A Love Story
We simply have to sing. After we get food, clothing, and shelter, the next thing we need are earbuds. For just as surely as it is in our nature to cry out “OMG!” to someone or something, so also it is in our nature to sing love songs.
In the Bible God teaches his people to sing such songs to him. And no matter what Israel or the other nations did, and no matter what Satan and his minions tried, nothing could stop God from pursuing them. For he desires the hearts of his people even as a groom desires the heart and life of his bride.
That was his plan from the very beginning.
What does the Bible mean when it says that God created us in his image? The first three storylines here revealed part of the answer to that question. Thus, in regard to rationality, humans may well be the only species that are sentient. Although other animals do amazingly complex things such as weaving webs, running air-conditioned colonies, and building dams, they may only be doing what their Creator programmed them to do. By contrast, we humans are undeniably creative. We create recipes, movie scripts, constitutions, spaceship plans, etc. We can even program robots and send them to discover things that we could not otherwise discover, similar to how we can use telescopes to see things we could not otherwise see. Why are we uniquely creative? The Bible says that we were created in the image of our Creator.
Likewise, our political nature reflects something of the image of God. We work together to build nations, economies, legal systems, etc. Again, although other animals demonstrate complex social interaction, they may still only be doing what they were programmed to do. There is as yet no conclusive evidence that any animals are at all aware of these systems—that, for example, ants are aware of themselves or their colonies—much less that they created them. By contrast, humans create everything from tribal pacts to constitutional democracies. Since God told only Adam and Even to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, political awareness may be unique to humans and equip us for living in the Kingdom of Heaven.
A third aspect of being created in God’s image is that we are moral. Feelings of remorse or revenge at times guide our actions, and we constantly wrestle with notions of justice. Other animals do not necessarily have such drives or characteristics. Just as no other species needs to have rational capacity or political awareness, so also no other species seems to have a sense of morality. Again, all their behavior is entirely explainable as programming, even for such complex actions as when a dolphin sacrifice itself for the good of its pod. By contrast, humans are fascinated by such behavior in ourselves and others, and we are acutely aware of concepts like good and evil and justice. We even explore them in creative ways, such as with The Justice League, Avengers, and Pokémon’s Swords of Justice.
But beyond our rational, political, and moral natures, the Bible highlights one aspect of our humanity above all others in saying that we were created in God’s image. It says that the love and joy experienced in the marriage between a man and a woman—that love and joy reveal God to us. (And, to be sure, the Bible makes it clear that a single person can understand this as well as anyone.) Our passion for romantic intimacy illustrates not only what it means to be created in the image of the God, but also what it means to know God.
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32, quoting Genesis 2:24)
Stop and consider how romantic love is the one phenomenon that makes us all equals, whether we are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, powerful or oppressed. “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house,” as the Song of Songs says, “he would be utterly despised” (Song of Songs 8:7). That is to say that no matter how handsome, accomplished, wealthy and powerful a man might be, none of that even begins to come anywhere near making him deserve marriage from even the most destitute, unknown woman in the world. He can suffer a broken heart and agonizing loneliness in the midst of all his prosperity. Meanwhile, she can have a fulfilled life with family in the midst of very difficult times. That’s the leveling power of marriage, romance, and sex.
If that sounds out of balance, keep in mind that, according to the Bible, romantic love is the only place for sex. Of course, if we abandon the ideal and treat sex simply a physical need rather than a spiritual blessing, that will tend to make our songs a bit shallow…to say the least. But if we hold on to the ideal and believe in true love, then no amount of money or power or pleasure can make up for it. Indeed, it drives and motivate us like nothing else can. Again, we need food, clothing, and shelter, and then we need our love songs.
Therefore, if we are going to understand the Bible then we must see this theme from beginning to end. For God relates to us not just rationally, politically, and morally, but also emotionally.
The Beginning of the Story: Male and Female He Created Them
When Adam lived in paradise and walked with God, before the fall, before any corruption or death entered into the world, God said it was not good: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) He didn’t say that it was bad, but simply that it was not yet good. He wanted to create something good. Every time he created something he looked at what he had made and said that it was good. But for Adam, it wasn’t good…until he also created Eve. And then it was very good.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Christopher Yuan, professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, says that the grammar highlights the unique nature of marriage.
The first line lays the foundation on which the next two lines build—the fact that “God created man in his own image.” The second line basically repeats the first but in different order: the prepositional phrase (“in the image of God”) is at the beginning, and the subject-verb-object (“he created him”) is at the end.
The third line also ends with the subject-verb-object: “he created them.” But now the singular pronoun “him” in line two has been replaced by the plural “them.” The singular and plural pronouns in these two lines echo the preceding verse in which God himself is expressed as both singular and plural: “Then God said, ‘Let us make…’ ”The inherent relationality and fellowship within the Godhead are reflected in the inherent relationality and fellowship within humankind.
But the biggest surprise in verse 27 is at the start of that third line: the noun pair “male and female” takes the place of the second line’s prepositional phrase “in the image of God.” The second and third lines are poetically structured in parallel, communicating a direct correlation between the image of God and male and female.[i]
Thus, as the Bible presents it, although men and women can individually represent God, it is the union of a man and a woman in marriage that is called the image of the Creator.
Adam and Eve enjoyed marital bliss and were not even aware of their own nakedness. Today such innocence is unfathomable for adults. Worldwide, we spend $1.2 trillion a year on fashion. The industry spends $500 billion just on advertising. But for Adam and Eve, they didn’t need any clothes…until they pulled away from God and rebelled. They decided they wanted to try to be God’s equal in judging good and evil. Now although the Bible does not tell us how they felt before they disobeyed, it does tell us the result afterword: they felt ashamed and wanted to hide. Suddenly they realized that they were naked and did not want God to see them. What had started as a selfish desire grew into an obsession with their sense of self-worth. As Yuan explains:
Had God set them up for failure and caused them to sin? Of course not! Scripture informs us that “he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). In reality, God put the tree in the garden out of his love for Adam and Eve and for their own good. It served as a reminder that, though they were called to rule and have dominion over creation, God still ruled over them. The tree served as a memorial that they could freely choose obedience or disobedience.[ii]
They didn’t realize that they had never “deserved” any of God’s blessings in the first place, that he had blessed them because he loved them. But to help cover their shame God made them clothes. Then he banished them from paradise and told them that, just as he warned him, they would die. But he had a plan for covering their shame, removing their guilt, and restoring his relationship with them. Although their physical bodies would die, he had a plan for recreating them:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
He had a plan to let them choose love and faithfulness—to follow not just the letter of his commands but the Spirit of them. Someday his people would worship him and walk with him in paradise again—not because they deserved to, but because they wanted to.
But there is a catch: Just as we cannot earn or deserve God’s love, so also he does not pay for ours. He pays the price for our sin, but he does not pay for our devotion. Just as Jesus lay down his life with joy, so also he calls us to lay down our lives for him with joy. He gives us the opportunity to truly choose him without being enticed by his power and wealth. Instead, we get to take the rugged, real, authentic path of trust and affection and devotion.
And that is a true love story.
The End of the Story: A Wedding Banquet
The Bible ends with a glorious beginning: a wedding banquet. Throughout history God would compare his relationship with his people to marriage. In the Old Testament his bride is called Israel. In the New Testament his bride is called the church. (But old and new—they are one and the same.) And God always promised that one day the new creation in heaven would begin with a wedding banquet.
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know Yahweh. (Hosea 2:19-20)
What’s directly implied by the verb know here is the kind of intimate, creative knowledge expressed in the line, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” (Genesis 4:1) And just as in Hosea’s prophecy, so also throughout the whole Bible, this sort of knowledge is intimately tied with morality, with notions of righteousness and justice and mercy: “I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice…” For God’s moral law—the Ten Commandments, for example—is not an end in itself. The purpose of it is joy, and to obey his commandments is to desire joy.
The New Testament even compares a Christian’s obedience to and athlete’s submission to the rules for a sports game: the purpose for the rules and the penalties is to make room for joy—a joy which sports fans will get pretty fierce in protecting as they demand precision from their
priests umpires. Other passages in the Bible compare romantic passion to fire and compare fidelity to rock: just as strong bricks and mortar must be used for a fireplace in a home, so also strong standards are needed if the romantic passion will be contained so that it can keep the home warm for a lifetime, rather than burn it down. In like manner, God provided strong protection to his relationship with his people, and promised that someday, in the end, after a long war with the spiritual forces of darkness and cowardice, he would present the church to himself as a pure bride.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17-19)
And then, by contrast, just as God brings his bride into paradise, he also brings his enemies—those who tried to seduce and deceive and destroy his bride—into hell. He jealous wrath falls upon the great prostitute, Babylon, who had never been interested in love but only in exalting herself. She had been just as eager to oppress and slander God’s people as she was to take payment for sex.
Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. (Revelation 18:4-8)
God gives his enemies plenty of opportunity to change their minds, just as he gave the Pharaoh of Egypt many warnings and opportunities to comply. But this only compels them to be extremely stubborn in their rebellion. At that point God sends them to their final death.
Then the earth is renewed, and heaven begins. It has nothing to do with floating around on clouds where angels are playing harps. Instead, it is in every way natural—with animals and trees and rivers and all the fullness of life. And there is a golden city, where God gathers his beloved from every tribe and tongue and people and nation together:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
Worship and singing will continue forever and ever.
Between the Beginning and the End:
God Woos His People While His Enemies Try to Seduce Them
After God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, their children struggled with the same issue as their parents: they struggled with determining whether they deserved God’s favor or not, as opposed to simply accepting his love. The first murder happened when one of their sons, Cain, was jealous that God showed favor to his brother Abel. Both of them had offered sacrifices to God, but God liked one more than the other. It doesn’t tell us why God preferred Abel’s sacrifice, but it does show us the result in his brother Cain’s heart: jealousy and anger. His sacrifice had apparently not been motivated by love but rather by pride.
And as people spread across the earth, their pride grew, and along with it, self-righteous evil. And the more they struggled with self-righteousness, the more they fell into worshiping their own self-made images of god(s). Yahweh always compared this tendency to adultery—to being unfaithful to him by worshiping counterfeit gods. And since marriage is so closely tied to the image of God, the creating of idolatrous images always included sexual acts. For example, in worshiping the Canaanite storm and fertility god, Baal, a worshiper would give and offering and have sex with a shrine prostitute—either male or female—as a ritual of communion with Baal.
By contrast, God kept asking his people to sing him songs.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-4)
The people, however, were seldom satisfied with what God had to offer them.
ISRAEL KEPT TRYING TO SELL THEMSELVES TO OTHER GODS
When God first brought Israel out of Egypt, he made it abundantly clear to them that they were not better or more deserving than either the Egyptians or the Canaanites. They did not deserve to live any more than their cruel slave masters did. Much less had they earned freedom and health and wealth in the promised land. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 9:6-7) How had they provoked him? By worshiping idols that they made with their own hands, and by complaining that they wanted to go back to Egypt.
It was not just their behavior—their righteousness—that was irrelevant; God also made it clear that their ethnicity only mattered in regards to telling God’s story. He was the savior of the enslaved and oppressed, which included not just Israelites but also any foreigners that wanted to join them. In fact, foreigners were with them from the very beginning, when they first fled out of Egypt:
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them… (Exodus 12:37-38)
When they did finally enter the Promised Land, the Bible gives about ten chapters of instruction revealing who is and who is not a true Israelite. And they were to welcome foreigners and, for those who wanted to join them, treat them as “native-born” Israelites:
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born, and you shall love him as yourself. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
The Israelites, however, had a very hard time believing that they were not special. They wanted the glory for themselves, and let God know that he did not necessarily deserve all their devotion. They repeatedly provoked him to jealousy by worshiping idols. Consequently, they also lent themselves to all sorts of hedonism and corruption. At one point their Temple was literally covered with idols, with both male and female cult prostitutes in the Temple courts. To worship one of the fertility gods, an Israelite would have sex with the prostitute and then make a contribution to the idol—all in hopes of ensuring fruitful crops. They kept thinking that they were so special that they could do whatever they wanted. “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.” (Ezekiel 16:15)
Finally, about 800 years after he had created the Israelites, he exiled them to Babylon.
GOD WRITES HIS PEOPLE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE
After a civil war in tenth century BCE, the nation of Israel divided into a northern kingdom, called Israel, and a southern kingdom, called Judea (from which we get Judaism). Both of them rebelled against God and worshiped idols. So in the 8th century God sent the Assyrian Empire to conquer the northern kingdom, and in the 6th century he sent the Babylonian Empire to conquer the southern kingdom—Judea. As the prophet Jeremiah recorded:
The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:6-10)
Even as they were wallowing in exile, God continues to try to persuade them to repent. He told Jeremiah to talk of his mercy and forgiveness, if they would only return to him. Seventy years later some of them did—a faithful remnant. God brought them back to their land, where they rebuilt their cities, and waited. They continued to struggle mightily with self-righteousness and narcissism, but there were always some who faithfully watched and waited. God had promised through his prophets that someday he would give his people new hearts so that they would no longer be slaves of sin and desert him. “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” (Isaiah 54:4)
They watched and waited for many years. And when the fullness of time came, a descendant of Abraham and of King David appeared on the scene. A friend of sinners, he claimed of all things to be the bridegroom of Israel.
GOD SENDS A SAVIOR—THE BRIDEGROOM OF ISRAEL
When Jesus showed up, claiming to be their long-awaited King, most of the leaders were extremely offended. They simply could not fathom a Savior who was so humble and meek. Although he was very likeable and persuasive, there was one particular aspect of his teaching that infuriated them to no end: he said that God’s salvation was not just for Jews, but also for foreigners.
For example, one day, early in his ministry, Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:16-22)
So far, so good. But then Jesus gave them two examples, both from the Jewish Torah (from which he had just read), of God saving foreigners instead of Israelites. Before he gave the examples—one in which God saves a Sidonian widow and another in which he heals a Syrian general—he already knew it would fill the people with rage. In fact, whereas they had just been praising him, suddenly they wanted to kill him.
And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:23-30)
Again, the Jews wanted to believe that they were special, that they uniquely deserved God’s favor. They not only wanted to be treated as special; they also wanted Jesus to dazzle and show off for them.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)
He was not interested in showing off. He was not interested in coercing and intimidating people. Instead, he made it clear that he was interested in faith and love and zeal and devotion. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35). They wanted him to impress them with signs and wonders, but he refused. They wanted a warrior who would use might and force to establish sovereignty; instead they got a shepherd who would lay down his life without any fight at all. So they tortured him to death.
Yet he rose from the grave, gathered his disciples together, and told them to go into the entire world and proclaim the good news of his salvation. In the beginning, even as the church grew, it was simply called the Way. (Later they would be called “Christians”.) Their biggest opponents were the Jewish nationalists. They listened to the teaching of the Way up to the point that it offered God’s blessing to foreigners. For example, one day a very respected, educated Jewish Christian named Paul was speaking to a massive crowd in Jerusalem about how he had met Jesus. All the Jews listened intently until he said the Jesus had told him to take the good news “to the foreigners.”
Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. (Acts 22:22-24)
Once again, they could not let go of their ethnocentrism and their national pride. They could not stop believing that they were uniquely favored in God’s eyes because they were more deserving than the other nations. They did not want to be the people born in slavery and then delivered to new life; instead, they wanted to be deserving of God’s favor.
However, many of the Jews did of course believe and joined the Way. Churches full of both Jews and Gentiles began to spread across Asia. They believed that the true Jews, the true Israelites, the true descendants of Abraham, were not those who followed in the bloodline of Abraham, but rather in the faith-line of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that he would make him the father of many nations, and whoever has faith in God’s promise in the same way that Abraham had faith—that person is a true Israelite. As Paul put it in a letter to the church in Rome, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:8) Anyone willing to love God more than this world, and willing to admit their need for his forgiveness in Christ—they are among the chosen. They can write new songs of love, praise and adoration to their Creator.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Although in modern times idolatry may not take the form of images that are literally carved out of wood or stone, we still have a tendency to making ourselves the authors of morality and truth. And since the Bible identifies the marriage of a male and a female as the image of God, from a Christian worldview it is no coincidence that the more we deny the Creator, the more we deny the sacredness of such marriage—all leading to an intensely charged conflict.
One of the reasons the debates about sex and gender are so emotional is, of course, that sexuality is so powerful. But another reason is that the naturalistic view is rooted entirely in materialistic presuppositions, not in empirical science. (That is to say that since no rational arguments are available, the only thing left I emotion.) As a massive study published in the journal Science last year revealed, there is not any evidence that sexual preferences are genetic. Andrea Ganna, the study’s co-author and genetics research fellow at the Broad Institute and Mass General Hospital, said, “Sexuality cannot be pinned down by biology, psychology or life experiences, this study and others show, because human sexual attraction is decided by all these factors.”[iii]
Thus, absent any empirical evidence, when scientists make extremely profound pronouncements about sexual identity and gender identity, they are basing their statements entirely upon their own assumptions. Under the section titled How Do We Perceive Words? I gave an account of how the scientific establishment has declared for decades that it is a bland, obvious, trivial truth that our minds are entirely physical, biological things. Your mind is, in principle, no different from any of your anatomy, and in fact is equivalent to the 3-lb organ inside your skull.
Therefore, if a person’s mind conflicts with their anatomy about gender identity (i.e. gender dysphoria), the establishment has declared that the problem is anatomical and can be “fixed” with surgery and hormones. It simply cannot be a “mental problem” for the mind is, effectively, literally, just a piece of anatomy. As Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, put it, “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”[iv] Did you notice the quotation marks he put around you? As he explained in an interview with The New York Times, “The view of ourselves as ‘persons’ is just as erroneous as the view that the Sun goes around the Earth.”[v]
Several Supreme Court Justices have embraced this 100% arbitrary and false presupposition. Indeed, it is the same reason that they can declare that a baby in the womb is not a person. That’s the inevitable conclusion of their presuppositions: you are not a “person”. You are just a collection of anatomy and chemistry. Your joys and sorrows are no different, in principle, from rocks or, as MIT physicist Max Tegmark put it, from cheeseburgers: “A conscious person is simply food, rearranged.”[vi] Again, they have precisely zero science to back up these presuppositions. Arbitrarily declaring that one has the authority to explain joy and sorrow and identity and love? That is, in principle no different from assuming the authority to carve a rock into a mysterious image and then to declare that if you give some money to a priest and have sex with a shrine prostitute, the gods will bless you.
Furthermore, as Dr. Yuan, who himself lived a promiscuous gay lifestyle before being born again in prison, put it, we need to look beyond our anatomy and even our desires to find our identity. Arbitrarily declaring that we are not “persons”, and declaring that things like joy and love are not spiritual, and declaring that physical feeling trumps everything else “is in reality an attempted coup d’état against our Creator.”[vii]
Despite a lack of evidence, the belief persists that people are born gay and thus many conclude that same-sex sexual behavior is no less immoral than eye color. Yet innateness doesn’t mean something is permissible, for being born a sinner doesn’t make sin right. We must point people to a far more important claim the Bible makes: regardless of what was true or not true when you were born, Jesus says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7)”
It doesn’t matter whether you think you were born an alcoholic; you must be born again. It doesn’t matter whether you think you were born a liar; you must be born again. It doesn’t matter whether you think you were born a porn addict; you must be born again. It doesn’t matter whether you think you were born with any other sexual sin struggle; you must be born again.
When we’re born again, the old has gone, and the new has come—we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We’re able to hate our sin without hating ourselves. Our sexuality is no longer who we are but how we are. We put to death our old self so that Christ can live in us (Galatians 2:20). The effect of sin is so pervasive, so complete, so radical that complete rebirth must occur for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3).
Whatever our condition upon coming into the world, we need a total transformation—the kind that our God and Creator has made inexplicably possible only by grace through faith in Christ. This isn’t a message just for the gay community or only for those who experience same-sex attractions. This is a message for everybody: you must be born again.
This is good news.[viii]
By contrast, the more we worship physical things, the more we take our attention off of God, and thus the more we will distort his image. That means we will distort marriage and thus sex (for the two go together in the Bible.) We start treating sex casually, and then we start treating it as something dirty, something to spit and curse with. It is no coincidence to two of the most common ways to express anger and hatred are to curse with God’s name and to curse with sex.
According to the Bible, however, such a casual attitude toward God, such complacency, all masks passive-aggressive rage. That is to say, it is impossible to sincerely be neutral or apathetic towards him. Someone who acts disinterested concerning God is about as in touch with reality as a teenage boy who acts disinterested in sex. It is simply not possible, for God created us with an appetite for life that only his Spirit can satisfy. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31)
So behind the world’s stubborn confusion and frivolity is a deep rebellion against the Creator. He has made himself very clearly known, and we must respond. We know God is there and we know that he is good, so suppressing this truth will demand ever greater amounts of obfuscation, mockery, and malice. (Isaiah 37:29) We will grow increasingly defiant toward his standards of holiness and righteousness, even though we know it angers him. The inevitable culmination of this passive-aggressive behavior is that the rebels exalt the distortion of the image of God—sexual perversion:
Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27)
Now just a few sentences later, the Bible also makes it clear that anyone who passes judgment on such behavior is blind: “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” They are just as guilty of distorting God’s image and usurping his name as those who are reveling in sexual addiction. Both sides are drawing all the attention to themselves, like politicians trying to win power and growing increasingly angry towards anyone who threatens their plans.
By contrast, Jesus made it abundantly, explicitly clear that he had no desire to pass judgment on anyone, nor was he the least bit interested in winning power. He talked a lot about God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness, yet it was only the religious leaders who felt judged. The masses of common people—including prostitutes, traitors (tax collectors for Rome), lepers, and the demon-possessed—flocked to him because they felt loved.
[i] Christopher Yuan, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition), 20-21.
[ii] Christopher Yuan, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition), 26.
[iv] Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis (London: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 3.
[v] Margaret Wertheim, “SCIENTISTS AT WORK: FRANCIS CRICK AND CHRISTOF KOCH,” New York Times, April 13, 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/13/science/scientists-work-francis-crick-christof-koch-after-double-helix-unraveling.html.
[vi] Max Tegmark. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 284-285.
[vii] Christopher Yuan, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition), 9-10.
[viii] Christopher Yuan, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition), 41-42.