The Service Of Sex

Could sexuality be more about serving your fellow man than serving yourself? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been reading lately a book called Beauty, Order, And Mystery. It’s all about a Christian view of human sexuality. This is something that is greatly needed in our world as many of us don’t bother to understand the topic of sexuality. Instead, we just have a lists of do’s and don’ts and these are floating in the air based on nothing. It’s not sufficient in our day and age to say “Scripture says”, not because Scripture is invalid, but because many of us don’t know how to handle the Scriptures and many on both sides consider it a powerful argument to say that Scripture says to not eat shellfish for instance.

Even if we apply the right hermeneutic, it can still be good to try to figure out why God commands what He commands. Maybe we can never know, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try. This is especially so when we live in a culture, like many others around the world and in history, where sex is just so central to who we are. Sex is the god of our modern world and the greatest good to many that we meet today.

Despite this, few of us really think about sex today. Sometimes people get the idea that our culture thinks too much about sex, but the reality is we think too little. We dream about it, fantasize about it, make media about it, just plain do it, but we don’t think about it. We don’t think about what this action is and how it came to be and how it relates to what it means to be human.

It’s not a shock then when people think sexuality is so fluid and really has nothing to do with the body. A boy today can go to his university and say that he is identifying as a girl and the staff must treat him as a female including all the pronouns. Right here on my desk, I have a guide to pronouns from a local university. It says that people may change pronouns without changing their name, their appearance, or their sexual identity. You are explicitly told to not assume the same pronouns from yesterday apply to today.

This is a recipe for chaos and shows how far we’ve gone down. Who determines who we are? We do. We are the ones in charge or our own identity. Even if we’re given a male or a female body, it’s up to us to decide if we really want to be male or female.

One part I read yesterday talked about a scenario we’ve seen happen often in our world and something that irritates me whenever I see it. A husband or wife will leave their spouse or children and form a relationship with a same-sex lover because they have to be true to themselves. The media will then cheer them on and say that they have found their true identity.

One of the first things I want to know is how is it known that this is the true identity? In an age where everything is said to be scientific, we have to ask what is the scientific test for this? I am not saying science is the answer to everything, but it looks like a lot of people who say it is are very selective on what the everything is.

Yet the other point is that these people are not being true in one sense. They are not being true to promises that they made. They made promises to their spouses and in turn, they have promises to their children. Does your promise to your spouse come first, or does your own desire come first? What message does it send to your children if you put your own self first? What about being true to your family and community?

What about those of us in the church? We definitely need a positive image of sexuality and as I was reading about individualism and sexuality yesterday, I started pondering the idea of sex as service. We can look at that and start thinking about a prostitute performing a service and if we do, we have shown how far off we are.

Sex is often seen in our culture as the goal. Anyone should know easily that this is false. No one wants sex because of sex. They want it because of something else or many other somethings else. It could be pleasure of intimacy or security or children or anything else in this world. Just because the couple has sex together doesn’t mean everything is going to be a bed of roses or they’re meant to be together. I have known couples that have had a passionate sex life together, but split up because that was all they had together. Each person ultimately saw the other as a means to get what they wanted.

Now to be sure, I’m not saying none of us have needs nor am I saying it’s wrong to want to have needs met. It’s not selfish to go to the kitchen and fix a meal because your body needs food. It can be selfish based on how much you have and if you neglect others when you are capable of giving to them as well.

I am saying we should change our perspective. We who hold to a Christian view of sexuality need to think about the role it plays. Just this morning I was reading 1 Cor. 6 which deals greatly with sexual ethics and the importance of honoring God with your body. What you do with your body sexually matters.

If you’re single, your role sexually to honor God is celibacy. This doesn’t have to be lifelong, but the only way it ends is if you marry someone. You’re not to use someone of the opposite sex without giving them the promise of yourself in marriage. If this is something hard, then the Christian requirement is you find someone to marry, and believe it or not, it’s entirely acceptable to have “wanting to have sex” as a reason for marriage. Paul said it in 1 Cor. 7. If you’re someone who is going to burn, then you need to marry.

For those of us who are married, sex is also about how we treat our spouses. Sex is part of the covenant promise you made to the person you married. It needs to be treated as a priority. Otherwise, you’re pretty much just glorified roommates together. Consider this. If you are not honoring your spouse with your body, you are not honoring God with your body.

Let’s look from a man’s perspective. Most men want to be seen as men. Men are often very insecure under whatever presentation they give of themselves. This is one reason men want to compete so much with one another. Each of them is trying to prove that they are the man. One of the best gifts a wife can give her husband is to show him he is the man by sex. It shows him that he is desirable and wanted.

Women often balk at this thinking it so odd. “But we just did it earlier this week? Why does he want it again?” Ladies. Here’s a way to picture this. What if your husband said “I told her I love her earlier this week. Why does she need to hear it again?” “I told her she’s beautiful. Why does she need to hear it again?” “I took her out on a date already. Why does she need to go out again?” “I bought her a gift already. Why does she want something else?”

If this is the way either spouse is thinking about the other, then at that moment they are treating them as an annoyance and their marital obligations as a drudgery. Of course, there will be times when it’s not the right time. If a wife is sick, a husband should not be pushing his desires at that time. Now ladies, if your husband is wanting to be with you, please don’t ever just outright say no. If you have to say no, give a time when you will be ready and able and hold to that time.

Also, remember that what your husband wants most is not for you to look like a supermodel. He won’t complain about that, or he shouldn’t, but he wants most to be wanted by you. He wants your passion. He doesn’t want to be a duty. He wants to be pursued. He wants to know that He is a source of joy for you.

Another point is that many many times, the man has the higher drive. There are marriages where the wife has the higher drive, but it’s usually the man. Ladies. You can really help your man deal with temptation and the struggles of the flesh greatly by being there for him here.

I have written about the way it is for a man previously. I wish to stress one thing here. Ladies. Picture wanting to lose those extra ten pounds and yet having to go through the ice cream or chocolate section of the grocery store. That is what your man is experiencing everyday. He sees beautiful women around him in the real world and in the media and then when he comes home to the one woman he can see while he’s been tempted left and right all day long, she hides away from him. It’s quite distressing for a man. Being available for him will keep him happy and better able to handle temptation, and again, this is one reason Paul encourages regular sex with spouses. They don’t need to be tempted.

Women meanwhile do want to know that they’re beautiful. It’s amazing that one of the great praises a woman can receive is to be told she’s beautiful. When the book of Job ends, it ends by saying Job’s daughters were the most beautiful. So many women in the Bible are praised because of their beauty. Physical beauty is not a bad thing and no wives, your husband is not a pervert because he wants to have sex with you and he wants to see you naked.

Women also have a need for security. What does a man do here then? He treats his wife like a treasure regularly and provides for her the best he can and not just because he wants something from her. He does it because he loves her. He does it in season and out of season. He provides for her a place of security.

Husbands. You’re asking your wives in sex to be completely vulnerable to you. This is something huge for them, especially if they’ve been abused in the past. By showing you their bodies, they are in essence giving you all that they can give you. It is a risk.

Give them security. Let them know they’re safe and treasured. Always treat them like the apple of your eye. (By the way parents, never make your children the focus of your marriage. They’re not. One of the best gifts you can give your children is a loving commitment to your spouse.) Let them know you’re there with them no matter what and when times come when sex is off the table, such as sickness, love them the exact same way.

Too many women can think they are loved only for sex, and too often they can be right. Do the things she thinks are romantic. Date her. Spend time with her. Never stop pursuing her. Too often in a marriage, a man puts on all the charm and romance until he marries his wife, and then he sits down on the couch and watches TV and expects her to serve him hand and foot. To be fair, a number of men say their wives had great physical interest in them until they married them. Then they stopped. They can also be right.

If my thinking is right there, then the goal is to see sex not as a duty but as a way to honor the other person and help meet their needs. For singles, that means not using other people for sex without a commitment. It has been said that before you get married, the devil will do all you can to get you to have sex, and after you’re married, he’ll do all he can to keep you from having it. Now I think sayings like this ascribe way too much power to the devil, but the sentiment I can agree with.

Married people meanwhile honor God with their bodies when they honor their own spouse as well with their bodies. Fidelity to the covenant doesn’t just mean don’t cheat on one another and don’t watch porn and such. It also means honoring the promises you made and that includes sex. Barring severe medical problems, for the Christian, there should be no such thing as a sexless marriage.

It’s not about you. It’s about how you can please your spouse. For a wife, this could just mean have a lot more sex. It’s still pursuing him like you were dating. For a husband, this means being romantic even apart from sex. Date her, buy her gifts, whatever her love language is. Sweep her off her feet. Never stop being a romantic.

And by the way, suppose that you are one who thinks your spouse is not doing this in your marriage. You know what? That doesn’t change your obligation. You are to do the right thing even if you think the wrong thing is being done to you. Too many marriages have each person insisting the other should make the first move. You do the right thing. There is never any justification for doing that which is wrong, including to your spouse.

Serve your spouse as best you can and serve your community as best you can. Honor God with your bodies.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/29/2017: Jayson Georges

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When we talk about doing missions work, one of the lessons we emphasize the most is learning the language. You have to learn the language to communicate. We learn about some aspects of culture, but often times we tend to assume a culture is very much like us. In the West, where many of us are modern individualists, this leads to a problem in reaching a culture that is largely honor and shame based.

Not only that, this causes us to misunderstand our Bibles. The Bible itself is written in a culture that is honor-shame as well. If we read our culture into it, we will badly misunderstand the text. In some cases, we could get a meaning very opposite to the one the ancient author intended. How are we then to reach people in these cultures?

If we want to minister to these people, why not have someone come on who understands this having done it and has co-written a book on it? As you can imagine, I have done just that. I am delighted to get to host Jayson Georges on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Who is he?

 

Jayson Georges (M. Div., Talbot) is the founding editor and primary blogger of HonorShame.com.
headshot1(small) copyOur family served in Central Asia for nine years doing disciple-making, church-planting, and microenterprise development. Understanding honor-shame dynamics helped me to navigate relationships, share the gospel, seize Kingdom opportunities, and more deeply experience God’s grace. My current role is Missiologist-in-Residence at an evangelical mission organization, focusing on developing resources and leading practical training workshops.
We’ll be talking about his book that he co-wrote Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures. Some of you might not see any time in the future when you are going to another culture like that. Do you still need to listen to this podcast? Indeed you do.
As said earlier, the Bible is written in such a culture and if you understand the culture better, you can understand the Bible better. Not only that, but many of your neighbors are likely to be more honor-shame people. If you have neighbors who are more Eastern than Western, this is the way that they think and you want to avoid doing anything around them that could give the wrong impression about the Gospel. How do you confront them? How do you ask a favor? Is it proper to turn down a request? All of these are important skills to learn.
I have long been an advocate of this kind of understanding and consider it a great lack in our modern Western culture that we so often forget this and just assume that everyone is like us. It’s great to be able to have another guest on my show to talk about this kind of topic that can help us with reaching people in these cultures and better understanding the Bible. I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and please leave a positive review on ITunes.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

It’s Not About You

Do we have a problem with individualism in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife recently wrote a blog on a realization that she had. Now for those who don’t read her blog, I really encourage you to do so. She is not writing on apologetics like I am, but I do think she’s a skilled writing and quite gripping and has a way of drawing the reader in emotionally. To get to the point, she made the point in this blog that with many of her struggles, she had been doing what many of us do. She had been focusing on herself.

There is a car sales place around here that has an advertising slogan and I understand why they say it, but I hate to hear it. The slogan is to come to their store “Where it’s all about you.” Personally, I have enough of a problem with everything being about me already.

This also carries over to our Christianity. Consider for instance the four spiritual laws. Now I am not condemning Bill Bright who came up with these, but they do show our modern Western individualism. The first one is how God loves you and has a plan for your life. Where is the emphasis there? It is on the individual. Imagine in the time of Christ a decree going out from Rome when a new Caesar took the throne that said “Caesar loves you and he has a wonderful plan for your life!”

The real message is in fact that God is becoming king through the person of Jesus and He will call the world to account. Paul argues similar in Acts 17 at the Areopagus. God has overlooked ignorance in the past but is now calling the world to repent and this has been shown by the resurrection of Jesus. The message of the Gospel is of course applicable to our lives, but it is not about us. It’s about God in Christ.

And this gets us to a problem in our society and it’s not just a Christian problem, though Christians have bought into it. It is a social problem. We are all about ourselves. In some ways, you could say this is an inverted idea of what honor and shame were meant to be like, though there are vestiges of that still around.

Christian scholar Jackson Wu has said one such example is our modern social media. We want people to speak well of us on social media. We like it when people “like” us on Facebook or share our posts or tag our names approvingly and we like it when people share our tweets or comment on our blogs or things of that sort. It could be said that this is a way that we go about trying to gain honor in the eyes of others.

The difference is we also have a self-esteem movement where we make it all about us and we are special just for being us and since we’re special, we should deserve special privileges. Christians and atheists both often have this idea that the Bible, for example, should have been written with modern Western audiences in mind and who needs to bother studying scholarship or anything like that to understand it? God would surely want to make His message clear.

Well no, you don’t get special privileges. If you want the truth, you actually have to do the work. Too many of us want to shortcut around this and do theology and Biblical interpretation by our experiences and what we think God is telling us. It is amazing how many of my fellow Protestants I know who get after the Pope for claiming to speak for God and yet have no problem sharing regularly what they think God is telling them.

So what do we do?

First, get over ourselves. One humbling aspect to realize is that whoever you are in this life, that whatever it is God wants to do, He does not depend on you to do it. He can always find someone else. The future of humanity does not depend on you. Of course, you must do your part and you should, but you are not the emphasis of the story. It is not what God is doing for you that matters most. It is what you are doing for God that matters most.

Second, build up the humility to learn to listen to others and realize that you can be wrong. If we put our experiences and feelings and what have you in a place where they cannot be wrong, we will never grow in the knowledge of God and in healthy Christian living. This also means humbling yourself to say “I might actually have to do some work to learn about God.” You have to do so to learn about your spouse or your friends or someone you’re dating. Why think God, someone infinitely more different from you, would be easy to learn about?”

Third, we need to watch for individualism in our lives. How often are we making everything all about us? The more we realize that this is going on, the more we can catch it. We can take a break and say “It is not about me.” You can realize that God owes you nothing and every good gift He gives you is grace. If you realize this, it will make evil much easier to deal with. We often make the mistake of holding anger against God because He didn’t give something He never promised to give.

Finally, we must always be making sure of things on our end. Of course, salvation is not by works, but there is more than salvation. There is also sanctification and learning to become more righteous. We should always be examining ourselves first and seeing if we can live more holy lives in response to what is going on. We cannot hold God for ransom and a temper tantrum or refusing to worship Him will not diminish Him. Of course, we can bring our complaints to God and our requests, but while He promises to listen, He has no obligation to do what we want and if He did, we can imagine our world would be more chaotic than it is.

It might be a good sales pitch to say everything is all about you, but it doesn’t work with the Gospel. The Gospel is all about God in Christ. It is not about you.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 3D Gospel

What do I think of Georges book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

3D Gospel

If you have an interest in missions, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding other cultures, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding the Bible and how it would be read in its own context, buy this book.

If you have an interest in seeing the Bible beyond your own cultural perspective, buy this book.

So yes, I want you to buy this book.

The 3D Gospel refers to the three different types of cultures we see in the world. Here in the West, we live in a guilt-innocence culture. Unfortunately, we often think so does the rest of the world, including the world of the Bible, and read our modern culture, perspectives, and individualism into the Biblical text, which can often produce disastrous results. There are two other kinds of cultures.

There are also honor-shame cultures. These are cultures where honor and shame are the main forces at work as people live seeking to cover up shame and claim honor. In these cultures, what happens in the group is of utmost importance as you want to maintain not just your honor, but the honor of your group, and you do not want to be shamed by the people of your group. What you do reflects on everyone who identifies with you. This viewpoint is in the Middle and Far East.

Then there are fear-power cultures. In these cultures, unseen powers play a big role. This is not just God, but also demons, angels, spirits, dead ancestors, etc. In these cultures, you seek the means to gain power over the unseen world and the defenses to protect yourself from what happens in this world, such as following what steps it takes to avoid curses, perhaps visiting someone like a shaman. This is in some southern nations and tribal nations.

It is important that we learn how to interact. As Georges says on location 161, “For cross-cultural workers, a truncated gospel hinders spirituality, theology, relationships, and ministry We unintentionally put God in a box, only allowing him to save in one area.”

And this is the main theme throughout. Georges writes this so that we can understand the Gospel better and realize that it has something to say to all three cultures and we dare not just go by ours alone. If you go to a culture that is honor-shame and start talking about the Gospel in individualistic terms, you will not get much of an audience. You will need to appeal to the need of honor for people, You will need to relate to them passages about honor and shame in the Bible and about seeking the honor of God rather than the honor of men.

If you go to a fear-power culture, you do not want to talk about gentle Jesus meek and mild. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus who in Colossians 2 disarms the powers that are against us and triumphs over them by the cross. You might also need to be prepared for some real work with prayerful preparation as you could really encounter darker powers in places where this viewpoint is prevalent. What we call power evangelism really plays a role here.

This book is also not long. You can read it in a day easily. That will be a day well spent as you will get some excellent insight into how these other cultures work. Note of course that this is just a start. From there, you need to move on to the best works of scholarship in the field, but if you want to get your feet wet, this is an excellent start in order to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters