By / Jul 5

Loving relationships possess great potential. When healthy and lively, they produce some of the sweetest joys of the human experience. But when they go awry, they can leave us with confusion, disappointment, and deep hurt. 

While “our desire for satisfying and loving relationships is a good one,” given by God, “God never intended for us to turn other people into our primary refuge or home,” says Ellen Mary Dykas. She is the author of a new book titled Toxic Relationships: Taking Refuge in Christ, a 31-day devotional written to help readers “strengthen their relationship with Christ and cultivate godly relationships with others from a place of confidence and peace.” 

If you find yourself in a place where your relationships have gone askew, this book is a resource that will help you set them aright. For more about Toxic Relationships, you can read the conversation we shared with Dykas below.

How would you define a toxic relationship? What is it that makes a relationship toxic or unhealthy?

The idea of something being toxic is that it has become polluted or intruded upon by influences that don’t belong there. In this sense, when sinful dynamics and motivations are the fuel for a relationship, it’s become toxic with sin. My devotional book focuses on relationships that exhibit codependency or idolatrous desires and demand that someone be for us what only God can rightly be. Spouses make wonderful spouses, but lousy mini-messiahs; friends can be a joy and comfort but were never meant to replace Christ in our life. Parent-child relationships are a beautiful way to understand the heart of God for his children, and how children are meant to flourish under a parent’s love, but even family relationships shouldn’t be our source of ultimate identity and worth. 

When we look to a person and what we get from our relationship with them as our source of living water and daily bread, we’re in a danger zone, and idolatry is at play most likely. David said in Psalm 16:1-2, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” Toxic relationships happen when we insert a person’s name into this beautiful promise, and take God’s out, or move it to the sideline.

In the early pages of the book, you encourage your reader to “engage the journey (toward relational health) with faith-fueled realism.” What do you mean by this? Why is it important?

Faith-fueled realism keeps us grounded in our human frailty and God’s amazing grace and power. Faith in Christ and the transformation, which comes through the gospel, IS our inheritance. Yet, while we continue to contend with our sin nature and the powers of darkness, the process of becoming more like Jesus, and relationally healthy and holy, is a long one — a lifelong trajectory of dependence on God as we look to him rather than his creation for purpose and identity. I need a realistic view of my process, anchored completely in the truth of who God is. That is faith-fueled realism.

The book is very practical. In it, you urge readers to fast, to read Scripture daily, to engage in reflection, and to actually perform certain actions, all of which are intended to help them “grow toward relational wholeness.” Why are all these practices so integral to achieving the relational wholeness that you speak of?

I love this question! We need biblical truth to anchor us and practical application of that truth to send it into our lives. Sometimes when we want to grow as Christians we get started in the right direction: we aim to learn new things, understand our hearts more deeply, discern our motivations and how we’ve been off track through sin or foolishness. However, growth happens as the Spirit changes our hearts and we respond by faith with active repentance. I’m hopeful that my devotional book guides readers in steps of discipleship for the heart and then active steps to take at the street level of life.  

Clearly, you structured your book and its major sections intentionally. Can you talk about that? Why, for instance, do you begin with God as our refuge before you discuss the “how-to’s” of relational health?

Good catch; I did indeed organize the sections very intentionally. Let’s be honest that most of us, when facing a sin struggle, usually look for a quick and easy way out; we want to be fixed and cured. In the intro to my book I wrote, “The first section of devotional readings offers you an opportunity to engage in a weeklong fast from having your thoughts preoccupied by any one person or relational situation. If you really—I mean really—want to grow towards relational wholeness, you need to freshly focus on the one who truly meets your needs: God himself!” (p 12). 

I wanted to invite the reader to focus on God, then go on to Section 2 which leads us to a deeper understanding of how toxic codependency starts; why do some of us wrestle with this? Section 3 follows with practical steps to start taking that lead toward freedom. Then I wanted to finish out the months’ worth of readings with a deep immersion in the person of Jesus, our True Refuge. This is not a devotional that focuses 31 days’ worth of reading on your problems and how to quickly solve them. Rather (I hope!), it gently guides the reader through a process that I’ve found is most helpful in breaking these kinds of patterns in our relationships.

In your section titled “The Foundation of Toxic Relationships,” you cover several “roots” that often lead to unhealthy relationships. What foundations or roots, would you say, are the most common?

Of the several I cover, two rise up as common across the boards: unbelief and pain. Unbelief because we just don’t believe what the scriptures teach about God and how people are meant to be enjoyed, loved, and experienced under the loving lordship of Christ. Perhaps someone has never been taught this, or ever seen it modeled. Desires can be a powerful motivator to believe what we want to about people, and a common temptation is to insist that people effectively be a Jesus-replacement in our lives. 

However, I want to quickly address that pain is a common foundation as well. Suffering in this world wounds, breaks, and shapes us. Abandonment, abuse, betrayal, and loss are ‘educators’ which influence what we believe about life, people, and ourselves. When a biblical worldview isn’t in the mix it would be expected that we develop thinking and patterns of life based on what feels good to us, what seems to protect and provide for us. Our world of relationships is a common target for misguided hopes, desires, and the deep healing of heartache that only Christ can accomplish.

Can our poor foundation be repaired? How?

Yes, through the heart transformation and healing that only Christ can bring! When Jesus began his public ministry (see Luke 4:16-20), he quoted Isaiah 61, a messianic passage, and claims to be the Messiah. Jesus alone can do more than “repair” but radically remake our hearts into something new, whole, forgiven, and free. The process of faith + humility + dependence + active steps of change leads to new fruit bearing out of our lives, including in our world of relationships. 

What role does/should the spiritual family, the church, play in our pursuit of relational health?

I’ll quote from my book as this is an important topic for me: 

“Relationships within the body of Christ, through local churches, are crucial for our growth as followers of Jesus. God has no only children; you have many brothers and sisters, and it’s important to proactively pursue relationships centered on the gospel through a community of faith” (p. 49). 

A family of believers with whom we ‘do life’ allows us to be known, loved, and encouraged in specific ways. The process of disentangling yourself from a codependent relationship is not only painful and messy, but a long process (usually). God has provided others to guide and support us as we seek to grow new patterns of relationship; it’s crucial to have ‘on the ground’ journey companions to keep us moving forward.

When pursuing relational health, one of your encouragements for the reader is to “live hidden in plain sight.” What do you mean by that?

Colossians 3:1-4 says that through our union with Jesus we are in fact “hidden” in him. I’ve pondered recently how our relationship with him can’t be posted on social media, or made visible in and of itself. It’s mysterious, spiritual, and hidden as Christ has made his home in us and we abide in him through the power of the Spirit (see John 15:1-11). Our common temptation is to seek to hide ‘in’ a person, rather than in Christ, effectively attempting to make that person our home. 

As rich and deep as our relationships with people can be, the closest friendship and the most intimate and one-flesh marriage relationship are only a shadow or taste of our union with Jesus. The fruits of our oneness with Christ are indeed visible as the life of Christ bears out of us in loving deeds and a lifestyle of faith. To live hidden in plain sight, then, is to actively engage relationships with people through our close relationship with Jesus. We let people off the hook for being our life source and draw from the hidden, yet very real, intimacy we share with Christ.

The book’s final section centers on the person of Jesus and who he is for the believer. What role does meditating on Jesus play in our pursuit of relational health?

Meditating on Jesus is a way we not only think about Jesus (with the mind of Christ! 1 Cor 2:16) but a pathway with which we commune with him. Isn’t this amazing?! We can meditate, fantasize, or daydream about a person but we’re not communing with a person through those practices. We are separate from people but united through Christ alone. Like the branches in John 15 making a home in the True Vine of Christ, we are knit together through the life of Christ in all of us. Codependent relationships seek a direct union with a person, which depends on what we get or give in the relationship, rather than “Christ between us.” So, as we meditate on Christ, we allow his truth to have a home in us (Col. 3:16), and we set him apart as Lord over all of our relationships. Jesus is then central and supreme (Col. 1:16-18) over the relationship, rather than the relationship being our lord.

For readers who find themselves in a toxic relationship, what do you hope this book accomplishes for them? How would you encourage them moving forward?

My hope is that any reader who is in the throes of a toxic mess will be comforted, coached, and challenged through this devotional. Truly, as I have experienced the anguish of these messy entanglements, I know how much shame and hopelessness can overwhelm a person’s heart. Christ does not shame you for your relationship struggles but invites you to take a bold step away and out of what is not of him. God’s Word may not have the exact vocabulary for what we call things now, like ‘codependency,’ but his wisdom touches all areas of our human life. He knows we are prone to make idols of his greatest gifts, including people. For this Christ came, to set you free and call you to let go, surrender, and to pray Phillippians 2:13, that you would be willing to have your desires and will changed. You may feel terrified to let go of a relationship as it is; Jesus is with you in it and will not disappoint or fail you. Take a step to look to him, ask a fellow believer for help, and trust that your obedience will bear fruit. You can trust him to carry and bear this burden for you (Psa. 68:19-20).

By / Mar 30

At the very core of who we are exists a deep desire and fundamental need for connection, belonging, and security found only within relationships. This eternal truth can be traced back to the very beginning of time.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

God’s design for connection

The community between the Father, Son, and Spirit is imprinted on the human soul—we bear the imago Dei, “image of God.” As the creation narrative unfolds, God reflects on his creation of Adam, remarking, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God’s response to Adam’s solitude is the creation of Eve, Adam’s partner. The height of joy and depth of trust experienced through loving relationships and secure attachment are fundamentally God’s idea and God’s design. 

More than 2,000 years later, we take our place in history longing for connection—remembering this foundational truth and holding onto this eternal hope for ourselves, our neighbors, our communities, and perhaps most importantly for our children. Yes, God created us to be in relationship—at peace with him, with others, and in our hearts. And yet, with the fall of mankind into sin, we now experience the pain of broken relationships and the vulnerability of isolation. This is the painful reality for many of the children Show Hope seeks to serve—children who have been orphaned. 

It is not uncommon for children who come home through adoption and foster care to have had exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, trauma, loss, and/or neglect. As these children enter our families and our stories intertwine with theirs, tensions may surface. We must ask ourselves, How do we effectively communicate the truth of the gospel—an invitation into a forever relationship with Christ—to our children who may carry attachment injuries and associate belonging and connection with fear?

As scientific research expounds, our understanding of the human brain is only beginning to grasp the fullness and complexities of God’s design. And as only God could design, the human brain is pliable and can be rewired. Developmental psychologist and advocate for children Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “Our children were harmed in relationship, and they will experience healing through nurturing relationships.” When we step into the journey of caring for children who have been affected by early loss and trauma, an incredible invitation is extended. We have the opportunity to help rewrite the narrative—to help lead our children to places of emotional, physical, and neurological healing by being the hands and feet of Christ. 

Furthermore, by choosing to love children from difficult beginnings, we are afforded a front-row seat as God’s miraculous work unfolds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the sacredness, beauty, and peace of imago Dei is reimagined and reaffirmed as our children become at home with our love. 

Surely, no one person could do this work alone or without the encouragement and support of a wider community. This is why Show Hope’s Pre+Post Adoption Support exists. We understand—as many of you do—that the adoption journey doesn’t end the day a child is welcomed home. Because of the difficult beginnings many of our children have experienced, we must work diligently to help them reimagine home and experience belonging and connection.  

Learn how to build trust and connection with vulnerable children

Families affected by adoption and/or foster care can benefit from Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) methods developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU, which exists to bring attachment and connection in families. TBRI “is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.” At its core, TBRI works to promote trust and connection between caregivers and children by addressing physical and emotional needs while also disarming fear-based behavior. 

And, so, while TBRI may be perceived as clinical in nature as it involves the complexities of science, at Show Hope, we believe that at its core, TBRI is an expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child, Dr. Karyn Purvis, with Michael and Amy Monroe, wrote, 

The longing of the human heart is to connect and belong. We long to connect with our Creator, in whose image we have been made, and by God’s grace such a connection is possible. As relational beings, we also have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human conditions is undoubtedly between a parent and child.

Build a community of support

Another practical step in serving and equipping families and caregivers is launching a support or small group for individuals and parents affected by adoption and/or foster care within your church or faith community. Perhaps you can begin meeting weekly or monthly in prayer, study, and conversation. A great resource to walk through is Created to Connect. This study guide sheds light and goes deeper into the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and interventions detailed in The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross. 

As part of that support or small group, recruit volunteers who can be on-call to help meet the everyday needs of adoptive and/or foster care families. It can be as simple as setting up a meal train for heavy, busy seasons of life or offering childcare for parents to have a night out for reconnecting. The adoption and/or foster care journey is not meant to be traveled alone. As a local church or individuals, we have the opportunity to come alongside children and families in service and support. 

Find hope for the journey

Show Hope’s new Hope for the Journey Conference will premiere on Friday, April 9, with a broadcast period through Mon., May 31. The conference includes training in TBRI, a new teaching component called The Gospel + TBRI, and Practical Perspectives videos featuring the voices of adult adoptees and foster youth alumni as well as adoptive and foster families. The conference targets parents and caregivers meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and/or foster care, and remains a resource for churches, agencies, and other organizations as they support and equip the families, caregivers, and the communities they serve. It can be a great opportunity to educate volunteers on the needs of children and families affected by adoption and/or foster care. 

Will you join with us in showing up and showing hope?

By / Feb 18

Living in a digital age, there are few problems that can’t be fixed with a smartphone. Trends over the past few years indicate that singles have been finding this to be true even of finding a date—nearly half of young adults say that they have tried to get hitched using a dating app or site. Thanks to mediums like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Hinge, and many others, linking up with a potential partner is only a swipe away.

As our age becomes increasingly digitized, it should be no surprise that Christians are among those trying to find partners online. But while it is commendable to desire marriage and we can rejoice that technology can aid the search for a spouse, the way these services are designed can be problematic. Christians searching for a spouse on these mediums should be cautious of these potential pitfalls:

1. Dating apps can be consumeristic and individualistic

Dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge work by having the user browse through a plethora of profiles, hoping for matches by “liking” or “disliking” the countless individuals that come through their feed. The apps’ algorithms tailor the sample of profiles to the user’s personal fancies, promoting potential partners based on the number of preferences they meet. This creates the possibility of turning one’s search for a date into what is essentially an internet shopping experience, where the “items” that are ultimately meant to fulfill the user’s wants and needs are real people. Individuals that have been secured as matches become comparable to objects in an online shopping cart.

While there is nothing wrong with preferring some qualities in potential partners over others, the seemingly infinite sample dating apps give us makes it easy to imagine that there is someone out there who is more perfect than the one currently right in front of us. Under this assumption, the search for one’s spouse is individualistic and self-centered—the goal of marriage becomes not how we may serve God and our spouse, but how a partner may fulfill our own desires.

2. They can perpetuate lust

Christians who are prone to lustful thoughts upon visual triggers should be aware of the ways dating apps can perpetuate this form of sin. Because of the relative inability to use one’s personality to attract likes, a profile’s images are what drive matches—both men and women listed a person’s photos as the most important indicator of their like-worthiness. Men are advised to strategize their profile photos, and women are incentivized to draw attention with sexually suggestive images. 

While lust is just as prevalent offline as it is online, dating apps present a unique challenge to purity. Because of the distinct role photos play in earning and issuing likes, coupled with the sheer volume of images users are able to swipe through, it is not difficult for one to get carried away scrutinizing the physical attractiveness of one individual after the other. To be clear, the issue is not the act of liking a person’s profile because of his or her appearance, but the enticing effects the alluring photos on these apps may bring about. Lust that can arise from the unchecked use of these services is harmful for the person who has been tempted into adultery of the heart (Matt. 5:28), and it is also dehumanizing for the countless individuals who have been objectified and evaluated solely on their physical qualities. Christians should keep this unique nature of dating apps in mind as they use them.

3. Dating apps can be addictive

Dating apps are deliberately addictive. Psychology Today notes how programmers intentionally work “to ‘gamify’ dating so you’ll become addicted to the experience of ‘playing’ it and will soon come back for more.” On top of the hooking nature of swiping through profiles, the rush one receives upon finding a match or receiving a like gives validation and boosts confidence. These dopamine spikes urge the user to get back to swiping, looking at more advertisements, or paying more fees for the service, generating more revenue for the developers. 

These addictive tendencies may also reinforce a consumeristic disposition toward dating and could habituate the objectification of people of the opposite sex. The obsessive nature of dating apps demands that singles use them with caution and moderation so as to avoid these destructive patterns.

How should Christians use dating apps?

The first and most important thing to note about these dangers is that all three make one’s own personal fulfillment the center of relationship-finding. But to place one’s own wants or needs as the object of a relationship or marriage cuts directly against biblical teaching. Paul describes the profound mystery of marriage as an image of Christ’s oneness with his church (Eph. 5:31-33). It is for this reason that husbands are called to give themselves up for their wives as Christ did for the church (5:25-29), and wives are likewise called to devote themselves to their husbands as the church does to the Lord (5:22-24). Contrary to the sentiments that can easily be perpetuated by dating apps, Scripture describes an individual’s relationship with his or her spouse as a self-giving endeavor (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3-5). 

Because of the fall, our sinful tendencies can easily pervert good things and use them for destructive ends. With this in mind, Christians should be mindful to use dating apps in such a way that brings glory to God and shows love to our neighbors.

But what can the foundational principles of a biblical marriage weighed against these possible pitfalls inform us about how Christians should use dating apps? I encourage singles using or considering signing up for a dating app to consider these three points of advice:

Know yourself. This requires daily prayer and meditation on the Word. Earnestly examine your heart and ask God to do the same (Psa. 139:23-24). Be aware of what sins you are naturally drawn to, and be diligent in fighting them. Do you become addicted easily? Are alluring photos a constant source of temptation for you? If so, it may not be wise to download a dating app. Prayerfully consider your weaknesses and whether or not your use of one of these mediums will exploit them.

Monitor yourself. As you use dating apps, continually observe the effects it has on your thoughts and attitude, and adjust your activity accordingly. If you find yourself becoming addicted or if you notice lustful tendencies arising, consider setting time limits or periodically remove the app from your device to take breaks. To combat consumeristic dispositions and objectifying others on the site, strive to be more intentional in your interactions with the individuals you match with—take steps to get to know them as people and fellow image-bearers by loving and encouraging them.

The most effective way you can monitor your heart for this purpose is by immersing yourself in a rich, gospel-centered body of believers who will lovingly hold you accountable. Find members within your local church who will disciple you, exhort you to purity, and encourage you amidst singleness. Sin cannot be adequately fought in isolation, and fellow members of a local congregation are indispensable to guard against temptations that may arise with the use of dating apps.

Comfort yourself with the gospel. Whether or not you are able to use a dating app in a healthy manner, as you pray God will provide you a husband or wife, pray most of all that he will provide you contentment in his Son (Phil. 4:11-13). Remember also that marriage, as beautiful as it may be, is merely a foretaste of what is to come when Christ returns. If you are in him, you will one day experience joys that far outshine even the greatest blessings of marriage. As you wait and hope for a spouse, wait and hope for that day even more.

Do this through constant prayer and devotion. Share with your neighbors the hope you have within you (1 Pet. 3:15). Commit yourself to a local congregation, and serve it dutifully. It is within these assemblies of saints that we are given a glimpse of that future day when we are all gathered around the throne. Such actions may not fill the hole left by singleness, but they will point you to the One who does.   

Taking into account God’s decrees for humanity to have dominion over creation (Gen 1:28) and for man to leave his parents to be united to his wife (2:24), we can infer that it is quite human to cultivate the Earth through innovation and use such advancements for the purpose of finding a spouse. But because of the fall, our sinful tendencies can easily pervert good things and use them for destructive ends. With this in mind, Christians should be mindful to use dating apps in such a way that brings glory to God and shows love to our neighbors.

By / Jan 21

Dan Trippie, pastor of Restoration Church in Buffalo, New York, talks about how the pandemic has allowed his church to build good relationships with the community.

By / Aug 27

Amid the cultural upheaval of COVID-19 and what has turned out to be one of the most eventful years in modern history, a dehumanizing and predatory perversion of technology has been spreading in the darkness of our communities: pornography. While the out-of-sight nature of pornography makes it is easier to shrug off its insidiousness, especially given the social unrest of the moment, the rise in predatory marketing plans and expanded pornography use should not be left alone because of the monumental human dignity implications.

As the coronavirus lockdowns went into effect throughout the world in March, Pornhub, the world’s largest online pornography provider, announced that they were providing users in Italy free access and subscriber privileges due to the nation’s outbreak and isolation. The company has also provided similar access to users in other nations such as Spain and France. In light of the free and open access to this pornographic content, Pornhub self-reported on their official blog that daily usage increased by 38-61% throughout these European countries, which led them to also claim that “people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.” According to the company’s June analytics report, “worldwide traffic to Pornhub continues to be much higher than it was before the Coronavirus pandemic spread worldwide.”

The company also demonstrates how people are also searching for virus-related pornography. According to Pornhub’s report, there have “been more than 18.5 million searches containing Corona, 1.5 million containing Covid and 11.8 million containing Quarantine. More than 1250 coronavirus themed videos have been uploaded to Pornhub, with many being viewed over 1 million times.”

None of this should come as a surprise because the pornography industry is well-suited for a worldwide pandmeic. As the Economist reports, the industry “has already largely moved online; and its consumers often voluntarily self-isolate.” This pandemic has not created a pornography problem in our communities and homes, but it has esacerbated a deep and disturbing trend of separating sexual desire from relational wholeness and marital fidelity.

The problem of porn

Statistics can only take us so far in understanding the deceptive nature of pornography and how it is ruining so many lives throughout our world. At the heart of pornography use is not just young men and women who are unable to control their sexual desires or openly reject God’s good design for our sexuality. The core of the problem is an acceptance of a worldview and morality that isolates our sexuality from our whole person. This deep division of body and mind from flesh and desires contributes to the growing trend of the normalization of pornography and the perversion of human sexuality.

The unbridled mantra of our day is that the real you is your deepest desires and emotions, cut off from the embodied nature of humanity. As Nancy Pearcey states in her book Love Thy Body, “sexual intercourse, the most intimate of bodily experiences, has been disconnected from personal relations” (emphasis original). This bifurcation of humanity has led to countless perversions and abuses of fellow image-bearers, most evidently seen in the rise of the sexual revolution and the corresponding rise of pornography worldwide.

As the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

When we separate what it means to be an embodied soul, the use of pornography becomes commonplace because it allows for the sexual high outside of any relational context and reduces humanity down to what writer Melinda Selmys describes as a “wet machine,” which could also be understood as a soulless body or organic machine. The real you—the disembodied ghost— controls this machine in order to pursue pleasure in any way you see fit, regardless of the cost to yourself or others.

Alongside this division of body and soul, another dehumanizing effect of pornography is the objectification the person on the other side of the screen (or even headset, in light of the explosive growth of VR porn in the last few years). One of the ways this manifests itself is in the faceless nature of pornography and the obession over the body. God designed the face to play a major role in how we see each other as individuals and subjects, worthy of respect and honor, and made in his image (Gen. 1:26-28). As the late philosopher Roger Scruton describes in The Face of God,

“The underlying tendency of erotic images in our time is to present the body as the focus and meaning of desire, the place where it all occurs, in the momentary spasm of sensual pleasure of which the soul is at best a spectator, and no part of the game. In pornography the face has no role to play, other than to be subjected to the empire of the body. Kisses are of no significance, and eyes look nowhere since they are searching for nothing beyond present pleasure. All of this amounts to a marginalization, indeed a kind of desecration, of the human face.” (107)

Scruton goes on to show that this desecration of the face leads to a “canceling out of the subject,” rendering sex—especially in a pornographic culture—“not as a relation between subjects but a relation between objects.” Through the use of pornography, we naturally objectify the other because we are not concerned with them as a fellow human but rather as an instrument that leads to our sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure becomes the primary goal of the user rather than a deep and intimate connection with another image-bearer as a whole person. 

Predatory porn

The dehumanizing effects of pornography affect those on both sides of the screen. Not only is the viewer dehumanizing themselves by separating the goodness of sexual intercourse from its proper context, but there is also a victim who is portrayed and treated as nothing but a simple object of desire. These victims often see sexual acts as the only way to provide for themselves or even as a way to attain fulfilment or freedom.

During this pandemic, some people are turning to various pornographic websites like IsMyGirl to earn extra income. This particular site offers predatory promises by signing up to become a model. According to a March press release, the company opened up lucrative “opportunities” for furloughed or out-of-work McDonald’s employees. The popular pornography platform stated, “in an effort to help McDonald’s employees, and to make sure they can continue to provide for themselves and their families, we want to help provide them with a legitimate option.”

This “legitimate” option is nothing less than asking others to sell their bodies in order to make ends meet during these extraordinary times. But as the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

While it may be tempting to overlook those stuck in cycles of pornography use or even the industry itself, Christians have the mandate to speak out against the predatory practices of the entire pornographic industry. Part of this mandate will mean that some believers will need to address and seek help for their own pornography addictions. For others, it will mean speaking out against these dehumanizing atrocities in order to expose the lies and predation of the porngraphic industry. 

The Christan moral witness proclaims that sex is not designed for a temporary high, online exploit, or even a late-night addiction. We are more than just machines. We are people created in God’s image. We are embodied souls who are offered redemption by the God who took on flesh himself in order to save us from ourselves. And our hope in the midst of this porn pandemic is that what is hidden will come to light in the fullness of time. As the church, we must be ready to proclaim the forgiveness found in the light of Jesus Christ while working to welcome, defend, and care for the vulnerable among us. 

By / Aug 19

Aristotle said that friendship is “an absolute necessity in life.” And from a Christian perspective, I think that is on target. “No one would choose to live without friends,” the philosopher wrote, “even if he had all the other goods.” Indeed, if we think back to the opening pages of Scripture, we see this same idea in the life of Adam. After God completed the rest of his work of creation, he placed Adam in the garden of Eden to “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). In the midst of a perfect creation, there was one problem: Adam was alone.

Adam at that time had every kind of good. He lived in a perfect world. He experienced none of the pain or hardships of life. There was no sickness nor affliction nor strife. And above all of that, he had a relationship with the Living God, who walked with Adam in the garden in the cool of the day (3:8). But even though Adam had a seemingly perfect existence, being at peace with God and the creation that surrounded him, his life was incomplete. And recognizing this, God made for Adam “a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).

Friendship is indispensable

Friendship is something common to humanity because it accords with our nature. God created us as relational beings. As we live our lives, we crave relationships. That is one of the reasons the lockdowns of this season have been so devastating. People are not able to experience the benefits of in-person relationships at nearly the same volume or frequency that they are accustomed to. And, like Adam, we are not meant to live alone. Few of us are able to thrive in extended periods of isolation. 

Think about the indispensable role that friends play in our lives. We find happiness in the company of friends as we share time and experiences together. We find comfort in our friends as we experience hardships and trials in our lives. And we find ourselves turning to our friends to celebrate the joys of life. True friends are companions that stick with us through the best and worst times of our lives, which is why Proverbs speaks of the friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). Friendship is something we are not supposed to live without.

Friendship is valuable

Our friends serve us in many ways. And one of the most important ways they do so is by helping us see things more clearly. Recently, I posted on social media about the value of having friends across the ideological spectrum. My point was that having friends who disagree with us about important issues can keep us from arguing against caricatures or straw men because we can put the face of a friend with the position we are speaking against. Honestly, I was surprised by how deeply that message seemed to resonate with a lot of people. 

None of us are prepared to withstand all of life’s challenges, at least not on our own. But the good news is that for Christians, we not only have the Holy Spirit within us, but the church around us as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

I was thinking about this aspect of friendship because a friend from work recently pointed me toward, which is a website I had never heard of. But if you visit the site, you’ll discover that it models how different types of people experience YouTube. Like almost every form of social media, YouTube is driven by an algorithm. It shows you more of what you want to see and screens out things you don’t like so that you will spend more time on the platform. 

It only takes a few minutes on to size up the impact of these algorithms. To keep you on the platform, they create a giant echo chamber. From the moment you log on, YouTube (or Twitter or Facebook) creates a feedback loop that is designed to show you things you want to see—not necessarily things that make you happy, but whatever keeps you engaged. I suppose that is fine if we are talking about videos of kittens or comedians. But social media is actually where many people turn to gather information about much more important matters, like politics and culture and even religion. 

Those are critical areas of our lives to hand over to an algorithm. And that is why it’s helpful to remind ourselves that what we see on social media doesn’t always correspond to real life. More than that, it’s one of the reasons we need relationships in the real world. Meaningful friendships serve as a kind of moral anchor; they can help us keep our bearings whether we are encountering echo chambers, ethical dilemmas, or other kinds of challenging circumstances.

Friendship and faith

Our craving for relationships not only accords with our nature, but it also aligns with God’s plan of redemption. Through Jesus, God reconciles us to himself. But he also brings us into a new family, the church. As we read through the New Testament, what we see is that the church is supposed to be a loving community made of people who serve and sacrifice for one another (John 13:34; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21). In fact, it is a community that was, as Jesus taught us, created by friendship: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And in the church, we not only find brothers and sisters with whom we will spend eternity, but friends to walk alongside us as we follow after him.

None of this means that friendship is always easy. Sometimes we experience periods of loneliness. Sometimes our relationships are filled with discord (even Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest followers). But when we encounter such things, we should remember that friendship, like every good gift, comes from above. Pray. Ask the Lord to bless your pursuit of  deep friendships or to bring reconciliation and peace when your relationships become contentious. He is faithful. He cares for you. And he will provide all that you need.

Jesus’ earthly ministry took place in the context of friendship. He chose a group of 12 men and loved, taught, and served them. He modeled the kind of commitment and patience and grace that friendship requires. And in his example, he showed us how friendship is a critical part of the Christian life. None of us are prepared to withstand all of life’s challenges, at least not on our own. But the good news is that for Christians, we not only have the Holy Spirit within us, but the church around us as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

By / Jul 28

I’ve been in the business of helping save marriages for nearly seven years now and in the business of keeping families together much longer. The amount of similarities between the families I work with and our current cultural climate is striking. We are all seeking to navigate these choppy waters, and some of us are drowning in the process. 

In reality, there’s not much difference between a bickering and resentful family and a bickering and resentful society. In fact, you would have to work hard to convince me the two are not a byproduct of one another. We’re living in a time promulgated with self-derived truth. We find our version of events, enter into the fray, and are unwilling to yield and unable to find solutions. American families have been brutalizing one another in this way for the last 50 years due to dramatic cultural shifts in family philosophy and belief systems. So, it is no surprise to me this chaos has poured onto our streets.  

It is why you’ve heard it said the art of compromise has been lost on our society. There are days this certainly feels the case. But hope is not lost. It cannot be. The alternative is too grim. How we handle the contentious conversations of our day has an immediate impact on our culture in the present, not some distant day in the future. We can no longer kick the can down the road on our relationships in this American family.

I took it upon myself to think through the images and clichés I often use in couples therapy—the things I find myself saying from memory again and again that resonate with the families I work with. My hope is that you can take these principles and work toward compromise in your homes and spheres of influence. The time to act is now. Step out and have meaningful conversations with your neighbors. Show your support for the people who make up our nation by being kind wherever you are. Put others first above your own needs, and never cease to advocate for truth and justice above all things.  And seek to apply these ideas along the way in order to live at peace with those around you.

5 ways to approach tough relationships

You can both be right. There are times in life when we should stand our ground in the face of injustice and evil. Murder, rape, and other criminal activities are just a few examples. When it comes to these things, we should never compromise, never back down, and seek swift and righteous justice. But in most conflict situations, there is a lot of room for compromise. Believing there is some validity to what the other person is saying is a good first step. You may not agree with all of what they are saying, and you may completely disagree with their emotional reactions. However, people can almost always find common ground. 

And it always starts with seeing how the other side could be right. Because when you can see the shoreline from the other person’s point of view, you can begin to swim in that direction. When you can accept this, tension is relieved from the pressure cooker, and the two sides can begin to converse. The trick is talking in the right way. The communication of compromise is hard to do, especially when you’re used to fighting for your side.   

Make “the thing” the thing. This is conflict resolution 101. When I was in seminary there was a fun saying all the preaching students would recite: “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pews.” This goes for conflict as well. It’s impossible to see the shoreline if there’s fog in the air. The antidote is clear communication, which leads to clear understanding. Understanding leads to empathy. Empathy leads to compromise. But if two people are talking about two related but different topics, the communication breaks down at the “understanding” phase. 

I can’t tell you how many people are such bad communicators that they’re actually fighting over two completely different topics most of the time. This is why you have to make sure the thing you’re fighting about is actually the same thing. If not, we get mixed up, confusion reigns, we don’t listen, and we become defensive. Our current cultural climate is a perfect example of this. There’s a lot of talk going on and a lot of emotionally charged ideas and opinions with layers of variations. That’s because problems are never just one thing; they are complex. Thankfully, solutions are often simple, though not painless (more on this later).

So what’s the key to knowing when you’re not talking about the same thing? When your conversation goes round and round, and both sides end up repeating the same thing while just varying the terminology. The reason people repeat the same thing over and over is because they feel like they’re not being heard. If the conversation is cycling into oblivion, you have two options: the person you’re speaking with does not understand, or the person you’re speaking with does understand but does not care. 

More often than not, if it’s a legitimate relationship (basically anything outside of Facebook, Twitter, or social media), the person you’re speaking with does care. This means you have to pause the conversation and move into what I call reflection mode. Reflection mode is a simplified version of the speaker/listener technique, where one person repeats back what they hear the speaker saying until the speaker agrees that the listener comprehends what they’re saying. So, if my friend says, “I like cats.” I say, “What I hear you saying is you like cats, is that right?” They say, “Yes.” If I say, “What I hear you saying is you like rats, is that correct?” They say “No. I said cats not rats.” The conversation remains emotionally low, and we keep going in an attempt to understand whoever is speaking in that moment.  

Work to understand, instead of working to be right.  What happens when the speaker responds, “I said cats not rats, you piece of trash. You’re so dumb”? Remember when I said it’s possible the person you’re talking to doesn’t care? If compromise is going to happen, you have to work to understand instead of working to be right. Things get volatile really quick when you have a person who only cares about being right. And that’s when you need to start looking for the nearest exit. Don’t feel bad about leaving. Express your concern and love for the people, your passion for the topic, and then politely excuse yourself.

We currently have a number of differing worldviews waging war in the hearts and minds of American society. Diversity of thought is a good thing, but you have to be open to other people’s experiences and feelings about an issue in order to understand one another. That’s how civilized conversations work. Discounting your spouse’s experiences will only lead to further frustration. Shaming your neighbor for speaking his or her mind about a topic will not win them over to seeing things from your point of view. In fact, it is guaranteed to escalate the conversation to a bad place. So if you find yourself using manipulative words or shouting another person down, go ahead and quit. Because even if you get the other person to be quiet, you most certainly have not won over their heart or mind.

Living justly leads to making sacrifices. Fairness and justice are not synonymous. Life is not fair, and no one should ever expect it to be. Before I was married my grandmother doled out some serious wisdom. She said, “There’s no such thing as 50/50 in marriage. Just focus on giving it your 100, and the rest will come together.” She was right. I’ve tried my best to give my marriage 100%. And I’d say it’s paid off really well. Furthermore, I’ve worked hard to not concern myself with what I’m doing versus what my wife is doing or not doing. This really makes a difference. Saying something is not fair is not grounds for compromise; it’s the foundation for entitlement.

Justice, on the other hand, is something completely different. And unfortunately, it is often deferred. It should make us sick when this happens. Despite this, we should never stop living righteous lives in the face of injustice. And we should never cease to implement justice when we have the ability.

So let me bring these two together for you. Because life is not fair, and because justice must be done, sacrifices will have to be made. Adequate solutions are never pain-free. The path to healing and living together under one roof will come at a cost. There is no other option. You will have to die to yourself on multiple occasions. You will have to give ground in exchange for peace and harmony. This is how marriages work. This is how families find peace.

One last piece of this “just sacrifice” puzzle is important for you to understand. You cannot find peace with a person who is not willing to live justly. You cannot burn down the house in order to save the family. I would never advise a friend or a family member to make a deal with the devil. And neither should you.

Don’t give up. All is not lost. Hope is still the best medicine. Your marriage is not over. Our society can move forward. There are greater days ahead if we want them. Show me a man without hope, and I’ll show you a man without a future. And as Christians, we of all people have the greatest reason to persevere in the midst of difficulty because we have a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). 

Don’t allow the news cycle to tank your aspirations. Step out of your home and build relationships. Step out from behind your keyboard. Ask people how they’re doing. Go out of your way to acknowledge someone while you’re walking through the grocery store or standing in the checkout line. Live a righteous life, and look for the best in others. But don’t just stop there; work for the best of others. If we give up now, we leave a vacuum, and there is no telling what will fill it. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” While we’re in this contentious society, let’s affirm the dignity of everyone we encounter by showing them the same grace we’ve been shown in Christ. 

By / Oct 24

We were unprepared for the fast rise of our digital life. We don’t understand, and maybe don’t recognize, the way our world has changed. And it’s not over. Driverless cars, geriatric-care robots, and augmented reality are some of the technology that could shape our world—and its people—next. 

Sherry Turkle, a clinician psychologist and professor at MIT, has spent her career researching how technology is used and how it is changing us. Turkle’s career, spanning the whole digital age, began just before personal computers were in homes. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, she examines how technology promises us more connections while severing them at the same time. She shares stories from her 40 years of research, leading her readers to draw their own conclusions about their relationships with technology. And those conclusions should make one extremely uncomfortable. 

Alone Together is “about how we are changed as technology offers us substitutes for connecting with each other face-to-face” (11). Turkle examines these changes through our current networked life “with its promise to give us more control over human relationships, and tomorrow’s story of sociable robots, which promise relationships where we will be in control, even if that means not being in relationships at all” (17). 

Part one: How we interact with robots

In part one, “The Robotic Moment: In Solitude, New Intimacies,” Turkle considers how people interact with robots and how it starts in the playroom with children’s sociable toys like Furby, My Real Baby, and Tamagotchi. She explains how these toys are different from a computer: 

“For decades computers have used us to think with them; these days computers and robots, deemed sociable, affective, and relational, ask us to feel for them and with them” (39). But this isn’t just child’s play. She continues “Roboticists hope we can use their inventions to practice our relationship skills. But . . . more than harmless amusements, they are powerful because they invite our attachment. And such attachments change our way of being in the world” (79). 

Story after story from Turkle’s research makes one see how easily people are duped into believing that these sociable robots have feelings and can care for humans the way humans begin to care for them. That experience leads to a lot of people “getting comfortable with the idea that a robot’s companionship is even close to a replacement for a person” (65). Turkle moves from the playroom to observe how adults interact with robots. In her research, people choose robots over human interaction because robots won’t suffer from impatience, frustration, and apathy. They can simulate listening, care, and affection. While robots may ease loneliness, what do they do to us? Turkle finds that “we seem determined to give human qualities to objects and content to treat each other as things” (xiv).

We are called to love one another; we can’t do that if we avoid relationships with one another.

The line between the robotic and human is rapidly blurring. We are beginning to believe that the inanimate have life. We are no longer honest about machines’ indifference toward us because “what robots offer meets our human vulnerabilities. We can interact with robots in full knowledge of their limitations, comforted nonetheless by what must be unrequited love” (133). Turkle’s warnings should cause anyone to consider technology’s role in our lives, but for the Christian, the implications are even greater than her extensive research shows. No technological development can replace the image of God each human bears. We are called to love one another; we can’t do that if we avoid relationships with one another. 

Part two: Connected, yet isolated

In part two, “Networked: In Intimacy, New Solitudes,” Turkle observes how online platforms designed for connection are creating more isolation than ever. Networks allow people to maintain (or start) relationships when distance would have previously prohibited it. When my family lived overseas, we thanked God daily for the technology that allowed us to video call our relatives on a different continent. But go to any restaurant now, and you’ll observe people who are sitting together ignoring each other, choosing to focus on their mobile device rather than make conversation with the people in front of them. Professionals feel like they can’t—and maybe don’t want to—disconnect from their work even while on vacation.

Turkle’s research covers a wide variety of platforms, some of which are already outdated in the short time since publication. Despite some the datedness of her research, her findings can be applied to newer mediums because these platforms often still offer connection without commitment. In thinking of online platforms as “communities,” we have lost the meaning of the word: “to give among each other” (238). People find it less work to engage with the virtual world than with real people whom one can’t control or click away. Too often, “the ties we form through the internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy” (280).

Alone Together is a fascinating read that forces the reader to consider one’s interactions with not only technology but with real, concrete people. I left the book wanting to increase face-to-face interactions and decrease online interactions with others. I want my family to prioritize relationships with people. Nonetheless, the book also left me with more questions than answers. Her practical suggestions at the end are helpful but limited. But maybe that’s the point: we’re best off if we feel the tension of how technology is changing us. We don’t have all the answers, and we need to continue wrestling with this new and present reality.

By / Jul 23

Every new communication technology is disruptive, often in history-altering ways. Nearly 600 years ago, Gutenberg’s printing press ushered in a revolution in education, politics, and religion, including fanning the flames of the Protestant Reformation. Just 11 years ago, Steve Jobs’ iPhone ushered in a similar revolution, one we are only beginning to grasp.

Will the smartphone still be around in 600 years? I doubt it, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that in its first decade of existence, the smartphone is already changing how we view communication. What are those changes? Are they good or bad for society? These are important questions to ask of any new technology, and I consider them in light of one particular aspect of the smartphone era: the phenomenon of “push notifications.”

The consequences of efficiency  

It used to be a thing of joy to receive a letter in the mailbox. In the early days of the internet, "you've got mail" was a happy notification. These days, I find most forms of “push notifications” to be anxiety-producing. Why? Because they signal a tidal wave of nonstop communication that is relentless and punishing.

How does one stay sane in a world where on any given day, people message you through email (multiple accounts), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Voxer, WhatsApp, Slack, Skype, Google chat, and texts (to name a few)? All these forms of communication are efficient. But what are the unintended consequences of that efficiency?

Here are two points we should consider:

1. Chronic catch-up

Because inboxes are never empty and notifications on a plethora of platforms pop up around the clock, I find myself in a constant state of catch-up. I try to make headway on my email inbox, but then there are Facebook messages and Tweets I need to reply to. There are Voxer messages from my fellow elders at church about urgent pastoral situations. Various coworkers need my insights on Slack, and my wife is messaging me over chat.

All of it feels urgent, demanding timely replies. And the cumulative effect is that it reduces would-be meaningful interactions to mere checklist to-dos: “Text ___ back.” “Respond to ___’s email.” “Post ____ article on Twitter.”

But in this frenetic flurry of catch-up, the “communing” sacredness of communication can be lost. We are often too bombarded and harried to make space for considered, attentive, meaningful communication. The smartphone has always been touted as a tool of efficiency, and so naturally this is how we use it. But what if communication is degraded when it becomes too efficient? A tweet or a text in response to someone may be quick and easy, but is that always the wisest way to respond?

Christians, especially, should be mindful of how the efficient view of communication changes how we relate to people. Are we treating them with dignity, giving them our attention and presence? Or do we demean and cheapen them through our quick-draw posture?

When we are spread so thin, across dozens of communication platforms and with hundreds of “friends” and “connections,” the need to “update” the masses can trump the nobler desire to connect with a few people more personally and profoundly. In our hectic, breathless days, we may be tempted to send a quick text or email to someone who actually deserves a more substantive and careful response.

2. When everything is important, nothing is

There is an “everything is urgent and important” quality to the smartphone and its ambience of buzz/ding/beep push notifications. Whether it’s a text message that ends in the ubiquitous words “let me know,” a BREAKING NEWS alert, or something #trending that you simply can’t not know about, the smartphone constantly reminds us of things to do and know about, and people to communicate with. At least five times every day I see social media declarations that something is a “must-read,” “must-watch,” or “must-listen.” The glut of “essential” content means our must list gets longer and longer, adding to our already lengthy queue of communication to-dos.

This is part of why we can’t put our smartphones down, checking them hundreds of times per day. What are we missing? We don’t want to be out of the loop. Plus, there is an undeniable thrill to seeing new notifications. Psychologists have noted the way smartphone notifications trigger a dopamine rush that becomes addictive. As psychologist David Greenfield recently told NPR, “Smartphone notifications have turned us all into Pavlov’s dogs.”

One of the (many) side effects of notification addiction is that we lose a sense for what is actually important and urgent. Do we really need to read every “news” story that comes across our phones? The leveling aspect of information that comes to us on our smartphones—sports scores next to CaringBridge cancer updates next to theological debates about gender roles next to videos of your aunt’s cat—can have a numbing, trivializing effect. Neil Postman noted this, presciently, in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he talked about the “Now. . . this” nature of televised news:

"Now, this. . ." is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously.

Because the smartphone tends to perpetuate an exaggerated sense of the importance and urgency of everything, we can naturally get sucked into its orbit, to the point that we neglect the truly important and urgent matters in our own lives, families, and communities. Indeed, one of the great perils of the smartphone is its capacity for destructive distraction: drawing our attention in a thousand different directions when our priority should be on the proximate people and local problems in front of us.

The smartphone’s push notifications can crowd out the more vital flags and warning lights in our lives that should grab our attention. Are you spending quality time with your spouse and children? Do you read the Bible and pray in the morning, before you check your phone? When was the last time you invited someone over for dinner? Are you paying attention to your physical health? Have you had a substantive, in-person interaction with a close friend recently?

If your smartphone is crowding out these more-important “life notifications,” do something about it. Turn off your push notifications. Consider downgrading to a “dumb” phone that only does two or three things. Set things up so that the agenda for your time and attention is set by the life right in front of you—your home, church, workplace, community—rather than the smartphone maelstrom.

Read more articles on technology in the Summer 2018 issue of Light Magazine here

By / Feb 13

In a 2009 Newsweek article, author Jessica Bennett asked whether or not polyamory was the next sexual revolution. By 2017, it is clear the answer is yes. Books such as More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (2014), television shows such as Showtime’s Polyamory and poly-themed movies such as Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) have brought a new form of sexual confusion out of the closet.

Polyamory is the new sexual revolution coming your way. The word itself is a conjunction of poly -meaning many- and amor, meaning love. By definition, polyamory is the state of being romantically involved with more than one person at once. In other words, it is adultery.

Polyamory is on the rise. Love-struck and divorce-weary individuals see polyamory as a third way between monogamy and singleness. Advocates of polyamory claim that monogamy needlessly limits a person’s romantic and sexual experiences, leading to disappointment, resentment, and heartbreak. Singleness, on the other hand, is thought to be a life sentence of loneliness. Polyamory advertises greater personal, sexual, and romantic satisfaction than Biblical marriage or singleness.  

This is false advertising.

From the outset, polyamory is a lie. Any love that refuses sexual exclusivity is no love at all. Rather, it is the rebranding of lust. It is the desire for both Eden and forbidden fruit. Since the sexual revolution of the late 60s and 70s, “free love” has been en vogue. However, unlike “free-love” or one night stands, polyamory claims to offer not just sex, but love and intimacy, without commitment.

Christians can empathize with those hurt by divorce, unfaithfulness, pornography, and other forms of sexual immorality. Church leaders need to understand that many people have longed to experience God’s design for love, sex, and marriage, only to find themselves alone, hurt, and disenchanted with what they see as an unfulfilled promise.  

Mankind’s refusal to live according to God’s design is no justification for rejecting either the design or the Designer. It stands to reason that God knows what is best for us, that his Word is trustworthy, and that greater joy results from wisdom and obedience than foolishness and disobedience.

God’s design for monogamy starts in Genesis; before sin entered the world. Sexual intimacy and procreation were blessed in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Monogamy—meaning one marriage—is intended to be the stable context in which humanity thrives and expands. So conceived, the covenant institution marriage becomes the building block of civilization.   

Polyamory disregards the biblical design for sexual intimacy, and as with the LGBT revolution of the 80s and 90s, the image presented on television and in movies is one in which sexual deviancy is both normalized and celebrated. Hollywood treats sin like a monster lurking under the bed; just look, there’s nothing to fear! But the truth is, when sexual confusion is normalized -regardless of consent- people get hurt.

Singleness and marriage provide a suitable context for human flourishing.

Singleness can be a legitimate expression of Christ-honoring romantic love (odd as that may sound) because it represents a covenant faithfulness to the potential of a future spouse. This mirrors the way in which the church, the Bride of Christ, awaits her unseen union with Christ. Marriage, too, can be a legitimate expression of Christ-honoring romantic love. Rather than reflecting the future of Christ and the church, as in singleness, marriage portrays the present reality of our oneness with Christ, lived out by faith and in struggle, even as we experience our union with Christ in imperfection this side of eternity.

Polyamory simply fails to reflect the ultimate realities intended by sex, love, or romance. What it offers is sex with more people. Short term pleasures (Heb. 11:25) are not worth long-term sorrow and death (2 Cor. 7:10).

Christians must be ready to explain why monogamy is good, beyond just “the Bible says”— although that’s a good place to start! Parents must be aware that a new model of relationship is being normalized in the media and pushed on impressionable minds and hearts. Pastors must expose and rebuke the lies already sown in the hearts of visitors and church members alike.  

As always, we must lead with the gospel, in love. A new sexual revolution is underway, but take hope: Christ will prevail.