college travels

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sexual Expression: A Basic Human Right?

I've been in conversation recently with a colleague in youth ministry education in the UK - sharing notes on how we go about certain aspects of our training. Recently Sally asked me how we equip youth workers to help young people who are confused or exploring their sexuality.

Here are some of my thoughts ...

I think that part of the reason that struggles over sexuality are so difficult for young people (whether same-sex attraction or frustrated opposite-sex attraction) is that our world has made sexual expression into a basic human right. We want to help students realise for themselves as well as encourage those they're in ministry to, to realise that their identity is wrapped up in who they are in Christ - not who they have or haven't had sex with, who they're attracted to, or what they wear, what they've experienced etc.

We need to have that sort of general 'climate', one where all of us are being told that Christian freedom doesn't mean we always get to do what we want, but that the path to freedom to really be who Christ has redeemed us to be lies in saying no to the desires of the flesh and yes to the fruit of the spirit.

So we're not just focussing on gay sex as if this was the only moral issue God is concerned about! Instead, we're talking about God's holiness, and his promise of the sanctifying work of the Spirit in each of us that transforms us to be more like Jesus. Therefore, if someone is struggling with a same-sex attraction that Jesus is asking them to say no to, the 'answer' for them is the same as that for the young person who hates their parents or who shoplifts, or who buys too many shoes - that is, God loves you, Jesus died for you, the Holy Spirit is renewing you, do you trust God in all this?

The advantage of this is that for the young person who IS struggling with same sex attraction but who has not / will not share this struggle with you, you're still ministering to them as you teach and model identity in Christ. Of course the other thing that needs to be emphasised is that the searching stage of faith development might mean that a young person is trying on all sorts of personas as they try to find a 'self that fits' - and one of those might be the sexual explorer or the homosexual lifestyle (which may or may not include actual sexual activity).

Where the role of the youth minister is to communicate and model the grace of God in Christ, the challenge for the youth minister is to continue to love and care for these young people, while at the same time being clear on the challenge to our self-determination that comes from Jesus' offer of freedom.

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  • Great post Graham.

    I agree that we need to be challenging our young people to find their identities in Christ and not in their expressions of sexuality.

    I can't help but feel that we also need to be clarifying for them what someone who IS finding their identity in Christ's sexual expression looks like. Such discussions are needed to counter misconceptions (eg. sex is bad and God is a killjoy), distortions (eg. talking about sex is ungodly and impure) and general vagueness about God's plan for marriage and the purpose of sex. Indeed, many who have aged beyond adolescence need to hear such discussions!

    Here's to more sex and relationships talks at youth group and church!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:58 pm  

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