NOTE: Another mass shooting occurred yesterday afternoon, this time in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people have died, including a police officer. When we know more, we will release a special edition Daily Article later this morning. For now, please join me in praying for the families and others affected by this horrible tragedy, claiming the promise of Psalm 34:18 that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.”
Can a prayer change a basketball tournament?
Sister Jean Delores Schmidt made headlines three years ago when her Loyola University men’s basketball team became the Cinderella story of the NCAA playoffs. I wrote at the time about the ninety-eight-year-old nun who served as the chaplain of the team and its inspiration. You could buy socks, T-shirts, and even a “Sister Jean Bobblehead.”
Now she’s back at it.
Before Loyola took on top-seeded Illinois last Sunday, the now one-hundred-and-one-year-old nun prayed for “special help to overcome this team and get a great win.” Her prayer noted, “We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50 percent of layups and 30 percent of its three-points. Our defense can take care of that.” And they did, upsetting Illinois and making headlines for their chaplain once again.
She is not the only believer making news in positive ways.
Chip and Joanna Gaines recently talked with Oprah Winfrey about the ways they experience God on a daily, personal basis. Harry Connick Jr.’s latest album, Alone With My Faith, was his response to “my faith and how it’s helping me get through” the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal recently told of chaplains at the International Seafarers’ Center in New Jersey serving as personal shoppers for crews prohibited from leaving their ships due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Unfortunately, however, these faith stories are not making major headlines. As last week’s shootings in Georgia continue to dominate the narrative, many are focusing on the alleged shooter’s faith—specifically on his “sex addiction” and what it means for evangelical Christianity.
Let’s respond to the cultural narrative with biblical truth.
Billy Joel: “This is my life”
According to a former roommate, the alleged shooter struggled with sexual sins he committed in the establishments he attacked. The New York Times responded with an article calling the suspect’s “fixation on sex” a “familiar thorn for evangelicals.”
The article quotes a religion professor who “grew up in a strict evangelical community in Southern California that emphasized sexual purity.” That culture, he said, “teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.”
Such a culture is both unbiblical and dangerous. David French is right: “Singling out sexual sin as particularly pernicious and life-defining leads to fear and panic when people do stumble and fall. Perversely enough, it can even enable sinful conduct by leading people to feel hopeless when or if they do fail. ‘I’m ruined anyway. What’s the point of further restraint?'”
My concern today is with the opposite, almost-inevitable reaction that dismisses any evangelical commitment to sexual purity as outdated, irrelevant, and even dangerous.
After five Supreme Court justices discovered a right to same-sex marriage in the US Constitution in 2015, I wrote that gay rights activists began years earlier by “normalizing same-sex relations through movies, television, and other media.” Long before their strategy launched, efforts to normalize heterosexual sex outside of marriage began gaining cultural momentum.
In the 1950s, television couples—even those that were married—were portrayed as sleeping in separate beds. The so-called sexual revolution, fueled by the availability of oral contraceptives in 1960, quickly changed the narrative. Before long, unmarried couples sleeping together on television and in movies became routine.
Billy Joel spoke for many in his song, “My Life,” in which he replied to those who “tell you you can’t sleep with somebody else” by singing, “I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life / go ahead with your own life leave me alone.”
“That very awareness opens the door to grace”
What does God think? His word is clear and adamant:
- “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
- “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5).
- “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
- “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).
For more on the cultural history of sex in a Christian context, see Mark Legg’s excellent article, “Half of US Christians approve of casual sex: Why did God create sex?”
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the practical consequences of the sexual revolution: broken lives, broken homes, and broken souls. We’ll look at secular evidence and reasons why the Bible is still right and relevant on this crucial subject. Then we’ll focus on practical steps that lead to a life of freedom in God’s strength and grace.
For today, let’s close with the urgency and power of grace. We are all broken sexually. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness and sanctification (1 John 1:8–10). And yet, after listing “the sexually immoral” among a group of sinners (1 Corinthians 6:9), Paul wrote: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).
In What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey wrote: “The proof of spiritual maturity is not how ‘pure’ you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace.”
How open to grace are you today?