This week’s Christian news had one story that gave me great sorrow. A former Maryland mega-church pastor, someone who had been influential in my life, publicly announced that he no longer considers himself a Christian.
At first, this carefully choreographed announcement on Instagram declared that he and his wife were separating. A later Instagram post declared they were getting a divorce and he no longer considered himself a Christian.
What struck me was his reasoning: after years of processing and reconsidering, this man is “repenting” of his views on marriage, sexuality, and faith. While repentance is a change of mind, Christians have used this language to refer to changing one’s mind away from sin and toward God. But this man was using repentance to justify turning away from God.
In our age, the greatest apologetic question to face the church is not the question of God’s existence, suffering, or evil. It is the question of personal happiness in one’s sexual expression.
Since the 1960s, our culture has been undergoing an enormous shift in its perspective on sexuality. With the increased influence of consumer culture, sex has become a commodity to consume in order to gratify one’s desires. The proliferation of pornography, the use of sex in marketing, the erosion of connection and friendship, and the appeal to personal happiness have contributed to a major apologetic shift. Many people reject Christianity because of its sexual ethic. God is seen as a barrier to personal fulfillment and happiness. The Christian sexual ethic seems outdated when the modern approach to morality determines right and wrong based on whether something is harmful, fair, and consensual.
God’s revelation reveals that his redemption and his law are not to kill our joy. Faith believes that God is good and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6). However, Christians have been known too often for what they are against. This former mega-church pastor had pushed against a culture of low-expectations regarding sexual issues, yet found his purity culture fostered legalism. In the end, he could no longer keep his feet firmly planted in God’s ways. Intellectually, he found that he could not square his new views on sexuality with the Christian faith.
The sexual revolution will leave many people in its wake with broken, painful stories. As Christians, we have a story that makes sense of this brokenness. We are all broken and impure people who need to be redeemed. We have a God who has come to rescue us by the blood of his Son, to make us new and whole. And his commands are not to burden us (1 Jn 5:2-3), but to protect us from harm and give us joy in him (Jn 10:10). We have been told a better story than the prosperity gospel of sexual liberation. We have the good news of a God who can redeem anyone who confesses and trusts that God exists and is truly good – and he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).
Trusting that God is good in all his ways,