An Open Letter to the Church Universal

Dear Church,

I know. I promised both of us I would never do this, that I’d never write to you in public like a public service announcement. And while I hate to break my word to you about this — you know how that always hurts my soul — and while I wish there were another way to say this, there simply isn’t one this time. Too much is going on, and you won’t answer your phone. We need to talk, even if you really don’t want to. So . . . here goes.

I miss you. I miss you so very, very much. You used to be different. Simpler. More focused. I’m not saying you’re too busy or too complex or whatnot, but it just feels like you’ve lost sight of who you are. You don’t keep the Main Thing the main thing anymore, as the saying goes. You’re the Church. The Bride of Christ. The Body of Christ. Baptized believers. The followers of the Way. “Little Christs.” Our Mother, even as God is Our Father. Jesus told you that the very gates of hell itself would not triumph over you. You’re built on the rock, secure in the confession that Jesus is Lord. You’re a hospital for sick souls. A teacher for those who need knowledge of God. Among other things.

Church, do you notice the theme? The single recurring element in everything you used to be — and were supposed to be? Jesus. God. The Holy Spirit. The salvation of souls from hellfire, the regenerate Christian life of the new creation. That’s you! That’s who you are! That’s what you’re supposed to do! That’s the Main Thing! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Main Thing! Remember how incredible the good news is the first time someone hears it? That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, that the Son of God emptied himself of all but love, came to earth, taught, bled, died, and rose again all for us? That we receive salvation, forgiveness, and freedom because of that, if only we believe? It’s the Main Thing.

So why did you leave it behind?

Don’t give me that look, Church. We both know it’s true, and it won’t do either of us any good if you feign righteous indignation like that. I know you’re just acting scandalized so you can get me to apologize and ignore the problem again. I can’t do that this time. This is just too serious to drop. Because I love you. I love you, Church, with all my heart. I love the way you help the poor, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. I love how you go into prisons and offer redemption to those who think themselves beyond it. I love how you tend to the sick and elderly, how you befriend the friendless, extend hope to the hopeless. I’m head-over-heels for how much you love the dying and minister to the grieving and heartbroken. And the way you sing? All of your rites and rituals? Your worship makes me weak in the knees, so much so that I can’t even stand up sometimes and have no choice but to kneel down with you. You’re my favorite. I love you.

I love you so much I can’t let you go on like this.

I get it. You’re part of — no, a pillar of your community. You want to serve it and honor it. And that’s great! We’re servants, you and I. We paint homes and wash feet. It’s who we are. But lately you’ve been crossing the line quite a bit — and blurring it even more than that. You trade worship services for community events that may or may not try to masquerade as praise of God. You let politicians into your pulpits to advance their agendas instead of preaching the gospel. I mean, you’re overly politicized in general, really. You know I enjoy politics, and you know I think you, Church, should spread the gospel even in political ways at times, but . . . really? You’re more worried about maintaining political power than producing genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. Church, the Bible only commands us and commissions us for one of those things; guess which?

You’re not you when the Main Thing isn’t the main thing.

While we’re talking about being active in culture, let me reverse that and discuss how culture is too active in you. I’m not against contemporary music (you’ve seen my iTunes), but the stuff you’re trying to pass off as Christian just . . . isn’t. Yeah, I know; you’re being trendy, appealing to the younger crowd. Great! Fantastic! Do it! Get them in here! But give them the Main Thing when you do. Sing songs with biblical lyrics, not empty appeals to emotions. I mean, yeah, give us Jesus with a beat, but please make sure you’re giving us Jesus. All these programs you have going on? Which do you really need to do? It’s grand to have things for every age group, but if we don’t let all ages worship together, aren’t we really just contributing to the demise of the family we keep saying we’re protecting? Relax a little bit. Don’t try to do so much, Church. You’ll only wear yourself out. And all these trends and fads . . . please stop. Jesus threw the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple, so please stop trying to sell me brown water impersonating coffee before the service starts. If you love me, truly love me, you’ll permanently ban anyone on the platform from wearing skinny jeans ever again. Right now. And cool t-shirts, cool tattoos, cool glasses, cool bar stools for preachers, cool music stands filling in for pulpits . . . just anything cool that has no function besides being trendy. Those trends change too fast and have too little substance.

You want to be cool; I understand. You want all the cool kids to like you; it’s only natural. But Church, you and I, well, you and I will never be cool. Remember our Main Thing? Telling people about a guy bleeding out on a cross will never win popularity contests. A mixed choir of kindergarteners and octogenarians will never win any talent shows, either. We will never be the cool kids on the block. And you know what? We were never meant to be. Remember when you were young and had to hide in the catacombs or be killed? Or how about all those times people called you “an alternative community” because it was up to you to offer the world something different than what was popular? It is literally in your job description to be uncool. You’re asking people to die to themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow Jesus. You invite people to come just as they are but to leave new creations in the Holy Spirit, changing — repenting of their ways.

Total reorientation of one’s life generally isn’t popular.

Please, Church. Let it go. Let go of the idea you have to somehow make relevant the timeless word of God. It’s always relevant. Make it appealing, make it knowable, but don’t sacrifice bits of it on the altar of the false gods Relevancy, Popularity, and Cultural Clout. You do you. Be the weird kid who gets picked last at recess. That’s us, Church. The weird ones. The ones who put faith in a God we’ve never seen face to face. Who believe words written two and three thousand years ago are still absolutely true for absolutely everyone. Who sacrificially love everyone, even the ones who hate us. That’s the real you. That’s the Church I fell in love with and was called to shepherd.

Come home, Church. Come back to being you. Come back to the gospel. Let’s make the Main Thing the main thing again. Let’s go hug the homeless, give them a bed, and tell them about Jesus. Let’s hold hands and walk in faith, hope, and love one more time.

Because I love you. And I always will.




For God and Country

It’s often said everyone has two primary allegiances in life, one to God and one to one’s country. We all have other loyalties, of course: family, friends, schools, sports teams, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with any of them (unless you cheer for the University of Tennessee, Duke, or the Yankees, in which case I will pray for your salvation and invite you to be baptized). Loyalties and allegiances create communities, and we as human beings created in the image of God are hardwired for community. God designed us to forge those connections and relationships. But today I want to focus on the dynamic between those first two: God and country.

I see nothing wrong with patriotism. When our nation is in the will of God, we should be proud of it; when it is not, we should help it to be so; and at all times, we should pray for it and seek its good. The success of our country is in the best interests of every single one of its citizens, including its Christian citizenry. Part of the Christian love for our neighbor is manifested in good citizenship. We help those around us in direct ways, yes, but also by speaking out on their behalf in the public forum. If Christians refuse to be advocates for the poor, the abused, the sex worker, and the immigrant — the disenfranchised, the minority, and the voiceless in general — then we’ve ignored a significant portion of what Our Lord commanded us to do. Of course, we can’t all be lobbyists, which is why I personally believe we have a Christian obligation to vote and to be a voice for our sisters and brothers in that way. And if God chooses you for political office, that office is for servant leadership in much the same way.

But political engagement is only one arena of civic duty. Community aid organizations are another. So is military service (although that’s another blog for the future). Simply keeping up with current events can be a matter of citizenship — and so can knowing history (after all, what’s on the test to become a naturalized citizen?). We must obey all just laws which do not conflict with God’s law. We carefully steward our treasures and resources, natural and otherwise. And yes, we even pay our taxes. These are all indicative of the patriotic Christian.

Christian patriotism, however, must never morph into jingoism — which is never Christian.

Jingoism is an excessive patriotism. The strict definition deals with an overly-aggressive (dare I say neoconservative?) foreign policy which prefers the use of force, or the threat thereof, to peaceful negotiations. It’s generally limited to things of national interest or national security. In a broader sense, jingoism is rampant, unchecked patriotism which places love of country above all else. A jingoist, for example, might want to build a wall on the border or deport everyone of a specific race or religion, all in the name of national security or making the country great (again). This perversion of patriotism ignores the Christian duty to the Other, yet any Christian who says as much is instantly labeled by jingoists as an unpatriotic, treasonous communist (or socialist — if you’re American, at any rate; other places may accuse you of being a capitalistic democrat). Jingoists will hear no bad about their country, especially if the criticism is valid.

The main concern for many Christian (and practically all pastors) on this front is American civil religion, otherwise stated as “how many flags can I put in my sanctuary.” The nation itself becomes sacred, an object of worship and devotion. Its monuments become holy symbols, its key figures priests and gods. This sense of “holiness” frequently gets imported into churches. George Washington goes on the wall alongside Moses, and the Bible shares a lectern with the Constitution.

My friends, this ought not to be.

When our love of country overrides our love of God, many things happen. First and foremost, we sin. We sin the sin of idolatry, and the Stars and Stripes receives our worship. Next we distort the word of God, twisting it to accommodate and support flatly unbiblical ideas like xenophobia (and excessive patriotism/jingoism). Sermons go from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the declaration of the greatness of the United States (and the lament of its woes). We focus on maintaining political power and cultural clout instead of preparing to become pariahs and martyrs — the latter of which being far more biblical than the former. Our military becomes the priests of the new covenant of country (a phenomenon known as the sacralization of the military). In short, we worship U-S-A instead of G-O-D. And that’s idolatry. That’s sin. And sin requires repentance.

Let me be transparent for a moment. I have no problems with an American flag in the sanctuary, as the church should celebrate the good of this land and our freedom to worship — but it had better be accompanied by a Christian flag, otherwise it’s right out. If I could, I would even (illegally) fly a Christian flag above the American one; the church’s allegiance is to God over all, even country. I rarely put my hand over my heart during the pledge of allegiance, as I am firmly convinced my heart belongs solely to the Lord who bought it with his blood, not the only empire since Rome to require that particular gesture. While I spoke against the sacralization of the military, I still hold our servicemen and servicewomen in the highest (appropriate) regard. I myself was one failed medical evaluation from becoming an Army chaplain, wanting to be a shepherd who went with his flock to face the wolves. Theirs is a sacrifice and a service I am literally incapable of making, and I truly love them for it. But in all these things, I must keep the proper perspective of patriotism and Christianity. I know which one must always be kept first, especially when it collides with the other. My citizenship truly resides in a country not of this world, an eternal country with God Himself as ruler. One day I will be home, and I will never stop singing the praises of that land.

All of this to say: obey God and honor the king. Love your country, pray for it, serve it, and be a good citizen of it. But don’t let that override your faith in God. He is our God, not America. He watches over us, not our guns and our walls. He, not our politicians, died for us, loves us, forgives our sins and makes us new. And He is the Alpha and Omega, the One who was before all countries began — and who will stand when the last empire falls.

God, Politics, and Tragedy in Orlando

My leadership style is more “Jean-Luc Picard” than “James T. Kirk.” I’m a collaborative kind of guy who appreciates postponing serious decisions until I’ve had time to talk to the people who will be affected — and people who know more than me. Yes, if necessary, I can be positively authoritarian, but it’s not how I prefer to operate. For that reason, I generally hold back on my harsher opinions and let things go unless they truly need to be addressed immediately. I’m just not that brash.

Today, however, I’m going to grant myself a point of personal privilege and step up on my soap box. My message can be summed up in only two simple words:

Stop it.

All of you, just stop it. Fifty people are dead in the worst shooting on American soil since the Indian massacres. It doesn’t matter it happened at a gay club. It doesn’t matter if the victims were gay, straight, or something else. What matters is fifty families have been irreparably torn asunder. They will never again see the smile on their loved one’s face, never again hear their laughter, dry their tears, feel the warmth of their hugs or the fire of their fury. What matters is they have experienced an incomparable loss from which they will never fully recover. Parents lost children, siblings lost siblings, friends lost the one person closest to them in the entire world. Fifty people are dead. Those souls now face eternity in whichever destination they were bound for based on their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. As Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” This is a time to weep and mourn. Just like at any other senseless murder, this is a time for sackcloth and ashes and prayer and longing for the day our last enemy is finally defeated once and for all.

How dare you try to use these fifty deaths to further your own political agenda.

Social media, news articles, any and every medium available to us has been flooded with rants on both sides of the gun control issue in the days since the shooting. People cry out that if those fifty people had been armed (or even if only some of them had), they wouldn’t have died — after all, even radical Muslims can be stopped by bullets — and so we need to provide nigh unfettered access to guns and ammunition. Those on the other side loudly proclaim the opposite, saying our society made it too easy for the shooter to acquire his weapon; we need harsher laws governing the sale of arms and such ordnance. Pastors in my area have come out on both sides of the issue.

Stop it.

Personally, I know next to nothing about gun laws. I once held a concealed carry permit, yes, but I could never tell you what constitutes an assault weapon or how many rounds you can legally put in your squirrel gun. I freely admit my knowledge of weapons barely makes it to the late Middle Iron Age. I can tell you about the Roman gladius and techniques for fighting with a trident/net combination in the Colosseum, and that’s about as new as I get. Any opinion I could offer on the subject of gun control would be ill-informed and far more theological and common sense than legal. But that doesn’t matter right now anyway.

So if you’re using these deaths as leverage right now, let me call you the ghoul you are and say stop it.

Many posts have also arisen criticizing the Christian response to the massacre. Let me say I haven’t actually encountered most of what they’re railing against (Christians saying they had it coming for being gay), but I have seen many trying to tell Christians we can’t offer prayers for Orlando and still condemn homosexuality as sinful and against the will of God.

Stop it.

Those who make such frankly ludicrous claims don’t understand prayer, Christianity, or love (real love, not what passes for it in popular parlance these days). There is absolutely nothing preventing us from loving our neighbors as ourselves and still adhering to biblical morality. We can mourn and weep even while wishing gay clubs didn’t exist, all without holding to some hateful contradiction. Those who say otherwise are, like those in the gun control debate, using these fifty people as leverage for a theo-political agenda. You are using death and injury as tools to coerce Christians into coming over to your way of thinking on the issue.

Stop it.

And if any Christians are in fact trying to take advantage of this tragedy to proclaim a message of damnation against homosexual people, I tell you the same thing.

Stop it.

There is a time and a place for both of these discussions. We truly need to engage in dialogue about gun control and homosexuality. We need — desperately, truly need — Republicans and Democrats to sit down together, not as members of a political party with indefensible arrogance and the idolatry of a party platform, but as human beings who recognize the humanity of the other as well as their own obligations as people in power to do good and justice and mercy. We need those conversations to happen. Orlando proves that.

But those fifty human beings who once had dreams and loves and families lie dead. Over fifty more will carry bullet-shaped scars — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual — forever. Out of respect for the dead, out of respect for the living, out of respect for a God who loves them as He loves you, please don’t turn them into a talking point on a list in support of your agenda. Please take time instead to mourn and weep and pray.

And if you dare open your mouth for any other reason on this matter,

Stop it.

Modern Families

I’m not generally one for making alarmist, apocalyptic statements worthy of a Hollywood voice-over, but indulge me just this once:

The year is 2016, and the family lies in ruins.

Perhaps a more accurate statement is that the traditional two-parent family is in ruins. Or the traditional two-parent-family-with-both-parents-of-all-the-children-still-being-united-in-a-heterosexual-marriage-type-of-family is in ruins. I don’t want to denigrate or deride families of other compositions. A family is a family, regardless of how it came to be. Stepparents often fill in the gaps left by birth parents in ways which far surpass the biological progenitors. Adopted children are loved every bit as much as those sharing the DNA of the adults in the family. These can be wonderful, beautiful things.

What I lament, however, is the absolute lack of significance granted to the family unit itself.

We all know the numbers. Over half of all first marriages end in divorce, and that percentage skyrockets when you get to second marriages, third marriages, and beyond. Why? No-fault divorce, mainly. Again, there are legitimate reasons for divorce, but most marriages today don’t end because of abandonment or abuse (the growing rate of adultery will be discussed later). They end simply because one spouse wakes up one morning, looks at the other spouse, and thinks, I don’t love you anymore. The concept of love as a choice is foreign to most people, particularly Millennials (my generation) and younger. The “for better and for worse” in their marriage vows (themselves taken lightly) means only the first half when actually put into practice. Contemporary society redefined marriage long before any court did, trading a sacrament of sanctification serving as the basis for a family for an agreement of convenience designed to make me (and only me) happy. Since no one can provide 24/7 bliss to another human being, people feel like their marriages aren’t what they signed up for — which they’re not, really — and tear up the contract.

But the rise of divorce is only part of the equation. Most people my age and younger don’t even marry, or, if they do, will live together first. The biblically accepted order to arrive at a family is 1) get married, 2) move in together, 3) have sex, 4) have babies. Nowadays the process is practically inverted: 1) have sex, 2) move in together, 3)have babies, 4) get married. The marriage is the result of societal pressure to become a legal family in the advent of pregnancy or birth of a child. (We used to call those “shotgun weddings” and typically frowned on them.) Marriage is viewed as unnecessary since you can enjoy some of the benefits (e.g. sex, companionship) without the commitment. (We’re a commitment-phobic society, really.) Some never marry the parent of their child — sometimes for good reasons, admittedly, but sometimes not.

The same logic spurring the rise of cohabitation has fueled a rise in adultery. “If my marriage isn’t sexually satisfying, I have the right to look elsewhere for that satisfaction,” they say, “since marriage is about my personal happiness anyway.” That’s just the basic, no-frills model of infidelity. But many marriages are “open,” meaning both spouses are free to sleep with whomever, whenever. Swingers are married couples who get together to sleep with each other’s spouses. Some (far from all, but some) bisexual people are permitted by their spouses to have sex with a member of the same sex since that’s a desire and means to happiness they, of the opposite sex, can’t fulfill. Or they invite the desired person to a ménage à trois. I was getting a haircut this week, and one stylist was telling another she (the other) needed to get back together with her ex. “But I’m with Y now!” “Is that the baby daddy?” “Yeah, and we’re married!” “Well he’s not as good for you as X is.” (You can imagine the awkward lull in conversation after they discovered what I do for a living.) But even that becomes acceptable when marriage is only about happiness — and so is sex. Then you have pornography use and its ilk, which for all intents and purposes is infidelity, too. Promiscuity among married folk: it may not be something new under the sun, but our acceptance of it and lack of guilty/shame concerning it certainly seem to be.

All of that to say: without a proper view of marriage, the family never stood a chance. Children are shuttled between custodial parents. Kids are effectively raised having two lives and, frequently, four or more “parents” and an abundance of step- and half-siblings, any one of whom may be gone at any given time to be with his/her other parent. No stability, nothing solid. Only change and shifting sands. Little wonder so many children have behavioral problems. Others have a stable home, but with only one parent or with their grandparents (birth parents optional). Beyond even the kids, though, is civilization itself. Can we thrive in an anything-goes world where no one has a sense of permanence even about their marriage, their identity, and/or their family role?

Well, enough complaining. What can we as Christians do about it? Here’s my less-than-comprehensive list of ten suggestions.

  1. Love everyone regardless of their family make-up or lifestyle.
  2. Teach, preach, and maintain the biblical ideals concerning marriage, sex, and the family.
  3. Offer support groups for victims of divorce, including children (and adult children of divorce).
  4. Offer support to single-parent families. Make them feel welcome and help them get involved in the church as you help out with things they may need done at home.
  5. Provide support for grandparents raising their grandchildren. Help out at home, babysit, provide support groups for the grandparents and activities for the children to allow the grandparents some much-needed time off.
  6. Become advocates for adoption and support families with adopted children.
  7. Provide marital counseling to those in danger of divorce while encouraging proper responses to abuse and neglect.
  8. Connect hurting families to healthy families in your church for fellowship, mentoring, and listening ears.
  9. Offer programs on marriage and family to children and youth to show them healthy, biblical relationships and standards before they learn unhealthy behaviors elsewhere.
  10. Know the resources available to families in your community (counselors, pregnancy crisis centers, etc.).
  11. Bonus: Pray.

These things won’t magically solve the problems of modern families, but they may make a difference in your own corner of the world. God established marriage and family. It’s our job to fight for them.

F.A.Q.: A Consistent Ethic of Sexuality

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of divorce and cohabitation,
And fornication and . . . “

That’s not how that poem goes. That’s not how that poem goes at all. With apologies to Mr. Carroll, however, that’s how it will go for the purpose of this blog. The time has finally come to address the walrus — er, carpenter — er, elephant — in the room. One question I’m asked pretty regularly is why Christians spend so much time talking about homosexuality to the exclusion of other, seemingly more pervasive sexual sins. So here goes.

Short answer: the pot likes calling the kettle black. The other staple sexual sins — pre-marital sex, pornography, cohabitation, most forms of divorce, and adultery — are so common among churchgoers that pastors are afraid to say anything about them for fear of losing their flocks (and their pulpits). The LGBTQ community, however, is a much safer target, and so energies are diverted to speak out against homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. Such behaviors (NOTE: behaviors, not people) are fairly universally condemned from the pews as well as the pulpit, and so more lay Christians are likely to speak out about them. Instead of uncomfortably discussing our own sins, we say, “Let’s pick on someone who sins differently than we do!”

Again, that’s the short answer. The long answer is, well, longer.

Let’s begin by defining our terms. Under the biblical schema, many things are classified as sexual sin. The catch-all word for sexual immorality is porneia; I’m sure you recognize the root as the same for “pornography.” Porneia is a bit of a legal term in the sense it carries the full weight of the Torah behind it. Anything and everything the law of Moses classified as sexual sin is counted as porneia in the New Testament. Most of those laws are scattered throughout Leviticus, but they’ve largely carried over even in popular conception: incest, fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery, homosexuality, and transvestism (included here in its traditional place). Many people claim Jesus never talked about homosexuality, and he didn’t explicitly, but he did make reference to — and sharply condemn — the categorical porneia, so he really did talk about it.

Back on topic, though, porneia very soundly condemns the “church-approved” sexual sins. The only acceptable sexual behavior in either testament is heterosexual intercourse in the context of the marriage covenant. That pretty much excludes both adultery and fornication straightaway. A common argument in favor of the latter nowadays is “Oh, but we love each other, and we’ve promised to only be with each other.” Great! Put a ring on it. The full level of commitment prerequisite to sex shouldn’t be at all daunting if you’ve already made it as far as all that. Secure God’s blessing on your relationship through holy matrimony and enjoy your marriage bed. But until you do, you’re not married, the two have not become one flesh, and sexual intercourse is still out of bounds for you. (I would say I’m sorry, but I have a rule: never apologize for what the word of God says, even — especially — the hard parts.) So again: any sort of sexual behavior outside of a heterosexual marriage is sin. And some of the violent and demeaning sexual behaviors inside of those parameters are sin, too. But that takes care of two things, then, pre-marital and extra-marital sex.

On to another. Divorce is perhaps the most taboo, most difficult subject to teach on. Jesus actually made my job much harder on this score than both Moses and the rabbis in the time of Christ. I mean, one rabbi actually authorized divorce if your wife ruined your meal while cooking it.

“Darling, I burned the toast . . . “
“Well then I’ll see you in divorce court. Start packing.”

Divorced women at the time had no rights and no property. So when Jesus tightened the regulations governing divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-12, he did a great deal to help women. He greatly reduced the valid reasons for obtaining a divorce — as in the number changed from “infinite” to “one,” namely infidelity. Paul nuances this a bit in 1 Timothy 5:8 (as most take it), saying infidelity also includes a failure to provide (up to and including abandonment by most interpretations). And most interpreters take that provision to include safety, so abuse likewise becomes a valid reason for divorce. That’s it, really: infidelity, abandonment, and abuse. The only three reasons the New Testament gives us for divorce. Anyone divorcing for any other reason and remarries both commits adultery and causes the other ex-spouse to do so as well.

This is a hard saying.

Now add the fact lust is equivalent to adultery (Matthew 5:27-30) and you have even bigger problems.

Let’s kick it up another notch (BAM!), a notch brought to you by 20th-Century technology and 21st-Century demand: pornography. There is nothing redemptive about porn; there’s nothing anyone can say to make it less evil. As the saying goes, the only difference between pornography and prostitution is the camera. Both are paying people for sex, yet we only really consider one of them to be evil; why? How? Add to that fundamental thought the aforementioned sinful status of lust. Now consider the rise in demand for violent pornography. Now think about its connection to sex trafficking. And don’t forget the way it warps views of sex, women’s bodies, men’s bodies, women’s personhood, men’s personhood, and everything else it falsely portrays. After all, porn is a lie. Now let’s mention the addiction, the porn-induced sexual dysfunction, the shame and guilt and . . . Finally getting the picture? One last thing, then: if fornication is wrong, and porn requires fornication, then at its most basic, it’s simply a recording of sin. If your spouse asks to watch it together, remember: it will only hurt in the bedroom, never help. I’ll say it again because it bears repeating: there is nothing redemptive about porn.

There. A consistent sexual ethic to cover sexual immorality in all its various guises, inside the church and out. I realize some of you are pondering the topics of polygamy and levirate marriage in Scripture, thinking they’re permissible by the biblical “meta-ethic.” Short answer: no. Longer answer: apples and oranges. Longest answer: that’s another blog for another day.

Let’s be good to each other, folks. Speak these truths in love. The sin is not the person; the sin is a mistake the person made. Love that person with all you are — just as the Lord loves you.