Today Tim Keller dived into what is possibly the most important issue for any Christian ministry; Contextualisation. But he also shared openly with his wife Kathy around the concept of marriage and sexuality in ministry. So in an attempt to merge the two concepts together and give you a
Contextualisation is basically answering the Christ and culture question: how can the unchanging gospel of Christ be communicated through media that speaks to different cultures without doing damage to the message?
Keller helpfully pointed out that while the gospel is certainly a truth that transcends all cultures, as soon as you choose language and metaphors with which to explain it you have bound it to the culture of your chosen language and images. At the end of the day we can't preach without targeting someone's felt needs or addressing someone's culture; so all gospel ministry involves contextualisation.... The question is really: are we doing it well?
Keller challenged us on our knowledge of the culture in which we are ministering asking if we knew enough about it to discern the questions they were asking and the narrative they were telling. The truth is we are more culturally blind than we know. See at the end of the day contextualisation is not about pandering to a culture or just saying what they want to hear... It is saying what they might not want to hear but using questions they want to hear the answer to... It is discerning the idols of our culture and then showing how the gospel both confronts them and provides greater satisfaction than they ever could.
So let's apply this to sex...
In many ways it is not hard to see the idols of our culture connected to sex. Sex sells... It is an all pervasive driving force in our society and is more readily available than ever before. Everything tells us that sex is a commodity.... and a commodity we must have! It has become one of our greatest hopes for acceptance, significance and happiness. Basically sex has become a consumer good for self fulfillment and our desire for self-fulfillment has driven us to tear down the boundaries and restrictions that were previously placed on sex. There is less taboo surrounding it and more opportunities to consume it leading to a greater perceived freedom concerning it. But I wonder how that is going for us? Has our sacrifice to the sex idol been rewarded with the satisfaction that we were craving?
When you take a step back from things you see that we have more sex but less intimacy and less restrictions but more anxiety. Porn culture has turned sex into a performance where expectations are too lofty to attain. In its wake women are left objectified with unrealistic demands while men are measured and often found wanting. Contrary to our hopes increased sexual liberation has not resulted in increased happiness.
But what if there was a vision for sex that gave true freedom, deep intimacy and unmatched joy? Surely we would long for it to be true. The Bible tells us that sex is designed by God to be an image of the gospel. In the gospel Jesus sacrificed His life to enable us to have a deep and joyous intimacy with God for all eternity. The gospel tells us that sex is not a consumer good for self-satisfaction but a symbol of self-sacrifice... A giving of yourself to created intimacy and joy for the other person. And it tells me that I am so deeply loved and accepted that I do not need sexual gratification to be satisfied, freeing me to love and accept my wife regardless of how sexually active we are.
The gospel also tells us that Jesus did not give us this joy for a temporary time but gave it to us under the protection of a covenant of love; He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Therefore the gospel also informs our understanding of sex by telling us that for our ultimate joy and satisfaction, for the protection of our emotions, that sex is designed to be enjoyed inside a covenant of love where the promise of commitment has been given unto death.
Ultimately the gospel gives us a sexual ethic that is not an oppressive regime of cruel restrictions but a context in which true sexual freedom can flourish without the expectation of performance, the fear of failure or the anxiety of separation. The gospel tells us that knowing the self-giving, covenant-keeping love of Christ is the only way to have a vision of sex that transcends the perils of our culture's sex obsession.