Finding Grace and Following the Guide. Or. (God and Sex Part II.)
The bottom line is that when Deb and I got married, she was a virgin and I was not. One of the modern myths about sex is that it’s just physical and no big deal. I don’t believe this and that is certainly not my journey. The emotions have been all over the place in my adult life. At one point I can experience the true forgiveness and redemption of Jesus with an understanding of grace that people with less checkered lives just can’t understand. On the other hand, there are still residual times when I ache for my choices of sexual activity before marriage. I don’t blame the girl. I know it was my decision and it pains me. If there was anything that I could take back, it would be those pre-marital sexual actions that I took during the dark ages on my high school years and young adult life. But I can’t.
Regardless of what culture says, the Bible is very clear that God not only made sex beautiful, He also made it for marriage. The original divine design for sexuality was in the exclusive relationship between one man and one woman for life. Jesus went back to creation in Mark 10:6-8 in defining the relationship. Does the Bible mention polygamy? Yes, but that was never God’s design. The ancient order was one man and one woman in which intimacy could flourish. The author of Hebrews exhorted the first Christians toward the purity of the marriage bed and noting that judgement would come upon those who ignored God’s design. As Solomon beautifully pictured the glory of married sexuality, he also cautioned against the pain of stepping outside of God’s design. Note Proverbs 7:22-23 and 6:26-28. Today we can see that damage all around us in the form of emotional baggage, dysfunction, and distrust.
So what is to be done when we blow it? In short, we confess our sin, accept his grace, and move forward. But to truly learn how to live in that grace may take time to fully incorporate into our souls. It did for me anyways.
A few years ago I was aggressively studying men’s ministry issues and during the process took in a conference led by John Eldredge. At first I hated it. I had expected a more experiential and hands on event, like the ministry of Marked Men For Christ of which I’ve often spoken about. What I got was an enormous group of close to some 800 men in an auditorium simply listening to lectures by Eldredge and his team. After the Thursday night opening session I called three of my close mentor friends ranting about my experience. These were guys who knew where I was at both geographically and emotionally. I’d been trekking some of this journey with them of late and all three seemed to be on the same wave length with each other. In short, they all basically gave me the same answer. “Be still Steve” they all seemed to say in unison. One guy, I really wanted to rip his head off, told me to find a seat on the front row for the rest of the three-and-a-half-day event. So, trying to have an attitude of submission to my elder brothers and an open heart to God, I got up way early the next morning, went to the dark auditorium, and set my notebook on the third seat from the center, front row, just about 10 feet from the main lectern.
The breakthrough came later on in the conference when Eldredge was speaking on men, women, and sexuality. Much of it had to do with the problem of so many guys today who are looking to the beautiful maiden to find their value. You can’t do that. A woman may recognize a man’s power, but to find meaning, a man must turn to other men, or more importantly to God himself. The point of connection though was when John told a story about one of his girl friends who became pregnant before he was a Christian. I remembered reading about this in his book, Wild At Heart. The girl had an abortion with John’s approval and years later John felt the sting and sorrow of those events. But then the change came. John masterfully described the transformation of his repentance, accepting the grace of Christ, and then fully releasing his sin into the hands of Jesus. He had to let the sin go. It was after this full release that he was then able to move forward.
Immediately after the lecture I quickly jump right up before him. Remember, my rude friend made me sit on the front row. So I reached out to John and asked:
Me: “John, that story in your book, about your old girlfriend having an abortion, was that true?”
John: “Yes,” he said with a serious though compassionate look on his face.
Me: “You really were able to eventually release it all to Jesus and go forward?”
Me: “So somehow I have to do the same thing.”
John: “Yes . . .”
I don’t remember much of the conversation after that. But I do remember that it was indeed a real turning point. I had been through similar conversations with God before, but this time just seemed more real. Here was a guy, just a guy, who had truly blown it, but yet he had also truly experienced the grace of Jesus and walked forward in such a way that he could now help others.
Today I am reminded of that exchanged and often return to it as Satan has a way of bringing up my past again and again. Being reminded that Jesus took my sin on the cross and granted me grace helps me to look forward.
Looking forward is what we actually need to do, no, get to do, once we confess our sin and receive His grace. Going forward is not just living in peace; it is a deliberate daily choice for Jesus and not for sin. I’m often reminded of the grace that Jesus extended to a woman caught in adultery in John 8. The text is speculative as it is not found in the oldest manuscripts which are closest to the actual words of Christ. But the narrative fits. When people want to beg off judgmental sounding cautions in the realm of what’s moral, they often point to this text where Jesus refuses to condemn the woman. What they most often leave off though are the final words of Christ where he exhorts her to leave her life of sin. Jesus called her to not only accept his grace, but to live differently from that moment on.
That’s the call for you and me. Yes, sex is a beautiful thing that God blessed humanity with. But it gets ugly really fast when we take it out of His loving context. The reason why I talk about these delicate issues is not because I want to be self-righteous or judgmental, but in a real sense to spare others the pain. I touched the hot burner and I hope I can prevent others from doing the same.
Have you blown it sexually? God knows all about it and He longs to bring healing and a new start. That’s the whole reason why Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. No matter what the sin, Jesus paid it. For us, when we approach the cross of Christ, He extends His grace and makes it possible for us to live a new life no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done.
Today, I have a new life because of His grace and I’m following the designer’s old, but true guide for sexuality. That’s what I’ve experienced and I pray you can too.