Church = Family

Reverend Joseph Bae

  1. What points stood out to you from the sermon? What questions did it raise?
  2. Pastor Joe referenced author and biblical scholar Wesley Hill. He writes, “I imagine Christian communities in which friendships are celebrated and honored—where it’s normal for families to live near or with single people; where it’s expected that celibate gay people would form significant attachments to other single people, families, and pastors; where it’s standard practice for friends to spend holidays together or share vacations; where it’s not out of the ordinary for friends to consider staying put, resisting the allure of constant mobility, for the sake of their friendships. I imagine a church where genuine love isn’t located exclusively or even primarily in marriage, but where marriage and friendship and other bonds of affection are all seen as different forms of the same love we all are called to pursue.”
    • Wesley Hill is gay, but what he proposes in this article goes beyond just the gay person’s hopes for friendship. What about the quote above appeals to you? In other words, what do you long for from your Christian community?
    • Do you experience the deep, committed friendship that this author describes? If so, what contributed to that friendship?
    • Why do you think such friendship is generally so hard to find?
  3. Read Matthew 12:46-50. This event in Jesus’ life is shared among the first three gospels, which is a way of saying that it is an essential and greatly valued teaching of Jesus. Why do you think it was so important and meaningful to the first Christians? In what ways is this teaching deeply needed today? How is this good news to the gay Christian or Christians with same-sex attraction?
  4. To speak of family is to use the language of obligation and responsibility. We take care of one another. If we are to live this out and become a family that could truly extend friendship and welcome to anyone who comes to our church, what would be something you would have to change? How might your small group model that change? How can we all make sure that talk of ‘church family’ isn’t just talk?

Note: I am thinking that as Jesus talks about the community of disciples and followers he understands it in terms of family and friendship and in both terms, Jesus is calling us to something higher. For the purposes of this discussion, I use friendship and family interchangeably: Church is a family and a community of true friends (No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:13-15)

RE: question 3 – For the early church, Jesus’ followers were persecuted, seen as outsiders in their communities and even families. As well, Jesus states in the passage and in John 15:13-15, faith and belief in Jesus is a matter of obedience, of doing. Encouragement and people to be with us along the way has always been necessary for living out faith. This is important as people face and consider alienation from community they’ve grown up with, as they face death, as they grow old, as they worship and do ministry together.
Today, not much has changed. But unique is the increasing value of independence as we also see and feel increasing loneliness and need for interdependence.

For Christians who seek to faithfully respond to same-sex attraction by living a life of celibacy, this is so important. Permanence and a belonging are greatly desired, things that many have always just assumed can or should be found in the bonds of family or marriage. Looking ahead at potentially a lifetime of singleness, the church is what Jesus has given to them and to us all because we all long for permanence and belonging and the privilege of also giving the love we have. 

Created by God

Reverend Joseph Bae

  1. What points stood out to you from the sermon? What questions did it raise?
  2. Read Gen 2:18-25. This is the account of God’s design and intent for marriage. What do you see God desiring to provide and give his good creation in this passage through marriage?
  3. What are some of the ways both single and married people make an idol (something we trust, give loyalty and desire more than God) of marriage?
  4. For the Christian, Scripture calls for ‘oneness’ – sex – to be expressed and experienced within the loving, exclusive and permanent covenant of marriage, a union of one man and one woman. For both single and married, how is this sexual ethic difficult to live out? In calling people to live this out through faith and obedience, what kind of people is God shaping and calling us to be? In other words, how is the Christian sexual ethic a good thing?
  5. Sex and marriage, though seen as private matters, are very public. Ethicist and theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes how the church is made up of both single and married people who are both symbols and witnesses that can powerfully point to God. Singleness points to the church’s confidence in God’s power to affect lives for the growth of the God’s kingdom; marriage and the children that may result is a sign of their hope in God’s abiding presence and care for this world. If this is the case, how could we live out our singleness and marriages in the church in ways that encourage confidence and hope in Christ? How can we help each other live this life?

RE question 5:

Ethicist and theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes,

“Of course, the individual texts are significant for helping us understand the early church’s sex ethic, but they must be understood in the broader context of the early Christians’ understanding of their mission. Ironically, in that respect singleness is a better indication than marriage of the church’s self-understanding. The early church’s legitimation of singleness as a form of life symbolized the necessity of the church to grow through witness and conversion. Singleness was legitimate, not because sex was thought to be a particularly questionable activity, but because the mission of the church was such that “between the times” the church required those who were capable of complete service to the Kingdom. And we must remember that the “sacrifice” made by the single is not that of “giving up sex,” but the much more significant sacrifice of giving up heirs. There can be no more radical act than this, as it is the clearest institutional expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the church.

But both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life as the historic institution that witnesses to God’s Kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to affect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation are the symbols of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope, in spite of the considerable evidence to the contrary, that God has not abandoned this world.”

RE: question 5

Additionally, it’s important to remember how traditionally, marriage has been understood. From a Catholic perspective, it is a sacrament, a symbol of God’s love; from a protestant perspective marriage serves the common good in creating character and being the best environment in which children grow and thrive. Today, we’ve seen a huge shift from those understandings to marriage being about self-fulfillment (emotional and sexual) and self-actualization.

RE: question 2

I had in mind the following but I’m sure that you’ll think of more: the gift of partnership and wholeness; a sense of (re)union through relationship and sexual intimacy; the gift of being able to bring wholeness and completeness to the creation of God; the gift of this committed relationship which provides the framework to be loved and known as we are, without shame; before the Fall (sin), God provided good work, good desires for companionship and satisfied and provided for that desire.

A snapshot of how marriage is viewed in Scripture:

  • God creates male and female in his image to be his agents in the world
  • Male and female coming together for a covenantal bond with each other and bearing children.
  • Marriage imagery in the prophets as description of our covenantal relationship with God.
  • Follow through to the gospels:
  • Jesus is asked about marriage - questioned on divorce and marriage (mark 10, matt 19)
  • Jesus quotes from the genesis accounts — he speaks to God’s intention on this pair to be together for life.
  • Paul: teaches the same thing. Eph 5 references the Genesis text; marriage as parable for Jesus’ love for his church, the bride.
  • Revelation: again, marriage is used as the image of Jesus’ love for the church. This wedding supper for the lamb.

“Thus Scripture defines the marriage God instituted in terms of heterosexual monogamy. It is the union of one man with one woman, which must be publicly acknowledged (the leaving of parents), permanently sealed (he will "cleave to his wife"), and physically consummated ("one flesh"). Scripture envisages no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative…The reason for the biblical prohibitions is the same reason why modern loving homosexual partnerships must also be condemned - namely that they are incompatible with God's created order. And since that order (heterosexual monogamy) was established by Creation, not culture, its validity is both permanent and universal. There can be no "liberation" from God's created norms; true liberation is found only in accepting them.”

(John Stott, Involvement).

Sexual Identity in Christ

Reverend Angie Song

Our continuing series on sexuality and the church. If you would like to join the conversation in the community of small groups, contact Reverend Joe.

  1. What points stood out to you from the sermon? What questions did it raise?
  2. In what ways are your identity rooted in Christ? In what ways are you discovering that our society’s culture is telling you who you are?
  3. In what ways is your identity in Christ enough for you in your value and view of self? In what ways does that Christ-centered identity feel like it isn’t enough?
  4. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. As Christians, how are we to properly understand our sexual desires and identity in Christ?
  5. How do we as Church (ie. the body of Christ) relate to each other in a way that encourages and reminds us of our true identity? Share examples or suggestions.

Notes on Question 4:

Corinthian Context

-Corinthians had a dualistic understanding of flesh and spirit (they are not connected, the flesh is less important than the spirit)

         -this thought was wrongly appropriated by the Corinthian Christian

-they believed the spirit was already redeemed and since the flesh didn’t matter, so they could do whatever to the flesh to prove that they were truly free in Christ (ie. gluttony, sexual immorality)

-they didn’t believe what they did to their bodies would be judged because only their spirits would be raised when Christ returns

Verses 9-10

-a list of the most common and offensive of Corinthian sin

-ruthless self-gratification, self-serving - reckless of other people’s rights

-these are labels - they’ve become an identity, persistent sins

-note: homosexual sex (men who have sex with men) - 2 words in Greek

         -malakoi - effeminate/soft; passive partner in same-sex relationship

         -arsenokoitai - male+bed/lie down; active partners in same-sex relationship

Verse 11

-washed - inward cleansing of sin, Spirit’s transforming work

-sanctified - made holy, to be set apart, belong to God exclusively

-justified - declared righteous

-idea expressed here: become what you really and already are in Christ

Verses 12-13

-this is a Corinthian saying, said mostly by the wealthy

         -wealthy Corinthian Christians were also saying this

-Corinthian parties included gluttony of food and sexual immorality

-an attitude of self-love and gluttonous behaviour

         -egotistical nature went against unity and identity of the community

-their freedom is at a cost to others’ freedom in the same body/church

-true freedom comes not from permission to do everything but from not being enslaved by anything

         -and only by the Holy Spirit’s power can we truly be set free

Verse 14-20

-what we do to our bodies will also be judged by Christ

-all of us that a part of the same body (church) have a stake in what each other do - when one part hurts, we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12:26)

A Worthy Response

Reverend Joseph Bae

In 2015 the General Assembly adopted a motion inviting congregations, sessions, presbyteries and synods to enter into conversation on the topics of human sexuality, sexual orientation and other related matters, the results of which would be shared with both the Committee on Church Doctrine and Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) prior to March 31, 2016.

This is the the start of our conversation. If you would like to join the conversation in the community of small groups, contact Reverend Joe.

  1. What points stood out to you from the sermon?
  2. What are some of your questions around the church’s position on homosexuality?
  3. Look up and read the following passages and what they have to say about the posture and attitude of Christians as they relate to fellow believers and those outside the church.
  4. Ephesians 4:1-3, Titus 3:1-2, Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Peter 3:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12
  5. Why do you think the early church placed such an emphasis on these ways of relating to people inside and outside the church?
  6. Paul talks about humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing one another in love as being consistent and worthy expressions of our faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. What would it look like for our church to radically start living in this way as a way to welcome all people into the community of faith? What would be different? What would it take?

Notes on question 3.

  • So many of the letters sent to the churches in Scripture describe what Christian conduct and character should entail – they talk about the same thing. Love, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing one another.
  • They are not given in a vacuum but the all these early churches probably knew the necessity of such teaching:
  • Through Christ, people find themselves (suddenly) in a new spiritual family and community. This is the unity that is accomplished and given to us in Jesus. Our work is to learn how to live out of that new reality and will require these attitudes and postures.
  • Paul talks about making every effort – being crazy passionate – about maintaining this unity we have: the most important thing about us is that we are united in our faith in Jesus who saves us and makes us sons and daughters of God.
  • It was easy and tempting to drift away from the gospel. It’s kindness that brought us to faith in Christ; the call to kindness keeps us constantly rooted in something that reminds us of Jesus.
  • These are values that Jesus lived out in his life and ministry to people. These attitudes are how we are to be more like Jesus.
  • These attitudes were to be part of their witness to the people who did not yet believe in Jesus. The witness of the church to those who do not believe is important. Like Jesus, we live to give glory to God – help others see God’s goodness. Though they may not have had a loud or popular voice in their day, the early church became known for their kindness, compassion and care for people. Today, we need to get back to being known for those things.