Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. So, watch yourselves~ Luke 17:1 & 3 NIV
Most of the stupid things people do are not done deliberately.
In my experience, most people just kind of fumble around blindly doing stuff without putting a whole lot of thought into the long-term consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, this creates all sorts of unintended consequences.
Sadly, Christians sometimes do the same thing.
Lots of decent, well-intended followers of Jesus make choices out of impulse or reflex, rather than using a careful study of God’s word as their guide. At the same time, this unfortunate reality has merged with a tendency to look at what the culture is doing, or what’s popular rather than thinking through issues from a Biblical perspective or asking God for guidance.
Sadly, these predispositions always play themselves out in one of two equally wrong responses. Either Christians do a “Christian” version of whatever is popular with the culture; or conversely, we go so far in the opposite direction of what the world is doing that we become a peculiar, cartoon-like version of what God intended the Church to be.
Nowhere is this truer than in the area of sex.
On one end of the spectrum, there are churches that have lowered their sexual standards in an effort to help unbelievers feel more comfortable in Christian community. These churches have unwittingly adopted the same attitudes towards sex as the unbelieving world. Other Christians have simply embraced a slightly more “Christian” version of the worldly standard. For example: many believers do not care if an engaged couple has sex before marriage (as long they are careful keep it on the down-low). However, these same people are appalled at the mere thought of two Christians living together before marriage.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are churches whose entire spiritual identity is built around preventing sexual activity of any kind from taking place in the lives of unmarried people. These churches spend more time addressing the spiritual threats of swimsuits, hand-holding and premarital front-hugs than they do discussing salvation and related issues such as repentance and discipleship. This is not only a serious derailment from the churches principal mission (Matthew 28:17-20, 2nd Timothy 2:4, Matthew 10:8). It also makes Christians look like a bunch of sex-obsessed weirdos.
The absurdity of all this aside, the bigger problem with how churches handle sexuality these days is that we actually encourage sexual sin in four ways:
The church is far too soft on the sin of adultery (especially where men are concerned)-
The immense pressure placed on Christian women to forgive husbands guilty of adultery simply cannot be overstated. Women are too-often coerced by well-intentioned but ridiculously overeager clergy to forgive their husband’s infidelity and restore the relationship right away. This typically happens long before the woman has processed her grief or the man has demonstrated sincere repentance. This has resulted in a shocking number of Christian men (and some women) who appear to have no qualms about committing adultery over and over again (Proverbs 6:32). It has also created a sizable group of women and a few men who have been shamed into doing something they are under no biblical obligation to do (Matthew 5:32). Forgiveness is always required of Christians (Matthew 6:15). However, marital reconciliation should only take place if the injured party is truly willing and the adulterer (male or female) has demonstrated sincere repentance and a readiness to grow into a better spouse and Jesus follower. Anything less simply encourages sinful behavior in the church by minimizing the consequences of sin (1st Corinthians 5:11).
We do not treat pornography like the sin that it is–
If I hear one more male Christian leader refer to pornography as “just pornography” I will need to be medicated and/or physically restrained. Sixty-eight percent of Christian men routinely view pornography precisely because it is treated as a lightweight and trivial sin. Choosing to view pornography is not only a categorically icky form of sexual immorality (Hebrews 12:16, Hebrews 13:4). It is also a clear violation of Matthew 5:28. Like most sins, the sin of viewing pornography leads to other sins such as hypocrisy, adultery, dehumanizing others through lust, spiritual and social isolation and sometimes even an inability to perform the “marital duty” (1st Corinthians 7:3).
Some churches cover-up pedophilia-
The Catholic church has gotten a lot of bad press over this issue in recent years. However, it is far from unheard of in Protestant and Evangelical churches. A valued leader gets accused of touching a child inappropriately and the church decides to deal with the problem “in-house”. At that point the whole messy mess gets swept under the rug or the leader is simply asked to leave the church. Then the leader simply goes to another church and more little lives are ruined. This is not okay. Every accusation should be thoroughly investigated by the proper authorities (the Elder or Deacon board do NOT qualify as the proper authorities). Yes, this is hard. Yes, it will hurt the reputation to the church. However, it will not hurt the churches reputation nearly as badly as when a church fails to protect the most vulnerable in a congregation (Luke 17:2, Matthew 25:45).
We don’t help young adults to date-
The Bible is clear that marriage is a noble and necessary thing (Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 18:22, Hebrews 13:4). That being said, for some inexplicable reason there is a ton of shame in the Christian culture surrounding Christians participating in the process of finding a spouse. Because dating is taboo in many Christian churches most churches do not give Christian kids a lot of instruction on how or who to date and there are literally no opportunities for Christian young people to get to know each other inside the church. As a result, most young people date outside of the church which leads to a lot of missteps (Tinder, bars, campus parties, drunken hook-ups). Those missteps inevitably end in sexual immorality and sometimes even a departure from the faith. Maybe it’s time for churches to be intentional about setting-up opportunities for young Christians from similar denominations to get to know one another so they can get married; rather than shame them for having a natural desire to find a spouse. Seriously.
The way churches have handled sexuality has hurt Christianity’s reputation as well as many people in the church. It’s time for change. It starts one church at a time.