09 Oct 2010
This article first appeared as a religion column in the Philadelphia Daily News with the title “Churches that don’t acknowledge homosexuality build a difficult barrier.”
Twelve years ago, Oprah Winfrey interviewed J.L. King about his book, On The Down Low, which documented multitudes of black men who regularly engaged in sex with men.
Often husbands and fathers, they do not identify as “gay,” but they do live secret and radically disjointed double lives. In fact, King pointed out that African-American churches are “unrealistic about the number of men leading double lives.”
Recent accusations about a well-known Southern minister in a mega-church of African Americans have brought this discussion back into the limelight. King cites blatant hypocrisy: ministers who condemn homosexuality from the pulpit, then have sex with men in the pews.
His concern is that the church all too often condemns homosexuality rather than admits its presence among members and leadership. The picture King paints is that church leaders often mistakenly convey the message that this is something that happens “out there” and not “in here.”
Yet anyone can struggle with same-sex attractions and homosexuality, regardless of race and ethnicity. It is part of the human predicament. In a sense, it’s a subcategory of the major human dilemma. What is at the essence of the greater human dilemma? Just this: the Bible says that we react to confusion, life’s circumstances, hurts, disappointments, and pain by developing plans and strategies to make life work apart from God. We all develop approaches to life that say to others around us, and to God as well, “I have a plan for my life—don’t you get in my way.”
This is the nature of sin, which extends to what we do with our hearts and bodies, sexually speaking. How we handle sex reveals what we believe about God. Our use or misuse of sex always reveals whether we’re living lives of submission to God or rebellion. For all of us, then, one of the key questions of life is whether we’re willing to call God “boss” and let him meet our needs his way.
The white church is also hesitant to admit that its members experience these kinds of problems, as well as the propensity to live double lives of hypocrisy. Yet homosexuality seems to be a more hidden reality in African-American, Asian, and Latino churches. Perhaps the white church has just lost its sense of shame; that is, it has lost an awareness that something is terribly wrong, while African-American and other ethnic churches still hold on to some appearance that, biblically speaking, same-sex attraction is not a good thing to be open about or celebrated.
I don’t know how many black churches have become pro-homosexual. This is not a bad thing, but avoiding the real struggles that people experience is.
Keeping silent about these struggles puts those in the African-American church in a bind. The barriers to admitting the truth and seeking help consequently remain very high. These barriers must be broken down in the African-American church. This can happen only when these real heart issues and problems are discussed openly and honestly. That’s also when people who struggle with same-sex attractions might be encouraged to talk about it sooner so that they can understand how much God cares and longs to meet them in the midst of their secret struggles. The pop psychologist Dr. Phil is right on here. He often states boldly and frequently on his TV show, “What can’t be admitted can’t be changed.”
A passage from the Bible, I Thessalonians: 4:3-5, states, “This is God’s will, that you abstain from sexual immorality; and that each of you learn how to control his own body in holiness and honor; not in lustful passion. . . . ”
Admittedly, these are hard words to take in, especially in our ‘sex is my own business’ culture. But they are also life-giving words that transcend race and ethnicity. In this sense, God’s words to us are truly multicultural in nature.
01 Mar 2010
My time with the Lord each morning is 99.99% of the time accompanied by a mug or two of robust coffee. My musings this morning come from Hosea 7:8, Psalm 106:35, and Psalm 32:9. These verses refer to how God’s people “mingled” themselves with the pagan nations. They had been specifically commanded not to do this, but, much like us today, they wanted what they wanted and did it anyway.
Braiding. Mingling. Entangling ourselves. The allusion of oneness where there is no oneness. Christ alone can dwell within us, and Christ alone can truly complete us, fill us, be a faithful and safe receiver of our love, adoration, attention, worship. And yet we are all tempted to spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically entangle ourselves with creation.
For those inclined toward relational and/or sexual idolatry, it can seem so beautiful, so ‘natural’, so right because it feels good: the emotional and sexual rush that happens when the images are clicked to from one to the other; the soothing endorphin release that happens when reading those emails of verbal, emotional, sexual connection; the free-falling lostness into a fantasy world of love and romance that seems to exist with that person on the other side of the IM chat.
You know you’re stuck. You feel the enslavement, the addiction of it all. You fear being found out. Jesus knows these things, and his mercy to you is compassionate love poured over you. His mercy to you comes from his holy heart which knows the misery that sin brings, the anguish and ways of pain that just are a part of living in this fallen world. Are you in pain because of your sin?
To pain-filled, sin-captive hearts, Jesus does not say merely, “Do this or do that!” So here’s where Psalm 32:9 comes in. Our Lord wants so much more than for us to follow him like a bridled horse or mule who is yanked here and there. And I would suggest to you that he even has more for us than the beautiful picture of a sheep listening for the familiar and safe voice of a trusted shepherd. What Christ calls us to is the tender relationship of Bride to Bridegroom. Of relationship. Of love and faithfulness woven together.
If you’re heartsick this Monday—maybe you were doing some braiding and mingling over the weekend—don’t try to undo yourself by being a spiritual horse or mule. That same Psalm 32 contains two other amazing promises which say the Lord’s love and songs of deliverance surround his people (see verses 7 and 10):
- Come to Lord Jesus, a Bridegroom full of mercy and worthy of your devotion.
- Acknowledge where, how, and when you’ve been mingling with this world. Where, how, and when has sin led you away from him?
- Ask him to instruct, counsel, and teach you in the way you should go (verse 8). Do you need to talk to someone? Ask for prayer? Seek accountability? Are you being nurtured from God’s Word? Are you seeking time with people who enthuse you and provoke you to fall in love with Jesus? People who sing and shout and whisper courage into your heart—words that remind you it is worth it to live for King Jesus and his kingdom purposes?
- Ask him to open your spiritual eyes to his mercy which soothes you, then invigorates you to robust obedience.
- Listen—those songs of deliverance are being sung over you!
- Trust that Jesus loves you, forgives you, is making you new, and is setting you free. One step of faithfulness at a time. Just one step. Take your next step of obedience.
Then enjoy a mug of coffee with him tomorrow morning—or now!
24 Feb 2010
Here are some final thoughts about how our souls become attached to what they should be detached from. How does Christ enable us to remain attached to, or in an abiding relationship with, him? The ideas of being ‘aroused’ and ‘awakened’ are key for us to consider.
The Bible’s use of ‘arousal’ mostly refers to sexual arousal, meaning that the body’s sexual sensitivities are stirred. But our souls and emotions can also be ‘aroused’: stirred, moved, touched.
Being aroused from sleeping seems to describe the brief time between slumber and being fully awake. “She was aroused from her deep sleep and woke up,” for example. I wonder if this is a way for us to also consider how our emotions and thoughts can be stirred in a direction that then leads us to be ‘awakened’ towards acting upon those emotions and thoughts. We can either acti upon them in either a Christ-ward direction, abiding in him and his Word, or in a selfish and sin-ward direction.
Psalm 34:8 says to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (ESV). Galatians 5:16 instructs us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Both of these verses speak to the issue of what and who will arouse or awaken you. What do the taste buds of your heart hunger for? Seek to attach to? The promise of Galatians 5:16 is that we will not gratify our sinful desires as we walk in the Spirit, which is another way to describe what it means to abide in Jesus: being filled with and directed by his Spirit. Those sinful desires come from our sinful hearts being aroused and awakened to worldly things rather than the Lord. Sinful cravings can be for things like:
- physical or emotional pleasure at any cost
- escape from emotional pain at all costs
- fearful avoidance of any circumstance or encounter that might lead me to feel rejected
- being number one and made much of by those in my life
To be aroused by, awakened by, and attached to holiness and the things of the Lord isn’t a series of steps per se; rather, it is a radical relational reorientation towards a person: Jesus.
What do you think about the idea of attachment vs. abiding?
28 Oct 2009
Someone once asked a mentor of mine, “Do you think you can be addicted to a relationship?” Beth responded immediately: “Yes!”
And it’s true. The dynamics that we experience in certain relationships can become habitually destructive when they turn into a perceived need in our lives.The feelings of comfort, security, value, and acceptance are among the top nutrients that feed and nurture a co-idolatrous relationship. Those things are evil in and of themselves! But when they become the reason we are relating to someone, a people addiction could be at work.
And in my own journey of seeking to run to Jesus from my people idolatry, I’ve come to see how similar people addiction is to food addiction. With this post, I’ll present some initial thoughts, and then I’ll follow up with more ponderings on how cravings for food and for people are more alike than different!
- People, or relationships, and food are good gifts from God. (James 1:17)
- We can’t just give up people or food; we are called to live in community and, well, we need food to survive! Romans 12:9-10 speaks to our call to be involved in relationships.
- Both can become a ‘feel good’ substitute for Jesus, a way to soothe heart pain.
- By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we must learn to live in holy moderation of these good gifts, not clinging to the created thing in a way that only the Creator is worthy of.
I frequently talk with women who are struggling, hurting, or confused because either one particular relationship, or many relationships with other women, have resulted in obsessive, entangling captivity. It’s been a pattern of relating since they were young or, as an adult, a relationship grew to something that seemed to control them in a destructive way.
John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #14 has a line that expresses the answer to why the experience of women being enthralled with each other will never work: “Except you enthrall me, never shall [I] be free.” The craving to be enthralled by someone, the driving desire to have your heart filled up by the emotional and perhaps physical connection with another woman is evidence of your heart being created to worship! Yes, God has created us to worship, to be fully, wholeheartedly enthralled with Another, with One: Jesus Christ. John Donne had it right: Unless we find our deepest satisfaction, comfort, and security in him, we will not be free, and our relationships will be unenthralling more often than not!
Women seeking life in other women—emotionally, sexually, mentally—rather than in Jesus have at least two things in common: They are deeply loved by Jesus who wants to bring freedom and life to their hearts through him. Also, they will continue to experience the ‘captivity of creation’ until they seek life in the Creator.
Do you need a safe place to talk about your struggles, temptations, questions, and hurts in these areas? If so, call us here at Harvest USA. We warmly invite you and will seek to be a safe place for you to process your relational world! Jesus Christ is your Hope, Haven, and Help.
This post was originally placed on the website of Covenant Eyes, www.covenanteyes.org, an amazing internet accountability ministry.
Welcome friend, hope it’s okay to call you friend? It’s fairly personal and we probably don’t know each other but I do want you to know my heart is tender towards you. And while I’m not entangled with pornography, I’m much more like you than different. Yeah, you and I both have been tempted by the desires of our heart to look to creation rather than to the Creator for life, for comfort, for satisfaction in our souls as we seek distraction from something, some one, some feeling.
I dabbled in porn as a junior high girl, before the internet was created so my experience was with magazines I found in my neighbors’ closet. Secret, lingering, and lustful gazes were happening every time I went to babysit and the kids were in bed. My body reacted…aroused by things I’d never seen before. So enticing! So mesmerizing! And…addicting. Amazingly though, those magazines were missing one day when I showed up for my neighborly duties and try as I might, I couldn’t find them! And so…my porn history was cut short to my then-disappointment, but now I shake my head in thankful wonder at God’s merciful intervention.
But I’ve more than dabbled in other addictive, ensnaring habits: food, entertainment, emotionally-enmeshing connections with people and in particular with women. I’ve been the kind of person that Jesus came for: a captive needing to be set free and a broken-hearted woman needing healing. (See Luke 4:18-20 and Isaiah 61:1-3 if you’re interested in his job description!)
Your enslavement to pornography is the fruit of a process that’s happening in your heart friend; or as Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, it is the ‘harvest’ coming in from seeds you’ve sown. When desires and thoughts go astray from a Christ-ward and Word-centric focus, seeds are being sown toward the nurturing of our flesh. I wonder how you made your first click into a porn site? And how long you lingered there? How long it was before you were drinking in and feasting upon the images again? Then when did you reach the sober destination of, “How did I end up here? How in the world have I become so addicted to this stuff?”
You see, God’s promises often come to us with a combination sober warning and amazing hope. Galatians 6:7-8 is a passage I want to urge you to feast upon, to soak your thoughts upon and to take steps of obedience toward: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life!”
For as many women who are addicted to pornography, there are as many paths of sowing seeds that led each one closer to the edge of the pit, and then finally into a seemingly hopeless miry mess, a web of addiction from which escape seems impossible. A lonely heart, a heart in pain seeking escape so as to feel good. Disappointment with life, selfish demands that life flow my way on my terms. Thoughts unchecked and coasting in lust, secretly developed stories of sexual fantasy craving fulfillment. A body that longs for sexual intimacy, and the settling for arousing images that lead towards sex with self. Yearnings for romance with a man or woman, yearning for a person to fill my soul, the easy click into a world of relating where I am queen and have nothing asked of me…or so one thinks. Or so one thinks…seeking life in creation which is sin, will cost us more than we ever imagine and will take us further than we ever want to go. For all of the above, Jesus has come and is a knowing, loving, present Savior, Healer, and Rescuer!
Desires, feelings, pain, dreams, fears, anxieties, soul ache happens to everyone in this world because it’s broken or fallen. This is why Jesus came: to restore creation from corruption and to return us to what we were created for, lives of glory-giving to God—to actually cause 2 Peter 1:3-4 to be reality: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires and participate in the divine nature.”
Friend, there is true, freeing hope for you…it is a person, Jesus. He knows the pains, sorrows, fears, anxieties, longings, and groanings that are in your heart. While porn will smother that pain for a brief time, it cannot heal it, or strengthen you to be the woman God’s beautifully designed you to be! He is your designer and your healer. Will you take the courageous step to be honest about your broken-heartedness, with God and a trusted person in your life? Jesus is saying to you, “Come to me as you are with your pornography enslavement, and I will set you free.” Will you come?
04 Dec 2008
Fear is the enemy of love. Fear is the enemy of trust, honesty, sharing of oneself, and thus the enemy of intimacy.
In his book False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, Harry Schaumberg defines this concept of false intimacy as essentially a selfish strategy and self-created illusion for a person to avoid the relational pain inherent in real intimacy by pursuing sexual experiences—whether through fantasy, solo sex, or acting out with another person. False intimacy reveals a deep commitment to controlling or managing actual or potential emotional disappointments or pain and seeks emotional comfort, security, peace, and autonomy over the best interests of another person.
How does Schaumberg’s idea relate to the fears and unbelief in your past or present struggles? Fear is the enemy of love, but love is the enemy of fear. Love and truth fight fear and unbelief. (Does this sound like Yoda of Star Wars or a Haikou poem?) If love is a verb, and living in truth means confession, vulnerability, and self-disclosure, then how are you doing in loving God and others, with truthful self-discovery and honest self-disclosure with others? “Heart work” is the hardest work of all.
Since God accepted you and me when we were still enemies (Romans 5:8,10), what have you been so afraid of? What has distorted your vision of God’s goodness and trustworthiness? How are you seeking honest relationships now?
False intimacy—and the fear that drives it—is endemic in our culture, and not just because of porn, which is an extreme variety of avoiding real intimacy and controlling emotions by using real people. Someone has said that the three rules of a dysfunctional family are 1) don’t talk, 2) don’t feel, and 3) don’t trust. Yet we are called to be true brothers, the real family of God, a community of true honesty, acceptance, and mutual support. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). Jesus is against the fear of false intimacy. “Perfect love cast out fear” (1 John 4:18). And, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The true meaning of Christmas is to set us free from the fears that enslave our hearts.