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Navigating The Tricky Waters of Sex, Family, Gender and Sensitivity

When I first began in pastoral ministry, I couldn’t then have imagined that the question of family would become a controversial question. After all, Canadian laws then stated that marriage was the union of one man to one woman to the exclusion of all others. And we in the church agreed. And so, at least in this most important area of life, the church viewed the state as protecting that which God, in His grace, had given to the human race.

But so much has changed in just a few decades. Canada’s divorce laws were relaxed. Prior to 1968, there were no federal divorce laws in Canada. In Newfoundland and Quebec, a person had to seek a private act of Parliament to end their marriage. In the rest of the country, provincial laws allowed for divorce if adultery or cruelty could be shown. No divorce would be granted until a trial judge was satisfied that the circumstances of the marriage actually allowed for a divorce.

Since that time, the rules surrounding divorce have changed substantially.But what was also changing was the definition of family. A great many factors all converged, creating the perfect storm: the turbulent sexual revolution of the 1960s; The invention of the birth control pill that allowed women to participate freely in sex without worrying about pregnancy; the feminist argument that gender roles are the cause of the subjugation of women; the homosexual revolution that argued that love and not gender ought to determine the acceptability of a relationship; and then the transgender movement in which genitalia and gender were considered to be different concepts.

A great many Christians have become aware that any discussion around these matters quickly frames the Biblicist in a very difficult light. The biblical value of heterosexual marriage to the exclusion of all others seems to many both restricting and condemning. What about the couple that has been living together for years but never gotten married? What about loving homosexual unions? Furthermore, isn’t all this talk about gender simply restrictive language? What if gender is fluid?

For Christians, there are two ways of framing the discussion. One is to attempt to reason through the biblical view of marriage and sexuality in the public square. Roman Catholics have long developed an argument from what they call DzNatural Law. This is an attempt to argue for heterosexual marriage without making reference to scripture, but rather than arguing its benefits for both individuals and for the whole of society.

But there is another way to go. I am arguing for the re-establishment of authentic Christian communities. For far too long, the mandates of evangelism and apologetics have been misapplied to church. Of course we must defend the faith of those who ask, and of course we must reach the lost. But “seeker-driven” spirituality simply doesn’t help. It only attempts to make the church relevant, rather than establishing an authentic Christian community.

I believe the greatest need in the present sexually pluralistic society is to teach and disciple the next generation to think Christianly about their own sexuality. We must teach them that gender is both created and assigned by God. We must teach them that the purpose of gender is so that a man might leave his father and mother and cling to his wife in the covenant of marriage. We must teach them what sex is for. We must re-enforce the value of family. And we must help them to understand that some of their obedience to Christ is specifically worked through their gender.

In this way, the Christian way of living becomes a prophetic alternative to our culture.

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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