Living in Exile

Recently, an ACF staff member wrote me asking how to deal with a situation. She was ministering to a young woman who was wrestling with the new cultural norms of same sex relationships, transgender kids and adults, and gender-neutral individuals.

Her wrestling wasn’t with the morality of it, but rather why the Bible and many Christians don’t support it. This young woman’s viewpoint is quite representative of many Christian’s these days. She just didn’t see how the Church wouldn’t fully support someone as they tried their best to work out their gender or sexual identity.

(For the sake of clarity, the Bible doesn’t condemn anyone–and I mean anyone–for their behavior, no matter how extreme. The only condemnation of people in Scripture is the result of their open and overt rejection of God and/or Jesus. Said differently, God doesn’t condemn people because of their sexual choices. He does, however, judge those who refuse to humble themselves before him in faith.)

I wrote a brief reply to the staff member that stimulated some discussion among our staff. I thought I’d share it with you.

“Your email is troubling on so many levels. I think the crux is in this statement you made– The question I have is how to best equip these older women as they disciple these younger women who have great passion for Jesus, but don’t know what the Word says (or, if they do, don’t understand how what it says is what’s best for us re: sexuality).

 I have found that many people we’re trying to disciple–or even those themselves charged with making others into disciples—do not know the Word. Thus, we have to teach them what the scriptures say. But even then, we still have work to do, as many no longer see the scriptures as the sole authority—or as any authority—for their lives.

I find the same issue when I talk to believers about baptism or giving or sexual behavior before marriage. I used to say, “The Bible says . . .” and that was the end of it. That doesn’t work anymore, at least not as much.

I am finding that prayer, patience and MUCH relational investment does work. We are doing ministry against a cultural backdrop that has greatly changed. We can no longer assume the home field advantage. We have to think, lead and pray from the standpoint of a church in exile, not a church in the promised land.

I am ministering to a friend who has a really tough story. But she does believe in Jesus and is slowly falling for him. That’s both my strategy and my hope. As she falls for him, he is changing her. And he gets to decide what changes she needs to make and when.

But it’s SLOW. We must give the prayers and the relational process TIME.

So, my answer: we’re going to have to spend lots of time in 1×1 and 1×2 conversations with this generation. We can’t simply throw the scriptures at them anymore. I would tell your friend to see how many of these women she can invite into relationship for the long haul (it sounds like she is doing that already). Then I’d counsel her to teach them the Word, pray like crazy for them, and to be very patient. The road back seems to be longer than it used to be.”

So, did I advise her correctly? Comments welcome.