Category Archives: Religion

Teach One Another, Be Kind, and Smile

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 28:19-20

Have you ever been a part of teaching someone about Jesus? I have been teaching in one form or another for the past twenty-two years whether at a university, private academy, or a museum. If you are or have ever been a teacher, then you undoubtedly know the joy when a student has an epiphany from something you’ve taught them, that moment when it finally clicks for that student or even a class as a whole. While I don’t believe in edutainment, I do enjoy departing knowledge in a way that is fun and relatable. Enthusiasm plays a major part in that. I have always found that when a teacher is enthusiastic, then that enthusiasm become infectious. If you are not enthusiastic about what you teach, students will not be enthusiastic about what they learn.

The same is true when spreading the message of love and acceptance that Jesus brought to this earth from heaven. When you open someone’s eyes to the message of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, it is a momentous occasion. Just think how this person’s life has the opportunity to be changed. Picture it now, the potential for all they can accomplish and the growth they will encounter through God’s love and acceptance. Impacting a life makes a mark on eternity.

Are you making a difference? Are you spreading love and acceptance or are you spreading hate and fear? Jesus wants us to love one another unconditionally. We may dislike people and their ways, but we cannot allow ourselves to hate because if we do, we are no better than them. We lower ourselves to their level instead of attempting to lift them up to our level. Ever moment of life is a battle of good vs. evil, love vs. hate, courage vs. fear, acceptance vs. discrimination.

Good will win out over evil. Love will conquer hate. Courage will defeat fear. Acceptance will bring us closer to God, where as discrimination only distances people from God. We must stay positive, because it is the only way to defeat the negativity that exists in this world. I hope today that you will smile at a random stranger. You never know when that might make someone’s day and lift their spirits. It never pays to be mean. We need to do acts of kindness every day because we do not know what another person may be going through in their life. Sometimes, a small act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life, even though we are unlikely to ever know how much of a difference we make.

One smile to a stranger can change their life. One compliment can improve someone’s day. Never forget the importance of spreading joy and kindness to the world. The late comedian Robin Williams has given us so many things throughout the years: movies, unforgettable impressions and funny memories. But also some incredibly wise quotes. He’s been credited with saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Think of it as karma. Good begets good. Evil begets evil. The cartoonist Scott Adams offered this piece of advice, Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Author Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” We can do so much with just the simplest of gestures. Be kind and teach by example.


Meditation

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

—Psalm 1:2

In a world filled with distractions and so many voices vying for our attention it is important to remember the words of the Psalmist. He urges us to meditate on God’s words day and night. You can find new joy when you discover more about who God is by spending time reading His book.

The world can be a stressful place and if it has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace. Anyone can practice meditation. It’s simple and inexpensive, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. And you can practice meditation wherever you are—whether you’re out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office or even having your morning cup of coffee or tea..

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction, but we can still use it to bring ourselves closer to God and let him help heal us of the what stresses us out. Meditation is a type of mind-body complementary medicine. It can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. God can help with that. Hosea 6:1 tells us, “Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.” In the first verse of the hymn “The Lilly of the Valley,” we sing:

I have found a friend in Jesus-
He’s ev’rything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley- in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay,
He tells me ev’ry care on Him to roll;
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the greatest of ten thousand to my soul.

During meditation, you can focus your attention on God’s Word and His Plan for us and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process will result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being. Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions. When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.

By meditating, you can Gain a new perspective on stressful situations! And God can help you build skills to manage your stress. You can increase your awareness of God in your life and reduce negative emotions, increase patience and tolerance. God can guide you through meditation to heal what ails you. He can be your comfort if you just allow Him to guide you to better awareness. Take a moment to look up to God for his guidance and for the comfort He can provide.


Transformed

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

—Romans 12:2

To be transformed is to “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.” Everyone goes through a transformation at some point in their lives, even if it is just going through puberty, but LGBTQ+ individuals often have a harder time making the transformation from the closet to being out. We first must admit our sexuality to ourselves before we can begin our transformation to being our true selves. Few of us understand from an early age our sexuality because society has declared that heterosexuality is the default.

God wants us not only to believe but to be changed and made new by accepting the person God created us to be. He knows that without Him we are lost and slaves to our sinful nature of an unaccepting world. We have to learn to stop copying the world and start seeking God’s best for our life. God does not want us to hide behind the person the world says we should be, but to be the beautiful creature that God created.

Psalm 139:1 says, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.” The Lord is very familiar with us and who we are. He knows our likes and dislikes, our failures and triumphs. Even before we know it, He knows and recognizes our sexuality and gender, even if the world around us does not recognize that truth. There’s no use hiding from God. It’s impossible to hide or deceive Him. He already knows our thoughts. Even if we are fearful of rejection, rest assured, He will always love us. He will always accept us, no matter what we have buried deep in your heart.

God does not want the world to be closed minded to love and acceptance. He wants a world of peace, love, and charity. God wants us to accept ourselves and allow ourselves to transform into the person he has destined us to be. In Jeremiah 29:11, God declares, “For I know the plans I have for you.” That plan includes accepting our sexuality and living the life God created us to live.


“Rest and Be Thankful” —Henry Wadsworth

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

—Hebrews 4:10-11

Genesis 2:2 says, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Even God who created the heavens and the Earth, and all the creatures of the land, air, and sea still rested when He finished the creation. If God can rest, then we should also find time to rest in our get-up-and-go culture where we far too often neglect taking time to rest. How can we be people that are filled with the fruits of the spirit if we are stretched thin and just plain tired? If we are too tired and exhausted, will we notice when someone is in need? Will we be able to help if we are weary and heavy-laden? If we don’t care for ourselves, how can we help others when they need us.

Are you well-rested? We can enter marathons of work, projects, and even emotional hardships. We may feel invincible at times and take on more than our bodies can handle. But remember that God made us in His image and we should rest just like He did. Firmly set aside a day or two after an intense period of work to replenish yourself. Prioritize rest in your routine. Rest is necessary to be people of salt and light. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus tells us, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

We need our rest to be the salt and light and have meaning in our lives. We may exhaust ourselves trying to help everyone or do too much, but in the end, if we burn ourselves out, we will not be any good to anyone. We will have lost our flavor. Likewise, if we exhaust our light by burning the candle on both ends, we only cause the light to extinguish too soon. If we take time to rest, then we can be more useful and helpful in doing God’s work. We need our rest, and we can’t do it all. Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.”


Listen to Wisdom 

Most of the Proverbs 15, which we began looking at last week, is made up of individual segments of wisdom, with a few repeating themes. Solomon notes the importance of perspective, which is more influential than wealth when it comes to happiness. Careful planning, seeking advice, hard work, and righteousness are all commended. Laziness, impatience, arrogance, and hypocrisy are condemned. The chapter ends (Proverbs 15:13–33) with three proverbs echoing the recurring theme that sensible persons listen to godly wisdom—and this only comes through a reverent honor of God.

14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.

A high intelligence doesn’t equate to having true knowledge, just as a fast processor on a computer doesn’t equate to having lots of data stored on the hard drive. Real knowledge comes by those who study the world with a mind towards helping others. Some people, who claim to be very smart people, end up saying very dumb things and creating foolish theories because they lack wisdom to look at how they can help others. They ignore the what the Bible says to twist God’s Word until that they come up with ideas that align with their own hateful ways and are actually useless and even harmful. Their foolish hearts cause them to want to feed on error, so they study other people’s error and further advance error. Thinking they are wise, they have become fools (Romans 1:22), for they loved the wisdom of the world which is foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 1:20). They preferred the approval of man rather than the approval of God.

15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart 
has a continual feast.

Jesus said that we will have trouble in this world. Some Christians spend much of their life in pain, depression, anxiety, or any number of forms of suffering. Much that is bad characterizes their lives. Yet, even so, their hearts can have a continual feast and celebration that this life is not all that there is. The believer has Jesus Himself in his heart in Whom there is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures and treasures. What is earthly affliction compared to that? In the heat of the battle and in the depth of affliction, that may be tough to remember, but it is something we should keep in our thoughts because God is always with us. 

18 A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But 
he who is slow to anger allays contention.

This verse corresponds to verse 1 by emphasizing that those who are quick to anger add fuel to the fiery rampage of violent men. Those who don’t get worked up quickly and easily because they don’t like fighting and prefer to be peacemakers tend to calm disputes and help leveler heads prevail (Matthew 5:9). Christians are to do whatever they can to live peaceably with others, not to stir up strife (Romans 12:18).

21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment (heart),
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.

Fools like their sin and doing dumb things. They like to try to get others to approve and validate their foolishness and idiocy. Their passion and desire are for dysfunction, sinful pleasure, and destruction. Those who have understanding hate sin, error, and the devastating effects of sin because they know it grieves God’s heart and saps their joy. They long to see others understand the true nature of God and begin to take His Word seriously. But fools enjoy the error of their ways, and it is very difficult to make a person who is happy being stupid see joy in being wise.

23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word 
spoken in due season (in its time), how good it is!

Wisdom enables a person to give sound advice and encouragement when it is needed, and it is life and joy to those who are humble enough to receive it (Ephesians 4:29Colossians 4:6Proverbs 12:25).

26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure 
are pleasant.

It is an offense against God to ponder wrong thoughts and start plotting evil deeds. Rather, we should meditate and reflect upon the pleasant words of Scripture, for they will help us to purify our hearts and not be double-minded (James 4:8). Christians are to think on what is good, noble, right, and pure, not on what will defile our minds and consciences (Philippians 4:8). From a pure heart come good and edifying words that please God.  

27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.

Those who gain by illicit means will often suffer as a result. Obviously, there are eternal consequences, but when committing crimes and cheating people out of money, one should not underestimate the wrath of other evil people. Even family and loved ones can be harmed on account of taking shortcuts and stealing. Taking a bribe means entering a world of deception, lying, and looking the other way when evil is committed. If somebody thinks that the bond of secrecy is broken, it might cost a person his life. Wickedness doesn’t pay, even if people get away with it in the short run. It is not a peaceful way to live, but it is a life of fear, bondage, and looking over one’s shoulder.

28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.

Being a wise person doesn’t mean that we always have the right answer. It may mean that we need to slow down, meditate, and think through what the best solution is. A fool is quick to open his mouth and give dumb advice that will likely have some rather adverse consequences. Sometimes we need to keep searching things out according to the Scripture until we know for sure what we must do. God promises to give wisdom to His children who ask Him in faith without doubting. God will never hold back wisdom from those who need it and ask Him for it (James 1:5-7). He wants us to know what we should do, but sometimes we must be patient.

30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy (fat).

True joy is contagious, and people who are encouraged in the Lord are the best encouragers of others. Being a Christian is not about the power of positive thinking and just trying to always put a rosy spin on life. Joy is sourced in truth and the promises of God, and it is the gospel, the Scripture, and the testimony of believers as they have seen God deliver on His promises that provides the best encouragement (Psalm 32:11Psalm 35:9Philippians 4:4).

31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.

Those who are humble enough to have ears to hear the wisdom from God will turn from their sins, love Jesus, and seek to grow in wisdom according to His Word. John 10:10, says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.

Wise people respond to the teaching of Scripture. To refuse to humble oneself before God’s Word and His authority is not just to hate God but to hate oneself because sin always destroys. The result of heeding sound teaching, and reproof is growth, joy, wisdom, and understanding so that a person can be ready for every good work that God has for him to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17Ephesians 2:10).


A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath 

I’m going to do a different post than I usually do on Sundays because I want to discuss some of the sayings in Proverbs 15. I will not go through all 33 pieces of advice given in this chapter, but many of them hold some good advice. Proverbs 15 is a long string of short expressions of commonsense wisdom, aka “proverbs” which are said to be written by King Solomon and gathered in the Book of Proverbs. Solomon begins (Proverbs 15:1–5) with several statements commending self-control. Cautious, gentle answers not only prevent additional strife, but they also reduce whatever tension already exists. A wise person carefully chooses their response, rather than babbling out whatever comes to mind. Closely connected to this is the need to humbly accept correction. 

Next (Proverbs 15:6–12) are several contrasts. These compare the righteous with the wicked, using the parallel ideas of those who are wise and those who are foolish. These proverbs echo themes such as the life-giving nature of godly wisdom, the disastrous consequences of sin, the importance of humility, and the value of seeking advice. 

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.

When somebody is trying to get a rise out of us, we far too often fall right into their trap especially when we react with a quick temper, with violence, or with an angry outburst. A harsh word in response to a person who likes to pick fights only stirs up anger by adding fuel to the fire. We are better off giving a gentle answer to show that a person is better off picking a fight with somebody else who will make a better sparring partner. Other times, we are best to just walk away or say nothing.

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

Part of wisdom is trying to convince and reason with others to show them what is the best way. Bad people are blinded toward the truth of morality and virtue, and there are times to reason with them to show them their ignorance and foolishness. They need to see that what they are saying and how harmful it is to us all. We have seen this so much during the pandemic as people have followed political cruelty and greed all in the name of “personal freedom.” If personal freedom comes at the cost of the good of humankind, then they do not deserve personal freedom. They are a menace to the public good. Wisdom comes as people come to see the truth, not those who blindly follow other fools.

The lips of the wise disperse (spread) knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not 
do so.

Wise people want others to understand wisdom because they recognize that its value is far beyond anything this world has to offer. They want others to have the joy and hope that they have. They want to teach others the ways of goodness and light. Fools could care less about following truth about God and wisdom. Ignorant and selfish people delight in their hatefulness, they could care less about the welfare of others. Fools are unable to offer others the help of valuable knowledge and insight even if they wanted to because they do not know wisdom in Christ, whether they claim to or not.

10 Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.

Those who hear the truth of the gospel and accept it and follow it will find their reward, yet those who reject it will find only punishment. Those who do not respond in faith and humility to the revelation of God to man (God has revealed Himself through the conscience (Romans 1:32), through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), and through the creation (Psalm 19:1-2Romans 1:18-21)) will pay, for they have made a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Those who are unwilling to respond to the truth when it hits them squarely in the face will suffer and pay the penalty. On the other hand, those who seek the truth and practice it will find the Light in Christ (John 3:21).

12 A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.

The fool scoffs at truth and hates to be confronted with correction. He is not going to seek out wisdom from the Bible or from people who could share with him wisdom. He enjoys his folly and error and the company of other scoffers and mockers of truth. We see this far too often in American politics (i.e., Republicans), hate groups, and religious leaders who preach only hate and fear.

13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance (face),
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

It is possible to force a smile even when the heart is sorrowful, but a joyful heart leads to a true, full, and genuinely happy and uplifted countenance (Genesis 4:7). A sad heart breaks the spirit by draining us of energy, hope, and passion. There is a time to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep so that they can be comforted and encouraged to continue. It is not wrong to be sad as a Christian or to feel discouraged at times. It is how we respond when we are in the valleys of life that counts. We need to remember that Jesus traverses the valleys of death with us and comforts us with His presence (Psalm 23:4-6). It is by His strength that we can endure, His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22-25), He exceeds beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and He is an expert at turning sorrow into gladness and weeping into joy (Esther 9:22).

I will continue my discussion of Proverbs 15 next week as we look at more of the wisdom of Solomon.


Stop and Smell the Roses

That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.

—Psalm 26:7

“Stop and smell the roses” is an idiom that means to relax; to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Whether you think of “stopping to smell the roses” as a metaphor, or an actual act of admiring roses, the benefit is the same. Slow down and appreciate the world surrounding you is the message.

Origins of the phrase are not clear. Although the quote, “Stop and smell the roses,” is often attributed to golfer Walter Hagen in the 1956 book “The Walter Hagen Story” but he didn’t mention roses. The quote: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Some people argue that this passage was soon paraphrased as stop and smell the roses, but this can’t be easily verified.

While this expression refers to roses, it can be anything rather small or even commonplace. These things may seem small but they can give us great joy.  The difference in well-being, happiness, sense of elevation, and level of connectedness to other people, can be significantly higher for those who spend time noticing and savoring these moments of clarity and relaxation.

The expression “stop and smell the roses” is not just about flowers or nature, but an encouragement to be mindful, take time for your self and live life with deeper gratefulness for the world around us. It is a reminder to us all to slow down and take notice of the world around us, and to be present in every moment.  It means consciously directing your mind to be aware and attentive to the present moment to be able to experience and enjoy more your surroundings. 

“Stopping to smell the roses” is a pleasant experience that slows us down, but sometimes there are unpleasant experiences that force us to slow down. Think of those unpleasant moments like a speed bump in the road. While speed bumps can be annoying, they force us to be cautionary and become aware of our surroundings. Don’t let your days be like driving on freeways, fast and thoughtless. The next time you go over a speed bump, soak in your surroundings and find one thing that you can appreciate for the day.


The Need to Serve

“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

—Matthew 20:27-28

Do you ever go through days that seem like something is missing? We work so hard to accomplish goals in our life so that we can provide a better life for ourselves and our families. But this can also focus our attention on the “things” we have and more importantly don’t have. Where we direct our focus can lead us to that feeling of void. Instead of focusing on ourselves, direct your focus on someone in need. You may not see the immediate impact on your goals but in some way and at some time, God will honor your actions.

Sadly, too many people in this world forget this simple directive. We are not here to be served but to serve. We need to protect the needy and less fortunate. There is too much selfishness in the world today. Whether it’s those who don’t want the government to enact legislation to help the less fortunate, or those who won’t wear masks when it’s called for or even get the vaccine. These are simple things that we can do to help and protect others. Yet people resist out of their own selfishness. Many have various excuses, but very few of those excuses are valid.

Think of how wonderful this world would be if everyone let go of their anger, greed, and hatred of the unknown or the misunderstood. If we lived in a world of love, giving, and acceptance, we could live in a peaceful and joyous world. Instead, too many people feed and nourish and encourage the anger, greed, and ignorance of those they want to control and gain their support. The problem with feeding this negativity is that at some point you lose control of those masses you’ve cultivated and they become an unruly and angry mob.

If we just served and supported our fellow humans, then we would be glorifying God and we’d receive our own reward. When we follow the fear and ignorance of man, we drift further and further from God. Sadly, many of those who’ve drifted away from God the most are the ones who claim they are doing God’s work. Being a good Christian doesn’t mean shouting it from the rooftops and hating those who don’t believe the same way you do, but it is in our actions. James 2:17 tells us, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” We have to live in a way that honors God’s love for us. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” if you don’t live in a way consistent with your faith, then you do not really have faith.


God’s Plan for Us

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

—Luke 12:7

The picture the Bible paints for us is one that lets us know without a shadow of a doubt that we are known by God. He made us with a plan and a purpose in mind. Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes those high points are really high, and sometimes those low points are really low. It’s in those lowest points that we may think that God doesn’t know us or that He is not there for us. Yet, if we rely on God’s love for us, He will protect us and bring us through our darkest days.

Maybe you’ve had something devastating happen in your life, or you may experience depression that you think you can never climb out of the depth of your minds. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Sometimes, a life tragedy and depression are one and the same, a cause and effect. We wonder if God is listening to us. Is He going to help us? He most certainly will, if you allow Him to do so. Psalm 46:1-3, 7 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

God knows us best and loves us with fierce and powerful love. We may feel lost at times and without a purpose, but God has a plan for us, which is why He will get us through the toughest of times in our life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We may not ever understand the full extent of God’s plan for us, but if we are receptive to putting our lives in God’s hands, then He will guide us through His plan for us. Proverbs 3:5-6 clearly states this, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I have been watching the science fiction series Babylon 5 for a talk I will be giving. I watched it back when it was on from 1993-1997. The first four seasons were pretty good, the last season was a different story, although there were some good parts. In the penultimate episode, a character records a message for his unborn son to be heard on his twenty-first birthday, which I think is very relevant to today’s post, and I hope you will think so too.

“As you continue on your path, you will lose some friends and gain some new ones. The process is painful, but often necessary. They will change and you will change, because life is change. From time to time, they must find their own way and that way may not be yours. Enjoy them for what they are and remember them for what they were… I really do believe that sooner or later, no matter what happened, things do work out. We have hard times. We suffer. We lose loved ones. The road is never easy. It was never meant to be easy, but in the long run, if you stay true to what you believe, things do work out. Always be willing to fight for what you believe in. It doesn’t matter if thousand people agree with you or one person agrees with you. It doesn’t matter if you stand completely alone. Fight for what you believe.”

—John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) in episode
“Objects at Rest” from Season 5 of Babylon 5 
written by J. Michael Straczynski


Creating A Sexual Ethic

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

—Matthew 7:15-20

As I said in a post last week, “I think sometimes people who grew up like I did in a religious family where sex was a dirty thing and gay sex was unthinkable, we often feel ashamed of exploring our sexuality.” When it comes to sex, many of us have been told what we should and shouldn’t do, especially when it comes to sex. If I’d done everything that I was told not to do, I’d have lived a boring life. As it is, I wish I had become more accepting of my sexuality earlier in life, but now that I have, I am not going to have someone else’s morality imposed on me, when I know they don’t even understand the Bible verses that “shaped” their morality. For those of us seeking to figure out sex within an LGBTQ-affirming Christianity, it can be tempting to look outside of ourselves for the answers. However, I believe religion is a deeply personal belief and experience. It is the group think that has nearly destroyed Christianity. Too many people are giving up on religion instead of searching their soul and looking for answers from God, not from someone telling you what God is saying.

Likewise, developing a sexual ethic that works for you and is in alignment with your personal faith is also a deeply personal experience. That doesn’t mean that it exists in a vacuum, or that you can’t (or shouldn’t) consult others — trusted friends, spiritual leaders, mentors, or the Bible— but what it does mean is that ultimately, the responsibility lies within you. There is a saying, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, that says, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” While the quote likely did not originate with Emerson, there is a lot of wisdom in those words. We must look within to decide what our personal faith and values are, and those include our sexual ethic.

For me personally, I try to follow the Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) My ideal sexual partner would be someone who is: honest, thoughtful, caring, and communicative. He doesn’t have to want a relationship as long as we both go into the encounter realizing this. There also has to be some chemistry between us. If there is no chemistry, I will be honest that I am not interested. I do care about others and I try my best to be thoughtful, that goes for whether it’s during an encounter or letting someone down easily. Most men are not known for being communicative, and I may fail on this at times, but it’s not because I am “ghosting” someone, but usually, it is a result of my fear that I am bothering someone or that I might interrupt them when they are doing something. So, I am not the best at follow-up, and I know I need to work on this. However, if I am messaged or texted, I will respond as soon as I can, which is more often than not immediately as long as I see the message.

If you want to develop a sexual ethic that resonates with you, there are a few things we can all do. The first thing we need to do is take stock of our values. Take some time to think about the values that matter to you. If you are not comfortable with something, then don’t agree to it; however, if you are uncomfortable about something like not communicating, then maybe that’s something you can work on. Usually, our personal values should be how we respect and treat others and what is going to make us happiest in a relationship. That could be a one-night experience or something that is more long-term.

Second, think back on the sexual and romantic experiences you’ve had and get in touch with what felt good and what didn’t. We usually have a variety of sexual and romantic experiences so think about everything from holding hands and kissing to penetrative sex (if you’ve had it). And don’t just limit yourself to “traditionally sexual” experiences. You can also meditate on times when your boundaries have been respected or transgressed. When you’ve felt safe and when you’ve felt vulnerable. Try to notice when your desires match or mismatch with your actions or the expectations or people around you. Maybe you don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone and feel pressured to have sex. This step isn’t about coming up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” (those are often context-specific and shift over time). Instead, this is about picking up on patterns.

Third, we should step outside of ourselves and use each of our experiences to realize our shared values. As we look at our past experiences, we need to look beyond the specifics (“We were drunk,” “there were lots of candles and rose petals”, “we did this thing,” or “we didn’t do that”) and look at how we felt: safe, seen, understood, respected, violated, disregarded, taken advantage of, excited, scared, etc. We should decide if our experience were a positive experience or a negative experience. Not all of our experiences will be completely positive or negative, but there may have been some of both in an encounter or relationship.

Next, we need to articulate to ourselves what our ethics are. So far, we have gotten in touch with our values, reflected on our experiences, and stepped outside of ourselves, and tapped into something bigger. That’s the hard part. Now, we need to put it all together. I don’t mean you need to create a sexual rulebook. It’s nothing that formal, and quite honestly, it may change from time to time according to our continued experiences. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “a set of moral principles; a theory or system of moral values.” That’s what we’re creating here: a set of moral principles. What’s right and wrong. What’s helpful or harmful. What’s ethical and what’s not. When we create a sexual ethic, it’s not a list of what we want or don’t want to do, and it isn’t going to tell you what you’ll do in any given situation. Instead, it’s a framework that you can refer make to when you need to make sexual choices.

In addition, we need to release judgments. Our sexual ethics are the summary of what we value, how we see the world, what’s right, and what’s wrong. Sometimes we are called to make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and sometimes we are called to celebrate differences. It’s important that we distinguish between “judging something as right or wrong” and “judging something as different than me.” It’s possible for someone who shares my sexual ethics to make completely different sexual choices. You may decide that celibacy is right for you, while you may also be like me and comfortable with casual sex or you may want to only have sexual encounters while in a relationship. Just because we have different sexual ethics does not make them wrong and we should not judge others for their sexual ethics as long as they do not harm others. Release judgment against people who are making different decisions than you would make, even if you don’t understand them, as long as they are acting ethically.

Finally, think of your sexual ethic like the United States Constitution: it’s a foundational document, it’s what we base our decisions on, it should withstand (and transcend) the whims of the moment, but also sometimes you need to change it and that’s OK. Sex is messy. And so is life. You’re going to hit some bumps along the way. You’re going to have an experience that shakes you up or meet a person that challenges everything you thought you knew. My sexual ethic today looks completely different than the one I had 10 years ago and even more different than the one I had just 5 years before that. Our preferences change usually because we broaden our horizons. Don’t feel guilty because you tried something or did something you thought you’d never do, but again, the main caveat is “do no harm.”