Living in the World - Issues that Christians face

Housegroup leaders - We'll be running an evening session to pick up some of the themes emerging from this topic on Nov 6th, 8pm at SGCC.  

Outline plan for Housegroups on Human sexuality:

[Would the HG leader please use Part 1. of this set of notes to help direct some of this thinking and include some of its ideas throughout the evening’s discussion and study?]
First third/half of the evening:  Three sections A,B &C.
A.  Exercise: Let’s talk about sexuality!.
NB: this is about who we are, not whether we have ever had sex, or are still having sex.
  This house-group session is about sexuality, so let’s begin by thinking about ourselves.
Imagine the most masculine individual, (real, literary, or from TV/Film), that you have ever come across. Imagine the equivalent female individual. Describe each to the group.
Now imagine your ultra-male standing at one end of the room, and your ultra-female at the other. If you think of a line joining them together, where along that line would you place yourself in that spectrum? Describe why?
Would you always have put yourself in that position?
When you were a child did you feel masculine/feminine? What factors influenced your self-perception?
How has your image of your own masculinity/femininity changed with age:
0-10; 11-15; 15-25; 25--55; over 65; over 75.?
How does this perception of masculinity/femininity relate to your sexuality?
(leaders NB: please refer to Part 1., for the understanding of sexuality.)
Could you spend a day as someone of the opposite sex? Could you come to church, not being the male/female that you are, and still be yourself?
  In Summary, we relate in a sexual way in so many things we do in life: we react to the opposite sex differently, (albeit with equal respect and ‘rights’), from the way we react to someone of the same sex.
Humans are sexual beings: -our sexuality is part of who we are. We must recognise that, for the integrity of our psyche: we cannot separate ourselves from our sexuality, they are so inter-related. 
 And a person’s sexuality is not always a cut-and-dried issue: eg some people are born with both male and female sex organs; some people experience  sexual attraction only in relation to their same sex.
B.  Leaders: referring back  to Part 1 of this study, which includes a summary at the end, you may wish to discuss these questions
•       Do you find it helpful to see sexual desire as fundamentally the same thing as the desire to help your neighbour, or as your love for your country, or love for any of the arts?
•       What is the difference, then, between “desire” and “lust”? (See Matt 5.28)
C. As Christians, we recognise sex as one of God’s greatest gifts to us, but that it is also dynamite: with the explosive power both to create and destroy, if not harnessed and enjoyed as it was meant to be.
So let’s now try and describe or name what actions/intentions we think constitute sexual sin
  [For the leader: here are some suggestions to talk about]
•       unfaithfulness to a partner to whom you are committed;
•       sex with someone else’s partner;
•       sex with someone you’re not committed to;
•       forcing a sexual practice on an unwilling partner;
•       unilaterally with-holding sex from your spouse, (1Cor.7.3.);
•       prostitution;
•       using sex as a weapon or a bribe, (eg Delilah, especially Judges16.15);
•       sexual assaults including rape and gang-rape;
•       using someone for personal sexual gratification only, without consideration for the human dignity or feelings of the partner or any resultant children;
•       using one’s power to obtain sex from a weaker person;
•       incest; 
•       paedophilia.
Second part/half of the session.
The debate and dilemma surrounding homosexuality.
  One’s sense of sexual identity is not the same for all people. There is now plenty of evidence to lead us to an understanding that the phenomenon exists of the individual whose sexual inclination is exclusively to the same sex. This is not about ‘choosing’ to react and behave in a certain way. It is about being the person you are.
This is what is referred to here as ‘homosexuality’.
And the question of whether homosexual practice is acceptable for Christians is still occupying much spiritual and emotional energy today.
  One of the first ways in which we attempt to examine any issue is to measure it against our Biblical understanding. The Bible specifically refers to ‘homosexuality’ in about 7 verses. In some of these the translation of the word is not clear and different words are used in different verses. The Bible does not comment upon the phenomenon of same-sex intimacy as an individual’s orientation, as we are considering here, only on particular sexual acts.
Part 2 of these notes gives brief explanations and expositions of  some of these verses, plus others which are relevant to the wider questions. You may wish to refer to these as you discuss the following suggested questions:
Discussion questions:
•       If gay people are gay through no choice or fault of their own, do we consider that this is how God created them? If so, how might this affect the way we understand whether they are acceptable to him or not?
•       Discuss whether ‘sin’ is the breaking of rules, or whether there could be a wider way of thinking e.g. Sin is unGodlikeness, -behaviour which does not reflect the nature of God's character. (e.g. faithful, loving, nurturing and cherishing, etc)
•        How might that definition be applied to the list of sexual sins listed earlier?
•       Leaving aside for the moment issues surrounding the word “marriage” as applied to same-sex couples, if sex is for intimacy, and if the need for intimacy is fundamental to being human, discuss the basis for  denying gay people that intimacy?
•       If celibacy is a God-given gift, then is the frequently-iterated church position on gay people that they are acceptable as long as they remain celibate, sustainable? On what basis should gay people be required to be celibate simply because they are gay? Do all gay people have God’s gift of celibacy just because they are gay? If all don’t, then how do we the Church help them to express their sexuality, their need for intimacy, in a way that helps them to live full and holy lives?
·      In this whole debate, do you see the main issue as being about moral purity or justice?
·      Imagine your child asking you to explain the meaning of sex: in the light of all the above, what would you say?
 Pastoral considerations.
  Traditionally, many Christians have argued against homosexuality, on the grounds of: hate the sin, love the sinner.: ie. there is nothing wrong with being homosexual, only in acting upon the fact! But our unfolding understanding of human sexuality, demonstrates the error in this thinking. There is an inextricable connection between a person and his/her sexuality. We cannot ask a homosexual to effectively ‘de-sex’ him/herself; apart from being cruel, it is also an impossible thing to ask.
  Many homosexuals do try to deny their nature, or suppress it. This can lead to mental torment; a sense of sin or hopelessness that can lead to suicide; or the disaster of heterosexual marriage, until the fateful day when the truth bursts out and other people’s lives are shattered in the process.
  We need also be aware of the young people sitting in the pews next to us on a Sunday. How many of them are in danger of doing the same thing because we make it impossible for them to look us in the eye and say, “ I am gayl”?
  This is not to advocate the ‘blind-eye’ treatment for sin, because of pastoral concern for the sinner. It is about questioning whether we have been wrong to see homosexuality as sin, at all.  Homosexual sin, like heterosexual sin, arises when we misuse the gift of sex, for unGodly ends.
·      Are we risking causing pain to the heart of God by legitimising homosexuality, if he forbids it?
·      Does the acceptance of homosexuality in society undermine Christian  marriage?
•       You have two children, -twins. When they are 13 years old you decide to spend time teaching them a little about the deeper meaning and joy of sexual love.  You talk at length with your daughter of all the joys that lie ahead of her in the hope of her marrying and having a family. You realise by now that your son is gay, by his manner towards girls and boys, and by his questions to you over the last months.  What do you say to him?  Do you tell him you don’t need to talk to him because he mustn’t entertain the thought of human love and intimacy for the rest of his life, -it is forbidden to him?
•       Ten years later, your daughter is settled with a nice guy and they have a lovely child, but she never darkens the door of the church and says she has no time for Jesus. Your son has been single for years, but has just met a young man with whom he is well suited and whom he loves. He has explained to the vicar in the church he attends, -where he is a house-group leader, -that he feels called into ordained ministry. The vicar tells him that he cannot be obedient to God’s call and have any human intimacy. Which of your children do you weep for more?
  If the understanding of homosexuality as part of a normal distribution of human sexuality  is correct, we could preach the same sexual ethic to all people: faithful, permanent, committed, loving, adult monogamy,  -to the glory of God.
  If we conclude that homosexual practice  is a sin, we have to find a way of explaining to gay people why God will not accept them unless they embrace life-long celibacy.

Simon Butler, 14/10/2013