Relationships & sexuality
It's sad that so much of the way people view the Church nowadays is intrinsically linked to the way they see it dealing with human relationships and sexuality. I have friends who feel unable to go to church because their view of God is limited (I might even say strangled) by their view of the Church.
|God made people to be in relationship
with one another and with him
Sometimes their view of the Church is confined to what they see as condemnation of people of a particular relationship status: those who live together, perhaps, or who are divorced, or who have issues around their sexuality. Yet God wants to gather every single one of us to himself!
Our guidance on all these questions can only come from the Bible. God created us. He knows us better than we can even know ourselves. His desire is that we live utterly fulfilled and complete lives, and to that end he teaches us how to live in accord ‘with the maker’s instructions’ (the Bible). It is not surprising that much of this teaching centres on relationships, because they matter more than we realise. Relationships define who we are; they shape and strengthen and guide us. God wants these relationships to be healthy and sustaining.
Admittedly, there is diversity of opinion on many subjects relating to human relationships, even within the Church. If a Christian marriage is very unhappy or even abusive, should the husband and wife divorce? Should divorced people be able to marry again? What if they have become Christians after being divorced? What if they want to do so in church? What is the approach when a couple who are living together want to get married in church?
Furthermore, beyond its own walls, should the Church have a voice on the subject of civil issues, such as legalised same-sex partnerships, or same-sex couples who want to adopt? Many people, non-Christians included, are accustomed to viewing the Church as a kind of moral arbiter. Others feel that Christians should look after themselves and not interfere in others’ lives.
The Christian faith has two major contributions to make here. Firstly there is clear guidance within the Bible which we need to explore. There are very good reasons, for example, that Christians uphold marriage as the place for healthy and joyful sexual activity.
Secondly, we offer the ability to debate major issues; often even Church leaders hold contrasting opinions. Within a single denomination, such as the Anglican Church, there are broad-ranging views on many topics. Few faiths allow this ability to challenge received opinion, or to discuss interpretations of the scriptures, yet this can (if managed appropriately) be healthy, offering us all an opportunity to show grace and love to one another amid our differing views. It can be confusing at times, but it is important.
In particular, issues around relationships and sexuality can be divisive. It is important for the Church to stand up for what is biblical and Christian, but we need to be careful not to obsess over ‘hot topics’ and lose sight of God’s grace.
What is vital is that no one—whatever their relationship or status, whatever they may have done in the past, or are doing now—can ever find themselves beyond the love of God, providing they turn to him and seek his ways. They are the very best ways we can find.
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