time he was 28, he was virtually incapacitated by mental illnesses. These maladies were so chronic that Darwin’s scholar Michael Ruse concluded that he lived as an invalid for the last 43 years of his life. You don’t assault God and get away with it.

The list is horrific, and MacArthur immediately draws a conclusion from it: “You don’t assault God and get away with it.” In doing so, MacArthur has transitioned from preaching to prophecy. Nowhere does the Bible say these types of maladies are from assaulting God. Plenty of people who honor God suffer as well, in fact. So the only way to state confidently that Darwin’s condition was a result of his “assault on God” is not by preaching on passages from the Bible but by baldly prophesying that it is so.

This is dangerous territory for two reasons: first, it’s unprovable; second, it attacks not only Darwin but also all other people (including children of God) who suffer similar illness.

Mental Illness and the Children of God

The most reckless aspect* of MacArthur’s conclusion about Darwin’s condition resulting from his work is that it gives wrong ideas to those who suffer themselves.

Mental illness happens to Christians. Chemical imbalances in the brain lead to the very conditions MacArthur attributes to Darwin. Psychological trauma does the same. Would MacArthur as pastor tell a member of his church who is debilitated by mental illness that their overwhelming symptoms are due to their assault on God? I doubt he would.

But the sermon preaches that if you assault God you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up incapacitated by mental illness. You say that can’t be what he meant? I agree. But it’s what he said. Allow me to assure you that what he said is not true, and to suggest that a mega-preacher of MacArthur’s stature should be more careful; there are people listening to him who will take him at face value just as he urges them to take the Genesis passage literally.

What does this mean for those who preach, teach and are given responsibility in God’s Kingdom? It means that if you ever see an opportunity to discuss mental illness you should consider:

  • Is what I am saying true about mental illness?
  • Will my words be encouraging and helpful to those who have a mental illness?
  • Should I forgo mentioning mental illness entirely as not being relevant to the matter at hand?
  • Is there another resource or a professional I can recommend to better help this person?

And while I would hope no person in God’s kingdom would face this, it is the situation John MacArthur found himself in:

  • Am I using someone’s sickness in order to score a point?

MacArthur knew better, too. He relied on the Book of Job extensively in that same sermon (for the proposition that no one should question God’s word on things). If there’s ever someone in the Bible who suffered without it being a result of an assault on God, it’s Job. Yet I am afraid MacArthur fell into the same ungodly philosophy Job’s friends adopted – Look what happened to you. What did you do to tick off God?

Job, Léon Bonnat (1833–1922)
(Wikipedia)

But we know that Job was not being punished but suffering the consequences of the Fall, and in his case it was directly from the hand of the one who fell first, Satan. Was Darwin therefor in the same position as Job? That’s not the point. The point is that it is reckless and dangerous to ascribe conditions people suffer as being a consequence of some aspect of their lives.** No preacher knows that.

And it also hurts those God loves. God cares about Charles Darwin as much as he does John MacArthur, and it’s never appropriate to use a put-down in an effort to make a point about Jesus.

God cares about you, too, and he wants you to care for others as well. (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13.) This is the better way, the way of God’s loving care.

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*Another reckless aspect of this ad hominem attack on Darwin is that it was completely unnecessary to the sermon’s purpose. MacArthur said he had three points to make in his sermon but then spent almost all his time on the first one – which included his lengthy attack on Darwin – and then he apologized to his listeners for having to rush through the other two points. If he’d dropped the personal attack on Darwin and confined himself to discussing Darwinism he would have made his first point better and had more time for the other two points.

**This isn’t about obvious cause and effect situations such as eating nothing but junk food and consequently becoming unhealthy.

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Here’s something that might help pastors to understand mental illness.

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Patriarchy Pastors Repent, Promote Women Preaching in Their Pulpits

[From the archives every April First.]

In an abrupt about-face, a group of well-known mega-pastors have announced plans to welcome and promote women in all positions of church leadership.

“There are so many passages of women leading men in the Bible,” said Pastor Les Izmoore, director of My Way Ministries. “I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed before. So I did a little experiment and asked the first woman I saw at church last Sunday what she knew about the woman at the well in John 4, the one who led her entire village to Christ.”

“It turned out she knew a lot,” he said, “and helped me understand how that conversation must have looked to the woman Jesus spoke with. Then she gave me a lesson on Samaritan cultural anthropology in contrast with 1st Century Judaism. Who knew?”

The group is also reconsidering its position on the role of wives and husbands.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” said Mickey McMickleson, former pastor of Church Of the Best Sellers. “I was reading that passage in Ephesians about people submitting, but this time in a Bible that didn’t have those section breaks or subject headings that editors put in. It turns out that the command to submit applies to husbands submitting to wives as much as wives to husbands.”

When asked whether he’d spoken about this revelation with his wife, he said, “Yeah. She asked what took me so long.”

Change is coming not only in the mega-churches but also to seminaries. One professor, who preferred not to be named, admitted he now needed to revise his well-known list of gender roles and functions. “It should be easy. All I have to do is go down the list and remove the headings that label some roles in the church as restricted to men only.”

He showed visible signs of relief. “I am so looking forward to not having to defend that ridiculous list of 83 rules any longer.”

Prominent women theologians and pastors welcomed the news, but declined to give statements. As one scholar put it when this reporter called, “I’m in the middle of researching the influence of the Jewish diaspora on ancient Chaldean architecture as an expression of religious practices, so I haven’t had much time to pay attention to those men. They’ve changed their minds about women, huh? Glad they’re finally catching up with the rest of us.”

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[April 1, 2017]

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Creationism and Jesus’ Blood – literally a problem

[From the archives.]

I have no knock against six day creationists. I don’t ascribe to that doctrine myself but cannot see why I should say that others can’t hold to it as a way to read Genesis 1.

I do, though, have a knock against someone who says that if you do not ascribe to a literal reading of a six day creation you cannot claim to recognize the authority of the Bible. Like this:

This is not about young earth or old earth creationism or any other reading of the first chapters of Genesis. This is about someone claiming to be an expert on Scripture and the earth’s origins who is set on denigrating the faith of people who disagree with him.

But let’s take Ken Ham at his word for a moment. Genesis 1, he says, must be read as a narrative of a literal six day period of creation. Such a claim is startling to evolutionists as well as old earth creationists, but let’s take him at his word that this is the only way to read that passage.

How about we look at another passage with a plain meaning on its face.

BreadWhile they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant … .”  (Matthew 26:26-28.)

It’s absolutely clear to anyone who reads the passage literally: Jesus took bread and turned it into his own flesh and he took wine and turned it into his own blood. Flesh and blood, not bread and wine. Not metaphorical flesh and blood either, but real flesh and real blood.* That’s what this passage says on its face. According to Mr. Ham’s position on the authority of Scripture, the hunk of bread became a hunk of meat and the wine became plasma and platelets, etc.

That’s the consistent position to take from his tweet, isn’t it? But I suppose Mr. Ham might say the bread and wine were merely symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. If he says that, I am in complete agreement with him. He might even say that this meaning is consistent with “the absolute authority of the Word of God.”

To get there, of course, the reader needs to allow for metaphor in Jesus’ words. I think they should. Yet if someone tells me they read this passage literally, I wouldn’t question their faith or commitment to the authority of Scripture.

But I would suggest to Mr. Ham and others who insist on there being only one way for a Christian to understand a passage like Genesis 1 – and that by way of reading it literally – that they stop being literal and instead be literary. That is how we read everything else, after all. We come to understand the meaning of a writing by understanding the literary nature of the writing. It’s called reading literarily, as opposed to reading literally.

The Bible deserves our fullest attention, and we should bring all our reading comprehension skills to its study. We can learn from one another as we go along, too. But let’s have no more nonsense about literal readings being required in order to prove our position on the authority of the word of God.

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* This post is not about transubstantiation or consubstantiation, remember. Just about how to read the Bible responsibly.

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Jesus, Illumination, and Blindness

Light can illuminate but the brightest can also blind. What do we make, then, of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Jesus proved this in a practical way when he soon after healed a man born blind:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. … As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” … . So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7.)

The religious authorities were not pleased with this miraculous healing and ended up throwing the man out of their assembly. Jesus had other plans, though.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38.)

The light that Jesus brought into the man’s life not only healed him physically but led him to Jesus the Son of Man – an ancient phrase understood by many to mean the Messiah of Israel who would come to make all things right. The man understood much more, though. He understood that Jesus is God and worthy of worship.

The religious leaders were not willing to do the same. As they listened to Jesus and the man talk together, they were aghast at the implications

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41.)

The judgment delivered through the light of Jesus is the same he earlier spoke of with Nicodemus, a religious leader who became a disciple of Jesus.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21.)

Both those who worship Jesus and those who reject him have seen the same light. For some it lights the way to be with God forever, and some reject its brightness and choose to walk in dark blindness apart from God.

As John said in introducing Jesus to his readers:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or understood] it. … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:4-5, 9.)

People can choose the darkness, but that does not mean they’ve won. Jesus is the “true light” as John says, and nothing triumphs over truth. This light, John explained, is given to everyone. Some see by it and some don’t, remaining blinded in darkness.

What drives them to the darkness? The desire to remain hidden, Jesus said. Yet there is nothing to fear in being in the light. That is where God’s love is found despite our sins.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6, 8.)

Those who are ungodly – dead in sin – are precisely the people Jesus loves so much he gave his life to save. This is the mission Jesus came to fulfill, as he told Nicodemus:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17.)

You are not condemned in Christ but saved through him. In fact,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … . (Romans 8:1.)

This is what the Light of the World reveals: you are saved from the power of sin, and saved for all eternity into life with him.

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Men and Women: a false gender dichotomy of being rational and emotional

People are emotional beings. Yet when it comes to classifying men and women, it comes across differently, as Erica Limkeman recently observed:

Isn’t it telling that being “emotional” is considered a feminine quality and is frowned upon, whereas men are often admired for being “passionate.” Go figure. (Erica Limkeman.)

This is because emotional reactions are considered weak, while passion* is strong. It’s a false distinction, of course. What one person calls passionate another might call emotional. It depends on whether the action appears rational or not. And when it comes to being emotional or rational, there are plenty of examples of women and men displaying either.

Even in the Bible.

In 1 Samuel 25 David had not yet been crowned king over all of Israel as King Saul (David’s master) still reigned. David had been anointed as Saul’s successor but he and his men lived as wanderers. From time to time they needed new supplies.

Nabal was a rich farmer with vast flocks, herds and fields. David sent his men to Nabal, pointing out that they had kept watch over his lands to keep them safe from marauders. Nabal refused them any aid.

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies. (1 Samuel 25:10-13.)

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saw disaster approaching.

Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!” (1 Samuel 25:18-22.)

Abigail told David that her husband was a fool and not worth killing, and that he should accept the supplies she brought rather than carry out his plan for revenge. David agreed.

The Prudent Abigail, Juan Antonio de Frias y Escalante (1667), Museo del Prado

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” (1 Samuel 25:32-34.)

Soon after, Nabal died and Abigail married David. (1 Samuel 25:38-42.)

This story is a fascinating tale, and all the more so for the role reversals.

Take a look at the two main characters. Who let emotions dictate action? David. Who acted rationally? Abigail. In this whole event, Nabal’s a fool, David is ruled by anger and feeling unappreciated, and Abigail keeps her head and saves the day.

If she had not stepped in and advised David wisely and rationally, he’d have slaked his blood-thirst at the expense of gaining a powerful ally. Who was that ally? Again, it’s Abigail. From the interaction with her servants it looks like she already managed Nabal’s operations and it’s possible David took it all for himself when he married her.**

Anyone who says women are supposed to be emotional while men get to be rational is not only wrong; they deny the Bible itself. Emotions and clear thinking are found in both women and men.

That’s the way God made us.

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*Passion itself can be problematic. See The Perils of Passionate Speech.

**If Nabal had male relatives, they might have laid claim to the estate. Whether David would honor that claim is another matter, seeing as how he felt justified to destroy it all when Nabal was still alive.

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Godly Nakedness

[From the archives.]

I learned a new word: gymnophobia. It’s not a fear of gyms. It’s not an aversion to working out. It’s not hatred of a six month gym membership when your job got transferred and you still had five months left on the gym contract.

Gymnophobia is a fear of being seen naked. According to this article:

There really are people with a crippling fear of nudity, a condition called gymnophobia.

“There are people who are not comfortable being naked in front of other people — and there are other people who are not comfortable looking at themselves naked,” said Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, and author of “The Anti-Anxiety Workbook.”

Now I may cringe once in a while if I see an expanding waistline and realize there really is a price to pay for eating entire pepperoni pizzas by myself (hey, don’t judge me!), but I can’t say I have a phobia about the sight.

I get the part about nakedness and fear, though. It’s in the Bible.

“I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10.)

Did you ever notice that Adam said this after he and Eve made coverings for themselves? He knew the truth: God knows we’re naked under our clothes.

God also knows how to handle our fears. He made new clothes for Eve and Adam to wear, made from the skins of animals. Is this because the plant coverings couldn’t cover nakedness? No, we wear plant coverings all the time. In fact, I have a cotton shirt on right now.

God used the skins of animals because without blood there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22.) Getting that skin meant shedding blood. This was the first animal sacrifice, occasioned because of the first sin. God covered their bodies but more importantly, he covered their sin. God did the covering for them; their own efforts were ineffective.

God’s simple act of providing the sin covering for his people foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice for sin, the death of Jesus Christ, God the Son. It is his perfect blood that now clothes us in righteousness. (Romans 3:25-26, 2 Corinthians 5:2-5.)

Like I said, God knows we’re naked. Without him we’re naked in our sin, naked of righteousness, uncovered for him to see our iniquity. But because of Jesus, our heavenly Father offers us the finest clothes possible, and they never wear out.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. …

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 13-14. See Revelation 3:18 as well.))

Covered in the blood of the Lamb, the great atoning sacrifice of God, who knew our nakedness and gave himself for us.

Gymnophobia has no place in God’s kingdom.

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You’re Never Too Old and It’s Never Too Late

I went to a weight lifting competition recently where my wife was coaching a couple of the lifters. It was a small competition but diverse. Some lifters were mere teenagers, some were competing for the first time, and some were there in hopes of performing well enough to advance to a national competition.

Never too old

There was one lifter who competed in a class by himself. Wearing a Sikh head covering and worn out knee braces, Randy (short for Randip) approached the platform and gave it his best effort:

His fellow competitors joined the spectators in cheering Randy on. Randy, who spoke little English and had a friend translating for him during the sign-ups, might not have understood everything the crowd was shouting, but he knew they were urging him on to complete the lift.

He did.

In fact, Randy performed well enough to qualify for the most senior competition on the national level. Why the most senior class of competitors?

Because Randy is over 75 years old.

Never too late

Old and young people alike think about God, wondering who he is and whether to bother with him. The longer this goes on, the more a person probably thinks it’s too late to do anything about it.

It’s not.

The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9.)

And in his patience, today is always a good day to turn to him, as the Ethiopian official did when he learned of Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” … Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38.)

Indeed, what can stand in the way of you being in a relationship with Jesus? Turn to him now.

And if you already belong to him recall too that nothing can stand in the way of serving him. What has God called you to do? It’s never too late and you’re never too old to do it.

Remember Randy and get out there and try. In God’s strength you’ll complete the lifting he has given into your hands.

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Affairs Don’t Start with Texts

In this guest post, Sarah Taras and Jon Wymer respond to Relevant Magazine’s article Is It OK for Married People to Text the Opposite Sex.

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Don’t do in private what you wouldn’t do in public. It’s an important message. If we took it to heart, our communities would be better off.

Conversation Doesn’t Equate to Infidelity

It’s not helpful to assume that conversation between a woman and a man leads to sex. Would there be less sex if men and women didn’t talk? Perhaps. But while we’re stoking the fear that conversation leads to fornication, are there other values we should consider? Are we really suggesting that God’s design for creation is two genders that can’t safely talk one-on-one without making babies? Is instruction for men and women to avoid one another consistent with the message of the cross that we are united into one body?

We’ve created a whole new set of problems by teaching our fellow believers to treat every one-on-one interaction with the opposite sex as a potential sexual encounter. This is a distortion of God’s design in creation. It’s a distortion of the Jesus we meet in the Scripture, who has many important conversations with women. And it’s a distortion of the relational ethic we find in Paul, where he seems to believe that every believer, regardless of gender, lives in the mutual blessing and responsibility of the covenant community.

Intimacy and Inappropriateness

Paul, in writing his letter to the Romans, encouraged the church to embrace a group of faithful co-laborers who meant a great deal to him. This list, comprised of men and women, both married and single, were working alongside one another for the sake of the gospel, freely. Paul wraps up the greeting portion of the letter to the church by saying, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

If we are going to push back on acceptable forms of communication within our present culture, what are we to make of this kind of intimate greeting encouraged by the apostle? Before we glamorize those believers as being more morally upright than we are today, remember that Paul issued the same encouragement in his letters to the church at Corinth. You know, Corinth, the church that was guilty of overlooking gross immorality in their midst? Yet Paul did not pull back this instruction from them, nor did he give law-laden guidelines of how to properly handle such a greeting between the genders.

Heirs Together in Christ

Paul did give instruction for how to handle inappropriate situations that arose in the church but his solution was never separating the males from the females and telling them to avoid engaging one another. He didn’t encourage them to run away from one another in fear or have their spouses chaperone their interactions. Instead, he reminded them of how much they are loved in Christ and then encouraged them to love and respond to one another out of that love — to walk by the Spirit in faith for the benefit of the community.

Somewhere along the way, the church stopped embracing one another as co-heirs with Christ and began treating the opposite gender, primarily, as a threat. In placing purity in importance above relationships, we have cut ourselves off completely from the other half of the church body, thus forsaking God-honoring relationships with each other that are rooted in love. We have segregated the family of God to our own detriment and have hindered our ability to invest in and learn from one another. We are now obsessed with protecting ourselves from one another emotionally because we are oversexed; assuming intimacy and vulnerability can only lead to sexual immorality.

Understand that we are not arguing against wise boundaries. What we are arguing against is this idea that there is no such thing as a healthy relationship between married persons and people of the opposite gender. We’re arguing against the idea that good, beautiful, and intimate non-sexual relationships are not possible between believers of the opposite sex. Together, we are certainly arguing against living on the basis of fear rather than the basis of faith.

Affairs Don’t Begin With Texts

Affairs don’t begin with sex. They don’t begin with texts either. This is horrible logic. By this logic, single Christians should only text people of the same gender if they wish to avoid fornicating.

As Christians, with the resources of the Bible and the Gospel at hand, we ought to be more adept at deconstructing issues. Ours is fundamentally a religion of the heart. We do believe that behavior matters. But we also believe that behavior is symptomatic of belief. People don’t commit adultery because of text messaging any more than they fornicate because of text messaging. Can technology provide another pathway to what the heart wants? Sure. But don’t blame the heart on the technology.

Our fundamental problem is idolatry. What is idolatry if it is not the search for ultimate belonging and intimacy in every place except with the Creator? Wouldn’t it be better to get at the heart of the matter, rather than build a fear-based DMZ around particular technologies?

Guidelines Can Be Misguided

When the church forbids friendships between men and women and then adds legalistic rules regarding how we are to engage one another, it creates a breeding ground for lust. The “don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle” rules that we impose on one another in the church have never kept us from sinning against one another. Why do we continue to depend on them, thus forsaking the gospel which gave us freedom?

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still in the world, do you submit to regulations – Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch – according to human precepts and teachings? These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Col 2:21-23.)

When we impose cheap guilt-laden law on the body of Christ, even with the best of intentions, we end up enticing the forbidden. By telling adults that they can’t interact, especially through text without a baby sitter, we turn every single encounter with one another into a brush with the forbidden. By our rules, we entice lust because we stop looking at one another as brothers and sisters in Christ who are image bearers, and instead unintentionally train ourselves to view one another as sex objects who can’t possibly keep it in our pants long enough to have a God -honoring friendship that would be edifying.

Relational Wisdom, Failure, and Forgiveness

We aren’t suggesting that the church should live apart from wisdom or even in denial that there may be times that we find a friend of the opposite sex appealing, and fall into temptation to communicate inappropriately. While we have been made righteous through Christ, and are 100% just before God by faith apart from works, we are still in this body of flesh that is sinful by it’s nature that longs for gratification, and in that place of accommodating our rebellious flesh, we will find God’s law accusatory and crushing. This is something our “no texting” guidelines can never accomplish.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor … .” (1 Thess 4:2-4.)

When we are tempted to gratify our flesh in the “old ways”, we need to hear the gospel and be wooed back to our first love, Christ. The more we abide in Christ through the truth of the gospel and the Spirit’s indwelling guidance and conviction, we will desire to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, which means living appropriately with our neighbor. God’s matchless love for us pours into the lives of the people around us (it’s dynamic, it will move out from you toward others, bringing you with it).

We need to be reminded of how much love and security we have been given by God in Christ that goes far beyond what could be given in a fleeting moment of feeding our fleshly desires and we need to be reminded of the abundant forgiveness and acceptance even when we fall. Man’s regulations have never made us more morally upright, because law has no power to change the heart. That’s the work of the gospel.

The church is comprised of the beloved children of God, and because Christ gave himself up for us in love and because he loves us unconditionally, we are free to walk in that love with and toward people around us. When the truth of the gospel frees us, we begin to see people (all people) as fellow image bearers and not as a means to self-gratification. It changes the way we treat one another, both publicly and privately: bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh whom we long to love and edify.

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Sarah Taras is a new author for Key Life and has a minibook coming out this year with New Growth Press. She co-hosts two podcasts: Fundyland Sees Red and Ezer Uncaged. You can find more from her at sarahtaras.com.

Dr. Jon Wymer is a combat veteran and a wanna-be crossfiitter. He works in Nebraska as a pastor in church, higher education, and military contexts. More content from Jon is available at wymer.com.

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Chief Justice Objects to Federal Immigration Enforcement at California Courthouses

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Kelly:

As Chief Justice of California responsible for the safe and fair delivery of justice in our state, I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.

Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.

Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.

Most Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government, and I am concerned about the impact on public trust and confidence in our state court system if the public feels that our state institutions are being used to facilitate other goals and objectives, no matter how expedient they may be.

Each layer of government – federal, state, and local – provides a portion of the fabric of our society that preserves law and order and protects the rights and freedoms of the people. The separation of powers and checks and balances at the various levels and branches of government ensure the harmonious existence of the rule of law.

The federal and state governments share power in countless ways, and our roles and responsibilities are balanced for the public good. As officers of the court, we judges uphold the constitutions of both the United States and California, and the executive branch does the same by ensuring that our laws are fairly and safely enforced. But enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair. They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California’s courthouses.

—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

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