Sexual Sanity/State of the Church #6

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We are living in a time of sexual bedlam, sexual madness. The frenzy that has captured the Western world has many manifestations—open marriages, pornography, same sex mirage, robo-sex, trannies, and worse. My point is not to get into all these deviations in order to attack or refute them point by point. My point is to acknowledge that we are surrounded by it all, and in that context declare the only alternative to the madness, which is faithful Christian monogamy, and to highlight Scripture’s idea of what constitutes a faithful sexual testimony.

It is not the case that we are now living in a time when sexual standards are violated by many—they have always been violated by many. What we are dealing with is a loss of sexual sanity on the part of our culture generally. We have always had hypocrisy. But to get rid of the double standards and hypocrisies through the expedient of losing your minds is not the way to go.

The Text:

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3–5).

Summary of the Text:

I want to work through what is mentioned here, but with a particular emphasis on what the world is seeing as we seek to obey passages such as this. So what does Paul teach here? The older women in the church need to be holy in their behavior (v. 3). They need to guard themselves against speaking false accusations. In addition, they should be careful to avoid much wine; they should be manifestly temperate in their behavior. While living this way, they should be teachers of good things—meaning that they should be in a position to teach the younger women how they should behave (v. 4).

They should instruct the younger women in sobriety (v. 4) and the arts of domesticity (v. 4). This is how I take the instruction on loving husbands and children. There are two words underneath that instruction, which are philandros and philoteknos. The word for love here (philo) is a word for warm affection, and in both instances it is a compound word, together with the word for man and the word for children. In a paraphrase, I would render it as “teach them to be into husbands and into kids.”

The older women are also to teach the younger women to be discrete and chaste, to be busy at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, so that the Word of God not be blasphemed. We are going to focus on that last phrase—so that the Word of God not be blasphemed.

A Few Other Examples:

So older wives are expressly taught to teach younger wives to subordinate themselves (hypotasso), so that the church not get a bad reputation. The term is a military one, which does not making us think about following suggestions. Young men are commanded to be sober-minded also, doing good in all things, and again for the same reason—so that the one who is opposed has no evil thing to say about you. We are to live in a particular way—and in this instance it is young men being self-controlled—and we are to do it so that outsiders may not have anything evil to say about us. And slaves are commanded to be diligent and obedient also (hypotasso again). And why? So that they might adorn the doctrine of God (v. 10). The gospel is glorious, but Paul teaches that we, by our behavior, can adorn something that is already beautiful. That is what testimony is.

Which Direction to Lean?

We are not just supposed to do what the Scripture says to do—although that is always important. We are also supposed to do it for the reasons that Scripture gives.

In other words, we must let Scripture determine how to head off what false ideas the pagans might have about us. Paul says here that the unbelievers should see the wife’s submission and obedience. That is what is to be in the foreground. Paul does not say that submission and obedience must be in there somewhere, way in the background, but “make sure what they notice is how educated or witty you are.” No, Paul says that your unbelieving friends should notice what a sweetheart your husband has. At the risk of overstating it, let them find out how educated you are after they become Christians. I am not talking about hiding anything. I am talking about not hiding what God says to display.

So I am not saying that Christian women should hide their light under a bushel. I am saying that God tells us what the light actually is—the true light that shouldn’t be under that bushel. Being into the kids is the light that shouldn’t be under the bushel.

This is because God knows better than we do what kind of thing will be attractive to unbelievers living in the midst of sexual and marital chaos. He knows what they need, and He knows what behavior on our part will churn them up inside. He knows all that, and He has told us all about it.

Allow me to illustrate the principle with another observation. The Christians who are most concerned with adjusting the “faith once delivered” to suit the sensitivities of unbelievers are the liberal Christians. And those who are the least concerned about it are the traditional dogmatic Christians. But as C.S. Lewis once pointed out, when atheists are converted it is almost never to the “broad-minded” forms of the faith. If they are going to be a Christian, they want to be an actual one. In the same way, an ardent feminist is unlikely to “convert” to the soft feminism of the evangelical edges.

And if unbelievers are not attracted to the order, harmony and hierarchy of Christian marriage, but rather remain in rebellion against it, this kind of testimony still stands as potent. If you are out at the park with your small tribe, and you get cold stares from angry lesbians, you are not bringing disrepute on the gospel. God says the opposite. God is in charge of what constitutes a good testimony in an age like ours. We have our marching orders.

Modest Flappers?

Take this another way. Suppose God told Christian women to be modest (which, come to think of it, He did). Suppose further that all the women outside the church, or at least all the women who were au courant, were flappers. There are two ways to approach this. One says “I obviously need to be a flapper too, and so I need to figure out a way to sneak modesty in there somehow. And hope nobody notices.” The other is to simply do what God instructs, and let the other pieces fall where they may.

Gospel and More Gospel:

When we try to “gray out” the Christian forms of marriage that we practice, we are actually trying to “gray out” the gospel. Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is His Bride. Christian husbands are told to love their wives sacrificially, the way Christ loved His Bride (Eph. 5:25, 33). Christian wives are told to submit to their own husbands (Eph. 5:22, 33). Why would we try to hide this from the world? If they kick, let them kick. The dogs may bark at it, but the train keeps going. This is the good news of salvation, and we must not try to hide the fact that we have it.

Husbands, your task is to model for the world what the objective gospel actually looks like. And, in case you have forgotten, it looks like blood, sweat, and tears. You are the hands of Christ as He preaches His message of salvation to the world, and never forget that those hands are pierced. You are husbands—you are to be pierced. You are the head. Does that tempt you to puff yourself up, as though that meant you were the King Boss? No, you are the head, and you are instructed to be the head the same way Jesus was. How was Jesus the head? Remember that if you are the head, you are supposed to have a crown of thorns jammed on.

And wives, your task is to model for this lost world what a subjective and personal response to the gospel looks like.

As I have noted before, we are all limited, and we cannot duplicate what Christ did. But even though we cannot duplicate it, we are commanded to imitate it, and we are to imitate it as best we can.

Husbands, the world is watching you. You are to model what the saving looks like. Wives, the world is watching you. You are to model what the salvation looks like.

Why is the world not streaming to the rod of Jesse? Why are the nations not turning away from their folly? Is it because the gospel the Church is presenting to them is a gospel that looks too much like our marriages?