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How beer and sex are proof that God is good and wants what is best for us

I gave a talk at Griffith University’s Mount Gravatt and Nathan campuses today for Griffith Christian Students. It was titled “How beer and sex are proof that God is good and wants what is best for us”.

Here’s the transcript (this approach was very much inspired by Glynn Harrison’s A Better Story: God, Sex, and Human Flourishing).


I want to start by asking you to use your imaginations.

Imagine you’re in love.
You’ve met the perfect person.
You’ve flirted.
You’ve been out for coffee.
You’ve had that awkward first date; and desire has awakened. You think this person might be ‘the one’…
The fires are lit. Metaphorical ones. There’s a part of you that is newly aroused — hoping for new possibilities… There’s anticipation in every touch, every moment of your skin brushing against theirs. The thrill of the chase — and of being chased… It’s like a dance…
You enjoy a nice dinner together; there are candles.
You find yourself together; alone at last; the barriers between you coming down. You feel safe to be yourself, shameless.
You come together. Your bodies joined. Your skin tingles. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. Your breath quickens…
For a fleeting moment you experience ecstasy. Pure bliss. You wish it could last forever…
You’re left wondering when the next time will be. Imagining it. Chasing it. Fantasising or researching how to extend that feeling… That bliss…
It feels like Heaven.

For some of you this story is a future hope — you are waiting for someone, somewhere, who’ll flesh this out for you… For others here it might be last weekend… Last month… For some of us this is the sort of illicit fantasy that might both thrill us and leave us feeling a bit dirty. Ashamed. Especially if you’ve grown up hearing Christians only ever talk about sex in hushed tones or about purity and sin… About the “price tag” sex has… It’s also the plot of just about every romance movie or novel ever written…

Here’s another story.

Imagine there’s a party. All your friends are there. There’s bunting, hipster lighting, the music is on point. There’s dancing. Laughter. You’ve never been funnier; you’ve never heard conversations that stimulate your imagination like this; you’ve never looked better. The food is amazing — dish after dish brought out for you to enjoy, it’s like someone gave you their Uber Eats account and said ‘go nuts’… And the beer. It’s not that cheap nasty stuff that students survive on… This is some hipster micro-brewed craft stuff — it’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. There’s complexity in every sip — flavours you can’t quite describe, it’s like the word for them appears on the tip of your tongue and then disappears only to be replaced with some other exotic idea. You feel the warmth of the alcohol working its way through your system — what was already a great night is suddenly even better. You’re totally relaxed. You have another sip and the coolness of the beer as it hits the back of your throat is exceptionally refreshing. The sun is setting — you want to capture this moment forever. Instagram won’t do it justice. This feels like heaven…

For some of you this story is the picture of the party you went to last weekend — or it’s the party you hope to throw. Some of you can’t stand the taste of beer or understand why anybody would bother, some of you have decided not to drink alcohol for very good reasons… Some of you are possibly not old enough to legally drink… I’d invite you to replace the beer in this scene with the best version of whatever drink it is that you enjoy.

The point is, there are all sorts of good things in this world that give us pleasure. That satisfy us. Sensual experiences that excite us, leave us hungry for more, and that might even lead to an addiction… And so I want to ask this afternoon…

“What’s the point?”

Do sex and beer have a point beyond themselves? An ‘end’ in the philosophical sense to which they are a means, are they just pointing to themselves as a source of a particular sort of pleasure?

What’s the point of pleasure? Our bodies are hardwired to receive it; to be stimulated by it; to enjoy pleasures — there’s a link between sensuality and our senses.

Why is that?

Where are you looking for pleasure? Where are you looking for satisfaction?

I want to make the case this afternoon that there’s a reason these sublime moments — the taste of joy via our senses — sex with a lover or a stunningly good beer — there’s a reason these fleeting moments feel like heaven.

It’s because they were made to by a good God; and more than that, that there is a purpose to these pleasures, and that’s to point us towards Heaven. Towards a connection — a relationship — with him as our loving and good creator.

I want to suggest there’s at least three bits of evidence for this claim —

One. The problems that come when we see these pleasures as “ends” in themselves, and build our lives around them.

Two. What the Bible says about God and his creation and what it is for, and that these pleasures are even better when we listen to him.

Three. And that better than that, we will truly flourish if instead of fixating on these pleasures — being captivated by them — we look along them to what they point to — this eternal reality.

The first two points are points you might even be able to leave today pondering and agreeing with without accepting the third; but the third is where the real punch is for Christians…

In a nutshell, what I’m claiming is that good sex and good beer are a taste of the good life with God for eternity; that being one with God is a greater source of intimacy and pleasure than a fleeting, orgasmic, moment here on earth — an eternal orgasm even… And that the best most fleeting bits of pleasure that come from food and drink now are a taste of the abundance of God — the banquet he prepares for us to enjoy eternally in a new creation — and that these things are meant to point us to God now, the danger is that because our hearts are turned away from God and towards ourselves — we take these pleasures and instead of directing them where they were made to be we pursue them for our own sake and end up owned by them; captivated… Enslaved… And so they lose their lustre as they lose their connection to their God-given purpose.

I’m saying that we get into trouble when it comes to beer or sex when we look at them as a source for satisfaction rather than looking through them… Imagine that I gave you a pair of glasses now and you had to choose between looking at them and looking through them — they might be an exceptional piece of craftsmanship and optometry so that you can appreciate them as glasses, but it’s only when you look through them and they correct your sight that they’re doing what they were made to do. This is the difference between seeing sex and beer… Or other pleasures… As ends to pursue with your life, and seeing them as a means to an ends.

The Dark Side of beer and sex
There are obvious problems when we look for heaven on earth — and these are problems that reveal a dark side of our hearts.

We’re not just wired to experience pleasure; we’re hardwired to love, to pursue some picture of a good life, to build our lives so that we’re living in some sort of story where we want a happy ending and we choose what that ending looks like by choosing what we love. Sociologists and scientists have started writing about the power of story in terms of what makes us human; it’s story making, story telling, and story keeping that sets us apart from the animal kingdom — the ability to give meaning to our experience of pleasure and then organise our lives around the pursuit of some good things flows out of this part of our humanity. We dream in stories — our subconscious, when left to its own devices, tells stories — and they’re stories where we are at the centre, we are the hero, this isn’t just a sub-conscious thing, it’s our experience of the world… We’re naturally wired to put ourselves first and to assume that we are the centre of reality because we are the centre of our own reality; our own experience. Some Christian theologians who saw the danger of this way of life described this reality — the reality that we are lovers and self-centred-story-tellers — as our hearts being curved in on themselves — even when love flows out from us towards a person, or a pleasure, it’s for our own good, our own joy, our own satisfaction… This is basically what the Bible calls sin, it suggests that instead of curving in on ourselves; instead of first being lovers of self and so lovers of the things that give us pleasure, we were made to be lovers of God and have that love shape everything else.

The consequences of this new natural inclination, our loves, being shaped like this, are disastrous… And sex and beer prove this…

Let’s talk about sex…

If you approach the goodness of sex, and sexual pleasure, with yourself at the centre then even in a relationship, one built on commitment and love, your relationship — and the sex within it — will be built around your pleasure, on your orgasms, the other person in your relationship will be there for your pleasure; a servant even… There are more destructive versions of this story…

Let’s assume you don’t want commitment and the responsibility it brings — that you’re part of the Tinder generation and more interested in hook ups, in pleasure with no strings attached… At that point while there might be mutual moments of bliss, sex has become a transaction, the other person purely a means with sexual pleasure as an end, with no greater purpose. It becomes hollowed of anything significant; it’s not part of the bringing two people together like the story we imagined at the start… It’s someone you might never see again — not even a friend with benefits… Sure, a Tinder hookup might lead to something more long term, but the mechanism is designed to make sex as frictionless as possible.

But for the people who can’t get a ‘swipe right’ — or the people who aren’t satisfied by the amount of sex or pleasure delivered in their encounters with a partner there’s porn and prostitution…

Now; while you might be here not thinking there’s anything inherently wrong with porn or prostitution, and while you might be expecting me to ride some Christian moral high horse at this point — quite apart from the question of sin, which is where they land according to the Bible, there is real harm done to women in both these industries — they aren’t the liberating, empowering, things that the Sex Party claims they are…

Porn rewires your brain and resets your expectations for real world relationships — counsellors and medical professionals have started telling horror stories of teenage girls being pressured into violent sex acts by their porn addicted boyfriends — but it’s worse than that, some research suggests a link between the desensitising effect of pornography when it comes to normal ‘in the flesh’ relationships and both an inability to orgasm in normal sex, or premature orgasm amongst those who use porn for a ‘quick fix’… Porn kills love. It kills sex. It removes any chance of a ‘greater’ end for sex, and turns it into a means to a quick release; where your imagination is reshaped so that your partner is simply the object of your fantasy — typically women are being turned into objects of the ‘male gaze’ — I heard a filmmaker, a woman, talking on the radio the other day about how the ‘male gaze’ in normal movies means women and their desirability are almost always presented on male terms, which means a male standard of beauty and sexuality is presented to our culture — porn takes this and amplifies it in a way that is destructive… To both men and women…

Then there’s the relationship between prostitution and the pornography industry and sex slavery — the women on screen, or in brothels are often trafficked; brought to the west on promises of liberty and prosperity and locked in places by lies and threats, forced to perform sexual acts for meagre financial return, and no love.

When we approach sex from ‘dark hearts’ — hearts curved on ourselves — as an ‘ends’ or for our own pleasure — we hurt others and we hurt ourselves. It’s not just those ‘moral high-horses’ that Christians like to whip so often that makes this case — it’s the #metoo phenomenon that reveals again what men with power do to women with that power, and it’s the staggering rate of sexual abuse on university campuses and in the world beyond the campus… And cultural issues around consent…

Add our darkened hearts around sex to the impact of those same hearts on how power plays out in systems and structures and the interactions of individuals and there’s a real ugliness to how sex is used in our world.

Sometimes one person’s pursuit of Heaven produces an experience like Hell for another person.

You can make the same case, or a similar one, with beer by pointing to alcoholism, alcohol fuelled violence, the effect of binge drinking, drink driving, and the link between excessive alcohol consumption and heart disease — the biggest killer in Australia. There’s, on the flip side, some evidence that moderate drinking actually provides a degree of protection from the heart disease thing — you can have too much of a good thing.

The point is we’re made to love and to pursue life by choosing what to love and if we put sex or beer or pleasure at the centre of our love rather than people or God, then that desire for pleasure warps all our other relationships, and starts to deform our bodies and our experience of life in the world. If I had time I’d argue that putting people in that central spot rather than God produces a similar warping of all our other relationships while loving God ultimately transforms our relationships with others, but that’s another talk… Because what I really want to talk about is how putting beer and sex in their right place transforms our relationship and helps us see the goodness and love of God.

The bright side (created for pleasure)
Sex and the raw ingredients of beer are made by God for our enjoyment — but our rejection of God’s design; and of God’s place in our hearts distorts that good design.

The story of the Bible begins with God telling people to have sex — to ‘be fruitful and multiply’; with his declaration that it isn’t good for us to be alone, and with the creation of marriage. God made us as sexual beings and part of the Christian account for how and why our bodies experience pleasure is to affirm that God wanted sex to be pleasurable.

The first pages of the Bible also have God giving people plants to nourish us, and the instruction to cultivate and create with the good things he made in the world as we reflect his creativity — that’s part of what the Bible means when it says we’re made in the image and likeness of the creator. I’m not sure what better product you can make from the combination of grains and hops, but people have been making beer for a long, long, time.

Christians have been known for being anti-beer and anti-sex — at times we’ve overreacted to some of the bad stuff we’ve just outlined above… And chosen to say no instead of saying yes to these good parts of God’s creation. The Bible warns about loving created things more than we love God — and about the disasters that follow for us when we choose to put those things at the centre of our lives, but it doesn’t say we should reject those created things to avoid loving them too much; it says we should see them as revealing God’s nature — that’s in Roman — and that we should receive them with thanksgiving — we should look through the glasses and see God and the world as it really is, rather than looking at the glasses and seeing them as ‘the main attraction’…

The apostle Paul, who wrote heaps of the New Testament, gets a bad-wrap as a killjoy; but he warned against the sort of people who’d turn up saying we should reject good gifts from God to stay ‘pure’ — he writes to his friend Timothy, and in the same letter that he tells him to “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine”… He talks about this sort of person who he says will:

“… Forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” — 1 Timothy 4:3-4

For the Christian, these good things God made are meant to prompt us to turn to the creator, to love God above the things he has made and see these good things as loving gifts from a creator that we should thank him for… Part of ‘receiving them with thanksgiving’ is receiving them on the terms set out by the creator in his user’s guide — the Bible — you can’t truly receive something with thanksgiving at the same time as flipping off the giver… So the Bible suggests alcohol in moderation will bring pleasure and be good for us, and Jesus even turned water into incredible wine as his first miracle… And it says the best place for the best sex is in a marriage, which it describes as built on unity, mutual service, and love. This is the antidote to making sex all about your own pleasure — for it to be an expression of love… And not just love as some ‘curved back to ourselves’ thing we do for our benefit or advantage, but love defined as ‘self-giving’, the sort of love that puts the pleasure of your spouse above your own pleasure… And that doesn’t just emphasise ‘one off’ moments of bliss, but a lifetime pursuit of togetherness…

Plus… It turns out, that according to a bunch of studies, over the course of life, married people — people who stay married — have much more sex than people who either aren’t married or who leave a marriage. If sex is a taste of heaven, then marriage is the best way to enjoy this part of life.

So that’s point two — God made sex and the ingredients we make beer with — and he wants us to enjoy them in ways that bring us joy not destruction; in ways that lead us to thank him because he is good… And if you want to pursue the goodness of sex and beer this seems from the various observations and bits of anecdata i’ve laid out so far, to be best pursued in something like the way the Bible describes rather than being pursued wholeheartedly — from hearts darkened by self-interest where this pursuit of pleasure comes at the expense of ourselves and those around us.

I can’t imagine anyone seriously trying to argue that excess is better than moderation on the beer front, given the serious social, scientific and medical evidence to the contrary… And I suspect the same is true about stacking up ‘less sex with lots of people’ against ‘lots of sex with a person you love’… As a vision of a ‘satisfying’ or ‘good’ life…

The good life in Jesus 
So here’s the trickier case to make — that beer and sex and the pleasures they deliver are a taste of Heaven; that there’s a reason those stories at the start are stories of heavenly experiences — and that’s that these pleasures aren’t an end in themselves; that they aren’t just things to thank God for or to enjoy on their own terms — that they don’t just point to God’s goodness in themselves — but that they point to something bigger than themselves — that they aren’t just a nice pair of glasses but that they help us see something true and grand…

I want to suggest that those two stories we imagined at the start — that story of intimate, erotic, love — the unity of two people culminating in orgasmic bliss, and that story of a party where the food and drink flow abundantly in ways designed to excite us — these two sensual stories — are actually two pictures the Bible gives us of eternal life with God in the sort of relationship the Bible invites us to enjoy with Jesus… That our fleeting experiences of bliss now aren’t just meant to push us to thanksgiving to God because he is good, but that they are meant to pull us towards this eternal reality; they are meant to leave us breathlessly wanting more… And some of the dark sides of our pursuit of pleasure through beer and sex are the result of these eternal desires being applied to temporary solutions that leave us craving more; things that can’t bear the weight of our longings because these longings are actually created to connect us with God… I want to invite you to make the switch from pursuing satisfaction and ultimate meaning in things that can’t deliver — in sex and beer — and switch to seeking satisfaction in Jesus and seeing sex and beer as good things from a good God best enjoyed on God’s terms…

This might seem abstract — the idea you can replace a concrete reality like your experience of pleasure via your flesh with something abstract like loving and being loved by a God you can’t feel with your senses; but the abstract idea actually changes the ‘concrete’ realities in ways that are better for you, and connects you with something eternal and beyond our limited comprehension. It’s something that works for Christians all over the world, and throughout history. It’s also part of what makes us weird… What makes the world seem ‘weird’ to Christians is the apparent determination to keep looking for satisfaction in temporary things and fleeting moments of bliss if the ‘real thing’ is real…

This might seem like a long bow to draw if it wasn’t for the evidence on how destructive asking sex and beer to bear the weight of our apparently insatiable desires obviously is.. To us as individuals, and to our society… And it’d be ridiculous if we weren’t actually taking the Bible on its own terms.

One way to understand the story of the Bible is to think of it as the story of God pursuing a beautiful lover — the Old Testament is full of language that describes God’s people as his bride; and then as an unfaithful prostitute — it’s the story of God seeking to rescue and redeem his beloved from the clutches of an evil dragon; the stuff our romantic fairy tales are made from — the Bible talks about God’s people as ‘the bride of Jesus’ and about his return as the wedding day; the moment two become one — the moment we are united with Jesus in blissful, eternal, sacrificial love. The barriers down. Shame gone. Pursued by God through the history of the world and brought to that moment where he delights in us as we delight in him. Here’s how the Bible describes this scene, just after the king, Jesus, has defeated the dragon, Satan:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” — Revelation 19:6-8

The coming of ‘heaven’ in the Bible is a wedding between the lamb, Jesus, and his bride, the church. It’s a party where the food and drink are abundant… It’s the culmination of a romance — right from the start of the Bible weddings are about union; about blissfully becoming one.

Our experiences of unity and oneness and bliss in this world are a pointer; an entree; a ‘taste of heaven’ — they’re something not to look at, but to look through towards what heaven is really like.

And here’s the revolutionary part of looking at these temporary pleasures this way — knowing that they are not ultimate, it means that those of us who are captured by this vision, who choose to order our lives and the pursuit of pleasure around the belief that God, as creator, and Jesus as God’s redeeming king, are the source of the ‘good life’ that we should put them first in our hearts, and order the rest of our relationships and experiences around this commitment… Ordering our love this way means we love people and things and pleasures differently; it means a re-prioritising of our approach to beer and sex that might involve us freely choosing to not pursue them because we’re happy to approach them on God’s terms, according to his design, because we’ve taken hold of the idea that there is something better. It frees us to be radically different in a world where so many of the people around us define their lives, in terms of how satisfying they are, based on how much sex — how many orgasms — they’re getting or how drunk they are on the weekend… It frees some Christians who won’t, or don’t marry to not feel like they are less human than others, but instead that they’ve been caught up in a story that will lead to eternal bliss, and in turn that produces a less destructive approach to sex and power and abuse in this world… This may be the story of some people here — and you need to know you’ve grasped hold of the best and most satisfying thing if you’ve grasped hold of Jesus — no finite thing compares to the infinite bliss promised to you if the Christian story is true… Those who take this path are still embodied; still wired for pleasure; still sexual even, but the ‘ends’ of their sexuality is not some limited, fleeting, moment of bliss — or the accumulation of such moments — it’s not a dirty part of us that can only be made ‘pure’ in procreation or abstinence — it’s part of our humanity that is like a homing signal pointing us towards the God who loves us intimately and asks for our faithful love in return… Who promises to satisfy our desires with good things…

This new vision of satisfaction also frees some Christians who observe the damaging effects of alcohol in their own lives or the lives of others to practice abstaining… This might be some of you here, and you need to know that as good as a craft beer is, you’re not missing out on much and there are plenty of sensational sensual alternatives to enjoy…

Christians don’t take these paths because we want to say ‘no’ to a good thing, but in order to demonstrate that we’re saying ‘YES’ to something better. We don’t want to take good things on our own terms in rejection of God because we believe that leads to disaster… both here and now, and for eternity.

Sex and beer are great gifts from God; they point to his goodness as the creator of both our bodies and our ability to experience bliss… Joy… Pleasure…. And they point to the reality that real satisfaction for our desires is not found in ‘created things’ but in the creator, through his love story; his proposal; to us in the life and love of Jesus. The real ‘taste of heaven’ is heaven itself…

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What I’d say to Israel Folau (and those who read his comments about God’s plan for gay people)

God’s plan for gay people is the same as his plan for everyone else; and his offer for gay people is the same as it is for everyone else: Jesus; forgiveness and eternal life in and through Jesus. If a gay person rejects God’s plan — and this offer — then their destiny is the same as the destiny of every person who rejects God. Death and judgment.

Israel Folau found himself in a little bit of hot water during the same sex marriage plebiscite; earning some anger from the wider community, and some comparisons to the prophet Daniel (who refused to bend the knee to an idolatrous regime in the Bible and ended up facing lions who were meant to eat him for his troubles) in the Christian community.

The temperature of that water is heating up a little more after a tweetstorm this week, following this instagram post.

If the image quality isn’t up to scratch on your device; a commenter asked ‘what was God’s plan for gay people?’

And Folau, perhaps still inspired by the Daniel story, courageously answered (emphasis his):

“HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”

Now; the Aussie equivalent of Nebuchadnezzar’s royal guard (King Neb was the king who reluctantly threw Daniel to the lions), Rugby Australia will be ‘speaking’ to Folau about his tweet — and perhaps the corporate danger presented to Australian sporting bodies when sporting superstars cause community outrage… this story ominously mention’s Qantas’ sponsorship of the Wallabies, Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle said:

“We are aligned in our view that rugby is a game for all, regardless of sexuality, race, religion or gender, which is clearly articulated in Rugby’s inclusion policy.

“We understand that Israel’s comment has upset a number of people and we will discuss the matter with him as soon as possible.”

So. What’s wrong with Israel speaking out to articulate his religious convictions? Nothing. Really. The marketplace will decide what views are and aren’t acceptable — and how to accommodate difference; and it might be lions for Israel (just not the British variety), though ultimately his on field talent will probably protect him (in ways that it might not your Joe average, with similar views).

But, just as Rugby AU would like to talk to Israel about how he uses social media, I’d have a few tips for him from Team Jesus. These are offered humbly from my experience in Public Relations, and as a pastor who cares about how Christians engage with the LGBTI+ community

The first is: don’t make the mistake of reducing a person’s identity, or standing before God, to their sexuality.

Israel should’ve rejected the premise of the question — if he was going to answer at all. By answering he turned ‘gay people’ into something other than ‘people’ — and singled them out in a way that makes it seem like God has a special plan just for their lives; just for being gay, when he says ‘their sins,’ it’s hard not to see it directly connected to just the sins he is being asked about.

Not reducing people to their sexuality (or not accepting the premise of the question — which was obviously a trap) might’ve avoided a bunch of controversy — because it’s not being gay that earns judgment from God… it’s the very sin that Daniel refused to commit that earns judgment — idolatry — turning from God to worship anything else. Because that idolatry leads to death and earns us the death penalty. It’s ultimately rejecting Jesus, and so joining in with the world as it crucified him that makes God’s punishment just — it wasn’t Jesus on trial before Pilate on that first Easter; Jesus is the judge of the universe; it was humanity — us — on trial.

In Romans 1 which is a text in the Bible that talks about homosexuality and God’s design for life, the root cause of God’s judgment is, essentially that we humans “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” Now; sex is a created thing, so our desire as modern western types to find our satisfaction and identity in sex, and pursue life — or ‘worship’ — on those terms rather than pursuing God above all, and having him shape our lives (including how we deal with sex and our sexual attraction) is what earns us judgment. To buy into the idea that being gay earns you God’s judgment is to somehow treat a particular group of people as worse than all the rest of humanity; it’s not a thing the Bible does (you won’t find a verse that isolates gay sex from any other sin — including straight sex outside of marriage, nor will you find it outside an explicit reference to idolatry). Gay, straight, or bi — we earn God’s judgment because we reject him; and, because none of us meet his standards for eternal life — absolute perfection (sinlessness).

Sexuality is complicated too — inasmuch as sexuality is part of a person’s identity, there are plenty of same sex attracted Christians around who have chosen to put Jesus first, so they are ‘gay Christians’ — their attraction and identity are part of what they bring to Jesus, and part of what they sacrifice when they turn from worshipping other stuff to worshipping him. Their sexuality is not what condemns or saves them, what they do with Jesus is. Gayness isn’t what earns people judgment; what someone does with the Bible’s teaching on sexuality is an indicator of who occupies their hearts and shapes their desires.

The second thing Israel should’ve done was to be really careful to make it clear that all have sinned. Including him — there’s less distance between me and my gay friends (or him, and his) than this tweet suggests. 

To sin is to fall short (that’s literally what the English word means)… it’s also to transgress God’s law — and the first commandment in Israel’s ten commandments (the nation, not the footballer) is to have no God before God (Exodus 20:3), and to worship him only. Sure. Many gay Aussies put many things (not just sex) before God in their lives… but so do many not-gay Aussies. God’s plan for all people who reject him is judgment; death, even… but that’s not just for gay people (and, it’s not even because of someone’s sexuality). Here’s a couple more things Paul says in that same letter to the church in Rome.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.” — Romans 3:10-12

… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:23-24

It might seem tricky to capture this in an instagram comment or tweet — but I’ll put a suggested response at the bottom…

It’s not that Israel was totally wrong about the destiny for people who sin (had he broadened the category of people he was talking about to ‘all sinners’ — well, Romans says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 6:23

Here’s my third suggestion; and it’s probably the biggest.

Make a bigger deal about the goodness of Jesus so that repentance is about the positive step of turning to him because he is better than alternative gods, and the turn involves good news not just escaping punishment. 

Israel’s tweet holds out a little bit of the good news of life following repentance, but it’s kinda buried under his leading words. There’s a good case to be made that Israel has the order of operations a bit wrong in his picture of what God wants for people — the idea that we repent of our sin and then turn to God rather than turning to God and away from our sins (because of the goodness of God revealed in Jesus) is an interesting one; especially if God actually calls us to him, so that coming to life (away from death) is at God’s invitation while we’re still sinners. Here’s a couple of things Israel might consider.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8

It’s unlikely (though possible) that fear is going to motivate people who’ve rejected God to switch worshipping pleasure, sex, and self-determination — which seems to be the strategy in Israel’s comment — what’s perhaps more likely is understanding exactly who it is they’ve rejected — the God who gives life and love, and sent Jesus to reconcile us to himself. The truth that should set people free is that Jesus is better than sex, or any alternative ‘created thing’ we put in the driver’s seat of our life; the other truth is that it takes a work of God’s Spirit to make this change possible. Because when it comes to God’s plan for people, ideally, Paul has a bit more to say:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. — Romans 8:1

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. — Romans 8:28-30

So. How would I have answered the question: what was God’s plan for gay people? If I was Israel…

“That’s an interesting question — because it assumes somehow that God’s plan for gay people is different to his plan for anybody else just because they’re gay. It’s not. God’s best offer for all people is Jesus who came so we might ‘have life to the full’ forever — his plan for people who trust him is good and loving. Turning to Jesus changed how I think about life, including sex — but what we Christians believe about sex doesn’t make much sense without him. My hope is that all my friends — whatever their sexuality — might have a look at the life and teachings of Jesus. I’d be happy to help you find out more.”

My fourth piece of advice, as an added bonus, is the suggestion that with great social media power, comes great responsibility — and Israel, as a public Christian, should be stewarding his platform (and his talents) with wisdom and boldness for God’s kingdom. He’s got the boldness bit right; and we should applaud him for that. It’s clear he’s more worried about God than man… but his words have the power to do more than just turn off some sponsors, or have his contract torn up… It’s interesting to read the rest of James in that light. It has wisdom for how to use social media, like:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” — James 1:19, 26-27

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Bringing the Gospel to life on social media

This term at Creek Road we’re looking at the life of Jesus as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Mark brings the story of Jesus to life through the eyes of different people who meet him on his journey to the Cross. The people in the stories are a way in to seeing and hearing Jesus.

The word Gospel is a media term — Roman emperors used Gospels to proclaim their own greatness or to establish new titles so that the citizens of Rome could honour/worship them appropriately. The people who wrote about Jesus and called their writing Gospels didn’t do so in a vacuum — it was a very deliberate subversion of the Roman Empire (whose emperors called themselves the “Son of God”), leading up to the very deliberate subversion of the meaning of crucifixion and the symbol of the Cross.

So how should we recapture this approach to media in our day and age? That’s one of the things that thanks to our clever Media Team at Creek Road, we’re aiming to do in this series, called Jesus: Watch, Listen, Follow — and we’d love the online part of what’s going on to be something fun for people all over Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and the world. We’ve brought a bunch of the characters from Mark to life, on Twitter and Instagram and there’s a central website watchlistenfollow.org which introduces the characters and collates the posts. They’re posting as though the events of the Gospel are happening and they’re reacting, they’re interacting with people who tweet or comment on these posts, and then they’re appearing on Sundays as part of our kids talks at church.

Anyway. This is a big preamble to tell you that you totally have to, at least, follow the Roman Centurion (@r0mancent — Twitter, Instagram), especially if you need some motivation to soldier on, exercise, or read Roman philosophy.

Here are some samples.

Obviously some tweets are going to be closer to the Gospel narrative than others (which are character building). But if you’re keen to take part why not follow along, watch the story unfold, interact with the characters and share the good bits with your friends. That’s kind of how Gospels work.

Jump up (over cars) for Jesus


Image Credit: Daily Telegraph

Because it’s not the proclamation of the gospel alongside a life of love that is going to win people to the gospel (not to mention the work of the Holy Spirit, and God’s sovereign will)… it’s jumping over stuff on motorbikes.

Meet The Jesus Team.

“Jumping for the King was founded by Aaron Ramsey, a Christian minister, in May 1999. In obediance (fully sic) with the great commission,
Matthew 28:18-20, JFK stages motorcycle stunt shows along with other high energy activities as a vehicle for sharing the messege of the saving grace of Jesus Christ with large numbers of people simultaneously.”

Read more about this ministry in an article in the Augusta paper, the Jesus Team’s local rag…
This is a different group – but I assume they’re similarly impressive: