The Flood: Sexuality Outside the Boundaries

Jeff McVay

“…if we walk in the Light and He Himself is the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – I John 1:7.

A pastor friend of mine once preached a sermon on the topic of sexuality (scandalous to most of us, I know, but he did it nonetheless and I am glad that he did but that’s a different article). In his sermon he said that ‘sexuality is a powerful river that flows through all of humanity.’ As a hiker and backpacker, that was a powerful metaphor for me. When I go hiking, there is nothing I love more than to walk along the side of a river, creek or mountain lake. I began to think about why that is. Mostly I love it because of the life that I see all around it. Life is sustained by it. The river that I am walking next to may also water the crops of the farmer up stream which then puts food on my table and sustains life for my family and me. The river also may provide life for animals and trees that produce life giving things for many people both up stream and down stream. This is also how God intended sexuality to be among us as human beings. It (much like the river) is a wonderful, life giving, sustaining, and powerful force for good as long as it stays within the boundaries (i.e. life long commitment between a man and a woman).

When either a river or sexuality gets outside of its banks, the end result is destruction.

After the horror of what we all witnessed in New Orleans this past summer, we know the destructive power of water when it gets outside its boundaries. The water that was life giving now becomes life taking. It flows to the lowest places and becomes polluted.  People in it and around it become sick due to the bacteria that the water picked up in places that it was never supposed to go. We saw that its greatest impact was on the poor, needy, and weak who were unable for various reasons to get out ahead of the storm. We also saw how great numbers of people became isolated from the rest of the world and from each other. As the water rose, they moved from the first floor to the second floor and then many to the attic where there was no light. They were trapped in the dark wondering if anyone would come or if anyone even knew that they were still alive.

This is also similar to what happens when the powerful river of sexuality gets outside its boundaries. What was intended to bring life, flows to the lowest places, gets polluted, harms those who are most vulnerable, brings destruction, and most of all, leads people into a desperate isolation. The flood of shame becomes so overwhelming that people wind up retreating into dead end places, alone in the dark, isolated with little or no resources, wondering if anyone could possibly rescue them.

It is into this darkness that the good news from I John comes when it says, ‘God is light and in God there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5). What isolated people who are living in the dark need is light. This is not a light that shames them for being in the dark, but a light that shows their need for rescue and a light that shows the way out. For those in New Orleans, I never once heard a news report of a rescuer shaming or belittling a person who needed rescue. They never asked, ‘Why are you in the dark?’ or ‘Why did you retreat to your attic?’ No one commented that, ‘Those people were so ignorant to rush to the dead end.’ They simply saw that there was a need of rescue and the most important thing was to help them get to safety and into the care of others who could help.

This also should be the process of recovery from sexual addiction. People need light and help not shame and condemnation. Again I John seems to give hope to those who are currently alone in the dark when He writes, ‘If we walk in the light, and God is this light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin’ (I John 1:7).

In studying this, I found it interesting that the first thing people experience when they step into the light of God is that they have ‘fellowship (another word for friendship) with one another.’ I felt like John got his priorities mixed up. Shouldn’t he have said that the first thing that happens is that we get cleansed from sin or at least that the first person we have fellowship with is God? But then I remembered that usually God allows His light to shine through other human beings into our darkness and that to be with God is to be in community. In other words, we cannot do this alone and God never asks us to. In essence it is through these friendships that God applies the blood of Jesus for our cleansing.

What does this mean for you? If you are trapped in the dark attic of sexual addiction or pornography, there is hope for you. There is light to show you the way out. There is a community of others to help, because you cannot do this yourself. There is cleansing from your sin, and there is a new story that God will write for you. All you must do is let someone know that you are trapped and make that step into the God’s light. As the boundaries of structure, discipline and friendship are applied to your life, you will find that even sexuality can be what God intended it to be: a river of life giving intimacy, honesty and openness that is renewing for both you and your spouse. The clean up (just like in New Orleans) might be long, exhausting, and difficult but in the end you will have a sexually safe place to live for both you and your family.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Grace

Mark Verkler

Grace defined:

1. The free unmerited love and favor of God; the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. (Romans 11)

2. The application of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. (Romans 5)

3. A state of reconciliation to God. (Romans 5:2)

Perhaps grace is the ultimate expression of God’s love to us and for us. …for God is love (1 John 4:8b). It is hard to describe and hard to grasp, partly because it’s so unnatural and so much against the flesh. I have such a tendency to either compare myself favorably to someone I suppose is a worse sinner than I am and unfavorably to someone I suppose is a better saint. Pride would keep me out of each group–humility would put me in.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9: ‘The Lord said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at it’s best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me.’

One of the most amazing parts of God’s grace is that He promises that it is enough. No matter the sin, no matter the failure, no matter the weakness, His grace is enough. I have learned that I AM NOT to ask for God’s grace. That is like asking for rain that is already falling, or asking for sunshine on a cloudless day. I am to accept by faith that God’s grace is extended to me and receive it moment by moment with thanksgiving. Of course it makes sense to give thanks for a gift as great as Grace. But I am afraid I all too often ignore it, or ask for it, instead of opening the gift of grace that is right in front of me and giving thanks and rejoicing.

In Luke 17: 3-4 we see another picture of grace. Jesus tells us that if our brother trespasses against us seven times in the same day, repents and seeks forgiveness, we are to give it to him. Would God ask us to do something he wasn’t willing to do? No. That is God’s grace’a well that is so deep it will never run out of water no matter how much we need or use. Though we are warned to not use grace as a license to sin (Romans 6), we are exhorted to embrace our weakness and need of it.

To truly know grace, it must go far beyond understanding and into experience. That means embracing my need for God. I am a Saint by God’s grace, and a Saint who sins and needs His grace every day. Dietrich Bonhoffer noted,

‘He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding in corporate worship, common prayer , and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!’

This is evidence of God’s grace working in me: I can admit my weakness and need for God’s grace to myself, my God and my brother’s in Christ. I don’t have to cover up so that I appear to have no need of His grace. On the contrary, I can ‘uncover’ and embrace my need of the gift of grace.

Someone said that God doesn’t clean his fish until AFTER He catches them. God is in the business of justifying the ungodly.

 Romans 4:5 says: ‘But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ That is grace. I must not think that I have to justify myself. That is his job. Mine is to admit my need.

In closing, I am inspired by Henri Nouwen’s vision of grace in the story of the Prodigal. He writes:

‘In my minds eye, I see Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The dim eyed old father holds his returned son close to his chest with an unconditional love. Both of his hands, one strong and masculine, the other gentle and feminine, rest on his son’s shoulders. He does not look at his son but feels his young, tired body and lets him rest in his embrace. His immense red cape is like the wings of a mother bird covering her fragile nestling. He seems to think only one thing: he is back home and I am so glad to have him with me again.’

May we all go ‘back home’ into the arms of grace.