Why You Shouldn’t Listen To All The Religious Voices

Why You Shouldn’t Listen To All The Religious Voices June 14, 2024

Sad Womsn
The Voices in My Head
Image by Khusen Rustamov from Pixabay

Many things in the Bible are not as black and white as we would like. You may come from an extremely fundamental, conservative background where you were taught certain things as biblical truth, but they were theological opinions and possibly the traditions of men.

For example, I grew up in a church that taught that drinking, smoking, dancing, and masturbation are evil. Are they? Anything in excess (including too much television or gaming) can be hurtful, but many things in moderation are fine with Jesus.

My dad, the pastor of the church I grew up in in the ’60s, said, “Drums are of the devil.” Are they? Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shall not play the drums.”

I know the Scriptures some may use to prove me wrong. I’ve heard them all my life. The favorite go-to passage is, “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).

However, you cannot find anything anywhere that prohibits the abovementioned activities.

We Christians too often cherry-pick Scripture to support our positions regardless of the original context or meaning. In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul was referring to having sex with a prostitute, not drinking wine or dancing.

Furthermore, our inconsistencies anger a lot of non-Christians because the ones screaming legalistic and religious cliches about beer are sometimes gorging themselves on Twinkies and Diet Pop. Both are bad for the “temple,” by the way. (Here’s an interesting article about C.S. Lewis leaving the Church as a teenager over the issue of masturbation.)

Since I brought up the “m” word (i.e., masturbation), let’s go there for a minute.

To be clear, masturbating while watching porn is a sexual sin. Masturbating while fantasizing about someone else is wrong.

Jesus said lusting after someone you’re not married to is sinful.

  • Sex outside of marriage is called fornication and sin, Mark 7:20-23; Colossians 3:5. But is it wrong for a testosterone-filled teenager or young adult to self-pleasure in place of having extra-marital sex?
  • Is it evil for someone in the armed forces and away from their spouse for weeks or months at a time to masturbate rather than fornicate?
  • When someone has a higher sex drive than their spouse, and their spouse doesn’t want or need intercourse very often, is it sinful for the person with the greater need to masturbate?

Paul wrote, “I have the right to do anything, but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV). Certainly, when masturbation becomes all-consuming, and our sensual desires master us, that’s a problem. [Here is another balanced article on the topic.] However, the Bible does not forbid masturbation.

I have heard the argument many times that masturbation is not biblical because it doesn’t fulfill the three biblical purposes of sex (i.e., producing children, solidifying a marriage union, and representing Christ and His Bride).

And I also know God wants us to avoid sexual immorality and learn to control our bodies in a holy and honorable way, not in lust like pagans.

However, we make a leap when we assume that all self-pleasuring is always sinful. Regarding debatable topics, the issues of right or wrong have everything to do with our hearts and our reasons, not the act of self-pleasuring.

We cannot ban what God does not forbid simply because someone (theologically educated or not) says it’s wrong.

For the sake of sexual release, and certainly in the context of mutual pleasuring in a marriage, masturbation is allowable. There are even known medical benefits from masturbation.

About now, some are frantically looking for the Old Testament passage about not “wasting the semen on the ground” (it’s in Genesis 38). However, that text is about a man failing to fulfill his obligation to give children to his deceased brother’s wife (something written in the Mosaic Law), not a prohibition against masturbation.

Tracy, Sex & Masturbation

Tracy sat in my office and fidgeted with her eyes glued to the carpet. When she called to make the appointment, she said it was an emergency and imperative that we meet as soon as possible.

As a pastor, I was not a trained counselor or therapist, but I would meet with anyone about anything to provide pastoral care whenever possible.

I asked her, “What’s up?’ She didn’t look up or say anything. I’m not intimidated by silence and was willing to wait for Tracy to speak. However, I’m not the most patient guy either, so after about two minutes, I said, “You told me it was urgent, and you needed to talk to me. What is it, Tracy? How can I help you?”

She took a deep breath, shifted her head and eyes from the floor to the ceiling, sighed, and blurted out, “I’m not getting enough sex from my husband! So, I self-pleasure . . . a lot . . . and he caught me yesterday and told me I was sinning and going to hell! I feel so ashamed.”

The voice of her husband, and probably many other voices in her head, left her feeling horrible.

It was my turn to fidget nervously in my chair, but I asked her to look at me. “Tracy, I need you to hear three things. First, I appreciate your transparency. I imagine this is difficult for you.” She nodded and began to cry.

“Second, vulnerability is good, and I applaud your courage, but this is a topic you need to discuss with our woman’s pastor, not me. Would you mind making an appointment to see her?” She nervously apologized and said, “That would probably be better, huh?”

“Third, the one piece of advice I will give you, Tracy, is for you to ask Jesus what He thinks of your self-pleasuring because there are many views and a lot of different voices on this topic.”

Okay, relax. I understand. Some of you are deeply offended by my beliefs. Of course, you are free to have an opinion. Indeed, you are free to disagree with me about anything. However, no reasonable or rational student of the Scriptures can use the Bible to make an honest and solid case against drinking, dancing, or even masturbation.

My point is that everybody has an opinion about almost everything, and you will go loonie-tunes listening to everyone. So, perhaps we should focus on WDJS? (What does Jesus say?)

Unless it is clearly forbidden, like murder, theft, and rape, for example, what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart. Beware of modern-day Pharisees who will attempt to weigh you down with their legalism. Their opinions and voices will rattle you if you aren’t careful.

Sad Woman
The Voices of Shame
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Greasy Gracers

Not too long ago, I heard something that bothered me. It was the phrase “greasy gracers.” Someone used it in this sentence, “I’m tired of seeing you greasy gracers rationalize your sin and act like your failures are no big deal!”

The term greasy gracer attempts to put people like me in their place, as it expresses frustration with the many times I’ve pointed to God’s grace and mercy.

For the record, rationalizing sin is never okay, and our failures are a big deal. Of course, obedience matters to God, and grace never replaces faithful submission to Jesus. Thankfully, however, our Savior’s payment for our sins covers everything. Our past, present, and future failures. That’s why God’s grace and mercy matter most.

Admittedly, my life is stained with too many failures. That said, too many Christians tend to be harsh with people like me. According to them, “greasy gracers” are those who use and abuse God’s grace as an excuse for their lack of spiritual discipline.

While some of my favorite Scriptures speak of God’s goodness and kindness, some of my Pharisaical friends like to point out the scriptural demands for purity. They are not wrong when they remind us that we are to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). However, they miss that Peter, who was far from perfect and always a work in progress, later stated in the same letter that “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Read the Gospels

When you read the stories found in the gospels, it doesn’t take long to recognize a pattern in Jesus’s life. He was merciful and kind to the broken but tough on the self-righteous and hyper-religious (i.e., those who focus on rules and regulations).

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were strict about sin and hard on people who didn’t meet their religious standards. They were disgusted with the people Jesus hung out with regularly.

Mark records that Jesus ate with many tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees were livid about it (see Mark 2:15-17). But Jesus invested time with the messed-up and broken—the pariahs of His culture—because He knew they were the ones He came to save. He told the Pharisees, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31, NIV).

I appreciate Brennan Manning’s perspective about Pharisees in Reflections for Ragamuffins. “The Pharisees, who carried religion like a shield of self-justification and a sword of judgment, installed the cold demands of rule-ridden perfectionism . . . they falsified the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper whose favor could be won only by scrupulous observance of laws and regulations.

Religion became a tool to intimidate and enslave rather than liberate and empower. Brennen also wrote, “Herein lies the genius of legalistic religion—making primary matters secondary and secondary matters primary.”

Sad Guy
The Voices of Shame
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I am not soft on sin.

Holiness is not optional. Without question, as we follow Jesus, we are to walk in obedience and to put off the old man daily.

However, in my sixty-seven years on this planet, I have never met anyone (including my anti-greasy-gracer friends) who is perfect in their practice as saints. I have never seen anyone always get it right when it comes to being righteous all the time.

I have noticed a tendency to pose and pretend. People forget that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13, NIV). What makes me sad is how quick we are (and that includes me, at times) to throw people under our religious bus.

As someone once said, “Just because your sins are more secret than mine doesn’t make you any more perfect than me.”

To be clear, being under grace does not negate the call to holiness, faithfulness, gentle correction when needed, or doing our best to walk in the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit. To be Christlike is to be like Christ, period. End of story.

Unfortunately, sometimes, we get saved by grace and act like we stay saved by our works. We don’t. Salvation doesn’t work that way. None of us is good enough to earn anything from the Father on our best day—not before, not now, not ever.

Sadly, two thousand years later, we still sometimes struggle with the religious culture of Pharisees. These men or women focus on what we must do rather than on what has been done for us by Jesus, and they love to shout out their detailed list of pet sins.

Beware of whom you choose to listen to because some hyper-religious voices will drive you cra-cra, and we don’t need any more whacky Christians.

Yes, the Bible is absolute truth.

No, not everything is relative.

Yet, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13). I trust Him to guide us regarding the many negotiable issues we face. God doesn’t need you or me to be the Holy Spirit in the life of one of His kids.

Listening to the Holy Spirit who lives inside us must come first and foremost. Let God be God and trust that when we blow it or someone else misses the mark, it is the Spirit’s role to convict people of sin (John 16:8).

So, as someone once wrote, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

You can find out more about Kurt Bubna and his writing on Twitter and Facebook. You can read more about his views and insights, both in his books and on his website.

Thinking Guy
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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