Monday, December 01, 2008

We are Broken In All Ways

For several weeks now my Sunday School class has been working through Tim Keller's book, Reasons for God. We have been challenged to be humble but persistent conversation partners with believers of all stripes, since in fact, by creation in God's image we are all worshipers. Biblical Christians can humbly say "This is what I believe. I haven't always believed this, and sometimes what I believe even makes me uncomfortable." Case in point is chapter 3 on the righteousness of God creating hell and sending people there.

This last week we wrestled with some Scriptures, the most stark and jaw dropping one was "God is in heaven and he does whatever he pleases." Even if we would like to play around with philosophical categories and take refuge in some emotionally satisfying untruths, we keep banging up against two realities that leave us speechless: God is righteous in all he does and evil is all around us and is in us. This means that even as we confess biblical truth and wrestle with it intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, we are saying "I believe God" but with a lump in our throats and a tear in our eye as we groan together with Creation as we await the Renewal of All Things.

All this to say is that we hold onto the promise of "all things new" while we grieve at the brokenness that we contribute to God's world and to the tarnish that we put on God's glory and his glorious created gifts like wine, sex, money, and time.

Along those lines I came across a gripping blog post from Walt Mueller, who runs the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. Below is a congregational confession of brokenness that he passed along that would be awesome for our churches to pursue sexual holiness together and groan together with those for whom sex is a word that causes them to cringe and run back into the shame that has ruled their lives, either through abuse done to them or abuse that they have done to themselves.

When I got into the office this morning there was a letter on my desk from the Pittsburgh Coalition on Pornography. The back page contained "A Confession for Sexual Brokenness" for use in congregational worship. Because of our shared brokenness, I pass it on to you in it's entirety here:

Suggested introduction by leader: We come now to our time of confession. Christians all over the world recognize the profound harm that pornography and sexual sin are having upon our culture - and upon many of us individually. God says to be free of sin, we must first confess our sin - so in a spirit of humility let us be first to confess our sexual brokenness before God - and we hope and pray that our confession will ignite a revival of God's standards for sexual behavior around the world. So, whether or not you've committed sexual sin or experienced sexual harm or brokenness - or if you would simply like to pray for our sexually broken culture, would you join with me now. . . .

Leader: O Lord our God, today we come before you to confess that in our sinful nature we abuse your gift of sex, which you meant to nurture our marriages with love, pleasure and children. Lord we have made sex an idol in our culture and sometimes in our personal lives as well. Lord, we often allow envy, pride and lust to control our sexual behavior rather than love, fidelity and selflessness.

Congregational Response: I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before thee.

Leader: Lord we confess that sexual sin has left many of us broken. Some of us have failed to keep your standards for love, devotion and purity in our relationships - or in our entertainment choices. Some of us nurture bad habits of lust that keep us from giving ourselves fully to our spouses. Some of us have been scarred by sexual abuse and yearn to forgive and be free from emotional pain. Some of us have developed a sexual addiction that controls our behavior, damaging ourselves and those we love.

Congregational Response: Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Leader: Lord we cry out to you for healing. Please accept our confession of sexual brokenness for ourselves and for our culture as we pray silently to you now. . . . Lord we thank you that you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to you and to one another.

Congregational Response: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from thy presence, and do not take thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Leader: Hear now the good news; a broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. Amen.

(HT: Walt Mueller)

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