What began as an innocuous conversation among pastoral colleagues about how our summer plans were shaping up and what books we were reading, took a sharp left turn when one of the pastors brought up the subject of sex. "I'm really trying to be pastoral to a lesbian couple in my church. Have any of you had any experience with this?" Silence. After we all actively listened to the dilemma our colleague described with deep feeling, one pastor said, "I wish I had the troubles you have in my church, at least it would give us something to talk about that people in our culture actually care about."
What is it about human sexuality, gender, and sexual preference that provokes so much anxiety among followers of Jesus? Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time on the topic when one considers his passion for justice and vision for the kingdom as the accumulatively number one and two most discussed topics during his life and ministry. I wish Jesus would have been more deliberate in laying out his sexual ethic in no uncertain terms so we wouldn't have to continue arguing about what is permissible sexual behavior and what isn't. Many have attempted to develop such a systematic approach, but most I find wanting because of the ease with which they dispense with difficult texts..
As I drove away from what became a significant lunch-time conversation about a substantive issue in the Church and culture, I was proud of my colleague for taking the risk of actually raising a question that many pastors wonder about but are afraid to bring up for fear of being misunderstood. Before we too quickly draw up sides and begin shooting at one another with our firey proof texts, wouldn't it be nice if we actually stopped long enough to investigate and actually talk about what the Bible might have to say, if anything, about "real sex?"
I commend to you a fine book by Lauren Winner entitled, "Real Sex--The Naked Truth about Chastity" that seeks to discuss human sexuality in a broader context of love, marriage, and singleness. If you are interested in a more academic approach to sexual ethics in the New Testament, you cannot do better than Richard Hays, "The Moral Vision of the New Testament." I can't wait to see what will be the topic of our pastoral lunch the next time we meet.