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Christianity Condundrum

Growing up in an extremely strict Christian family had it’s ups and downs and I rebelled against it severely when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I wanted to try and get back into the church scene to make my own opinions rather than those that my parents had forced upon me however a thought ran through my head which made me hesitant to even look for a church. It’s something that makes me question either the way my parents brought me up or the way that the people in the churches I’ve been to judge each other. I am extremely hesitant to go regularly to a church until me and C are married. I feel like I should give a bit of background for this because to a lot of people this might sound a little odd.

All throughout growing up my parents made it VERY clear that living together before marriage is ‘living in sin’.I’m sure that most church goers probably wouldn’t care or if they did they wouldn’t say anything but because it’s been drilled into me for so long, I just feel almost guilty about it. My parent’s also questioned me intensely when I said I was moving in with him as to if ‘it was the right decision’ and were rather disapproving about it. Seeing as I’m reflecting on my parents way of bringing me up I may as well spew my opinions and thoughts out here.  I personally see no difference between living together and just dating as ‘canoodling’ and other ‘activities’ are just as likely to take place in a bedroom they live in together or a hotel room they rented for the night.

The thing about this is that my parents divorced when I was 16 and my mother got a boyfriend soon afterwards and they started living together and bought a house before they got married. Another thing that really annoys me about the judgement is the fact that my younger sister is allowed to stay over at her boyfriends place and has been allowed for as long as I can remember and I’m pretty sure teenagers never get up to anything angelic when staying at each others house. I, of course, was never allowed as is the common woe of older siblings.

Another point is something I see very often, especially from the people I went to school with (private christian school). In order to get around the ‘living in sin’ and the fact that sex before marriage is a terrible terrible thing to do, they get married very young. In fact, usually after they haven’t even been dating long. This leads to not really knowing the person, divorce, or having kids just to liven the relationship up.

From living with C, I’ve felt as though our relationship has blossomed a lot more than it would have if we were living in separate houses and although we have only been going out for just under 2 years, it feels like so much longer. You get to see every side of a person and when we do get married, the stress of living together for the first time isn’t going to be there, we can simply enjoy being married.

Anyway little rant over, I think I just get a bit annoyed when I think about my parents hypocrisy and double standards regarding Christianity and it’s this sort of thing that makes people, including me, hesitant to join a church community.

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28 thoughts on “Christianity Condundrum

  1. Another thing to consider is that when you’re been out of the game for awhile, you can never quite be sure how the rules have changed. Too many churches now emphasizes complementarianism, where the husband is the head and the wife gets to submit, well being in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is sort of like a future husband and future wife relationship and churches tend to suggest that girlfriends ought to defer to their boyfriends leadership just as they would were they married – only not as fully. So when looking for churches, pay attention to how they treat people who aren’t married and with kids to see how they might treat you differently were your relationship status to change.

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  2. Ah, the internet. Unfortunately, nothing on either of my blogs touches this directly, though, I’d gamble you might like some of the stuff on my graceministriesblog.wordpress.com site based on your use of the word “judgment”. That said, the question you have to ask yourself is, what kind of Christian do I want to be? If you want to live for yourself and on your terms, this is called the false convert mode of Christianity where the termination point is shared with those who never lived like Christians. On the other hand, if you can say that you recognize that regardless of the past or the present you are beyond your own ability to save yourself from the depravity and moral failings of your life and desperately need to be saved by Christ in order to have a hope of salvation, then the next step is obedience, which commands you to forsake the sinful pleasures of this world (sinful only…non-sinful pleasures are encouraged in the Bible) and crucify the deeds of the flesh at the cross of Christ. I’m a rebel and a sinner saved by grace through faith, although we could speak of judgment, the message of the Gospel is that judgment is only a terror for those who reject God’s way to do it their own way (see Romans 1 and some of 2). It’s never too soon to surrender to God and to live in and through His grace rather than your own.

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    1. I used to be a Southern Baptist – born and raised in the denomination – but then I realize that nobody has the monopoly on Christianity, that’s why there’s so many different denominations with distinct interpretations of the very same verses. Where some might say: “Obedience!” others might say: “Faith in Jesus alone!” I do know that all the obedience in the world to the Scriptures raises the risk of becoming a modern-day Pharisee; I know because I used to be one as a Southern Baptist. Like Paul, I could have given you a testament of my perfection as one who doesn’t sin (not like those other sinners over there), one who reads and understands the Bible’s teachings properly (not like those other so-called Christians over there who don’t know the difference between John and 1st John), and as one who prayed frequently and elegantly for hours at a time; but one thing I didn’t have was grace or compassion or mercy for others (that is, I didn’t love others) because that would mean accepting them and contaminating my own faith. Now that I’m out of the game, I’m less spiritually toxic to others and more open to other points of views.
      Since you live in Seattle, you have likely heard of Mars Hill Church, you’ve probably met people who were thrown under the bus (a reference to one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons where he said:”There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus, and by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.”) and seen how Christians can get it wrong even as they praise God’s name. Some might say that they were full of false converts others would say they were truly convicted believers who just went too far. Either way, like me they were spiritually toxic in that their actions and theology marginalized others and they had no love for those who were not like them – just like Pharisees and nothing like God.

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      1. Hi Jamie,
        Thank you for dialoging with me 😉
        In truth, I’m an amalgamation of Christian traditions and belonging fulling to known. For me, the importance of faith is that it must be in God and not in men or traditions. To this end, although I started Southern Baptist, I have rejected much of the theology of the convention and adopted much of the theology of the Reformed movement because it is closer to the original meaning of the passages. Much, but not all.
        Either way, whether I am Southern Baptist or not does not address my concern for you as shown in my earlier words 😉 Christians of all denominations could take no offense at the proposition that either we surrender to the grace of Christ or we live in the condemnation of self rule.
        As I said, I have not approached you to judge you (though I have that right, so long as I stand on Scripture); instead, I come as one in the last part of Matthew 18’s section on how to do deal with a sinning brother, and I am pleading with you not to harden your heart in rebellion to God when it is people and your own heart who have betrayed you.
        Jesus words on the subject (roughly) are, what would it benefit you to have it your way and gain all the advantages of this world if you lose your immortal spirit?
        Speaking of hurt and betrayal, I promise I would win in a fight (read my conversational theology blog if you want a hint); but the truth is, rebelling against God because of the sins of others is not helpful to the healing your heart desires.
        As for Mark Driscoll, I’m quite clear on my blog that I do not think much of him or any other church leader in Seattle. Seattle is in desperate need of home missionaries. Perhaps one day the Lord will smile on me and send me back with such a team. Of my time in Seattle, I can say that people were desperately hungry for the true Gospel and for the Word rightly divided.

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      2. I’m not surprised. Calvinism and the reformed movement are both exceedingly popular things to be these days. It’s like being a popular kid who likes all the popular speakers, authors, and musicians – it has it’s advantages. In your book that would make a semi-Arminian progressive like myself a barely Christian heretic. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard people in your camp accuse me of not really being a Christian because we’re not on the same page and they happen to have the only right and true version of Christianity. Thing is – I know what I’m like when I’m in your camp and I just can’t stand seeing myself become somebody else. I’m not going to lose myself to the popular version of Christianity, join the fan clubs of the most widely beloved authors, and follow after the most charismatic speakers – rather I’ll walk outside of the camp and follow an itinerant Rabbi wherever He takes me. If it’s to a Southern Baptist church one month and a Methodist church the next – I’m game. If you think that this comes down to winning or losing in a fight, you’re reading the wrong book. I’m looking for wholeness, meaning, and peace of mind. If I can’t find it in what’s popular, then I know it’s the wrong place to be looking. Not all battles are worth fighting and it’s often better to not fight at all. The word rightly divided is one of many topics up for debate, each denomination has it’s own ideas about what that means – but as I said, nobody holds the monopoly on truth; but at least I’m willing to hear out different schools of thought and learn what wisdom I can.

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      3. I’d be happy to carry my own sins; but please do not presume more than I’ve said =) If my actual words have been invalid, attack me for my words; but if my affiliations cause you grief, forgive me for my associations (in truth, they would not claim me anymore than I them.)

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      4. You seem to be the one who is trying to correct me as the errant/sinning brother of Matthew 18; unless I misunderstood you. I’m not really sure what you think I’m guilty of.

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      5. Unless I’ve missed the mark, your post sounded like you both claim to be a Christian and to be engaging in fornication (sex outside of God’s definition of marriage). If those are both true, then, yes, I would be one who is calling out your sin but also pleading with you to recognize the Bible’s definition of “Christian” does not leave room for abandoning God’s Law in order to please ourselves. This is something all corners of Christianity still acknowledge.
        Though, as I said, I’m not speaking from a position of personal excellence (for apart from Christ, I have no righteous on which to stand) but from Christ’s excellence when He pleads with sinners to repent of their idolatry and turn to Him.

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      6. oh, well, forgive me. I was watching Netflix and made a bad assumption. Still, I didn’t adopt some Reformed thinking because of its popularity but rather because it put the entire narrative of the Bible on its head. Suddenly, it was no longer about me and it became all about God’s glory; no longer could I be my own god and do every sinful thing I desired but my sin became an active offense to an infinitely Holy God. No longer were the pastors and elders the rulers of the church but Christ was the head of the Church and I answer to Him in all things. I had no reformed friends when I made the switch, and in every town where the Spirit moves me, I’m usually alone on that front 😉
        Again, forgive me for going off half cocked and assuming I was speaking to the author of this piece.

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      7. I think Jesus would remind us to treat others as we would want to be treated – now were I in Cassie’s shoes, the last thing I’d want to hear is the Matthew 18, Jude 23, or 1 Corinthians 5 speech. Jesus knows that nobody is a paragon of moral excellence. I’d be looking for someone who isn’t going to berate me or throw the book at me, but someone who reflects Jesus’ mercy and compassion – I already know I messed up and being given the speech won’t change that what’s done is done. As my father would say, some things are between that person and God alone – it’s not for you to me to take sides. God is perfectly capable of judging without our help so we should stop trying to help God by being judgemental. It’s not easy to be honest about such topics because there is always somebody out there who’ll throw the book as if that will solve everything. But that’s not the solution that God used when it came down to it – he broke his own rules to find a way to forgive everyone for everything. If he can, then we can, can’t we? But we can’t be merciful to even our own, then how can we expect to spread the good news of Jesus’ love?
        (On a side note, Christianity incidentally rewards those who break that particular commandment with affirmation and praise, particularly for putting a family together and having children. You never once hear them celebrating celibate singles and lifting them up as an example worthy to be followed.)

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      8. There again, you miss the entire point of the Gospel because of the god of your feelings. The entire message Christ gave in His earthly ministry was to condemn sin. Not only this, but examples from the apostles was to call out wanton sin.
        Calling out sin and holding sinners accountable is not incongruent with loving sinners and pointing them to the mercy of God. You cannot love sinners until you’ve shown the same love God does in calling sin “sin”; only after this can you show the next step in God’s plan, the call to repentance. Without repentance for sin, there is no salvation. Christians mourn their transgression against God, false converts do not and cannot.
        So, it’s not a matter of what the sinner wants, because the desires of the flesh are to sin. It’s a question of what does God call us to do; and in every case in the Bible, a brother or sister is called to call out sin and point a sinner to repentance and God’s mercy.
        How dreadful will it be for all of those false converts on judgment day to be sentenced to hell because people “loved” them too much to call out their sin? And yes, Jesus makes it clear His standard is perfection; however, knowing our failings, He makes it possible for us to find peace with Him by turning away from our sin and clinging to Him.
        Or does it escape you that Paul, in his own words, hands people over to satan because of their willful desires to indulge the flesh and refuse to repent of their sin? This power was not Paul’s to command. This power is given in Scripture to all believers.
        So again, I could not care less what pleases a sinner. I am not here to pleasure sinners. I am here only to say and do those things which Jesus actually did (as opposed to the goofball things pro-sin churches now teach.)

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      9. One would think that if throwing the book solved the problem, then there would be no pro-sin churches out there, but what we do see is droves of people fleeing churches and rampant spiritual abuse from the churches that are into calling sin sin. I’ve grown up watching the church rail against abortion and going on tirades against the LGBTQ community and all I’ve seen is that the more the book is thrown the less loving the church is to each individual; the less each church follows Jesus’ example to respect each individual. Saul used to be all about the rules, but I don’t think Paul intended to write a new set of rules to be obeyed as if they were God or God were in them – the spirit of grace is freedom from the letter of the rules which kills.

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      10. Jamie, you continue to mix up what I and the Bible are saying with what others have done. I do not speak for other churches; and as I’ve pointed out, most of my blog is dedicated to calling out the sinful practices of the modern church. On that front, we do not disagree.
        However, if sinners flee the church when sin is called out, good. This is part of John’s message in 1 John. They left because they were never really part of us. However, on the whole, 1 John is about making sure we are really acting with Christ’s love toward believers.
        When we approach the Bible, we must first consider what God is saying without giving into the bitter feelings we have about sinful people leading corrupt institutions. The question isn’t “how did Mark Driscoll use the Bible?”, the question is “how did God use the Bible?”
        Paul would absolutely tell you that those whose faith is in the letter of the Law will never achieve the righteousness of the Law; however, you would never find an example of Paul saying that it is ok to toss out the Law. In his words, “may it never be!”
        As for sinners like the LGBTQ, in God’s eyes all breaking of the Law is the same (James 2:10). These people need the Gospel just as much as jay walkers, heterosexual fornicators, liars, those who teach people its ok to break God’s Laws, etc. As I said, my conduct opens the doors for me to speak to my LGBTQ friends and co-workers; but then again, I also treat those outside of the Church differently, since I’m not their brother but instead an ambassador.
        So, again, you’re confusing ideas based on your feelings. We treat those outside of the church the way Jesus treated the prostitutes and the tax collectors; but those inside the church, we treat as Jesus did, whether that’s rebuking James and John for wanting to call down fire to annihilate sinners or if its braiding a whip to chase out the money changers. Jesus played hard ball with the twelve just as much as He did the pharisees and the sudducees.
        Now, if you want to assume that Cassie is a non-Christian, then I would concede that a different tact would be better. However, the lady treats herself as a Christian, and I intend to offer her that dignity. To Christians, we are commanded to first remove the log from our own eye (given Cassie’s “like” for comment, I will consider this done) before addressing the speck in another’s. I am a sinner saved by grace; and like the author of Hebrews points out, this means I can have mercy on others who are also sinners. It is mercy to call out sin and to point people to God’s promise of love and restoration if they will return to Him and repent of their sins.
        By contrast, it is the worst hypocrisy to overlook a sinner’s sin and thereby deprive them of the knowledge that there relationship with God is broken (or worse, never existed.)
        You’re all over the place with your rebuttals; and all I see is a lot of hurt but not a lot of seeking God. On the topic, I’m happy to attack your arguments; but of your feelings, I’m concerned for your bitterness and broken relationship with the God of the Bible.

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      11. People aren’t fleeing the churches because they’re sinners, but because these churches are authoritarian bullies who twist the scripture to a brand continually whip them with it – they call everything sin, including asking too many questions about what’s really going on, or questioning the pastor’s or elder’s preferred interpretation of scripture – these churches call sin sin, but when they call everything sin, then there’s no way anybody can do anything right at all. Like how calling sin sin was the tactic of our christian predecessors who used the threat of purgatory to extort money from the poor in order to build grand cathedrals. Given America’s Christian heritage, odds are everybody out there has been told they’re a sinner to some degree; if not from their churches, then the constant drone of pastors preaching as much on radio and television programs and through the internet. It’s all we hear – and it’s become background noise for the soundtrack of everyday life. But it’s also something of a broken record. When you’re constantly told that you’re broken and God doesn’t love you right now because of what you’ve just done, it makes you feel that you can’t do anything right and there’s no point in trying because as soon as you say “I’m sorry” you mess up again and God isn’t as forgiving as he was last time. But I was taught that once you’re saved, you’re always saved. Once you’re forgiven, your forgiveness extends from what you did, to what you are doing, to what you will do. That Jesus’ love covers over any sin and buys a lot of forgiveness.

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      12. Jamie, I want to repeat my last statement. I’m heart broken by the hurt you’ve experienced the bitterness you feel.
        The truth of the Gospel is that:
        1) we are all sinners
        2) none of us has a righteous of our own
        3) even if we wanted to seek the true God (as opposed to an idol of our own making), we lack both the desire and the ability
        4) and because we were so helpless and without hope, God showed mercy by sending His own son to take the consequences of our sin onto Himself and to offer us adoption

        The way Paul puts it is that one must confess with their mouth and believe with their heart. Belief is not the English word, and we get a hint of this in Hebrews 11:1 when we are told that faith must be so strong that it can be presented in a court of law as tangible evidence.

        Meeting those conditions, Paul asserts in Romans that nothing can separate a real Christian from the love of God.
        The risk is that one might not have been a Christian. Would you rather say nothing to someone in sin because they might be saved and it might offend their feelings? or would you rather say something, knowing that all God requires is your love for this person and your obedience to Him?

        Arminians and Calvinists agree very narrowly to the extent I’ve just shared. However, each would say it slightly differently.
        Regardless, “once saved, always saved” depends on being saved to begin with. Jesus is clear on this point that a good tree will not be known for bad fruit. Likewise, those Christians are still sinners and do still sin, if we are known for obeying sin, our salvation may be suspect or missing. This is the message of Philippians 2:12
        And because we know it is a scary thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31) for both Christians and non Christians, what love can there be if we hold back from pointing people to Christ?

        If we preached a salvation of countable chances, not one of us would have a hope of seeing heaven. God’s grace toward the elect is immeasurable. The question still remains, does our life speak to a living faith or does it speak to an idolatry and a form of christianity without either Jesus or the Bible?

        I will not speak for these other churches, as I speak openly against them on my blog. Instead, I will again say that from love, we must call out sin but also point to the hope we have in Christ for all who surrender to His call. Do not surrender to these other men, and make certain not to surrender to me; but at your own peril, do not fail to surrender to Jesus Christ, because His wrath for those who reject Him is equal to His love for those who receive Him.

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      13. The problem with the whole thing is that you haven’t really gotten to know a person well enough to know what to say or at least, what not to say. I had a friend, I told him that God was loving father. Turns out the guy had a really nasty father for whom understanding God as a father and the example that his own father tried to live up to just drove a deeper wedge between him and his faith. That could easily be the case here. You can’t just treat every scenario and every person the same way as if they’ll respond all alike. Just because your conversion experience was one way, it doesn’t mean that all others have the same relationship with God in the same way as you do or the same understanding of the word as your own. It doesn’t mean that she or me or any less Christian than you, or even that we’re the wrong kind of Christians; we’re just different Christians and part of the same extended family with Jesus as our brother. The difference is that our relationships with our brother Jesus is different; one holds this real terror because God punishes sin and the other is founded on the truest meaning of love there is.

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      14. This is where your theology proves itself broken. Jesus is King. He is master. He is savior. But nowhere does He identify Himself as brother.
        When we come to Jesus, we come to Him on His terms, the same terms He offers all men and women. If we refuse His terms in part, we do not receive Him at all.
        You speak of your failed experience, I speak of success sharing the Gospel with people of all walks except for heretics leading churches. Of the second group, my obligation in Christ is not to change their hearts but only to reveal to them that they preach a different Jesus and a different gospel than the one found in the Bible. After that, Jesus commands I walk away and insult them by shaking off even the dust which clings to my shoes from being around them.
        Jesus is the same person to all people and offers only way to access Him. Otherwise, Jesus would be a polytheistic deity being unique to each person who encounters Him. Instead, He offers only Himself, His rule, His Law, and His grace. You cannot have one part of Him to the exclusions of others.
        Again, the mistake you make here is not esteeming Christ as the center of Christianity. Christianity isn’t about Christians, it’s about Christ. His words are clear, “if you love me, keep my commandments.”

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      15. It’s in Matthew 12:49, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” It’s in red letters, so it shouldn’t be that hard to find.

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      16. it’s apparently not that easy to read. In what sense are people Jesus’s “brother, sister and mother”? Those who do the will of the Father. He is not calling them related to Him except in the sense that they share a common purpose. Can you really imagine Jesus calling anyone His adopted mom, except for Mary? and in that sense, even Mary is not His spiritual mother. Again, to whom does Jesus refer to as a brother? No one. And who calls Jesus a brother? James and Jude, who were his earthly brothers; but even Jude calls Jesus master.

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      17. Please feel free to elaborate how Jesus says one thing and means something else. If it’s true that we can’t take him at his word on this, how can we take him at his word on anything?

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      18. Have you never read any of Jesus’ words? The man always spoke in parables to crowds (and only somewhat more clearly to the disciples.) He quotes from Isaiah to explain why He doesn’t speak clearly to the crowds. Let me know if you need help with that part 😉

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      19. So we shouldn’t believe everything he says because he always speaks in metaphors with profound double meanings? How can you be sure you have any of your theology right? Sometimes you just have to choose to believe things one way or another. But remember, without Christ, there’s no Christianity – so what he says is important – each and every possible meaning. Which would include Jesus teaching that those who obey God are as family and are a part of his family.

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      20. The issue with your two statements is that we are not brothers and sisters with Christ and therefore set as His equals. Metaphorically, we are part of Christ’s family if we do the will and work of God the Father.
        In the first sense, we rob Christ of His deity to establish our own.
        But in the second, we acknowledge the original meaning (which would have been clearer to His audience) that family all is engaged in doing the same work. The next quest is, what work is God engaged in? If you want to be Christ’s family, you need to know the work He is engaged in. As a hint, it wasn’t sunshine, lollipops or loving people.
        If it’s too hard for you to read Jesus in context, you should stick studying with someone who understands the full context of Scripture. There’s no shame in doing this; the only shame comes from making Jesus to mean in English what an obtusely literal English misappropriation would mean.
        Again, Arminian, the issue is that you make Christianity more about you than about Christ. For your own sake, stop arguing and go read.

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      21. And while I’m reading, you should do your homework on Romans 8-9, where it talks about our adoption to sonship, as children of God, and co-heirs with Christ. And again in Galatians 4, same concept. We are identified as God’s children, God’s sons and daughters, Jesus’ brothers and sisters. It does not diminish Jesus’ deity for us to be his brothers and sisters any more than it diminishes a famous actors or singer’s career to have an adopted brother or sister who is normal. Nowhere does it indicate that we diminish Jesus’ deity as his brothers and sisters.

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  3. Well, I’ll weigh in here. Cassie, I understand where you are at. Your parents, however well meaning they may have been, created a great deal of confusion for you. They preached one thing, yet by getting a divorce (among other things you mentioned) they lived another. First off, know that this saddens the heart of God. He loves and wants the best for you. This is precisely why He doesn’t want you to live with your boyfriend and why He wants you to refrain from sexual immoral behavior. I’m sure your young mind took note that when your parents divorced (which God hates by the way) they didn’t drop dead from God’s judgement. This might cause a young person to think that “living together” or having sex before marriage is no big thing. But do not be deceived. God grieves those young people whose destiny is robbed because of sexual immorality. The Bible teaches us to flee from sexual immorality and from the appearance of evil (i.e. living together). I know how intoxicating young love can be. I am married and before my wife and I got married at 21 we had our struggles and had to walk in repentance and forgiveness but I realize all those emotions I had back them were temporary and only lead me to sin. Look, you obviously are convicted about this. It is obvious that this issue is weighting on your conscious and how you were brought up. Perhaps your parents lording beliefs over you was not the right approach but they were right in what they said. Sin leads to death and death is the last thing you want in a relationship, especially if this indeed is your future husband. I’ll say a prayer for you. I hope you walk in the wisdom and light of the word!

    Blessings,
    Nick

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  4. Hi Cassie…I know of so many young adults who are looking for a safe place that is authentic and provides an atmosphere where people can “do life” together. Unfortunately many young adults have not been able to find that “space” in traditional churches. I believe that safe, loving relationships provide a bridge for living out truth. You can’t have one without the other. So many churches have it backwards…they preach truth and expect everyone to jump in line without taking the time for building relationship. Without realizing it many churches have become a version of the Pharisees who threw the adulterous woman at Jesus feet. Experts in the “Law” but lacking in compassion. Even if they don’t intend to come off as harsh, their desire to have easy converts can feel shallow…like they don’t really care enough to hear people’s stories. Jesus first response was not to beat the woman with the truth, but to offer her acceptance and love in spite of her obvious failings. There are safe communities that live out loving relationships and truth. Don’t give up praying and seeking the Lord to direct you. Grace and Peace.
    Tom

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