We are in the midst of a short series on identity, gender and sexuality. Yesterday, we looked at what the Bible has to say about human identity and purpose, because the conversations about gender and sexuality in our day are really conversations about identity and purpose: who are we, and what is our purpose in life?
Here are a couple applications I gave at the end of the sermon (you can listen to the whole sermon here).
First, a word about the nature of desires. Our world tends towards one of two extremes when it comes to desires: they’re either always good and you should embrace them fully, or they’re the root of all evil, and you should deny them, as in many Eastern religions, which are increasingly popular in the West.
And what we find is that many people are oscillating back and forth between these views: fully embracing desire, and then finding that empty and unsatisfying; and then rejecting all desire, but then finding that empty and unsatisfying as well.
But neither of these is the Christian view. In the biblical world where all of creation is good but fallen, desires are not inherently sinful. In fact, they are like signposts meant to lead us and awaken us to the satisfying joy that is in God.
But they can easily become sinful A) when we desire something we haven’t been given (covetousness/envy); B) when the intended end is sinful, as in lust or bitterness, or C) when desire rules our lives as a god (1st/2nd commandment).
The problem is not that we have strong desires, but that our desires are often directed at things that are not good or life-giving or God-glorifying. Our need is not to suppress our desires, but to have them rightly directed. Which God does through his Spirit in us.
Second, a word about identity versus experience. The push today is to define identity by our experience, to see ourselves most significantly through our experiences.
But does this really help? Don’t we actually need an identity outside of our experience to help us work through our experience? If our experience is that we’ve gone through a tough divorce, or we’ve watched our parents go through a tough divorce, we need to know that that is not the last word about us, that is not who we are.
If we have been oppressed or victimized, we need to know that that’s not who we are and live with a victim mentality the rest of our lives.
If we find our experience with sexuality and/or gender to be different than the majority of the populace, we need to know that this is not who we are, this is not the last word about us. We are not our sexuality or are gender.
This is not to ignore our experiences as meaningless and insignificant, but to put them in their proper place so they can be dealt with in healthy ways. It is to drive us to Christ’s presence and grace, and to actually give us the ballast we need to walk through these experiences and emotions.
As God said to Paul in the midst of being “tormented” by a “messenger of Satan,” this “thorn in (the) flesh”: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12).
Experiences, both inward and outward, affect us deeply. But they do not define us. And as Paul discovered, knowing the love and presence of Christ in the midst of “weaknesses…insults…hardships…persecutions…(and) difficulties” is better than not knowing the love and presence of Christ, even if free from difficulties.