A Christian parent was describing to me a discussion they had with their teen about the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. Their child was making the argument that the traditional biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman was outdated and intolerant of people’s differences. Defensively the youth blurted out, “People should have the right to be who they are and love who they love!”
Our culture continues to drink deeply from the waters of individual rights, identity politics, and the complete erasure of God’s design for sex and gender distinctions. Christians, and especially kids, are bombarded by messages about “inclusivity” and “acceptance.” And expressing disapproval of any lifestyle choice is considered at best, intolerant, and at worst, hate-speech.
As a result, many Christians are distancing themselves from historical biblical views on sexuality. Many pastors avoid preaching on the subject for fear of potential backlash. Even parents find themselves on the defensive when they try to teach their children biblical values.
How is it possible to maintain a stand for God’s truth about sexuality amidst so much controversy and opposition, even within churches and families?
The apostle Paul was no stranger to a culture hostile to Christian truth. In 2 Timothy 2, he gives three principles for defending the Bible’s teaching amidst opposition. Helpful for any situation, it’s especially timely for the opposition Christians increasingly face when they maintain a biblical stand on sex and marriage.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Principle 1: Don’t make it (or take it) personally
Two things Paul says to avoid being is “quarrelsome” or “resentful.” They’re actually two sides of the same coin.
Quarrelsomeness refers to the way in which we make an argument. It carries the meaning of fighting, striving, or contending with someone. The problem with quarrelsomeness is that it puts up walls. It gives people the impression that we’re not just against their position on an issue, but against them.
Remember, no matter how severe our disagreement with someone, they’re not our enemy. Paul says, they’re “captives” of our enemy, slaves to their sin, and bound in darkness to Satan’s lies which seem like truth to them. This ought to evoke compassion in our hearts. We don’t want to fight or strive against them. We want God to set them free!
Some might say, “But we aren’t against people. We’re against their ideas.” While this distinction usually makes sense, it often doesn’t translate when it comes to sexuality. That’s because our culture has fused sexual attraction and behavior to personal identity. Disapproval of sexual behavior or lifestyle choice, therefore, is automatically equated with rejecting the person. This mindset is unique to our place in history, and it means we need to be very wise in how we speak.
Resentfulness refers to the manner in which we receive an argument. It means taking things personally or taking offense. That’s easy to do because even if you aren’t being quarrelsome, your opponent may be. They may express disgust or ridicule you for thinking the way you do. You might get called “intolerant,” “bigoted,” or “_____-phobic.” It’s hard not to take that personally.
But when this happens, Paul says that we should “not be resentful.” The word he uses means to forebear, or to bear with patience. That can be hard to do, so we need to walk in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit. But it will also strengthen us to remember Jesus words in Luke 6:22:
Blessed are you when men hate
you,and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
The reality is that in our present cultural climate, there’s no way to affirm and stand for a biblical view of sexuality that will seem acceptable. It’s an unpopular, minority opinion.
Principle 2: Choose your
words tone carefully
In place of a quarrelsome or a combative posture, we must display “kindness” and put on “gentleness” in both manner and word. Displaying any fruit of the Spirit, of course, requires that we stay in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16 and following), but there’s something else that Paul includes, which I think is very very instructive.
When we want to convince someone of something important, we often feel a sense of urgency. That’s a strength when it helps us proclaim truth boldly, knowing that the stakes are high for the person we want to persuade. It’s a weakness, however, when we think it’s our job to change their minds. When we feel it’s up to us to change someone’s mind, our attempts at persuasion can come across as coercion.
This is especially dangerous for parents. We want our kids to accept God’s truth. Unfortunately, we can’t make them accept it. And it’s no consolation to get your kids (particularly teens) to parrot agreement if they really don’t agree. As the old saying goes, “A person convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still.”
So notice again what Paul says: “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.“ According to Paul, our job is “gentle instruction,” but it’s God’s
Understanding this should relieve any feelings of panic or frustration if the person we’re trying to persuade doesn’t seem to be budging. Gently persuade. Kindly instruct. Then prayerfully submit them to God, asking his Spirit to convict and convince them of His truth.
Principle 3: Able to teach
Our readiness to teach God’s truth depends on many things:
- How well we were
- How long we’ve been a Christian.
- How diligent we’ve been to study our Bible.
- And what gifts God has given us.
Seldom do we feel as equipped or ready as we need to be.
In the meantime, one skill that we can all start working at is the art of asking good questions. Jesus was the master at this. He asked questions all the time because he knew that a well-placed, thoughtful question was one of the best ways to lower a person’s defenses and engage their mind on a matter.
One of the best tools I’ve come across for learning how to guide conversations by asking good questions is the book Tactics by Greg Koukl. This is a great resource to become skilled at sharing gospel truth, without feeling like you need to do all the talking or have all the answers.
Christian views on sexuality are not popular, and in some cases considered unlawful to even declare. There’s no way that we can spin God’s truth on this subject that will meet with the world’s approval.
But keeping silent on the matter is not an option. No, it doesn’t need to and probably shouldn’t be the first thing we discuss with someone whom we want to introduce to Christ. At some point, however, it needs to come up, because it’s an indispensable part of the gospel message.
Jesus saves us from sin and death so that we can become what God made us to be: reflectors of his nature in heart, soul, mind, and body. And this includes our sexuality. We need to remember that sharing the gospel means not only telling a person how Jesus saves them, but also what he saves them to.
Originally published Aug 20, 2019, updated Jun 30, 2020.