47 High School Students Talk About Contextualization and Sexuality
May 21, 2016
Updated November 7, 2017
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This past week I was asked to coordinate a dialog among the Bible class students at a Christian High School on the subject of how to think Christianly about sexuality in our local context. The opinions of the students were frankly expressed and they lamented the fact that their school often comes across more judgmentally than they would like. Here are a few snippets of the time.
Just prior to showing a rather challenging video, I began by showing how our local culture can have a huge influence on how we read the Bible and how we see the collected wisdom of the global church. The students were challenged to consider if any ideas of individualism, the enshrined rights for self-autonomy, and moral relativism had influenced their thinking. Then we watched a video which detailed the journey of a man who thought he was a woman and how he came to see Jesus. I warned the students not to dismiss his words outright due to the ‘packaging.’ Here is the link to the video.
He really loves Jesus and was tearful when he talked about him
He was honest
He was sad and angry about how people didn’t dare to confront him
He didn’t see his life as wasted but wished he could have made different choices.
Drawing sea urchins, jellyfish and angel fish:
Using the material from a former article on the Network, “Two or Three Models for ‘Doing Church’” http://network.crcna.org/community-engagement/two-or-three-models-doing-church.
I asked the students to consider whether their culture and their upbringing would make them more like rigidly conforming sea urchins, totally accommodating jellyfish, or maybe more like angel fish. Part of the background of this idea was to help the students be more self-reflective and to avoid either the extreme of rigid judgementalism or that of mushy accommodation, but move towards Biblical and compassionate discernment and mutual accountability.
Definitions and discussion:
In small groups I asked the students to discuss and define the following, rather general and somewhat undefined categories. Their responses were quite varied and quite revealing.
What became apparent in the responses is that definitions matter. One student even suggested that it could be possible to redefine ‘Christian’ and ‘sin’ if one wanted to justify certain choices in life. Another student was upset when her peer suggested that by definition it is not possible to be a Christian in a same sex marriage. The same student was also not happy with the fact that the Apostle Paul suggested in I Corinthians 6:9-10 that some activities could exclude a person from the Kingdom of God. Then, out of the blue came a question that was related, but on the agenda.
“Is it possible to have pre-marital sex and then get married? That way the person wouldn’t be sinning any more.” This of course raised the questions of ‘how much can a person get away with’ and still be called a Christian, how does a Holy God view sin, what are the consequences of sexual sin, how cheap is grace, and so forth. I responded with a story based on wisdom from Tim Keller. When our grandmother dies, all of us say we believe in the Bible and in the resurrection because we want her to go to heaven, but on the other hand, when the Bible confronts our essential self-centeredness, we don’t want to hear what it has to say. Somehow, I suggested to the student, it is not possible in the Kingdom of God to have our cake and eat it too. Not all students were happy with that statement.
The students each received a copy of “Some Principles for Ministering to Brokenness” [previously posted on the Network here: http://network.crcna.org/disability-concerns/some-principles-ministering-brokenness] Part of the reason for distributing this article is the fact that the school and often the church has a hard time dealing with brokenness, especially of the psychological or sexual variety.
Final closing exercise:
The 75 minute class flew my and a few minutes remained to help the students think through good ways and means to develop policies for the school to cultivate an atmosphere of discernment, welcome, vulnerability and hospitality without compromise. I mentioned to the students that I was working on a something that flowed out of my studies on contextualization, namely a draft position paper on same sex-orientation and homosexual practice. [It is below.] The students came up with very good ideas in very short time. Among them were:
Contextualization is not just the stuff of foreign missions. It affects how high-school age students think about living out the Gospel in the local context. The opportunity to present, dialog and challenge the students was a huge Godsend. May they grow and develop to be Jesus-honoring scholars in the school of Christ.
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