Updated: Jun 26, 2019
This is the first installment of a series on Christians and their Questionable behavior.
Sex the Gospel and Hannah Brown.
Recently, Bachelorette Hannah Brown has ruffled some feathers. She is a Christian and is appearing on the reality tv show, The Bachelorette. For those of you who don't know, The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is television shows airing on ABC for over 20 seasons. The show involves one person, a Bachelor or Bachelorette, who meet many different candidates for a possible long-term relationship. The contestants are slowly eliminated, and those passing each round are given a rose as a symbol they have been invited to the next level of intimacy with the shows Bachelor or Bachelorette. There are many twists, trysts, and turns during the season, but they rarely end in true love. According to Insider.com,"only two couples from the show are still together. Meanwhile, out of 14 seasons of "The Bachelorette" since 2003, six of the couples are still together."
Despite the lack of success in long-term relationships, somewhere between 5-8 million people view each episode. People watch the drama with hopes of true romance and a fairy-tale ending. For the contestants, even though they get no money, it becomes something of a boon. Their 'brand' can get a huge lift. They can always say they've been a part of something or shared their beliefs on a platform.
It is no surprise then that Christians have been contestants on either of these shows. Hannah Brown isn't the first, and won't be the last. Her take on Christianity and sex has raised some eyebrows. In the season's trailer, Brown announced, "I have had sex. And Jesus still loves me," and she spoke to PEOPLE about this topic on Monday night at The Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.
"My faith is really important, and some people question that, but like I said, I don't hold anything back, and part of a relationship is being sexually attracted to somebody," Brown said an event for ABC's new show, Grand Hotel. "I am sexually attracted to these men, and I'm not going to hold back on that. The time that I have with them is the time on camera, so if I want to make out with them, I'm going to make out with them. I don't feel like I should have to defend that because I'm a woman, and I've seen a lot of Bachelors do that. And relationships are multi-faceted, and I have to explore all that."
Brown rightly points out the unequal treatment between men and women in their sexual practices, but for many, the idea of being Christian and following sexual urges are incompatible. However, this is the Christianity most are accustomed to seeing. You can be a Christian and still live your life the way you want. Jesus forgives you, loves you, and you can do whatever you want with your life. God loving you has nothing to do with how you order your life.
My friend Jake Austin, who has run an incredible ministry giving dignity to the homeless says this, "Our cultural Gospel is "Affirm yourself, take up your cause, and follow your heart." Jesus says, "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me."
There is a massive difference between the two. The problem becomes more intense when both versions are celebrated as THE way to be Christian. Many proport to love, follow, and believe in Jesus, while their behavior doesn't match up. Each side sees the flaws in the other and can quickly point them out. Meanwhile, from the outside looking in, it is tough to get a bead on what it means to be a Christian or to follow Jesus. The simple days of WWJD are long gone. Everyone has an idea of what Jesus would do, and they don't agree.
On the one hand, I want to celebrate this young lady's view of the Love and Grace of God. She's right. She has sex, and Jesus loves her. He past behavior and current view can't remove her from the love of Christ. Romans 8.38-39 says this: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Christ's love for us is not dependent upon our behavior. If it did, we are all in deep trouble.
Earlier in Romans 8, Paul writes about how the Spirit is at work in us and how that Spirit is opposed to the flesh and its deeds. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live."
So what are we to believe?
I want to nod to both. Yes, we are loved, accepted, and cherished. Nothing changes that great disposition God has toward us. And. Our response to that love and grace means something. However, it may be in a way that looks a little different.
It doesn't mean we SHOULD behave. It doesn't mean we SHOULD keep ourselves from having sex outside of marriage. It doesn't mean we SHOULD be better people. All SHOULD does is give us a bar we don't often reach, which leads to shame and guilt.
It means we GET to do those things. Here is what I mean.
When we come to Christ, we become a family member. We are adopted in His Kingdom and made heirs with His Son. The dynamic is relational as well as positional. Positionally we are now family members. We were outside the family, and now we are in. We were dead; now, we are alive. We were once slaves to sin; now, we are slaves to righteousness. Relationally, we are learning what it means to be in the family. Adopted children have a long process of learning what it means to be in their adopted families. There are new rules, relationships, dynamics, resources, and emotions to learn and overcome. This orientation takes a lifetime. However, no one argues it's better to be an orphan than adopted. It's no different for the Christian. We are learning what it means to be in the family of Christ. We have access to the Father any time we like. We can talk freely with him, where maybe we were afraid before. We can enjoy his favor and blessings as we go about the life we have in Him. He offers His peace to us, and His joy can be our strength. The benefits are life-changing.
The positional dynamic is secure, and so is the relational. We don't HAVE TO behave for God to love us. We behave because WE LOVE HIM. We don't have to look for sex or any other behavior for completeness or acceptance. We have those things in Him. We GET to behave in a way that reflects our freedom and joy, not to do what we want with 'our life,' but to reflect the One who loves us completely.
When we get adopted, we get a new name. There is an exchange that happens. We go from orphan to family, from unaccepted to accepted. The Gospel writer Matthew puts it this way, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
We have to let go to receive. Empty hands can hold things. To grab the life preserver, we have to let go of trying to swim.
It could be that this young lady is trying to let go of swimming. She may not even know what that means, or what it looks like. She may not think it is necessary at all. I have no idea. I do know; it is of little to no value to pass judgment on her. We don't know her. We don't understand the context of her faith and should be gentle and merciful. If you are honest, there are things you do, things you practice, that you know are opposed to the Gospel you understand. You likely do these things without much consideration. We have to be very careful when we point fingers because we are in process just like Ms. Brown.
I recently read an opinion posted in the NY Times. The author talks about longing for what God has promised in marriage. She wants to participate in the sexual union, but even more, in the more profound promises of Covenant relationship. She has come from the 'Purity' culture of the '90s and finds it lacking — guilt and shame on one hand, fairy-tale like relationships on the other. There is little in between, and this is where most people live.
Finding a way between giving in to our urges and repressing them to the point of weirdness is critical for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. I think we can ask ourselves really critical questions; What does it look like to honor God with all that I am? How can all that I am in some way reflect the joy I feel in being His? Who can walk with me in Grace as I engage this topic?
There are no easy answers. Running to one side or the other on this issue doesn't seem to be an option for many. We need to walk with one another, in humility, Grace, and Truth. Sometimes being in the family is difficult. Sometimes it means we don't know. Sometimes it is messy, especially for those of us in it. For our sake, and for the sake of those who aren't adopted yet, let's be full of patience and humility. We aren't finished with our story yet, and neither is anyone else.