For the past few weeks, we’ve talked about several key themes related to building a healthy understanding of sexuality from a Kingdom-of-God-perspective. (Click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) This week we’ll wrap things up with what we believe are the two biggest challenges facing students (an adults) in this struggle.
The first challenge is trusting that the Kingdom of God is best.
The word “faith” in the Bible has always struck us as a little peculiar. For many years, I (Tim) understood faith and belief to be synonyms. In some instances, this interchange may be appropriate; in our culture today, confusing faith and belief leads to lots of problems. Belief typically indicates some sort of mental understanding/comprehension/agreement. Exs: I believe Jesus is real. I believe real men drive Jeep Wranglers. I believe chubby bunny is still a hilarious student ministry game. The problem is, Jesus didn’t ask his followers to believe in him, he asked them to trust him. This distinction may seem benign, but I’m convinced this confusion is the cause of much of our discipleship struggles today (but that’s another conversation for another day).
The key and significant distinction is that you can believe in someone without having a relationship with them; to trust someone, you must be in relationship with them. To trust someone, you must know them well enough to determine whether or not you are willing to adjust your life based on what they say or do. When Jesus told his disciples they could do great things if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, he was saying, “If you trusted me just a tiny, little bit, the Kingdom of God would open up to you in astounding ways!” Trust begins when you take the risk to give things a try. Trust grows over time.
What does this have to do with our conversation on sexuality? Everything!
When we teach Kingdom values related to sexuality, we are asking our students,
- “Do you trust that guarding what you watch on the internet is the best way to live your life?”
- “Do you trust that avoiding sexual intimacy in your dating relationships is the best way to relate to your boyfriend/girlfriend?”
- And ultimately, we are asking, “Do you trust that God’s way is best?”
The first question we must answer – and we must challenge our students to answer – is, “Do we trust that living a Kingdom-of-God life is best?” We must create a safe space for students to say, “yes,” “no,” and, “I’m not sure;” and we must respond with love and grace regardless of how students answer; but we must ask the question. If students have even the tiniest amount of trust, it’s time to address the second challenge.
The second challenge is trusting that the Kingdom of God is possible.
I think the apostle Paul made one of his most insightful comments, in Romans 12:2,
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” NLT (emphasis mine)
Paul recognized that the early followers of Jesus were living in a culture that was so contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God that they would have a difficult time envisioning what these Kingdom values would even look like. Instead of giving a new list of commandments that couldn’t possibly address every issue these early Christians were facing, Paul gave them these simple instructions: “Let the spirit of Jesus renovate your imagination, so instead of seeing the world as it is, you can begin to see the world as it could be.”
For me, understanding the depth of Paul’s statement was (and still is) a “wow” moment. And I believe we must carry this message to our students.
In the midst of a culture that tells (and expects) students to enjoy your body, experiment with everything and everyone, and YOLO, are we helping our students see the very real possibility of living a Kingdom-of-God-centered life? With all the voices and messages of despair and hopelessness and nihilism bombarding our students every day, are we whispering hope and purpose and possibility with the voice of the Spirit? Are we helping our students understand and pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
Some final thoughts:
Many of our students have already made choices that embrace our culture’s sexual values. But God is a God of healing and restoration, and no one is beyond the reach of his love and grace. Part of our journey with students is to walk with them through the shame often associated with these decisions. Shame is part of Satan’s accusations against humanity. We follow Jesus’ example and help students experience freedom, understanding that God leads us to repentance through gentle, grace-filled kindness (Romans 2:4).
Our hearts break with yours as we see the pain our students experience as a result of the sexualization of our culture. And our prayers join yours that as we have the privilege of walking with these students into a life that reveals God’s kingdom, God will multiply our efforts and reorient the direction of a generation. May God help them become women and men that trust in God’s plan for sex and have a Spirit-inspired vision for a life of purity and freedom.
What do you think?
– Tim and Tasha