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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Don't Have Sex

Much of my life has been spent worrying about the things that Christian’s don’t do.


Seriously.


From my youngest days I remember hearing sermons about all the things we shouldn’t be doing if we wanted to prove that we’re saved (or something like that). They would often say something along the lines of, “Once you’re saved you can’t lose your salvation… But, if you do these certain things it should make you question whether you were ever saved in the first place.” And so I was told:

“Don’t play the lottery.”

“Don’t smoke.”

“Don’t drink alcohol.”

“Don’t hang out with those types of people (unless your purpose is to evangelize them).”

“Don’t play cards.”

“Don’t befriend Catholics.”

“Don’t play Pokémon (seriously. This caused tension at my church. I loved Pokémon).”

“Don’t listen to rock music.”

“Don’t say bad words.”

And then the biggest don’ts of all:

“Don’t have sex.”

“Don’t think sexual thoughts.”

And especially:

“Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, even think about, ever, ever being gay.”


This is not a comprehensive list.


And so, you can see, I was often left feeling inadequate. I would do something I wasn’t supposed to do, and then I would feel incredibly guilty and like I must not really be saved because I kept making mistakes. After all, if I were really saved, they told me, I would be able to stop doing all these things by the Power of the Holy Spirit™. And yet the Power of the Holy Spirit™ didn’t seem to be helping me. So therefore, I must not be saved and must not be able to access the Power of the Holy Spirit™.

And so, I asked Jesus to save me again. And again. And again. And again.

And again.


I could go on for many pages about the things that I heard that caused me to question my salvation. But I won’t.


This has caused a significant amount of psychological trauma for me. I’m not going to pull and punches here. What I experienced was spiritual abuse. It was a manipulation tactic for getting me to behave a certain way that was in line with the way that our leaders wanted. They said it was clearly what the Bible teaches. But I’ve read the Bible.


Spoiler alert: it’s a lot less clear and obvious than I was led to believe.


In fact, it’s quite messy and contradictory. It took me years to recognize that openly. But now that I’ve acknowledged it, I’m strangely ok with not having all the answers that I was supposed to have.

So rather than pretending to have all the answers and relying on the Power of the Holy Spirit™ to follow all the rules, why don’t we focus on what really matters, what almost all Christians will agree is the central point of the Bible: the life of Jesus Christ?


Jesus had rules too. And his are just as hard to follow:


“Love God with all your heart and soul.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”


And that’s it. Those are the rules. Rather than listing a bunch of don’ts, Jesus’ rules are stated positively, telling us what we should do. What if we focused on what we need to do rather than making a list of rules of things that we shouldn’t do if we’re really Christian? What if, before we did something we asked ourselves, “Is this thing loving to God?” or “Is this thing loving to my neighbor?”? How would our lives and our faith and our hearts be different if we lived this way?


Would we love the poor (another command from the Bible)?

Would we welcome the immigrant (also a command from the Bible)?

Would we care for the earth (one of the first commands in the Bible)?


Yes. Yes, we would.


We readily admit that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day misrepresented the Law as a burden to be caried and a list of rules to follow.


And yet, we’ve replaced this burden with another burden of our own creation. Jesus specifically called out the Pharisees for this exact thing, and I believe this same thing applies to many teachers and preachers today, “Jesus replied: You teachers are also in for trouble! You load people down with heavy burdens, but you won't lift a finger to help them carry the loads” (Luke 11:46, Contemporary English Version).


Jesus came to set us free from this burden, so that we can live a positive life, a life of doing, a life of loving God and loving our neighbor.


So let us live lives characterized by what we do instead of what we don’t do. Let our lives be a positive shining example of the love of God, a love that transcends everything, a love that will leave the 99 sheep in search of the 1 that is missing. That is the God I serve.


Loving our neighbors at Orthodox Christmas!

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