What does God think of women?

I’ve just listened to a wonderful podcast – a talk by Kathleen Nielson called “What does God think of women?”

It’s well worth listening to in full and it’s given me a lot to think about. My initial reaction, in no particular order:

The relationship between men and women is fundamental to God’s created order. Her introduction I think is spot on: “We need to understand and be able to articulate clearly what we believe about these things and why, according to God’s Word—not as a system of rules that we ascribe to, not as a grid through which we see everything else, but as a fundamental affirmation of God’s goodness to the human beings he created. As the culture around us changes rapidly … we believers have a huge opportunity not only to teach well the young ones growing up among us, but also to bear witness before a world that desperately needs to know the goodness of our Redeemer. And that goodness shines forth powerfully from his good creation of his image-bearers as male and female.”

Why is it so fundamental? Because what it means to be male and female communicates the nature of God and the nature of the gospel. (You’ll have to listen to the whole talk for that).

By contrast, a lot of ‘complementarian’ churches don’t really understand Biblical complementarianism. I talked about this a little when I wrote about Beth Moore a few months ago. A lot of churches think you can say, “so long as men are the head of the family and are in the leadership positions at church, so long as women aren’t preaching / teaching / leading in certain circumstances, we’ve done our job”. I think this kind of attitude is doing a lot of harm – it’s saying nothing positive about women or the relationship between men and women.

Following on from this, we need to rebuild a positive vision of men and women. One of the things that has struck me lately is how Western society seems to have completely lost the plot when it comes to men and women. We can’t rely on stereotypes any more, because all the stereotypes are being thrown down. At the same time, men don’t know how to be men, women don’t know how to be women, and men and women simply don’t know how to relate. Yes, this is an exaggeration – but not too much of one. I think the church should be setting the trend in this, and showing the world what being a man and a woman looks like in the 21st century. Rather than looking back and trying to re-create the way things were back in the 1950s, we have an opportunity to show what being male and female looks like in the here and now.

Finally, women’s bodies are important. I was really struck by Kathleen’s perspective on having a female body. One thing it did make me realise was how little the female body is really valued in society – the female body is valued for its sexuality but little else at the moment. I think we need to recapture a holistic, Biblical sense of bodies – as I have said here for a while now.

Anyway, those are my reflections – I hope you enjoy listening to the talk!

‘You are your body’…?

Since I started Friend Zone, I’ve written a few posts about the body (e.g. Shouldn’t we be more positive about the body and Friendship and the body). I don’t want to go over old ground, but I just wanted to share a quick insight which struck me yesterday. I don’t know quite how I’ve managed to get to this point in my life where I’m only just realising things like this, but perhaps that’s why it needs to change!

I think a common view in society (and, to an extent, the church) is that our bodies are not really ‘me’ – the real you is your thoughts / feelings – your inner world. It’s almost like saying we are basically “brains on sticks” – the physical stuff that makes up our body isn’t really important. This is what Nancy Pearcey said in her book Love Thy Body (which I reviewed here).

If it helps, it’s a bit like computer hardware / software. We think our essential selves are like the software on a computer – our bodies are the hardware it runs on, but it could easily be swapped out for an equivalent body and our essential selves would stay the same. But – is that right?

The new realisation I came to yesterday is simply this: our bodies are not something separate from ourselves. They’re an intrinsic part of it. Your body, in a word, is you. It’s not all of you – you have a mind as well – but your body is the real you. A few years ago I remember reading a scientific article about the body, saying that the brain wasn’t where all the processing happened – we ‘thought’ with our bodies as well, e.g. our central nervous system plays a role in the thought process. Your brain couldn’t just simply be dropped into another body, like you’d change a CD!

In the context of friendship, this means that our bodies are not simply the external windows to our souls through which friendship can happen. When we relate, we relate as physical people. Our bodies are not incidental to the process, but essential to it. It’s not a “soul-to-soul” connection through the medium of the body, but a “whole person” connection including the body. Obviously there will be different levels at which we connect (a married couple will be very different to a casual acquaintance!) but it doesn’t mean the body is unimportant in either case.

In one sense, I think all this is pretty obvious – but in another sense, I think it needs saying. As I’ve said before:

It seems to me, from the Scriptures, that to be pure is not simply avoiding wrong physical contact but doing right physical contact in its place. Similarly with bodies – not simply avoiding thinking about bodies in a sexual way but positively thinking about them in the right way.

So how do we engage with each other as physical people?

The other day, on a Facebook group we were discussing an article on the BBC: Why you shouldn’t hug your colleagues. A few people mentioned that they found physical contact difficult. While I can sympathise with this (I’m not a hugger, in general – to be honest, I don’t even really like shaking hands during the peace) – I wondered how that mapped onto the Biblical understanding of the body.

Should we avoid physical contact with our family – given that we are a family of believers in Christ?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that – and, in fact, I’m sure there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to that question. But – is there an appropriate place for physical but non-sexual love to be expressed in the church? Do we shy away from it, and if so, why? What should we be doing instead? These are questions which I think are worth exploring. That’s why, or partly why, Friend Zone exists.

Female Ghosts…?

Earlier on today I read an article by Jen Wilkin: 3 Female Ghosts that Haunt the Church. I thought it was a really helpful article about the way in which wrong views about women haunt the church. Jen identifies three in particular – the usurper, the temptress, and the child.

It’s a really helpful article and I would recommend you to read it! She concludes the article:

Do some women usurp authority? Yes. Do some seduce? Yes. Do some lack emotional or intellectual maturity? Yes. And so do some men. But we must move from a paradigm of wariness to one of trust, trading the labels of usurper, temptress, child for those of ally, sister, co-laborer. Only then will men and women share the burden and privilege of ministry as they were intended.

It made me think once again about the purpose of Friend Zone. One of the reasons we need a site such as this is that I think too many churches have decided that the Christian sexual ethic is reduced to “marry someone of the opposite sex, stay with them for life, and don’t ever have an affair.” Now, those are all important elements of the Christian sexual ethic, but it cuts out a huge amount!

I wonder if we don’t need a reboot of the whole way that men and women relate to each other. Rather than seeing men and women as being in competition, or only in a sexual way, men and women need to rediscover the glory of what it means to be truly masculine or feminine. We need to rediscovery the glory of God in making us male and female.

A lot of the time on this site I’ve talked about how many Christians and churches see the Bible as a list of “Thou shalt nots”. I believe we need to (re)discover the beauty instead of what God would have us do, the fullness of our identity as men and women.

All of these things I hope to explore over time in the coming months…

Repression is sure-fire failure

I read a helpful article this morning by Rachel Gilson: In the face of sexual temptation, repression is a sure-fire failure. I thought it was a very helpful article, especially on what she has to say about desire.

This leads to a third indictment of repression and avoidance: One does not need Jesus Christ to practice them. Some Christians find that the right combination of carrots and sticks allows them to ignore their desire, or alternatively, they structure their circumstances so that desire rarely rears its head. Self-righteousness sets in and brings with it the impulse to advise others. Christ remains present in name only. He is seen as the one who will be disappointed at failure or who will dole out treats for good behavior. He is viewed only as the Judge when he himself should be the prize.

In other words, a system that doesn’t need Jesus is not meaningfully Christian. If his sovereignty is replaced by human authority, and if the goal isn’t him but sex—or for silver medalists, virginity—would anyone even notice if Jesus slowly disappeared?

I think this is really helpful. When we come to know Jesus, he re-orients our priorities and desires. It’s possible to practice a kind of ‘repression and avoidance’ strategy when it comes to sin – it’s the kind of strategy which could be practiced without Jesus. But it’s doomed to failure, as ultimately it will lead to resentment (“I’m not getting what I really want!”) rather than a growing desire for Christ and all that he is.

This is an important lesson, and it’s particularly important for Christians to understand given our cultural context. I think it’s the meaning behind Jesus’ words in Luke 18:29-30: “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” How can giving up things lead to ‘many times as much’? Because God gives us from his abundance, not from the limited amount which physical pleasures can give.

I started to speak about desire a few weeks ago when I talked about C.S. Lewis and The Weight of Glory. I’m very pleased to see this kind of language being used elsewhere, and I hope it’s a sign that God is renewing his church.

Anyway, do read the article, I hope you find it helpful.

Why Fathers are important in the church

One of the ways the New Testament envisages the church is as a family. Jesus famously sets the pattern for this in Mark 3:

‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’

Mark 3:33-35

On Friend Zone, I’ve often talked about the way the church is supposed to be family. One thing which I’ve begun to realise, however, is that the church isn’t supposed to be like a family: I think the family is a picture of the church. In short, the church is the ‘real deal’ – the family is only the shadow. The family is supposed to give a little picture of what the church is like.

I will develop this line of thought further at a future date. But today I just want to focus on one aspect – that of fatherhood. A year ago I wrote an article, Mummy’s boys and daddy’s girls do better. As I’ve been thinking about it over the last few months, I’ve come to believe it’s actually vitally important.

One of the things which is hugely valuable as a child is knowing the love of both parents – the security of having a loving mother and father. As I wrote last year, the opposite-sex relationship is actually very important, as it helps begin to understand the opposite sex and how to relate to them.

Now, consider what happens in a society where fathers are often absent. What would that do to children – especially girls growing up without their fathers? A common consequence of absent fathers for girls is sexual activity at a young age. Why should this be the case? I think it’s because we all crave love, and young women who’ve been raised without dads crave male affection – and think the only way they can get that is through a sexual relationship. In a world where love between men and women is primarily seen as sexual, then what other option do they have?

This is where the church needs to step up. Men in the church have a huge opportunity now to love these women, women who perhaps have never known a man’s love in a non-sexual way. What fatherless young people are crying out for is men who can step up and show them what real love looks like. Self-sacrificial, genuine, love.

The problem is, this is never going to happen in a church culture which is too afraid of men and women spending time together out of fear. We in the church need to learn to fight with the weapons of the Spirit, not the weapons of the flesh. If we can learn to walk in step with the Spirit, I feel we have a chance of showing the world a better way – telling ‘A Better Story’. If we continue to pursue Pharisaical godliness, people are going to keep on being hurt.

Lessons from The Weight of Glory

Recently I came across a quote from C.S. Lewis’ famous sermon, The Weight of Glory. Although I knew a couple of quotes from the sermon, I hadn’t really read and digested the actual message. (You can read a synopsis here).

I thought it was fascinating, especially given how what Lewis says relates to things going on in the church the best part of a century later. He opens the sermon like this, and I think it’s worth quoting in full:

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. …

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The first thing I found fascinating was Lewis’ observation that we’ve substituted a negative for a positive – i.e., ‘unselfishness’ has been put in the place of ‘love’. It’s interesting that even back as far as the 1940s, this was happening: Christians were thinking about avoiding sin instead of positively loving others. I find it fascinating how this still applies across the church 80 years later – the Christian life is often portrayed in negative terms (avoidance of sin) rather than positive ones (loving God and loving others). This has been a hugely significant shift which seems to have almost happened without anyone really noticing. However, we’ve talked about all this before (most recently in my post about True Spirituality).

The second thing I found fascinating is Lewis’ talk of desire. We often talk about the Christian life as if it’s trying to avoid anything good in life! The old joke goes, “anything enjoyable in life is illegal, immoral or fattening”.

This seems to be a long way from the way that the Bible talks about the Christian life. For example, these words from Psalm 34:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:8-10

Here, Psalm 34 encourages us to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ – that to take refuge in him is to be blessed. In other words, we find in God more than we find elsewhere. We find in the Lord a generosity and abundance which cannot be found outside him.

So how does this apply to Friend Zone?

The message that young people often get from the world is that they will be most happy when their lustful desires are fulfilled. In other words – true happiness is sexual fulfilment. Of course, this is an empty promise – but people believe it nonetheless.

Imagine a young person who believes this. Then imagine them being told that the path to life is actually to deny themselves and give up on the dream of sexual fulfilment – although they’ll get eternal life at the end. Does that sound like the kind of deal they would go for? I don’t think so. Not many, anyway.

On the other hand, imagine that same young person being told that there was something even better than sexual fulfilment – and that was knowing, serving and obeying the living God – “whose service is perfect freedom” (as the Book of Common Prayer puts it).

This is fundamental thing: ultimately I don’t think it works to tell people that they need to simply keep a lid on their desires. “Just bottle it up and you’ll be fine.” It makes the Christian life sound like simply an exercise in self-denial. Of course, self-denial is part of the Christian life, but – as Lewis pointed out – that isn’t the goal.

I think, by contrast, we should be proclaiming the message – and, indeed showing the world – that following Jesus actually leads to a greater and deeper fulfilment of our desires. Another Psalm says: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

In other words, serving the Lord isn’t a life of drudgery or simply straining to keep a lid on our desires. Rather, God is able to so transform our desires that he can fulfill us in ways it’s hard to imagine.

This is why I think Friend Zone is important. Friend Zone is saying – friendship is good. In fact, friendship is something so good it’s worth forsaking a sexual relationship for – because friendship is a beautiful and wonderful thing in its own right. Whereas the world might say – the only relationship with a member of the opposite sex worth having is a sexual / romantic one – here we say there is something better.

And that is a message worth proclaiming.

The men we desperately need today

Earlier on I read an article Not Safe, But Good: The Men We Desperately Need Today. I found it a good read and it really resonated with what I said here recently about rescuing the princess.

Let me give you a few quotes to whet your appetite.

Godly men will indeed emanate compassion, humility, service, and love. This is true. But is this the whole truth? Has the ideal of manhood in the modern church become just a gentle shadow of what God made it to be?

Endangered is that species of lionhearted masculinity that bears Aslan’s description: “not safe, but good.” Our present ideals, like the ones I once held, do not require goodness to make men safe, because they ensure that men are safe regardless of goodness. The man reborn in this image says nothing uncomfortable, rallies no charge, and shows little, if any, initiative. He is goaded to be convictionless, passionless, perhaps even Christless, if but subdued.

The King’s men will be found, with Christ, in the thickest parts of the battle. They will eschew wasting their lives venturing nothing, growing warm for nothing, exercising no initiative, taking no stands, building no fortitude of faith, engaging in no spiritual battle, carrying no burdens, planting no flags on unconquered hilltops. The men of this King, for the very reason that they despise playing with foam swords against the forces of evil, create the safest culture for their women and children. Dangerous men under God, holding one another accountable, will not stand idly by as the bears maul those they should rather protect and nourish.

I thought it was a helpful article which helps me to think about what needs to happen in the church. We want more godly men, and we want more godly women – in fact, being godly men and women requires growing into godly masculinity and femininity expressed through our own unique gifts and personalities.

Do have a read of the article – I hope this is a subject which I will return to.

The need for true spirituality

I’m currently reading Francis Schaeffer’s book True Spirituality. Although I’m only half-way through, I’ve found it an excellent read so far – exactly what I needed to hear, and what (in my opinion) the Western church needs to hear at the moment.

The basic thesis is that we can’t simply claim orthodox truths and be done with it – we actually have to put it into practice. We can’t simply say we live by the power of the Holy Spirit without actually living by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s a quote I read yesterday which is characteristic of what he says throughout the book:

The Christian’s call is to believe right doctrine; true doctrine: the doctrine of the Scripture. But it is not just a matter of stating right doctrine, though that is so important. Neither is it merely to be that which can be explained by natural talent, or character, or energy … Preaching the Gospel without the Holy Spirit is to miss the entire point of the command of Jesus Christ for our era… Whatever is not an exhibition that God exists misses the whole point of the Christian’s life now on this earth [My emphasis]. According to the Bible, we are to be living a supernatural life now, in this present existence in a way we shall never be able to do again through all eternity. We are called upon to live a supernatural life now, by faith.

Schaeffer, true spirituality, p.86-7

The point of the passage is that Christians should be living their lives proclaiming the truth that God exists – not simply saying that he exists. I don’t know about you and your experience of church – but this hits home for me. I’ve been in church all my life, and I can recognise what it looks like to say one thing but live life a different way.

Bringing this round to what Friend Zone is about, I think what Schaeffer said is very relevant. I think Christians have for too long assumed that sexual morality in the Christian life is all about avoiding: avoiding temptation, avoiding members of the opposite sex, avoid anything which might be considered wrongdoing (hence the subtitle of Aimee Byrd’s book – “avoidance is not purity”).

However – does this way of living actual proclaim that Jesus is alive? Is this way of living empowered by the Holy Spirit? It seems to me that the ‘avoidance’ strategy is actually a strategy of self-reliance. It’s a strategy which anyone could use, whether a non-Christian or not. It doesn’t really require a belief in the supernatural. In the Schaeffer’s words which I quoted above, it could easily be explained by “natural talent, or character, or energy.” Thousands of non-Christians have gone through their lives without having an affair!

This is why I think the ‘godly wisdom’ of avoiding sexual temptation has to be re-examined. God is bigger than sexual temptation! We have a Christ who sets us free, who died and rose again that we might share in his resurrection life right now. We have a Holy Spirit who indwells us, who transforms us day by day. Why oh why do we persist in the mistaken belief that we can defeat sin simply by avoiding temptation?

Why oh why do we persist in the mistaken belief that we can defeat sin simply by avoiding temptation?

It seems to me that the times when God is working most powerfully in my life are the times when he is calling me to do something I simply cannot do in my own strength. This is because, as the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we rely on ourselves, not only is this sinful (because we shouldn’t be self-reliant), but we are presenting a bad witness to the world. How can we tell ‘a better story’ if we don’t have God’s help? But when we are called to go beyond what we are capable of, we are forced to rely on God.

So much of the time I think Christians in recent years have fought temptation in a worldly way, and haven’t even realised it. But we simply can’t maintain that any longer – we will either give in to sexual temptation or, with God’s help, rise above it. The church now has a huge opportunity: sex has become such a huge deal in our society, akin to a god, that Christians have the ability to demonstrate just what kind of a life it’s possible to life when God is with us. When sex is dethroned and God is rightfully put on the throne, it’s possible to live in a way we never thought possible.

I’m beginning to awaken to the kind of possibilities this might enable – but more on that another day. Anyway, for the moment, I do commend the book to you – it’s a fantastic read and I hope you will see the relevance of it to Friend Zone and the church today.

Male and Female and the image of God

In our church, we have just started a short series on Genesis 1-3. I preached last week on Genesis 1:1-24, and as I was preparing it struck me once again how important it is to understand these foundational texts.

In the sermon last Sunday, we were looking at the next passage, which contained these words:

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

Genesis 1:26-28

As I was listening to the sermon, what really hit me is the emphasis on ‘male and female’: it doesn’t simply say that God made people, in the generic sense, but he made them male and female. All throughout Genesis 1 God separates – he separates the land and sea, land and sky, day and night – and male and female. Two complementary things which are designed to work together in harmony.

In the case of male and female, this is all part of mankind’s dominion over creation (v26). And v28 goes on to say that an important part of that is to ‘be fruitful and increase in number’ – clearly a reference to procreation (and therefore marriage).

What struck me this time, however, is the universal nature of this division in humanity. Sometimes I think this passage is referred to as if it only applies to marriage: men and women are to come together in marriage, but not in other ways. But I don’t think this does justice to the scope of what is in view here. I don’t think Genesis 1 envisions men and women ruling over creation, only coming together in marriage to procreate. Marriage and procreation is very important, even foundational – but it is not exclusive.

Mankind is designed to rule over creation, to be God’s image bearers over the earth. If men and women are designed to complement one another, then that ‘complementarity’ should be expressed at every level – not simply within marriage, but all over the place.

Let me try to ground this with one or two examples. You often hear of ministries which are run by a husband and wife together. How often do you hear of things which are run by two friends – a man and a woman? I’m sure it happens, but I don’t think it happens much. I am currently helping to run a baby and toddler group with a female friend, and it seems to be working out pretty well so far. Perhaps the idea of running things as friends could be explored further.

It seems to me that our vision of masculinity and femininity, and how we relate as men and women, has been so clouded by sex for so long that it’s hard to think in another way. But the more I think about it, the more I think there is to think about!

Please comment below and let me know if you have any other ideas.

Is the church breeding loneliness?

I have written about loneliness on this site before – for example here. It is well known that loneliness is one of the biggest issues facing society today – in today’s hyper-connected world, people are actually forming fewer deep friendships and relationships.

This week I read an interesting interview with Rosaria Butterfield about whether the church is actually breeding loneliness, rather than helping. Here’s how it begins:

Is the church breeding loneliness? Rosaria Butterfield answers yes.

She believes we have declared independence from each other in our culture and, sadly, in our churches. Once upon a time, the church was “of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). Shared time, shared food, shared possessions. Shared identity. They were the early church — a family bound together by the blood of Jesus.

Many of our churches today have left behind that picture of the family of God, though. The contemporary Western church’s “absolutely low or nonexistent culture of family of God” has fostered an unparalleled depth of loneliness, with single women in particular buried at the bottom.

Rosaria’s solution is for families to open their doors to single people, especially single women.

I thought it was a very helpful article and much of it resonated with what I’ve been writing about here. I’d just like to pick up on one thing she said. She suggests opening up families to single people is a good idea because “it places healthy pressure on a marriage to be a godly marriage and not resort to ‘living together like roommates'”. I thought this was a fascinating and insightful remark: often there is a view in churches that being faithful to your spouse is simply a matter of not sleeping with anyone else. So long as you’ve been sexually faithful, you’ve discharged your duty as a husband / wife. But I wonder if this is having too low a view of marriage and our responsibilities in it: Christians are called to more than simply avoiding doing what is wrong and should be investing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to have the best marriage and be the best husband / wife you can be.

The problem is, if you think that the nuclear family is an island – that the biological family is the centre of the universe, and the church is just an extra activity that you do – then you can actually get away with quite a lot. I think a lot of people, rather than seeking to invest in marriage, simply ‘get by’ – as long as there isn’t too much temptation from outside, they coast along. Sadly a good number of Christians have fallen prey to this way of thinking.

So how would opening up a family to others help? I was just imagining what it might be like to have a single woman living in our house – especially, say, a young and attractive woman. Certainly I think there would be more than a few raised eyebrows in response. I can hear people now: “Isn’t that a bit… unwise?”

But it strikes me that this is exactly the kind of situation which the gospel speaks into. God forgives us in Christ Jesus, and gives us a new power by the Holy Spirit to do things which we would not otherwise have the power to do. We too often have the mindset: “Marriage is hard – so let’s not put any pressure on it”. In doing so we overlook a great opportunity. Instead we should have the attitude, “Marriage is hard – so it needs healthy pressure on it to help it grow.” God, after all, thinks that we need healthy pressure on our lives to grow as Christians.

One of the biggest realisations I have come to over the last few years when it comes to sanctification is that God doesn’t call us to things we think we can do – he calls us to things we think we can’t do, so we may learn the truth of what Jesus said: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When we go through hard times, when pressure is put on us, it is an opportunity for us to grow in our dependence on the Lord.

I’m not suggesting that we should therefore seek to put as much pressure on ourselves as possible! But rather – maybe we should in humility have a more open attitude, and listen to where the Spirit may be leading us in these things. And trust that He is faithful and will help us to do what we do not have the power to do ourselves. Perhaps opening up marriage and family life to include single people would actually be the best thing that could happen to a marriage.

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