Let’s face it…as a society, we are obsessed with good and evil, quickly labeling and fighting for what we often believe are clear cut definitions or philosophies. We do not understand how “those people” can think the way they do about that! We’re human and imperfect…why do we look to ourselves to make those calls? If you want to be a great chef, study great chefs. If you want to be rich, study rich people. If you want to live a moral life, study the book written by the author of morality – the Bible – and do what it says to obey God’s commands and apply God’s wisdom to your life. And teach your children to do the same. God will give you the deepest desires of your heart when you give Him His rightful place in your life, and God doesn’t accept anything less than first place. Those desires are the critical mass that speak to the very essence of who you are and your purpose in life. You were created by God; those desires were put there by God. If you deny them, you will tend to look for satisfaction and fulfillment in places, people, and things other than God. And once you start on that path of idolatry and compromise, it is a slippery slope down to the pit of confusion and despair.
Pride in Ourselves or Humility Before God?
God calls His children to follow Him and what is right and good. Will He still love and forgive us no matter what sinful choices and disobedient detours we make? If we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, the answer will always be a resounding “YES!” His grace covers all and He alone knows and judges our hearts. Still, the devil is most effective at taking truth and twisting it with lies to deceive and destroy. And many of us have fallen prey to becoming complacent or silent about “sensitive” issues such as abortion, homosexuality, or divorce. We are all, to some extent, devil’s advocates, relentlessly creative and clever when it comes to rationalizing, justifying, and excusing evil as well as re-framing evil as good (or at least not-so-bad). In our black-and-white zealousness, we can also take something God called good and meant for our enjoyment (albeit with conditions or moderation) – such as sex, wine, food, dancing, etc – and demonize it…though that happens far less frequently! Let’s use a couple examples of the former to illustrate.
Regarding homosexuality, I speak as someone with a bi-sexual past. God clearly, in very black-and-white terms, condemns homosexuality as a sin…along with other “sexual immorality,” lies, greed, lust (even just looking at/thinking about someone with sexual desire), murder (even just calling someone an “idiot”), witchcraft, and a host of others (Genesis 2:18–25, Leviticus 18:22, Mark 10:6, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9–10). His perfect will intended man to be with woman (as evidenced by not only His Word, but also the created body parts themselves…insert plug A into outlet B…what actual purpose would there be to have two plugs or two outlets?), but like so much that goes wrong in a fallen world, God’s permissive will and lovingkindness has had to step in and cover mankind’s sinful choices and the world’s twists and turns. God loves us all, gay or straight, with as little or as many faults as we may have. A one-time homosexual encounter or lifelong homosexual lifestyle is no more or less damning than any other sin. The question is will you admit that it’s a sin if God calls it so? Or will you justify its presence in your life?
At the heart of the sexuality debate seems to be this question: is being gay truly a choice or not? I’ve known people who will admit it’s been their choice out of sexual preferences/lusts as well as others who you would think are “born that way” only to have them come to Christ and lead a genuinely fulfilling straight lifestyle thereafter because God changed their heart. What seems like “born that way/no choice/been that way for as long as I can remember” really has a lot to do with the person’s environment, parental role models, and life events that helped shape that person and their personality/preferences from birth. So, it seems that people aren’t born gay as much as factors from birth – largely outside their control – may lead to that choice. What did I choose to do? I allowed myself to experience the power of God and His Word changing my life and witnessing similar changes in the lives of others. I took the obedient and humble leap of faith that God could and would “do the impossible” in changing my sexual desires and blessing me with an even greater fulfillment than I could have ever dreamed about.
Let’s turn to the subject of divorce (Malachi 2:16, Matthew 19:1-12), which is also so prevalent and accepted in our society as well as many Christian churches. We get married and share vows before human witnesses and “before God.” Interestingly and true enough, I came across one certificate of divorce that states that the two people named are “no longer joined in matrimony in the eyes of the law.” Even if you divorce by man’s law, you are still married in God’s eyes and His law is the ultimate Supreme Court. The best medicine for divorce is prevention, and I was thankfully blessed to not make the impatient decision to marry the wrong person on a couple different occasions before my husband came along. Had I done so, I would have been morally obligated to see through my lifelong commitment even if that marriage made me miserable, and miss out on the even greater man and blessings God had in store for me. Why? Because I believe that would have been the honorable and right thing to do in God’s eyes, if no one else’s. God would have made us one, and even though life and people change (for better or worse), something would always be missing without that husband. And I would rather pray for God to heal things and change us both for the better instead of divorce. If I did divorce as an easy way out, wouldn’t the same thing happen to the second marriage? And the marriage after that? In fact, short of abuse or my life/the lives of my children being in danger, I should have no reason to even separate from my husband.
If we consider the facts that God made man and woman to be one in marriage, God likens marriage between a husband and wife to the eternal relationship Jesus has with us, God hates divorce and adultery, and Moses only permitted divorce because the people’s hearts were hardened, it seems clear that divorce should not be an option for married couple going through difficult times. Yet, so many people divorce and re-marry not only once, but multiple times for various reasons and now “blended families” have become the majority. The marriage vows are usually always the same – for better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and in health. So, why aren’t we better prepared to defend our marriage and family when the rubber hits the road? When the honeymoon is over and “life” starts to set in? Just as being single comes with a boatload of unique challenges, benefits, and burdens, so does marriage and parenthood. No one can tell you how special or rewarding singleness, marriage, and/or parenthood can be; you have to experience those special blessings. Similarly, no one can really prepare you for the special burdens or challenges, especially when you face various negative trials simultaneously and especially when you are more focused on your sufferings, uncontrollable circumstances, and spouse’s faults rather than on trusting God, prayer, and mending your own shortcomings.
Many books have been written on the varied needs of men versus women. Obviously, we are all unique and human needs are not necessarily gender specific, however, some trends do exist as a result of the different roles and responsibilities for which God created and differentiated men and women. In general, men need to feel unconditionally respected, adored, and supported by their wives. Their confidence and success are both closely tied to their careers, goals, and ability to provide for their families. Physical intimacy is also of utmost importance to them. On the other hand, women need to feel unconditionally loved, understood, and appreciated by their husbands. Their confidence and success are both closely tied to their self-esteem, security, and ability to care for their families. Emotional intimacy is typically craved and needed before all other intimacy – spiritual, mental, and physical – can take place. When some/all of these basic needs are not met and, due to the stresses of life, spouses turn on, blame, and hurt each other instead of drawing close, working together, and encouraging each other, the husband and wife start growing farther and farther apart, each beginning to step in opposite directions towards different goals.
So what did we do when this happened to my husband and I after a few years of seemingly insurmountable trials? Wives, believe in your husbands even when they don’t believe in themselves…use your healing words and soothing actions to build him up instead of tearing him down…precisely because you remind him that who he knows he is in the Lord is infinitely more real and powerful than his temporary and false feelings of failure or insecurity, you love every negative thought or feeling out of him with your consistent shows of affection and admiration, and you lead by example in showing self-discipline in reaching your goals/being your best and supporting his efforts to reach his. Husbands, hug your wives even when they seem un-huggable and you’re afraid they might rip into you like a monkey on a cupcake…use your gentle words and strong actions to let her know she’s secure and safe with you even when your circumstances are not…precisely because you will do what it takes to stay close to and have confidence in the Lord and the gifts He gave you, you won’t be too proud or stubborn to do things differently when you need to, and you won’t ever, ever give up until you’re standing with her on top of the mountain, taking in the breathtaking view of the inheritance God has rewarded you both with.
Imagine a triangle…God is at the top point and you and your spouse are each at the bottom two points. As you and your spouse slide up the sides of the triangle and grow closer to God at the top point, what else happens? You grow closer to each other. You cannot have a strong, joyful, fulfilling marriage that will withstand all the fiery darts of the enemy and the world without putting God first, and then loving the other above yourself with a true, godly 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. Remember how you used to talk to each other, the special things you would do for each other, what you loved about each other. Let all the memories come flooding back and start treating the other person like the man/woman you fell in love with and made a lifelong commitment to. If you don’t have those memories, start creating them now. Try humbling yourself; apologizing if need be; sharing your feelings, needs, and desire for a fresh start; and learning how to communicate effectively, rekindle the romance, and experience true oneness and intimacy again. Remember when you thought you could conquer and face anything in the world as long as you were together? You can…with God placed first in your lives, marriage, and families. See, the problem in your marriage is not the other person’s attitude, the kids’ disobedience, the lack of money, the lack of intimacy, etc…nothing is impossible or too hard for God. He can change you, any other person, or any circumstance…if you are only willing to step out in faith, obey God, and do what is right and good in His eyes, He will bless you for it and forever alter the course of your life. Make time to study God’s Word together and pray together. Pray for each other, your family, your circumstances, your future. Ask and believe God will help you heal your marriage and make it the best it’s ever been.
After all is said and done, the two greatest commandments Jesus gave are 1) love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. Do #1, and #2 and everything else falls in place. However, God is God…we can’t put Him in a box. And the facts remain that if we love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, we strive to obey Him because His commands are good and wise, and in our best interest. God commands us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. We will never be perfect, which is why Christ died to reconcile us to a perfect God…but it is because of that sacrifice and love that we, in turn, do not take advantage of His grace as license to sin/do whatever we want. Instead, we seek to love and obey Him, love and serve others, and try to leave at the foot of the cross our pain and sins that put Him there. Again, the true purpose of life is not our temporary happiness, but our eternal holiness. God gave us free will, and with that freedom, we must make our own choices regarding Him and morality as well as live with the consequences of our beliefs and actions. God wants us to obey Him out of love and thanks, not out of force or fear.
The Indisputable Black and White
So many people preach tolerance and peace with hate, judgment, and sometimes even violence…on both sides of controversial issues, Christians and non-Christians alike. Especially in the wake of tragedies, which should bring people together, I am often astounded and the raging debates that go on as people insist their point of view is the only one that is right or that matters. In truth, God’s ways, thoughts, and words are the only ones that really should matter. There will always be evil people who reject God continually, and as a result, their hearts become hardened and callous. No matter how hard we try, we are all hypocrites to some extent. Again, as a society, I don’t understand why we look to keep blaming/treating symptoms instead of the root cause. No amount of law will stop people from doing what they want in their hearts to do. Guns or any other weapon are not the problem…it is our hearts. It’s up to each individual to choose…love or hate, wisdom or foolishness, compassion and mercy or callousness, selfishness or selflessness. If we focused more on living out our faith and serving others instead of ourselves, if we quit judging and had more compassion and love for each other, maybe we would have proper ways and places to take care of people who were mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually ill…maybe if we followed God’s guidelines for living and taking care of our bodies, there wouldn’t even be as many mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually ill people out there. And maybe that would be the best way to honor the lives of the victims of all these horrific atrocities that happen today and throughout history around the world and in our own backyard…by making a better difference and shining some light in an already messed up and dark world.
Throughout history, mankind has done all kinds of evil, and God, religion, politics, and personal agendas have all been muddled. However, one thing’s clear…that’s man, not God. People can’t blame God. We make the decisions and we have to face the consequences of not just the decisions we make, but also the decisions that others make and we have no control over. The key again is making the right decisions in our hearts, to the best of our ability, day in and day out, in having right relationships with God, others, and ourselves. The below quotes from the movie Passion of the Christ are some of my favorite movie lines ever. It is our ability to humble ourselves to a truth greater than ourselves and how we bring that truth into our hearts and the reality of our individual circumstances that determine the course of our lives and the hopefully endearing and lasting legacy we leave behind. As Jesus said, blessed are those who hear with their ears, see with their eyes, and understand with their hearts so that they can be healed. And discern evil from good, black from white.
‘Pontius Pilate: What is truth, Claudia? Do you hear it, recognize it when it is spoken?
Claudia Procles: Yes, I do. Don’t you?
Pontius Pilate: How? Can you tell me?
Claudia Procles: If you will not hear the truth, no one can tell you.
Pontius Pilate: Truth… do you want to know what my truth is, Claudia? I’ve been putting down rebellions in this rotten outpost for eleven years. If I don’t condemn this man I know Caiphas will start a rebellion. If I do condemn him, then his followers may. Either way, there will be bloodshed. Caeser has warned me, Claudia. Warned me twice. He swore that the next time the blood would be mine. That is my truth!’
– Passion of the Christ
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