Editor’s note: although GenevaVoice.com is dedicated to publishing student voices, we are grateful to have the experience of Dr. Dean Smith to help better inform and frame this important conversation.
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield’s presence on campus allows us to address a major issue in our society: human sexuality. Unfortunately, the topic can bring to mind many images. For example, LGBT demonstrators marching for equal marriage rights while professing Christians hold “God hates fags” posters. The talk and rhetoric is seldom gentle or kind; often, it fails to address some important underlying issues or principles. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Principle number 1: God created marriage and sexuality
Where did the concept of marriage come from: the development of man or man’s creator? God is the one who created man and woman, telling them to be fruitful and multiply. The author of marriage and of sexuality sets the guidelines for how it is to be experienced. Genesis 2:24 maintains that “for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father, and cleave to his wife.” Jesus refers to this verse as setting the basic understanding of marriage.
Principle number 2: Marriage and sexuality have been marred by sin
It should not surprise us that marriage and sexuality are often broken and distorted. When sin entered, it impacted every human relationship. God warns Israel coming out of Egypt about sexual sins to be avoided; these include rape, incest, same-sex sins and sex with animals (Lev. 19).
Principle number 3: Same-sex sins are not worse than other sins
There are lists of behaviors that can keep someone from the kingdom of God. Galatians 5: 19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 include same-sex sins, along with a list of other sins. Highlighting same-sex temptation and sin and ignoring other things on the list (jealousy, strife, rivalry and envy) is to use a double standard. Jesus’ most severe warning is for those who have seen his works and heard his word and did not repent, not for those guilty of sexual sins (Matthew 11:20-24).
Principle number 4: Struggle and temptation do not equal identity
We casually identify and categorize people in various ways: from “blonde jokes” to ethnic slurs, to behavioral issues (he’s a drunk, she’s an addict), to sexual stereotypes (gay, slut). The Bible rarely stereotypes. It may comment on descriptions (the fool in Proverbs), but seldom makes a declaration of identity or constitution.
Jesus demonstrates this when he deals with people. The woman at the well had a history with men (five husbands and a live-in boyfriend), but that’s not his focus. Zaccheus the tax collector was regarded by Jesus as a son of Abraham.
This principle is especially important for Christians in dealing with their own identity and with dealing with others. If you are a Christian struggling with heterosexual issues or same-sex temptation, your struggle is not your identity. Your identity is a son or daughter of God, a son or daughter who struggles.
Your friend, relative, or roommate who struggles with same-sex temptation is first of all someone who has been created in the image of God. They are to be treated with regard and respect, not defined by their particular struggle.
Principle number 5: Grace is more powerful than sin.
Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 mention powerful things, sins that can enslave. Yet Paul declares “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came to set us free from bondage to sin. He does not promise freedom from temptation, but freedom from bondage and the power to live a new life.
Principle number 6: Temptation is not sin
There is often confusion between temptation and sin. They are not the same. We know this because Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, but without sin. It is his experience of temptation that enables him to understand us and his victorious death that provides forgiveness. We need to resist temptation, but we need not feel guilty simply because we are tempted.
Principle number 7: Be gracious, be gracious, be gracious
We need a deep experience of grace, authenticity and humility in our own struggles, as well as a gracious spirit in helping others with their struggles. Jesus promises us his Spirit to help us and urges us to help one another.
The one who calls us to holy living promises to forgive and empower us in that pursuit.