Part of our journey is understanding room for growth. To do that we need to look at what is going on and talk about it. God’s love activates when we dig deeper. There are three topics that often get left off the list of Bible study topics. But if we continue to not talk about them we will never grow. If you are interested in growing read on.
Sex (yes I said it!)
Ok, let’s get real. This isn’t something new. Sex is one of those things most people avoid talking about today. So how did people get from the Kamasutra (an Indian religious text) to the celibacy of monastic life? Trust me, having the “sex” talk will always be awkward. That doesn’t mean we should hand people condoms and cross our fingers.
The biggest example of this sexual silence in the church is the story of Esther. If you were raised in a church you’ve probably heard the story. Esther is a Jewish girl, gets pulled into a beauty contest, marries the king (happily ever after right? wrong), this guy decides to kill all the Jews her included, so she has this awesome opportunity to save her people as Queen of the Land, which she does in the end after much prayer, bravery, and partying.
I can’t tell you how many Judeo/Christian movies, cartoons, and coloring pages about Esther I’ve been exposed to in my life. They all leave out the most important Biblical point of this story.
The “beauty” contest, yeah, it was a SEX contest. Esther was crowned queen because she was good in bed.
I get it, try explaining THAT to a bunch of kindergarteners. It’s not going to fly. The sad thing is, because we over-tell these stories to our kids (leaving out the important parts), we stop reading them as adults. Not to mention that sex is so physical and intimate. But it gets better.
God LOVES sex. Not only did He make us to do it, He wrote the book on it. LITERALLY! It’s called the Song of Solomon or the Song of Songs. It was read allowed in service back in Jesus’ day. Now, it’s the most hidden book of the Bible. My parents guilted me into skipping it every time I read the Bible cover to cover until after I was married. (I still haven’t read it all the way through.)
People don’t like to think that sex and God go hand in hand. So we hide it. We just don’t talk about it. And people turn to other things other than accept that God is God of the physical as much as He is God of the spiritual. So to be a truly first-century church we need to bring sex back into the conversation.
Did I just blow your idea of God out of the water? If so, stop reading. You really won’t want to hear the rest of this.
Politics (the church kind)
“I can’t do that.” She responded when I told her the plan. We’d just spent fifteen minutes in conversation about how the Bylaws of our church did not specifically state women could NOT be deacons. The wording was just not as inclusive as some in the church would like it to be. So to make it inclusive a measure was brought up to change the wording of the bylaws from “men” to “men and women” (so that it was clear women were included). The church membership voted. The measure failed. Everyone was in shock. No one knew how to move forward. So I sat down with the head of the deacon election committee. If you don’t know what a deacon election committee is, it’s a group of people elected by the membership of the church to put forward names to be voted on by the membership for the office of deacon. In our denomination deacons are the people that run the church according to the bylaws of the church. Think biblical board of directors. Fifteen minutes into the conversation (i.e. complaint shock fest at the failing of the bylaw change) I’d proposed the following solution, “Why not only submit female candidates to the membership at the next meeting.”
The problem seemed simple enough. Females weren’t banned from the bylaws. They had served as pastors in the church even, they simply hadn’t been brought forward to be voted on as board members. It is much easier to vote yes on adding wording when there is already a woman in the office. Her response: “I can’t do that.” Even though the wording didn’t restrict women, the mindset of the people did. This is something as a religious body we refuse to talk about: church politics.
When you have government (that is what membership, boards, and head pastors are: a governing body over the local church. Think mini-democracy with an even bigger governing body over them).
Get to know who and how your church is run. Who is really in charge. Trust me, it’s not always the pastors. Each denomination has nuances in their system. Sometimes churches are autonomous with no ties to a larger organization, other times the regional or national/international offices claim dominance over the happenings of the church.
Take the Roman Catholic church for instance. In a very simplified form, the Pope is like a regent (holding the space of Christ until He comes) who “rules” over the church. He is elected for life (or until he abdicates) by a group of his peers. This peer pool is made up of men that oversee regions around the world as designated by the greater church. It expands down from there into the offices of the church monasteries, local churches, nunneries, and so on. Again this is very simplistic. Think about it like our own government. If Congress elected the president for life and Congress was made up of people who worked their way through government jobs to get into Congress.
As opposed to a Non-denominational church ( to be clear non-denominational is now a denomination. Just like anti-baptists are focused on baptizing adults that come to Christ. Confused yet? I know I am!) that only has its board, constitution and pastor as the ultimate authorities. Meaning they don’t have a larger denomination to make sure they don’t serve you “Cool-aid”.
With all the church hopping and mobility of this generation, we have lost touch with the governments of our churches. It doesn’t help that nobody talks about them, either. We actively ignore our church’s politics and then move on when we don’t like something that is happening in the church, all with “God’s” blessing.
The point: every church has politics. And because those people are in charge of a group of God’s people these politics tend to get wrapped up in biblical interpretation. God is used to pass agendas, push ideas, and justify actions. This hurts feelings and creates division just like other politics, so we keep not talking about it.
Depression (and any other “hopeless” conditions.)
God is the God of hope and love, so Christians can’t get depressed right? To get depressed simplified means to lose all hope. Often times it’s accompanied by a loss of faith in what we believe in. So you see the problem here. How can a people that profess a deep faith in God ever lose faith and hope? We forget that there is an enemy. That enemy LOVES to shut us down the closer we are to achieving the life God plans for us. Add to that the images of God we build up in our lives that aren’t God (like being filled with the Holy Spirit means I’ll never be unhappy again) and you have a recipe for a breakdown.
Having feelings that don’t fit with the traditional view of a Jesus follower? We just don’t talk about that! Except, it’s been proven (don’t make me throw the science journals at you) that talking about it is the first step to getting better. But that’s too personal. The Holy Spirit will deal with that. Depression isn’t POSSIBLE when you are in God’s love. Medication will make it all better. Or even better, Christ heals that, so you must not be saved. This is the catch phrases those of us walking through depression get.
Here is the real hope: Did you know that almost every prophet of God experienced depression in his or her life? From Noah to David, from Ruth to Jonah, all the greats in the Bible walked through seasons of depression. It’s almost a requirement, if not the norm.
God knows how to work with depressed people. He has the simplest of solutions. First, He saves their lives. God doesn’t say that we won’t walk through a season that will depress us. He says that He will walk through them with us. But it gets better. As he is walking with us He protects our lives. Like how He sent a great fish to save Jonah, God sends the right people/things at the right time to keep us in His will. Sometimes that means we go to where He is and sometimes that means He stays with us where we are at. It always means that He is with us.
Second, He meets their physical needs. With Elijah, He used the birds to feed Him. With Jonah, He grew a plant. With Joseph, He sent people to prison. What we need is always known to God, but not always evident to us. I’d never have chosen to be homeless, but God knew that’s exactly what I needed.
Third, He reminds us who He is. He understands that depressed people question His provision and He’s not afraid to talk about it. He responds every time. The response is never what we think. He reminds us each of who He is and that we are not Him. It’s not that He cares for us any less. In fact, we are here in this moment because of His care and He knows. That’s enough.
Then He lets us process that. Process what it means to have enough, for Him alone to be enough and that He has not left us, or anyone else for that matter.
Deep, right? So why aren’t we as Christians talking about this? We are fast to call sin, sin, but talk about God addressing depression? Not on the list.
All of these topics upset people. We have chained ourselves into ideas that restrict who God is and what He can do. We are passing those chains on to our children in the name of propriety and joy. Is that how you want to live?
I wrote this because I WANT to start a conversation. I want to know and love everything that God knows and loves. That starts with talking. Let’s break the silence together.
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