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?
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.