Encouraging, equipping and nurturing a life of faith in Jesus for Jesus
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Discipleship in a Contemporary Context
#1 ~ Christian Teaching on Marriage, Sex and Identity
The Bible has a clarity on matters of sexuality and marriage that has been consistently recognised and upheld by the Christian church from the beginning. The Greater Love Declaration, (below) subscribed to by the Howick Baptist Church elders, affirms the church's commitment, in fellowship with other churches around the world, to biblical teaching and practice in these matters.
Affirming Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
We, being ministers and pastoral workers in Christ’s Church, affirm our faith in and loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ, who showed the greatest love of all in laying down his life for his friends, as a sacrifice for sins. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Therefore, the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
In all areas of life, it is self-denial and self-sacrifice for the sake of God and of others, not self-satisfaction and self-fulfilment, to which Christ calls us. It is in such self-denial and self-sacrifice, in imitation of and service of Jesus our Lord, the new head of humanity, that true humanity, fulfilment and satisfaction are found. This is the Greater Love that Christ commands. Throughout history this teaching of Christ has faced opposition. In our day this is particularly focused on its application to marriage, sex and identity.
The Christian faith teaches, as it always has and will continue to do, that God designed marriage as an essential part of his pattern for human life in this world. Marriage is a witness to the eternal love of Christ for his Church; it is therefore the public lifelong covenant union of one man and one woman. Great blessings flow to all people when marriage is widely honoured. Since the Christian attitude to sex is, as in all other things, not self-satisfaction for the sake of self but self-denial for the sake of others, Christians, bearing true witness to their natural sex as God created them, are to pursue chaste singleness outside of marriage and exclusive faithfulness within it. This is the reason for the clear and unambiguous commands of Holy Scripture to this effect, and for the consistent, unchanging submission to this teaching by the Church in all ages.
Therefore, being ministers and pastoral workers in Christ’s church, we commit ourselves to the following:
In imitation of our Lord, we will endeavour to show loving self-sacrifice in every area of life. We will strive to care for the poor and needy, comfort the abused, protect the weak, and seek the common good. We repent of our many failures in all these areas and look for God’s grace to help us.
In sexual matters we will therefore live by, teach and proclaim the goodness of the Christian doctrine of marriage.
We commit to welcoming and loving all who, like ourselves, have fallen short and continue to fall short of this ideal. Christ laid down his life to save those, like us, whose lives have been ruined by sin, in sexual matters as in other ways. We will not discriminate or treat people differently on the basis of perceived sexual or gender identities, for all are men and women made in the image of God. We will show love to all as Christ has loved them and us.
We will call all people, as Christ did, to turn away from their sins, and find forgiveness in him through his self-sacrifice for sins past and present; and to reorder their lives according to God’s created design by the power of the Holy Spirit. This includes living either in chaste singleness or faithful marriage. Since Christ calls people to heartfelt repentance, we will never coerce anyone to do this but urge them to do so out of love for him.
Living this way is necessary for every Christian. Therefore we will teach it in our churches to people of all ages, and support them as they seek to follow it. We see a particular need, in imitation of Jesus’ love for children, to do so in age-appropriate ways to the young, to help them resist the pervasive sexualisation and risks of emotional and physical damage to which they are constantly exposed.
We will not surrender the ‘Greater Love’ that Jesus showed us, and to which he calls us, to the far lesser version of love which centres on the satisfaction and even the worship of self, the autonomy of the individual, and the belief that all sexual desires and inclinations are sacred. We will not accept that any perceived identities established by these beliefs justify departure from Christian teaching on marriage and sex. This is not, by our Lord’s standards, love at all, and is profoundly harmful to many – children in particular.
We commit to teaching and celebrating the great richness of non-sexual love, in friendships and in families, which is made possible by refusing to act upon sexual desire outside of the marriage of one man and one woman. In particular the Church, being the body of Christ and the family of God, is the place where such love is especially found, and is to be urged, fostered and enjoyed.
There are no circumstances – not the threat of legal sanction, nor of financial penalty, nor of social stigma – which will cause us to abandon our Lord’s call to love in this way, in sexual matters as in all others. And therefore there are no circumstances which will cause us to abandon the Christian doctrine of marriage, nor to cease teaching it, to all people of every age.
If the cost to ourselves of faithfulness to our Lord, and love for those around us, is high, we nevertheless commit ourselves to these things. For in this way too, we recognise that we are called to lay down our lives for the good of others; for there is, as our Lord Jesus Christ said, no greater love than this.