Sacred and Sexual. How often do you find those words together? In the midst of a culture inundated with sexual messages and images, Christians often lose out on the beauty of sexuality as God intended it. Often our churches ignore the thornier issues instead of reclaiming sexuality as a good gift from God.
But the silence isn’t helping. The wounded walk our hallways and the struggling hide their pain. It’s time for the church to break the silence and teach sexuality in a context that is theologically grounded and authentic in its approach.
Dallas Seminary professors Dr. Gary Barnes and Dr. Doug Rosenau have a vision for engaging church and ministry leaders on the topic of sexuality. They’ll be the keynote speakers this fall as the Center for Christian Leadership hosts Sacred Sexuality: Casting a Vision for the Sexually Healthy Church. This one-day conference on October 5, 2009, is designed to challenge ministry leaders to create a culture where sexuality is theologically grounded, embraced, and discussed as God designed. Whether you’re a parent, lay leader, or serve on a church or ministry staff, this conference will equip you to engage others on the topic of sexuality. Visit www.dts.edu/sacredsexuality for a complete list of speakers, workshops, and registration details.
“God elevates the purpose of sexuality because it reflects His own creative intimacy,” Dr. Barnes says. Within the Trinity we find perfect oneness and intimacy. God created sexuality for humans to reflect this loving oneness. Sexuality—those aspects of our person such as emotions, desires, and identity—influence the way we relate to one another. Two of the ways God reveals His image and allows us to experience intimate relationships are through social and erotic expression.
Social sexuality encourages friendship and affirmation through the interaction of men and women in community. Doug Rosenau, in his book Soul Virgins, encourages single adults to experience genuine relationships while maintaining healthy boundaries, guarding their hearts, and enjoying honest conversation.
The second way men and women enjoy intimacy is through erotic or romantic expressions of love within the marriage covenant. God’s desire is for married couples to enjoy an exclusive, deep, and uniting relationship with one another. And their experience of oneness reflects Christ’s tender love and unity with the church.
God designed men and women with different strengths, emotions, and desires. As we welcome these differences and find healthy ways of expressing them in community, we experience aspects of God’s unity and oneness.
A New Approach
Throughout its history the church has struggled to develop a healthy theology of sexuality. Instead of wrestling with the issue, the church often remains silent or advocates prohibition. But what we need isn’t behavioral modification—it’s a new paradigm.
“Sexuality is to be redemptive and transforming,” Dr. Barnes believes. It starts with God. When we realize that God reflects perfect harmony and oneness in the Trinity, it should transform the way we view Him and others. Relationships aren’t just about us and our needs. Rather we’re focused on giving, serving, and reflecting God’s glory and goodness.
This drives us back to God. Unity is beautiful and costly. It requires more than we can give in our own strength. So we come humbly, seeking God’s transforming power in our lives. And as He works, we reflect His portrait of unity, experiencing redemption within community.
Starting a Movement
A renewed vision transforms our interactions. Dialogue replaces silence. Authenticity permeates relationships. Community fosters healing. So how do we start a movement that changes our church or ministry culture? How do we create safe spaces for discussion and healing?
Start where you’re at. It seems simple enough. Dr. Barnes advocates taking a two-pronged approach. First, begin at the grassroots. Create spaces where sexuality is discussed, cultivated, and embraced. Dialogue starts from the ground up.
But it doesn’t stop there. We need to preach theology from our pulpits. What is God’s truth on sexuality? Start teaching a new paradigm, one that doesn’t bow to our tolerant culture. Model authentic oneness and biblical theology to the world. And when they see the difference, Dr. Barnes says, “It should be strikingly attractive.”
As we begin to dialogue, our mission involves both prevention and restoration. We should always promote wholeness and commitment from the outset. Whether we’re teaching single adults or married couples, our goal should be to prevent sexual brokenness and infidelity.
We must also embrace the broken. Our churches are filled with hurting people. But they’re silent about the scars and lack places for healing. Shouldn’t the church be the first to offer accountability and restoration?
To accomplish this mission, we must grasp the big picture. “Sexuality includes me, but is not about me,” Dr. Barnes says. “Marriage is not just to make me happy. It’s designed to display God’s glory. Similarly singleness isn’t a state to escape, but an opportunity to grow and reflect God’s character through healthy relationships.”
A healthy way to view sexuality is to see it as a crucible. It makes us holy. When the church engages in speaking truth and holding one another accountable, transformation occurs. Personal wholeness is found in authentic community whose core is to know God better and reflect His glory more fully. Within this context, prevention occurs and healing begins.
Embracing the Challenge
Knowing and beholding God transforms lives. And when we see God’s glory, it’s reflected in our relationships. We pursue unity, we share authentically, and we speak truthfully. Sexuality is no longer shunned. It’s discussed and embraced as God designed.
Dr. Barnes challenges us to seek God’s heart as we discuss this topic, “Wherever you are in your view of sexuality, God would have you elevate it in order to know and behold God better. And when you do, transformation results.”