Ruth Jackson speaks to Glynn Harrison about how Christians can tell a better story about sexuality
Do you think it’s getting harder for Christians to express an orthodox view of sexuality?
It is hard because it’s portrayed as being mean and even immoral. It’s getting harder for Christians to be against cohabitation or say divorce is always a tragedy. Our culture doesn’t understand that. We’ve got to recover that God’s truth is life for the world but also that ignoring God’s word leads us to unhealthy places.
There’s a clash between what much of the world and the Church preaches about sexuality, isn’t there?
Our culture says fulfil yourself. The gospel says sacrifice yourself for a bigger good, and in the end you’ll flourish.
A lot of married women in their 50s say, “I’ve had enough of him, the kids have grown up, I’m off.” But the gospel calls you to put on display God’s love for the world, by displaying faithfulness and staying committed to that man.
If you’re single, you make the same sacrifice by not having sex outside of marriage. It hurts. It’s self-sacrifice. But the promise of the gospel is in the end we’ll flourish when we serve God’s kingdom.
Is part of the problem that the Church hasn’t always spoken about sex in a helpful way?
I think the sexual revolution has woken us up and said you can’t go on bringing people up in shame, ignorance and fear about this big bit of themselves – that we want love and physical intimacy and we’re made that way.
The Church’s task is not to bury that experience, but shape it in a godly way.
You’ve written about the negative impact of cohabitation, as well.
Yes, we tend to get drawn into hot button issues such as same-sex attraction and pornography. But these things are the downstream outworking of something that went wrong upstream – when we lost our vision for what marriage really means. Marriage is something God does.
Decades ago Christians began to follow the easy divorce route that if it doesn’t suit you, you just marry someone else. Jesus set the bar high – divorce is always a tragedy in his eyes.
The problem with cohabitation is it’s very unstable for kids. If your parents never get married, the chance of them being separated ten years after you were born is about two-thirds. We as Christians need to rediscover our love for kids because the sexual revolution has been hardest on them.
You’ve said the sexual revolution tells a good story, but we as Christians have a better one. Can you explain that?
The sexual revolution tells a pretty good story about freedom, flourishing and fairness. The problem is it’s an empty promise.
The sexual revolution says, “Look inside of yourself and find freedom.” We say, “No, that leads down a culde-sac of narcissism.” Instead, let God name who you are, then learn to be his creature. Live in harmony with your design. That’s the route to freedom.
We need to tell a better story. But before we start telling it outside the Church, we need to tell it inside the Church.
A Better Story: God, Sex & Human Flourishing (IVP) is out now