Prodigal Relationships

Prodigal Relationships April 16, 2013

The church struggles between two poles when it comes to sexual brokenness: the pole of being right or the pole of denouncing sin and the pole of being merciful or fearing condemnation. But is the church a place for healing sexual brokenness? This is the question being asked in Signpost #8 in Prodigal Christianity.

In the chp they bring up a variety of instances of sexual brokenness, including a (non-active) pedophiliac young seminarian who sought guidance for the requirement to serve in a youth camp, the debate about homosexuality, and the problem of sexualizing friendships. The church has to become a safe place for sexually broken sinners to find healing, but to do so in a culturally appropriate way — unlike the missionaries who barged into African communities and undid polygamy and, at the same time, undid a society.

Of the four options mentioned below, which do you think is the goal toward which we should strive? Why? And “How”?

They see then the two poles in “too” categories: Brian McLaren’s “too safe” place where he called for a moratorium on discussions about homosexuality, and the “too sure” place of Denny Burk whom they say is playing a culture war, operating out of Christendom, and offers too little for space in relationships. [I’m not sure either of these would agree with the description nor would they find the critiques that effective …] But the polarization is real.

The polarized church of Burk and McLaren must become unstuck. It either maintains a current position on sexual relations and defends it with all its might, or it offers those hurting and confused a place to talk while defending them from the other side. …

They see, in effect, four options: (1) unwelcoming and unaffirming [they don’t mention this], (2) welcoming and not affirming, (3) welcoming and mutually transforming, and (4) welcoming and affirming. They don’t say this, but to believe in mutually transforming they are inherently stating that LGBTQ sexualities are in need of transformation. But the framework for Fitch and Holsclaw wants some consideration:

1. First, they don’t want their church “labeled” because it hurts mission to those who disagree.

2. Second, they want to acknowledge that all humans are sexually broken and in need of healing.

3. Third, we are to live in fellowship with others in deforming and reforming desires as we seek to live under God’s Word, discern the Spirit, share life with one another and discern the will of God in mutual submission to Scripture and how it works out in our family.

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  • T

    The key thing that Fitch is trying to communicate via “mutually transforming” is the emphasis that sexual brokenness is not a homosexual phenomenon by any stretch. On the contrary, self and culture are often clearly in the driver’s seat of the hopes and patterns of conduct for heterosexuals as much as homosexuals, if not more so in many many cases. The need for Christ (especially death and resurrection) to be the recreating and redefing center of our whole selves, including our sexuality, is across the board. We all need to come as disciples, ready for “mutual transformation” for how we think about and prioritize and live our sexuality.

  • scotmcknight

    T, agreed. I indicated this in the opening but did not stress it.

  • Option 3 seems the obvious choice. The church should be welcoming because the Gospel is for all people, and the church should seek mutual transformation because that is the present activity of the Holy Spirit within us: He is making us more like Jesus.

    How do we do this? Here’s my best guess:

    First, we have to regain the true theology of marriage, that it is fundamentally about Jesus and the Church. The great marriage at the end of Revelation is the only eternal marriage, bound up by agape love. This is the true marriage, the reality to which all our earthly marriages must point.

    Second, we must have the courage to name and denounce the cultural idolatry that nearly all of us succumb to, which is the worship of love, sex…Eros. Pastors and church leaders should lead the way in repenting of this idolatry and redirecting their hearts to the true God.

    Third, we need to see ourselves in our brothers and sisters who are sexually broken in ways that are “less acceptable” than our own brokenness. Empathy and understanding will go a long way toward reconciliation, which is necessary for transformation.

    Fourth, we need to proclaim ways for Christians to live healthy, flourishing lives as singles. The aim should not be for every Christian to be married, or, perhaps more importantly, to become heterosexual; instead, the aim is for every Christian to become like Jesus.

    To put it simply, I think the “how” is: 1) Appropriate Theology; 2) Repentance of Idolatry; 3) Empathy and Reconciliation; and 4) Practical Application.

  • A Medrano

    I think most people agree with welcoming all people. However, when it comes to sexual brokenness, the folks being welcomed should affirm their brokenness, yes? I’m just trying to figure this welcoming yet not affirming but mutual transformation thing in real life. Because, it almost can seem like a “bait-and-switch” to the visitors.

  • Joe Canner

    If Option #3 is to work at all, the key is the word “mutual”. This presumably means, among other things, that we do not magnify the sins of our visitors above those of ourselves, and that we make ourselves vulnerable and accountable to others as we would expect them to do for us. This, then, sets the stage for a respectful environment where we “seek to live under God’s Word, discern the Spirit, share life with one another and discern the will of God in mutual submission to Scripture” as suggested in point #3. If this type of environment could actually be achieved, then it would indeed be an improvement over Option #2 (welcoming, not affirming), which seems to be where most churches are stuck these days.