Evangelist and apologist Ravi Zacharias went to be with the Lord today. Born and raised in India, Ravi travelled the world speaking in places like Princeton and Oxford universities, where he spoke persuasively about Christianity and answered the questions of septics, encouraging people to put their faith in Jesus and equipping believers.
Ravi also founded RZIM, and he leaves behind this thriving and fruitful organization which promotes Christianity for thinking people around the world.
As a non-westerner, Ravi’s voice had particular credibility in Asia, and he built a team of evangelists, including the late Nabeel Quereshi, who had converted from Ahmadiyya movement of Islam. Another member of RZIM’s team is Sam Allberry, who has written a lot on the topic of sexuality, and whose book, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With, I recently reviewed in these posts:
One of the big questions that comes up in many discussions about gender and sexual identity today is whether limiting sexual expression (as Christianity and other religions do) actually suppresses a person’s fundamental identity and self-expression by not allowing them to express love in the way they feel inclined.
In his book Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, Sam Allbery points out something that has been widely recognized and discussed: that Western society has made sexuality the foundation of self-understanding. Sexual behavior, in this way, is seen as the primary means of self-expression. To restrict sexual behavior, therefore, is seen as stopping someone from being who they are.
As Sam explains, this is a very problematic way to think.
The problem with this is that it leads us to think that a life without this is barely a life worth living: that those who, for any reason, are unable to fulfill their sexual desires are missing out on the one true chance they have of being fully who they are.
We need to realize how damaging this message could be to someone. It raises the stakes dangerously high. To say to someone that the person they sleep with is their primary means of self-expression is to imply that a sexually unfulfilled life is no real life at all.
Sam Allberry, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, pp. 102-103
The assumption, common in modern pop culture that sex = love leads to the assumption that anything which seems to curtail sexual freedom is accused of being unloving.
However, everyone would agree that there is more than one way to love, and that different contexts call for different types of love. For example, the way you love your mother is different than the way you love your spouse, which is different than the way you love your dog. Each is a love, but the loves are different, and they are necessarily different. The love for a spouse should look different than the love for a dog, or the love for pizza.
Allberry goes on to explain that obedience to God will never mean we end up loving people less. God isn’t calling people to love others less, only to love them differently, which will really mean loving them more.
Allberry also points out that there are several cases in which the Bible limits sexual expression. For example, the Bible forbids sexual activity between biological siblings, even if they are romantically attracted to each other. This is not saying that they can’t love each other, only that the way they are wanting to love each other is not actually how they have been designed to love each other. Furthermore, God’s command is based on what is truly best for us.
Allberry then points out something that everyone can relate to and agree with:
Virtually all of us will find ourselves attracted to people whom God says we shouldn’t sleep with. All of us have to say no to certain romantic and sexual desires. It’s not because we’re against love – it’s because we’re for it, in the right sense.
Sam Allberry, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, p. 116
A Full Life and the Only Love that Has the Power to Define Us
It is important to remember that Jesus Christ, the truest and fullest person who ever lived, who the Bible tells us was “anointed with the oil gladness above all his companions” (i.e.: He was a fulfilled, happy person!), lived a celibate life. What we learn from Jesus and from Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 7, is that a person can live a full and rich life apart from sexual expression. Sex, according to the Bible, is a gift of God to humanity, but not the basis of human identity.
Sam Allberry also points out how the Apostle John shows us a better way to think about identity. John was the disciple who in his Gospel account referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” Rather than finding his ultimate identity in his attractions, he found his identity in the person who loved him the most: Jesus. This, above all else, is the love that has the power to truly define us.
He recently wrote a short and helpful book about Christian sexual ethics, in which he also talks about his own experience of same-sex attraction, titled “Is God anti-gay?”.
Key Points from Sam’s Message
In the West, we live in a place where people’s “moral intuitions” have shifted. People are not morally relative, nor are they amoral. Rather, their “intuition” of what defines morality has changed. People now base their determination of morality on these questions:
Is it fair, or does it discriminate?
Is it freeing, or is it oppressive?
Is it harmful, or benign?
Anything seen as limiting freedom is seen as creating an existential conflict.
As a result, whereas biblical sexual ethics in the 1950’s-1980’s, for example, were considered prudish, they are now considered immoral.
What is needed is for us to learn to listen well, show people the goodness of God and provide a true and better narrative.
It’s worth listening to Sam’s entire message. Here is the video of it, as well as a follow-up interview he did afterward.