A friend of a friend works with men who have gone through sexual trauma and in a conversation about how healing happens for them, he says, “These men cannot make resurrection happen. The only person who can do that is Jesus. They don’t know when—or even if—it will ever happen. And we (the church) don’t know how to sit with them in their grave [until it does].”
Most of us know something about graves. The very, very difficult reality is that we do all kinds of things that lead to death. We struggle with porn, have affairs, deny we’ve had affairs, drink to excess. We are slaves to our emotions and say hateful things and explode in anger. We lie to protect ourselves. None of us is above the sin line and that very fact should be cause for a deep sense of humility as we talk with those who sit in graves of their own making.
We are all fighting against fallen human nature, all battling manifestations of selfish desire. We all struggle against things that “feel natural” and we all need the grace of God to conquer those cravings. That’s why we need to learn to sit with one another in our graves. Not because death is good, but because resurrection is possible.
Earlier this year, our church spent five weeks developing a biblical theology of the body.¹ We ended that series with a conversation about how those truths intersect with grace. In the course of preparing for those conversations, I consulted with Phyllis Kiser, a therapist who practices therapy in the area of sexual brokenness.
I asked Phyllis to think with me about the kind of pastoral counsel she would share with someone ready to come out of sexual brokenness. I share these thoughts here for those who may have made a few mistakes in life, some of them around the use of your body and your own sexuality:
1) Surrender your sexuality to God. All of it. Your desires, attractions, behaviors, hormonal surges, history, future. All of it. Have the humility to submit yourself to your Creator.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:12), he gives them this sage advice: Don’t allow yourself to be dominated by anything.
We should all write that on a post-it note and put it on our bathroom mirror. I will not be dominated by anything but Jesus.
After Paul hands this advice to the Corinthians he immediately shifts to the subject of Jesus being raised from the dead, as if to say, “Jesus is more powerful than whatever you have been dominated by.” This is begin-again language. There is no mistake so far out there that it can’t be made right, no wound so deep that it can’t be healed.
God specializes in resurrections.
2) Don’t buy the sexual message this culture is selling. Be intentional and learn about God’s sexual economy. Examine your thoughts and expectations about sex. Develop a biblically based theology of sex.
Satan’s big win in the Garden was his ability to make the first humans see sin differently. The enemy got them to believe that life was designed to fulfill their own needs when in fact, life is designed to glorify God. Consequently, so much of our teaching on our created design is dead wrong.
The morality message plays off fear and shame. The message is, “It is bad. Don’t do it.” This is what we teach our kids. We use morality to scare them away from treasuring their own bodies.
The biology message focuses on physical and emotional feelings and attractions. The message is, “If it feels good, do it.” For teens, the message is, “Protect yourself.” This separates body from soul.
The theological message, however, teaches us that there is no shame in Christ, that the goal of this physical life is to be fruitful, to experience biblical joy through a covenantal relationship, to learn true intimacy rooted in trust — all with the intended end of pointing our lives toward God.
3) Invite the Holy Spirit to empower you to live a life that pleases God. We need the Holy Spirit to tell us who we really are. Andy Stanley says it well: “Focus on becoming someone, not finding someone.” Because we live under the shadow of the cross, we are not orphans. We are children of the King.
The cross is our rescue from slavery. Through the cross, Jesus used a body to prove the point that bodies can connect us back to God. Our creator used a body to remind us that we are more than plumbing and wiring. We are redeemed people with bodies and stories and spiritual gifts, all designed to be in partnership with God to build the Kingdom on earth.
¹I am grateful to Dr. Timothy Tennent and those who lead Asbury Seminary’s chapel services. The messages Dr. Tennent delivered on the theology of the body at Asbury’s chapel last year deeply inspired and informed our conversations.