Having tackled a lot in the past month regarding the transgendered community, broken sexuality and homosexuality, we have one more topic to address among this vein of gender and human flourishing. Today, we want to bring our discussion specifically into the realm of the church by asking this question: “How do gender roles intersect the life and leadership of a church?” Immediately more questions start flying- Gender roles: do they exist? Should they exist? How do men and women play out their part of bearing the image of God within the home and the family of God? This week will will lovingly articulate what we believe about this issue, what we reject about this issue, and explain how God is calling us to grow. Our hope is that, working together, redeemed men and women can embrace their respective responsibilities to allow the Kingdom life to flourish on earth as it is in heaven.
Over the past month, we have spent significant time around the idea of human flourishing: Image of God, a vision for biblical sexuality, and broken sexuality. We have worked hard to seek God's ideal for humanity without falling into the trap of elevating certain types of sin while hypocritically ignoring others. Yet after a month of holding tension and trying to see things in broader terms than normal, there have continued to be many questions and e-mails specifically about homosexuality and same-sex attraction. So, in the name of loving clarity, we are going to spend this week taking a look at this issue. We will tackle 5 main biblical passages, 5 common objections, and look at 5 frequently asked questions. Hopefully, in humility and love, we can let Scripture and the example of Jesus lead us forward.
Having unpacked a vision for biblical sexuality, most everyone instantly feels just how short we fall. Both in Adam & Eve and in our own choices, we all experience some form of broken sexuality. So what does Jesus say? How does Jesus respond? We will take a look at beautiful encounter between Jesus and a woman in Luke 7 to find our bearings. For within this provocative scene, Jesus further reveals his perspective on shame, desire, distance and sin. Unfortunately, our preconceived notions and instincts are just as broken and backwards in light of God's grace.
Another facet of human flourishing is an expression of healthy human sexuality. While one could easily camp out on listing off all that is wrong in the world, this week is more about capturing a compelling vision for true biblical sexuality. What does God say that governs our lives and our bodies? More than a list of sexual "do's and don'ts," we need a picture that can capture our minds, hearts, and bodies. As we explore Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 6, we find that our sexuality goes much higher, deeper, and closer than most imagine. This week we will explore seven pieces that we need more of to reclaim a biblical vision of sexuality.
Having talked about the Bible, God, the Trinity, and the Gospel, we now get to move on to "human flourishing." God's heartbeat for shalom in the world includes whole life, whole person success for all humanity. This week, we move a step closer into this discussion by talking about the controversial topic of gender. While there is no chapter or verse in the Bible that explicitly tackles transgender or gender fluidity issues, Matthew 19 is a passage that helps address the tensions we all feel. In His teaching that is technically on divorce, Jesus calls us to the Scriptures to embrace His creation design while also lovingly acknowledging the deviations that surround us. In sorting out our gender and biology, we look to the words of Jesus, the body of Jesus, and the table of Jesus. Human flourishing can only happen as we follow His lead.
Psalm 24 asks the repeated question, "Who is the King of Glory?" And the psalmist calls Jerusalem personified to welcome this King in. As we commence with Holy Week this year, we celebrate Palm Sunday by looking at Jesus donkey ride into Jerusalem from Luke 19. And although there is much about Jesus' Palm Sunday ride that speaks of humility and lowliness, there is also much about Luke's story that speaks of Jesus' authority and power. In so many ways, this Palm Sunday experience highlights the many ways that Jesus is the King of Glory. He commandeers what He pleases. He commands the worship of all creation. And, in a most unexpected move, He calms all our fears. All are invited to reveal in the King of Glory and consider what specifically needs to be placed in His hands.
As we continue to talk about the things that matter most (The Bible, God, the Trinity, etc) we want to draw a clear, deep, distinctive line in the sand marking out the difference between the gospel and its counterpart: cold, dead religion. Here at Reality, we reject any belief, form or practice that would confuse "add on" religion with the wonderful, beautiful, breath-taking gospel of Jesus Christ. This week, we will dive into Jesus' Last Supper words with His disciples to gain better understanding about the genuine nature of the gospel. It is given, not earned. It is internal not merely external. And it is all about "we" not simply all about "me." Any other message is a distortion that must be rejected.
After spending several weeks talking individually about God as Father, Son and Spirit, we are going to be pulling back the curtain to see how this trinitarian relationship works. After all, at the center of the universe is a relationship- a Divine community of loving union. While the concept of a God that is 3 in 1 blows our rational minds, it is a relational reality that reshapes everything about us. Years ago, the trinity was talked about by the Church Fathers as the "Divine Dance." This week, we will attempt to explain this dance in 3 ways- Who is in the dance? How do the steps work? And what does it mean for humanity to be made in His image?
After spending time on the Father and the Son, this week we turn our attention to God the Holy Spirit. Depending on one's background and experience, no member of the trinity comes with more baggage and misunderstanding. In order to more fully explore the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we turn to Jesus' words in John 14. In the hours before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus shared some of the most clear and helpful teaching on the Spirit who was shortly to come. If we take the words of Scripture to be true, then the Holy Spirit is the best gift given by a Father who gives an abundance of good gifts. May we not only unveil the Spirit's role, but also come to enjoy the fullness of His power and presence.
Up next in our conversation about God is deeper exploration of the 2nd member of the trinity, Jesus Christ. While we affirm the creeds and orthodox statements that declare Jesus to be "fully God" and "fully man," we need to evaluate the lens through which we view the life and ministry of Jesus. In the western church, most Christians tend toward a view of Jesus that enhances His divinity and diminishes the reality of His humanity. Jesus' childhood, life, miraculous ministry and death are often colored with the phrase, "Well, of course He did, He was God." This week, we will look at the life of Jesus the God-man by evaluating what really happened as Jesus emptied Himself to take on human flesh (Philippians 2). We must embrace Jesus' full humanity if we are to ever fully follow Him and recover our full humanity as well. Rather than just being a Divine Superman who briefly wore flesh as a costume, we must consider the life of Jesus as a full human marked by deep intimacy with His Father and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
This week we move into a theological discussion about God- the "Big E" on the eye chart for any Christian community. However, in a world filled with God talk, we have to be extremely specific about God if we want to be helpful. Rather than spending time dissecting the attributes of God or the nature of His character, our starting place will be around the idea of God as Father. As JI Packer wrote in Knowing God, "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all." As we look at the "Parable of the Prodigal Son," we will discover the two ways it is possible to miss the Father and mistake what He truly is like. Truly knowing God as "Abba" separates the Christian journey from everything else.
Within every conversation about the Bible, a person has to answer two questions: What is it? And how should we use it? Having spent some time over the past two weeks working on our understanding of what the Bible is, this week we want to dive more practically into how one should use it. This process of interpreting the Scripture is a necessary and important process that keeps us from using and abusing the Bible on ourselves and others. We desire to be a community that in loving faith, "rightly handles the Word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).