Paul, the “S” Word, and Turning the Church Right-Side-Up

The Apostle Paul - Rembrandt

The Apostle Paul – Rembrandt Van Rijn.

The aging Apostle Paul breathes in the damp air of the cell around him. It is pungent with body order and human waste. Whether imprisoned in Rome or Ephesus – I lean toward Ephesus1 – the conditions would have been equally distasteful. Still, Paul’s mind wanders not to his own circumstances as much as it does to those in the budding church plants in Ephesus, Colossae, and Philippi.

Called the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul remained faithful to his own tribe. His thoughts were never far away from the plight of the Jewish people and how he might share the great news that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah who had brought an end to captivity, not only for the Jews but for all humankind. His detractors would not hear Paul’s alleged blasphemy and many would trail him from city to city instigating trouble in their wake.

How he agonized, restricted to the squalor of a prison2, as he thought about his friends without. I hear that pain resonate in Paul’s words to Philippi. Though tagged as the epistle of Joy by many, chapter three begins with a diatribe – a critical form of speech that can utilize irony or abusive language. Confined? “Yes.” Quiet? “No.” Paul would have his say.

Dogs! Evil doers! Mutilators of the flesh! No, dogs were not loveable lap companions. They were mangy street scavengers. Dog is a descriptor reserved for your enemies. Goliath called young David a dog. I’m pretty sure Goliath was not concerned with minding his words. Evil doer. That may not sound too impolite but imagine dedicating your entire life to a cause you believed to be right. These opponents of Paul believed they were right. I believe I am right (i.e. right with God). Yet, I have gotten a couple of those creepy anonymous letters in my day reminding me that my doctrine is false. Worse, people I know have used the dreaded phrases “false teacher” or “of private interpretation” when speaking to me. I would rather be called a dog. Next, there is mutilator. That sounds like the name of one of the Decepticons. Paul’s play on words here is absolutely wicked. It, “is the most ‘cutting’ (Ha ha) epithet of all.”3 Gorden Fee explains that Paul’s usage of an alternate Greek word in this context derides his opponents in a way that would be highly offensive and personal.4

Then Paul goes nuculer (I know I misspelled it. I’m also swaggerin’ like George W. Bush when I say it). He trots out his impressive resume. Having served in the highest echelons of the Jewish community, there are few who could top him. He wads it up with a flourish, arcs it across the room, and rings the waste can with it while he screams and signals that it was a three-pointer by calling it a steaming heap of skybala.5 That’s right. Paul smells it all day every day. He has been locked up in a dungeon. It was probably one of the first words that came to mind. Sanitize it all you want with English translations like rubbish, trash, dung, or my favorite “street swill.” Fecal matter is universally offensive.

Why so emphatic? Some might even ask, “why so hateful?” Paul was up to his metaphorical ears in it. And, maybe he sat in it a time or two. He was sitting in prison awaiting trial because he had the audacity to say that, “Jesus is God and he loves you whether you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. You are free, the captivity has come to an end. Sin and death have been defeated. A whole new creation is underway and you are God’s beloved co-creator in this new world.” The irony of Paul’s physical circumstances could not have been lost to him at the moment he penned these caustic words found in the third chapter of Philippians. For me, that is why this is the epistle of joy. Paul is laughing a belly shaking laugh. He has stepped into the light and though this present age can be abysmal; it is not the final chapter. God has written an epilogue to this story and the names of those who confess Jesus as Lord are found inside rejoicing.

I believe Paul was so carried away with the Spirit and the gravity of the moment that no other words could properly convey his strong displeasure for any who would define righteousness in terms of rites, sacraments, and forms rather than in terms of knowing Jesus. He is the heart of the matter. Like Paul’s complaint about his contemporaries who had traded in the substance of a real relationship with God for the shadow of ritual, we should have an equal amount of indignation with the institutional church that so much of the de-Christianized culture around us observes to lack “humility and virtue.” according to a recent article in the Washington Post.6

The article entitled, The End of Casual Christianity responds to the Pew Research report regarding the Changing Religious Landscape. Many such articles have been written of late that discuss what some call troubling and others label affirming. One phrase within the Post would likely find agreement with a large majority. “…we are certainly seeing the collapse of casual Christianity and of religious belief as a civic assumption.”7

Why? I do not claim to have all the answers to this. But, I believe the sharp uptick among people who claim no religious affiliation is a response to a perception that institutional Christian culture has lost touch (i.e. going to church, performing acts of worship with correct form, always asking for money to build a building, or the many reports of abusive church leaders). Whether the perception is accurate or not makes no difference. The narrative is written and it will continue to stick unless we do something.

Now, Paul didn’t abandon the Jewish way of life. For instance, he continued to self-identify as a Pharisee many years after his encounter with Jesus. He participated in temple life. At the heart of many of his letters, one will find Paul soliciting money to be taken back to the temple in Jerusalem. What Paul did was re-interpret everything in his life through the story of Jesus. His ethnic and party affiliation were redefined in Jesus. His religion (where religion is understood as a verb in the first-century sense) was redefined in Jesus. And, his offerings were redefined in Jesus. When not in prison Paul could be found taking up a collection for the temple of God which he understood to be the people of God who were suffering.

Paul’s well-chosen words were about the “we will do it my way or no way” attitude of his opponents whose tradition and ritual had become their god. Neither tradition or ritual are inherently wrong. Simply, they are vehicles and not the destination. By way of explanation, I love one of the core values of a sister church plant here in New England. The family known as OceanPointe Christian Church says, “We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.” A year ago when they held their first public gathering my family and I joined the celebration and witnessed that message being lived out in the community. Today, Jesus is being proclaimed throughout Newport, RI and this little group is making a big difference.

Paul’s “S-bomb” is not directed at particular church practices that glorify God and fit the culture and time. I don’t think you have to end your capital campaign for a new building. I am not into shaming a person for wearing a suit and tie or sandals and shorts at a gathering of the church. It’s not our business if a woman leads an assembly in prayer or if a gay couple joins a gathering to celebrate Jesus. We need not concern ourselves with whether one group of Christians is all out to share Jesus with the incarcerated and another points their compass toward a rich suburb. But, without reservation we should all notice our blood pressure escalating and the interjections crowding our thoughts when someone seeks to impose the opinions and preferences from their culture / sub-culture upon another. Jesus said drowning wasn’t good enough for such a person. Paul suggested they castrate themselves. Speaking of Paul, let’s give him the last word.

Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision (Note from Eric: you might include other words here…interest group, dress codes, worship style…) on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don’t keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! (Galatians 6:11-16, The Message).

Eric Greer

Restoration Community Church

1 I think there is good evidence for the Ephesian provenance of the Prison Epistles and I have written about the subject in the past. Though the most detailed sources are early 20th Century, Fitzmeyer picked up the banner for this theory in 2000 in the Anchor Bible Series. If my suggestion interests you I will be glad to share more sources. For now I leave you with the most recent. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Letter to Philemon. The Anchor Bible, vol. 34C. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

2 Who is the person that suggested Paul had some sort of penthouse set-up as he awaited trial? I have heard the sermons suggesting Paul would sit in some sort of apartment on house arrest. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of corroborating research for that theory. Roman citizen or not, Paul was likely treated with very few dignities. I love the expression on Paul’s face in Rembrandt’s painting, but I seriously doubt he would be surrounded by furniture. Likely, he sat chained to a wall scribbling his notes that were carried out at least on one occasion by a slave named Onesimus.

3 Fee, Gordon, Philippians: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series,. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999 p. 133.

4 Ibid.

5 My working title for this blog was, S#*t Paul Said: Turning the Church Right-Side-Up. After having several people review the article, I decided on an endnote. One of my reviewers reminded me that the evidence for Paul’s usage of vulgarity in Ph 3:8 is in no way settled. He cited several of the best scholars: Witherington, Fee, Silva, Hawthorne, Bruce, & Theilman who have disagreed with the idea that vulgarity is intended. There are other voices on the matter and the aforementioned scholars will acknowledge the specific meaning of the word skybala (σκύβαλα) is uncertain in its context. My source for understanding the term as at least offensive and likely vulgar is the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) by Kittel et al. The TDNT first explains Paul’s threefold usage of the word hegoumai (ἡγοῦμαι) translated “consider” beginning in the latter part of verse seven. They demonstrate the use forms a crescendo…consider lost, consider lost, consider skybala. Then Kittel specifically notes that “The choice of the vulgar term stresses the force and totality of this renunciation.” Further, the word seems to be most frequently associated with fecal matter in the context of Hellenistic Judaism. Josephus uses it in reference to the manure piles that the Jewish people ate so that they might subsist during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (Wars of the Jews). Symmachus’ Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible included the selection of skybala in the following passages of Ez 4:12,15. So, I did not pull this out of thin air. There is certainly strong evidence for the word to mean dung or fecal matter. And, there is good reason to believe it could be used in a vulgar sense though this is in no way conclusive.

6 Gerson, Michael, Washington Post, The End of Casual Christianity, 25 May 2015. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/rweb/commentary/the-end-of-casual-christianity/2015/05/25/75e6b06c-009f-11e5-833c-a2de05b6b2a4_story.html?tid=kindle-app on 1 June 2015.

7 Ibid

Thomas and Resurrection

Resurrection

Resurrection by Alma Woodsey Thomas – 1966

In 2006, I was fortunate to spend a month in Minsk, Belarus where I taught at a small Bible college. Very few people spoke English in a nation still sequestered from the global community by political oppression and material scarcity. For that reason, I was pretty isolated during my time without the assistance of a translator. Still, I found some satisfaction in my ability to read aloud and identify the occasional Russian word (i.e. cafe or photo) since the Cyrillic letters of their alphabet corresponded with Greek. By month’s end, a few special relationships had formed including one with Natallia Golos, an English speaker who accompanied me on a couple of outings.

Playing hostess Natallia took me to the National Art Museum and introduced me to a world of enchantment that I had not previously experienced. Before that day, I had little use for art. My preferred canvas was a high definition screen with a defensive end crashing over the tackle. In what I now recognize as a welcome break from media and English speaking people I was given the space to be content in the company of art for the first time. The small collection of European Renaissance art that had survived Hitler’s bludgeoning of this nation, once known as the Eastern front, mesmerized me. Yes, there were other pieces of significance but I was drawn in first by the floor to ceiling canvases of great Biblical stories and characters. These familiar scenes made me feel connected.

Some time later I was introduced to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen’s sustained reflection on this one piece of art brought me to tears and convinced me of the value of such a medium to communicate the story of God in a profound way. Since, I have become a lover of art; not an expert but a lover. I even hold a membership at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. For me, it is the story of the artist…their tragedies, triumphs, and revelations. Even those odd abstractions on a canvas come to life when one knows the story or attempts to interpret it. What I once thought belonged on construction paper instead of canvas now occupies my attention at a whole new level.

So it is with Resurrection, a painting by renowned African-American artist Alma Thomas. Chosen by the First Lady to stand sentry over the redecorated Old Family Dining Room in the White House, Thomas’ take on a resurrection makes me pause. Why? Maybe you have the same initial reaction as me, “that’s the color wheel I picked up at Lowe’s the other day.” But, I sat with this painting a bit and then searched for the narrative behind it.

Who is Ms. Thomas? Born in the deep South in 1891, Alma Thomas migrated with her family to Washington D.C. in 1907.  They trekked North to escape racial prejudice that would not even allow Alma to check out a book in a public library. One biography mentions, “Thomas often recounted the story of her family about to cross the Potomac River: her parents suggested that Thomas and her sisters remove their shoes to knock off every last bit of the Georgia sand so they could begin their new life.”1 There it is Resurrection…removal of dirt, crossing the waters, and new life. This new life afforded Alma an education in art something about which she was passionate.  “‘When I entered the art room,’ she told Eleanor Munro, author of Originals: American Women Artists, ‘it was like entering heaven.'” 2

As I continue to gaze at Resurrection and contemplate Alma Thomas’ life, the color wheel becomes something altogether different for me. I see a bright person at the center encapsulated by the dark marks of sin to which I was exposed and also those I willingly invite. I see deep cleansing water mixed with blood and as I cross there is a light that radiates in every direction. Those are my observations. I’m sure there are many with artistic insight that goes far beyond my offering. Still, that’s not the point. Art in general and perhaps more specifically, abstracted art, offers the audience an opportunity to continue the creation with their own story and interpretation of the work.

I wonder if that isn’t the point of Jesus’ remarks to Thomas recorded in the Gospel of John. Jesus says to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I can relate to Thomas. In fact, that’s my first name. By nature, I’m not much of an abstract thinker. I prefer a flat, two-dimensional world in black and white. Jesus, of course, has stretched me at this point so that I much enjoy the colors and topography of His new creation. Yet, put me under stress and I want to shrink back, raise the alarm, and have a clear understanding before I proceed. I’m that guy – the one who wants clean brush strokes and a concrete image on the canvas.

Alma Thomas’ picture of resurrection is bold. Unlike her namesake, she doesn’t need to see the nail marks. Her abstraction annoys me but only because it invites me to think. Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection annoys. Group think in his day was that the resurrection would mark the end of all things. The idea that this one man would be resurrected as opposed to all of Israel at once was preposterous. Forty days after His triumph over the grave and Jesus’ followers remained vexed. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). In my humble opinion, Thomas gets a bad rap. He was audacious enough to say aloud what most everyone else was thinking.

By contrast, Alma Thomas gets it. Her abstraction reminds that Jesus’ resurrection was not the end of all things. It is the beginning. Resurrection is not some concrete fact that we announce to the world. It is a canvas on which Jesus invites all of humanity to paint. We, “those who have not seen and yet have believed,” can share the story in new ways as the power of the promised Counselor resides in us and works through us.

Isn’t Jesus the most wonderful abstraction of all? Really? God in the flesh? How on earth? Well, maybe that is why we pray, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

A Blessed Holy Week to All,

Eric Greer

 

1. Escamilla, Brian. “Thomas, Alma 1891–1978.Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Mar. 2015 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

2. Ibid

What About the Silence of Leadership On Sexuality?

Photo Credit: Andrey Popov http://www.dreamstime.com/andreypopov_info#res10054844

Photo Credit: Andrey Popov

This is the first time I have ever written for Wineskins. For those of you who blog here frequently, my next statement may seem absurd. I feel like a rock star today. Yes, I know that’s crazy. It’s just that Wineskins was a part of my journey. A stack of print edition copies over two decades old remain in my library. My faith really came of age during the era when this magazine was first published. So, to be asked to write something associated with Wineskins had a special meaning to me. It may be the only time I ever do so. Still, I am grateful.

Ironically, Matt invited me to share on a subject that has been at the epicenter of my pain. My wounding began with sexual abuse and sadly the shaming and legalism of my early experiences in Churches of Christ was all too formative. I was a very messed up 20 year young man in the US Marines when I surrendered to God’s grace. Trying to make sense of those painful memories became more complex when I took human life in combat only a short time later. Trauma was fused to my DNA. Several years of marital misery, sexual sin, and lots of therapy followed. Still, today I am at peace with my past because of the healing journey in God’s grace. That should not surprise as God is the Master at repurposing broken lives for our healing and His glory.

Parallel to my healing journey I felt called by God to ministry. To increase my competency as a helper I became a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. I’ve practiced for twenty years and have specialized in the treatment of trauma for over a decade. During that time, I led a group for church leaders who have sexually compulsive behaviors and I have treated hundreds of individuals and couples who were sorting through infidelities, sexual abuse, and other related traumas. I teach at the University level in my field and I have been in full-time ministry for over 17 years. There are an infinite number of subjects about which I am completely ignorant. This is not one of them.

The main reason so many church leaders struggle with the question of what to do when it comes to helping someone with sexual issues is that they have not done a thorough job working on their own. This failure to talk honestly with people from the pulpit or in private is about their own history and deep-seated shame produced by an ongoing silence in their life and that of their family of origin. This silence will have potentially devastating effects on their marriage, their children, and their congregation because they are not providing appropriate information and biblical guidance about their own sexual development.

Modeling a healthy relationship with your spouse, others, and most importantly, God, is every bit as important as the actual conversations we have with our church and family about sexuality. The first task church leaders must approach is exploring and discussing our own beliefs and feelings about the subject. I realize that is a challenging task and for some of you it is a potential hornet’s nest. Before your own fears and frustrations cause you to hang up on me, please let me offer some words of encouragement. As I have dealt with my own sexual issues and other traumas and walked alongside others doing the same, I have become all the more convinced that God is lovingly in control of each of our journeys, if we let Him. As you face the possibility that the task of exploring your own sexual beliefs and experiences is a potentially painful one, I would like for you to consider that you will be doing so for the benefit of God’s kingdom. Your willingness to grow in your sexual wholeness can be a tremendous gift to all.

In my professional experience I would say that the leadership in churches runs behind this issue and says too little too late. Even if they do successfully transmit information about biblical sexuality, leadership does not often realize how crucial it is to take the conversation to the next level. Our churches need to know a lot more than your XXX sin is bad, be accountable, or go to Celebrate Recovery. I believe one of our primary tasks in leadership is to teach and model healthy relationships and to create a vision in the hearts of our people for the rich, fully developed relationship that married couples can enjoy and to understand that we don’t cease to be sexual beings when we aren’t in the context of marriage.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t have effective discourse with your church until you have successfully completed your own work. No one is perfect and wholeness will elude all of us during this lifetime. It is a process of exploration and some issues may even need to be deferred to a later time for one reason or another. How then could or should it be necessary to have done everything in your own process before you can lead effectively? If that were true, none of us would have a chance. So take this seriously but relax. Deal with your stuff at God’s pace and if you are married give your spouse the grace to do the same.

I believe the fundamental issue is that leaders be conscious of being on that journey and that we be appropriately transparent about that as we are led by the Spirit. A common theme for every person with whom I have worked is the plastic, spin control life that they managed to live. Let me add myself to that group as well. I mean, it’s as if we have never read the Bible. Is it not populated with the biggest bunch of sexual screw ups you have ever seen? Yet, they were leaders. One of the few people in all of scripture that comes off looking like he has it together is Daniel and he was probably castrated when he was sent to live at court. I’m not recommending that for anyone because we are still sexual beings even if we were paralyzed from the neck down.

Still, the myth of a leader who has it all together, figured out, stands head and shoulders above others is the prototype for too many churches. Has anyone read the story about King Saul? Experience has taught me that far too many leaders try to hide personal problems and work them out on their own. It drove Saul mad and it will do the same thing with us. That is why I am not a big proponent of some of these online support groups or classes because they are really thinly veiled places where you can trick yourself into believing you are in some sort of genuine community. As I write this @priestDavid is taking confession via SnapChat. Really? Remember we call the wireless world a “virtual” community not a real one. It is no substitute for help with skin on it. Confession literally means agreement. We are called to live a life on the outside that agrees with what is going on inside.

Difficulty talking to each other about sex can be caused by a few problems common to many people. First, you might have some sexual difficulty. In the age group 18-59 sexual dysfunction is prevalent at a rate of 43% for women and 31% for men. For those over 60 years of age that number increases. Second, you may have a history that causes you shame about who you are sexually. When I began acting out sexually at a young age in the 1970’s there was not a lot of healthy information available. While there was a time when I would direct a lot of my blame at the church or sadly towards my parents, I accept today that there was very little cultural awareness of this subject at that time and living as a victim of my past is not going to make things better today. But, living as a victim as I did for so long breeds fear, suspicion, and worst of all…secrecy. In recovery I learned a mantra whose truth is powerful and liberating, “You are only as sick as your secrets.”

Read Paul’s take on this. “We have spoken freely to you…opened wide our hearts to you…are not withholding our affection…my children – open wide your hearts also” (2 Cor. 6:11-13). He discussed sexual issues and my understanding of his writings suggests he had the same battles other women and men have. If you are a leader or a parent or an influencer of some sort…that is, if you are human, God has called you to a full new life…one where you can be who you are in Him. The struggle to live and be fully human as God created us to be brings pain. Oh, but it brings great relief as well. Try it. It’s like Green Eggs and Ham. Try it. You’ll like it. (That’s a nod to Dr. Seuss week).

The problem is that those of us in leadership often fear seeking help because we don’t want to be exposed and lose our job or power or whatever your idol is. Look, you are going to lose it. It may not be because you get busted for sexual behavior but it will be related. Your shame will come out in other ways and impair your relationships. What you will do depends. But, for those who don’t seek help I typically see a lot of finger pointing and blaming. “My elders….” or, “This church member…” Trust me; it has more to do with you and your unresolved issues than it has to do with an elder who has a control problem or a church member who has an axe to grind about your theology. Get help!

A reputable therapist is not going to report you unless you are a danger to yourself or others or for reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused. I served a church in the Deep South, for over a decade and my shepherds knew I was in recovery. They were very supportive of me continuing to attend a group and see a professional as needed. One of the first things I did in preparation for our move to Massachusetts to plant a church was to set up a system of accountability and ongoing recovery. I go to a support group facilitated by a licensed therapist every other week and I have since developed redemptive relationships with men in that group and elsewhere in New England.

OK. So where should I go for help or where should I send someone else? First, I would say that it isn’t necessary to seek out someone who is a Christian. If there is any consolation for my deep shame it is that it led me to believe that I was the chief of sinners and if there would ever be hope I needed to see the individual with the best training. To my biased surprise, one of the most outstanding therapists I ever worked with was a 67 year old woman divorced from a former alcoholic Church of Christ minister. She didn’t have a favorable opinion of God or the church. She was a consummate professional and was not interested in imposing her values on me but she did share those personal details in the course of our work. I am convinced God used that therapeutic relationship to do some healing for two people.

I ask you, “If your child were going to have brain surgery tomorrow, would you prefer Ibrahim Azar, M.D. an agnostic of Iranian descent, lauded as one of the best talents in the field or Jim Bob because he got his undergrad degree from Harding?” (No offense to my alma mater and both Ibrahim and Jim Bob are fictional characters) Sure there are a few Ben Carson’s out there. But, if you believe that the kingdom of God is bigger than the church, and I absolutely do, then you can appreciate that the skills this person has acquired have come from God whether or not they choose to acknowledge that.

What skills? You need to encourage people who are sorting through sexually compulsive behaviors to find a therapist who has a lot of training to deal with trauma. The first place I would recommend checking is the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals. If your DNA demands that you see a Christian or that this person must have some sort of understanding about Churches of Christ then contact Marnie Ferrie at Bethesda Workshops, Richard Blankenship and crew at Capstone in Atlanta, or Onsite Workshops which is owned by Miles Adcox (son of Jimmy and brother of Russ). They can help you or they can refer you to someone they trust.

Next, people need a group. We are wounded in relationship and we will heal in relationship. I believe in individual therapy but I’ve always referred my clients to a group that I led or to one that was led by others. Celebrate Recovery is a great program. It doesn’t deal with the trauma related aspects of recovery but it is still good stuff. There are also Christian groups around the country that do have trauma recovery as a part of their process. L.I.F.E. Recovery offers support groups in almost every state and they often know of connections that are not listed on their website. If you don’t know what I mean by trauma recovery; don’t worry, just point people to help. I don’t expect you to know this stuff. But, I promise you that EVERY (I am not prone to making blanket statements) EVERY compulsive sexual behavior is related to trauma.

There’s a lot of other things I could say like get an accountability partner, pray more, study the Bible, be in Christian community, computer monitoring, read a book, etc… You already know that. What I am saying is take it to the next level. Don’t be satisfied that you have really pointed people to help if you have told them those same old things. They need those things but an experienced professional and a group are imperative. What’s that you say? You did it without these recommendations? Probably not. Yes, the Spirit of God can spontaneously heal people. More likely, God used some informal support group and counseling experience or you may just not be acting out right now and you are hanging on for dear life trying to convince yourself and others that things are better. Really? Not messing up isn’t recovery. Jesus said that he came to, “give life to the full.” That’s recovery.

Next, I know a number of churches that have developed relationships with counselors over the years who provide services to their congregations. Just because a person is a licensed therapist does not mean that he or she is the best resource for every situation (think general practitioner vs. cardiologist). Help people find the best resource first and then let them make their own decisions. Don’t default to a good ole’ boy system. If you really think they can’t afford help, then see what you can do as a church to assist. I don’t recommend paying for everything. People should have some skin in the game. Someone in your church right now is struggling. No, several people are struggling. Be proactive as a leadership and set some resources aside.

Finally, I’m not a sin snob. That is, sexual sin is a convenient target for this sort of attitude (especially if it involves same gender attraction). I could enumerate a long list of personal sins that I battle – pride being one of the worst. Thank God for His grace, for the reconciliation through Jesus at the Cross, and the power of His Spirit. Please don’t be that church leader or that church that holds people with unhealthy sexual behaviors to a different standard than other sin. We all have a battle. This is just one among many.

Eric Greer

Missional Greer

P.S. If you have read this far, visit my page on 500 For The Fallen and consider sponsoring me as I run to honor some fallen mates.