As a pastor, I have been often asked why the church and Bible seems so preoccupied with sex, whether premarital or homosexuality. I normally tell the person asking me that they are the ones bringing it up, not me so they seem to be more preoccupied with it than I am. Yet they have hit on an important part of what it is to be a follower of Jesus; purity. Now purity is considered really important when it comes to things like drinking water or our food supply since no one wants to get sick. And no bride wants a gold ring that is not pure gold with a real diamond instead of imitation, at least my wife didn't; she wanted the real thing as a sign of my love and commitment to her.
Purity is about being as close to the absolute realness of what the object is as possible. So there are restrictions on how many impurities can be in our water supply, our food is monitored so that there is as few bug parts and other unwanted elements in it so we can eat without fear.
So when it comes to being a follower of Jesus, purity, or holiness is about being the person God has created you to be. It's not all about sex or sexual identity, it's about a whole bunch to things that make us who we are. Reading through Jesus' teaching, it's about cultivating grace, forgiveness, generosity, joy, self-control, kindness, a gentle tongue, compassion, and more. The goal is that when people see you, they see an image of who Jesus is; that image of God that got twisted when Adam and Eve sinned.
I believe that the focus on sex and sexuality as the defining aspect of purity comes because as a culture we worship our individuality and the seeking of pleasure above everything else. Our mission statement too often has become, "If it feels good, do it." The sad thing is that this is so self-focused and many don't realize the hurt and brokenness that such a mission statement creates. We live in a time when the ability to communicate and relate to others has never been higher and yet the common complaint I hear from all ages is, "I'm lonely." Over time, when a number of relationships have failed, or the relationship they're in fills up with stress and hurt, they come asking what is wrong and why.
This is when I get to talk with them about who they have made themselves into as a person and the results of it. Then I offer them the opportunity to become who they have been created to be. All it takes is to really accept Jesus as Lord, meaning that you place Him in the position of authority of your life and you shape your life on who He is calling you to be as His disciple. Almost without fail, you will discover joy, peace and hope, but you will also discover God's wisdom in how our relationships should be with each other. Purity in our thoughts and actions creates trust and strength leading to the ability to be more open and deep with others because the focus is on the other instead of the self. This is why God made a commandment against adultery, giving us the gift of marriage, a relationship where we are able to experience the beauty and depth of commitment where the focus is on the other and helping them to become the person God has created them to be. Purity, not only in sex, but in who you are becoming, is the command God gives you so that you can experience life as full and deep and blessed.
Monday, 7 July 2014
I was talking with gentleman the other day when in frustration he said something to this effect, "I wish that I could just forget for a day that I follow Jesus." When I asked him why, he mentioned how there was a person in his life right now that he was so angry and frustrated with, didn't really trust, who he simply wanted to tell them off really good. I thought to myself, I wonder how many of us face the same thing, we're supposed to "love our neighbour as our self," but can't we just can't stand our neighbour. I've said in jest, kind of anyway, that I have times where I love my neighbour but don't like them.
These are the people that we find it hard to speak well of, people that we think inside our own heads, "You fool," or worse. Then I come across those words of Jesus that challenge my thoughts, "I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to punishment, any one who says, 'You fool,' will be in danger of the fire of hell.' This is the same punishment for those who murder!
It's hard to really love others at times and it's hard to control our negative thoughts about others, but I'm starting to understand where Jesus is coming from. In the long run, the way we think about others and the way we speak about others shapes how we will treat them. If I am constantly negative towards someone in my thoughts or words, I will never find it in my heart to love them, to wish the best for them, to respect and honour them. I have to take responsibility for my thoughts and my words, even though I can understand what that frustrated gentleman said the other day abut wishing he could forget for one day that he is a Jesus follower. Yet simply by allowing those thoughts and words inside us even for one day sows a seed that will find way too many opportunities to grow.
It sounds so easy to summarize life into two rules; to love God with everything you have and are, and to love your neighbour as yourself, but when you really get serious about following Jesus, you quickly discover that these are the two most difficult rules to live by. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to even want to begin to live this way and experience the wonder of living out of love instead of anger, frustration or hate.