One of the oddest reflections during the trip South was on Jesus and sexual relations.  The reasons for this are mixed.  One reason was some people I know in Melbourne who have been hurt badly by sexual immorality.  Another reason is considering others who are practising sexual immorality, by most Christian standards, while others around them are not.  A third was starting to read Andrew Purves, Crucifixion of Ministry (IVP 2007).

In Purves’ book is a statement about ministry, originally from TF Torrance, (I think that was the correct Torrance) “Without actuality there is no possibility.” What Torrance was arguing for was that unless Jesus is actually working in a situation/ministry context then we have no possibility of being used for ministry.  Ministry will not occur unless Jesus is there.  We can not heal, redeem or bring hope ourselves, only Jesus does this.  This is not a new idea for me as my systematics professor, Ray Anderson, was someone who also trained under Torrance.

I started to think about this in the light of the other reasons I listed above.  Jesus is into reconciliation and restoration of relationship with God the Father and amongst his people.  Jesus is actually present in situations where relationships have the intention to be God glorifying through Christ.  However with immorality present Jesus’ presence is not available to support reconciliation and restoration but to bring conviction by the Spirit. Ministry in the midst of these situations is very different.

This lead me to think about how the Christian community has dealt with these issues over the decades.  One answer from the early church was that the body is evil and Jesus is only present to the Spirit/spiritual.  Another answer in history is that the church is called to proclaim judgement against those who are in immorality.  A third answer from the more liberal wing of the church is that it does not matter if it is consensual or loving.  The modern answer is that if I decide its ok it is.  What these answers do not realise is that outside the situation Jesus may be working differently again.  Love is not the final decide in issues of faith, Jesus is.  What I think about a situation is not the final decision, what Jesus thinks about the situation is the final decision.  For those caught up in cycles of pornography or immorality Jesus may speak conviction in the midst of the situation and soon thereafter but when it is confessed Jesus may be offering grace.  We in the church quickly decide that the first is always the right response and the second is never needed.  We are not being Jesus to these people as we do not know Jesus and his grace well enough.

“They love Jesus but not the church” is a title of a book and a thought many people have.  Part of the issue is that the church does not know Jesus well enough to be Jesus to people so that the church is liked for the right reasons.  That however is a different issue.