We Have to Talk about Sex and . . .

The world is having a conversation and most Christians are hiding from it.

That’s not what Jesus would do.

This isn’t a post with pat answers because every congregation is interacting with a different community, so how we live this out is going to look different, but I can tell you this – Jesus expects us to be engaged with the people in our pews and the people in our streets. That means talking.

As the world buzzes about sex, mental health, gender fluidity, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, abortion, cross-cultural reconciliation, stem-cell research, foster care, poverty, transgender, racism, divorce, consumerism, socialism, death, aging, embryonic adoption, suicide, domestic violence, incest, opioid addiction, and global warming, we hide. Or we throw a Bible on the table and say, “It’s all there. God said it, I believe it, that ends it.”

That’s a bumper sticker, not an act of love and service in the name of Jesus. Yes, I believe it’s in there, but the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us sat down and talked with us over food.

We are citizens of the kingdom of God, loved ones, and that means we live without fear. We don’t hide from hard conversations. We initiate them.

We are God-explorers and wisdom-appliers and fishers of men and women. We live affected by the troubles of this world and have accepted God’s call to minister – here – in the realm of late-night talk shows, corrupt politics, scoffers, mockers, posers, wolves among sheep, imperfect church leaders, social media, and cultural change, and we represent Jesus.

Of course, we are to be His hands and feet, but we’re also His ears and tongue.

I was on a radio talk show when a woman called in to ask how to have a hard

conversation with her daughter who is transgender (I don’t know if she was biologically female or had transitioned to female, so I’ll refer to her as her for the sake of this post).

First, I asked if she attended a local church and if she’d sought help there. “They don’t know what to say to me. Mostly, they offer to pray, but I can tell they’re uncomfortable talking about it, so I just don’t bring it up.”

That’s a prescription for loneliness sitting right there surrounded by the family of God. Of course, they don’t know what to say. There’s nothing easy about this conversation. It’s new. It’s fraught with social landmines. And we can’t turn to a specific verse for the answer.

Except, we can. This young woman is seeking her identity in her gender and sexuality, but not in Jesus. She’s rejected Him and is seeking wholeness apart from Him. No matter what that looks like for any of us, we know it doesn’t end well. The Bible still instructs us to love her. To respect and listen to her. To invite her to the table. To tell her our understanding of God’s abiding, relentless love for her.

He, for sure, doesn’t call us to avert our eyes when her mother enters the room praying the subject doesn’t come up. He doesn’t tell us to offer to pray and then walk away praying, “Thank you, Lord, that that’s not my struggle.” He doesn’t tell us to hope some other Christian somewhere reaches out to this young woman, so we can be there when she turns it all around.

Life is incredibly complex and messy. We can praise God for the complexity because it points to His vast nature. We can blame ourselves for the messiness, put on our big boy and girl pants, and become willing to step into it with those in our own communities.

I don’t suggest that our worship services become vehicles for social debate. Worship is for worship. I also believe that most of our hours together as believers should be spent understanding the Bible and engaged in prayer.

But, we can certainly create opportunities for hard, honest conversations – in small groups, through one-on-one discipleship, through church classes devoted to tough topics, or to monthly question nights where we gather and discuss these hot topics with others to see how we’re all processing and applying Scripture to what’s happening in our homes, our jobs, our communities, and in our headlines.

In Jewish teaching, it was a sign of godly wisdom to be able to ask a hard question of the rabbi. It indicated someone who was earnestly seeking God, studying the Scriptures, and exercising wisdom.

What better place for this to happen than God’s house? We shouldn’t be hiding from tough talks, we should be leading them. Christian faith communities should be places where the hardest, greatest conversations happen.

Why?

First, because we have nothing to lose. We’ve acknowledged that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. We’ve accepted salvation that came to us by the grace provided by Jesus. We are eternally safe, and we are free.

Second, because listening and acknowledging the struggle and the mess and the pain and the ugliness of life this side of glory is a way of loving others. Speaking truth to someone else’s face is a demonstration of love.

Owning our own struggle to understand and articulate that truth keeps us humble. And we sorely need that as the Body of Christ.

When we don’t have an answer for something – rejoice! It reminds us of our limitation and sends us to Jesus. When we hurt someone with our words because we fumbled in representing Jesus – rejoice! This is an opportunity for humility as we seek their forgiveness and try again.

When we don’t know what to pray – rejoice! God knows, and we grow when we appeal to Him together and persist in prayer.

Of one thing I am confident – the world doesn’t have the truth, Jesus does. And withholding the truth from confused, hurting people because we’re afraid of discomfort is cowardly and wrong.

I’ll tell you a secret. When that woman called into the radio station, I felt fear as she spoke. I didn’t have an answer for her, but I prayed as she spoke, and then, I did. By God’s grace.

What opportunities does your church provide for honest, uncomfortable conversations about hard things?

Please share so we can all learn. And start talking.

**If you’re being challenged by a hard conversation and need support or prayer OR if you’ve recently had a hard conversation you can share, please CLICK THIS LINK and you can tell us about anonymously or otherwise.

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Valerie Elliot Shepard says:

    Your article is great, and reminded me of your new book coming out! Congratulations on that, and I hope this article engenders more challenges to churches to have these conversations!

  2. Rob McCullough says:

    Lori, thank you for the reminder that it’s about Christ and His Light, Life, Wisdom, … and not us. He was reminding me as I was reading about how He had told me that as I position myself in Him, He will move. We choose to be open to Him and trust and rely on Him and He will always be faithful and move in situations. And it’s not that we are perfectly open and trusting and relying, but we choose to and He moves. He so desires to the light in dark situations, the solution to hard problems, life where there was death, … His Love is huge and wonderful and He strongly and greatly desires to express His Love through those who already know Him.

  3. Heidi Chiavaroli says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Lori. Thank you for being willing to go to the hard places and encourage us to do the same.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Lori! I have one son who is struggling to live straight and walk with Jesus. I have another who has fully embraced a homosexual, atheist lifestyle. I am believing for both of them to walk in freedom and truth. Nobody, in or out of the church, knew what to tell us when we started seeing signs of these struggles. We prayed, broke curses, spoke truth and cried out to the Lord. One thing I know for sure: the fear can actually cause you to steer toward the thing you want most to avoid. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the Lord is faithful and He has promised to complete the work He began in each of us. I am encouraged that the church is waking up to the need to respond to those who want to know God and struggle with their identity. We are currently trying to get a support group going for parents of kids who are struggling with same sex attraction or gender identity. Our church leadership is thrilled because they know it is a need for many families. However, it is difficult to get going because there is so much shame associated with this struggle.

  5. John Allcott says:

    Good article.
    I’d only add that any church that charges money for counseling ought to be ashamed.
    Can you imagine Paul or Timothy or Jesus charging by the hour?
    Every church ought to regularly encourage its members to come for FREE counseling whenever they need it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I learned a tough lesson early on in my marriage when I began to truly walk with the Lord and my husband had yet to make that commitment. I wanted to “fix” Him. God spoke to my heart and told me that was not my job. I needed to allow His Holy Spirit do the work. I was responsible to share my love for Jesus and to encourage my husband to want that same relationship I had with Christ. To show Him we are all sinners in need of Grace. I was to help him bring his sins, whatever they were, before His Savior and then trust Jesus to transform His heart and, over time, his life. This is what I had done in my own life and continue to do as God does His work of sanctification in me (making me more like Him). God doesn’t call us to try to fix people’s sins and then bring them before Him. He says to bring them to Him and then He will do the rest. Sin is sin is sin and we are all guilty It is not our job to stand in judgement and decide who is or isn’t worthy of salvation. We are to bring all men to Him and then let the Holy Spirit do His work through the light of scripture. We can never let a person’s outward appearance, lifestyle choices, etc, keep us from sharing the Gospel, even if they make us feel uncomfortable. Love them with the love of Christ which is for all people. After they come to Christ be there for those tough talks of what the truth of the Word says and help them walk through the sanctification process. It is that redemptive heart that will be ready to receive.