Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Relationships: Sticky, Stickier & Stickiest

Just last year my wife, Myra, and I lead a small group at a local university, and the topic was relationships. We posed a simple question, “Do multiple relationships before marriage serve as good practice for marriage, and do you want your future spouse to be experienced sexually before you get married?” What would you say?

To our surprise the girls said that more relationships were better, and they wanted their husbands to be “experienced”. The guys were a little more conservative.

Next we pulled out a piece of paper and some scotch tape. We applied a piece of tape to the paper, and then carefully removed it. “Is the tape still sticky”, we asked? They replied that it might be, but barely. We asked why not, and they replied that the tape removed some of the paper. We all agreed that you might be able to use that same piece of tape 3 times, but afterwards it would be useless.

I then explained that relationships are like that. The emotional and physical bond that occurs is deeper than we can realize, and when we break this relationship it damages something in each person. Each consecutive relationship is less sticky and the breakup is easier each time.

Finally, by the time we get married the only so-called “experience” that we have is how shallow relationships can get and how easy they are to break. We are left with the memories of others which further pollute the bond that we desire to have with our spouse.

Again we asked the students the same question, but the answer was different this time. “It seems that it is better to wait for the right person”, they replied.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Gen 2:24

Note: There will be a part two to this post on restoration and how to become sticky again. There is always hope!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Christianity: What Not To Wear

Nose rings, cup holders in our lips, tattoos, ties or a tattoo of a tie? Not long ago I had a conversation with a friend about Christians who have piercings and tattoos, and it seems that for some this theological question is the biggest thing on the heart and mind of God. Of course we were talking about young people and not our grandparents. What should church policy be on these issues?

Believe it or not I had faced the same theological dilemma over 30 years ago at my first baptism. (I have been baptized 3 times, but that is a hitherto unpublished post) My pastor at that time was a very godly preacher, but his short sleeved shirt on baptism day revealed a tattoo of a woman in a bathing suit dated to the 1940’s. He got it I think in the Navy during WW2. As a newborn 10 year old theologian I was shocked but have gotten over it. He went to be with the Lord last year, and he had a great influence on my life. It turned out that he was able to be a pastor and a Christian with that tattoo after all.

As a somewhat progressive church planter I am willing to try almost anything to reach the lost. I dislike ties except on formal occasions, and I have no desire or need to get a tattoo unless it is my phone number which I can never remember. I reach
gothic kids now and try to dress a little cooler, but there is no need to dye my hair black unless it starts to turn gray. I considered wearing a spiked collar to fit in with the Goths, but at my age it might be misconstrued for the aberration of a more dominant lifestyle. I try to be myself, but I know others who for the right reasons are a little more progressive than I am. I lose no sleep over this.

From a cultural perspective the question of what to wear and what not to wear can be complex, but from a biblical context it is simple. All women in the US have seen the show
What Not to Wear, and if you are a married man you have also been forced to watch it. Some poor soul is submitted to this show by his or her friends and family who think that they could use a change. Their unique daily dress & grooming styles or lack thereof are secretly filmed for a few days, and they are then presented with the evidence and an opportunity to change. BUT, they must get rid of the old, and some people religiously hold on to 20 year old styles, mullets and the like. It sounds like a few archaic church styles that I know of.

The concept of this show is not new. The spiritual version can be found in God’s Word:

What to take off: Eph 4:25-29
  • Take off worldliness
  • Take off selfishness
  • Take off bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. 2 Tim 3:1-4
  • Take off a religious spirit. 2 Tim 3:5

What to put on: Rom 13:12

  • Put on the new self. Of course this means to take off the old self. Col 3:1-7
  • The armor of God. This is a big one, but I would like to emphasize the footwear here. Eph 6:10-20
  • Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. This means to look like Jesus and not like us. Rom 13:10-14
  • Put on love. Of course, a lot has to be removed to put this on.

Ultimately, God is concerned with the style of the heart and not the style of the clothing, hair or what part of our face we hang our dad’s extra fishing tackle. It is the heart that ultimately shows our life’s purpose or who is at the center of our lives. A heart that is properly clothed and focused on the will of the right person, namely Jesus, is prepared to be what Paul stated:

…I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 1 Cor 9:22

What determines your personal style, Kingdom purpose or just personal expression? The two sometimes line up but sometimes don’t.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:27-28