This is a guest column by Pastor Eric R. Andrae. Pastor Andrae serves as campus chaplain on behalf of Lutheran Student Fellowship and represents First Trinity Lutheran Church as a member of the University of Pittsburgh Association of Chaplains (UPAC). He has served as a full-time campus pastor at Pitt for 15 years.
Do you hunger and thirst for something more than simple consent and mere protection?
Something beyond just genital sexuality? Do perhaps many of you — often in pained silence — harbor hope for a better way, a more fulfilling way?
As I was reading through The Pitt News’ “Sex Edition” (Feb. 12, 2016), timed to coincide with St. Valentine’s Day, I was reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote: “If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,’ they may mean, ‘The state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.’ If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: There would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.”
Our culture’s warped obsession with sex has many sources of fault, the Christian church often being one of them. Maybe you yourself have been personally hurt by Christians. So, for often substituting shame for beauty, for mortifying the body instead of giving thanks for it, for evasiveness instead of forthrightness in the face of honest questions and challenges and for condemnation when help, healing, hope and forgiveness were needed: Please forgive us.
However, when the church is true to itself — to its Lord, Christ, and to his word, the Bible — a very different picture emerges: one where the body is a good gift of a generous Creator, where that Creator took on human flesh and lived a full bodily life — Jesus of Nazareth — where that Liberator sacrificed that body for the reconciliation of the world — the cross — where that body is physically raised from the dead, where that Savior now joins us to his true body and blood, given for us to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins, life and salvation — communion — where he pours the water of rebirth onto our bodies, thus enfleshing us into himself — baptism — where he serves the needy neighbor’s physical hunger and thirst through us, where he finally gives us new life in the resurrection of our own bodies.
The body is good. Sex is good. Indeed, the marital union of husband and wife is given as a very picture — an image, a representation — of the union of Christ with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:23).
And certainly the church has a lot to say about healthy sexuality within marriage, but what about where most of you find yourselves — that is, as singles? Well, let me show you what is available to you, let me share with you what one of the biblical writers calls, “a more excellent way.”
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing …
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, is not self-seeking, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away … For now we see through a glass, dimly and darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-12).
Are you searching for love? I think we all are. We desire to be really known, and still loved in spite of the flaws that are seen in that deep knowing. We want trust, authentic and deep intimacy, connection, friendship, loyalty, community, even romance — and these are genuine and good desires, even if we often seek to meet them in broken or harmful ways.
We are all damaged goods to some extent: We have been hurt by others and even ourselves. I myself am broken in many and various ways. Come, let us turn, let us receive the gift of a different and wonderful way in which these desires can be actually satisfied, a way in which we can truly live, move and have our being, a way in which your dignity and worth as an embodied human being is respected and honored.
The point is, there is something greater, something broader, something very counter-cultural that is offered to you. Are you sure you have chosen the best way to express your sexuality?
This other way I am trying to describe — you may wonder what it looks like in practice, in reality, in Pittsburgh in 2016.
The answer may not be obvious or easy, but I encourage you to ask the tough questions — it will be well worth it.
Challenge yourself and your preconceived notions. Challenge a pastor. I know that I certainly welcome your hard questions, and you are invited to discuss your opinions and concerns, your doubts and struggles with me over a free cup of coffee or lunch, or even just shoot me an email.
I would love to hear from you, meet you and learn from you. And you are also more than welcome to join the conversation with us through Lutheran Student Fellowship and First Trinity Church. The community of faith — the church — is here for you, providing mutual study, learning, meditation, prayer, worship, counsel, care, growth … and true love.
Write to Pastor Andrae at firstname.lastname@example.org