Made in God’s image as man and woman – but what for?

When God said he made humans in his image, what was he getting at? Well, in context he was talking about rulership of the planet, Genesis 1:26.

Rulership is central to what God created humans for. It’s what he made us in his image for, to equip us to rule in the same way that he rules. Because that’s what he created the planet for, to enable humans to learn how to rule like him.

So God didn’t just slap together a beautiful, functioning planet to hum along on its own. It could easily have hummed along on its own, because the plants, trees, birds and animals all had to ability to endlessly reproduce. The animals would live off the land, plants would reseed themselves to keep on producing food for the animals, water bubbled up from the ground to feed the plants, and the sun took care of the rest. It all worked perfectly on its own, without humans – up to Genesis 1:25.

Verse 26 then makes it clear that God wasn’t interested in the planet just spinning away in space for no purpose. He created humans to rule it. But why create a creature for the sole purpose of rulership?

Because that’s what God is all about. He’s about rulership, which is easy for us humans to understand, because we like kings and queens and kingdoms too. We like setting up systems that use human talent and the planet’s resources to nurture and develop the creation so it flourishes. It’s exciting stuff. And clearly it’s exciting for God too, because he created this planet with exactly that in mind. He deliberately designed this planet so that it would flourish under human rule.

But not any old human rule, though. It would have to be rulership the way God does rulership, ruling the way he rules, in the same image and likeness of his rulership. And only then would his creation flourish.

So here we are now, thousands of years later, and have we discovered yet what ruling in his image means? Do we know yet what kind of rulership works to the benefit of all creation?

We should know, because Genesis 2 tells us. Rulership is simply about caring. It starts with caring for every part of the physical creation, pictured by the man being made from the ground and working the garden that God created – and because the man needs the help of a woman, it’s their caring for each other that completes the picture. And there you have the essence of good rulership – man and woman together caring for the planet and each other.

And God made us in his image so we could.


Why did God create just male and female?

To those with a gender identity crisis or a same-sex sexual relationship I ask, “Do you have any idea what you’re missing out on?” But as a man married to a woman I also have to ask myself, “Do I, on the other hand, have any idea why God created just male and female, and especially male and female marriage?” Because I’m in no position to ask others what they’re missing out on if I have no idea what I’m missing out on either.

So back to the beginning I went, where, right from the start in Genesis 1:26-28, God explained his purpose for creating male and female. He made us male and female to rule the world together – not as a same-sex couple, or in a spectrum of gender identity – but in a sexual relationship as male and female together that would produce children, and in our relationship as male and female we’d learn how world rule works.

And God quickly explained how world rule works too, because he made male and female in his image, and according to verse 26, God is an “us,” meaning God is a relationship, and it’s in consultation and working together as that “us” that their plan for this world unfolds.

So God is an “us” and so are humans. We, like God, therefore, work together as an “us,” which in our case is male and female together. Life for humans, then, is not a search for self-identity or self-fulfillment, nor is it trying to sort out what one’s true gender or sexual attraction is; it’s about male and female working together, because in working together that’s where the basics of world rule are understood and lived. And male and female together is still the best way as far as God is concerned, as anyone in a community of humans soon learns, whether it be marriage, church, club, business or organization, because it’s in what males and females both have to offer and contribute that balanced and wise plans unfold.

It does away with male domination and feminism too. Think how great life would be if women didn’t feel oppressed or ignored, men didn’t bully women and treat them as inferiors and sex objects, and men and women both realized that God created them each with highly customized and specialized abilities that only working together brings to light.

So while we’re fighting about women’s rights, gender rights (or no-gender rights), or sexual rights, etc., where are the voices crying out, “You’re missing the point, folks; it isn’t about rights, it’s about valuing each other as male and female, because that’s the secret to a world ruled well.”

Gender roles: Bible construct, or social construct?

It’s the in thing nowadays to say that gender roles are simply a “social construct,” meaning “an idea created and accepted by people.” In other words, gender roles are nothing more than an idea we came up with that ebbs and flows with the tide of culture. Gender roles can change, therefore, according to the prevailing influences of the loudest people.

And the loudest people in our culture at present are demanding the demolition of traditional gender roles in favour of no gender roles at all, because gender itself, they say, is also a social construct, an idea created by people. So, if there’s no such thing as male and female, then it naturally follows there’s no such thing as male and female roles either.

This open revolt against gender and gender roles isn’t surprising, though, when you view the historical mess we’ve made of being male and female. For centuries males have made it obvious to females that women only exist to serve men, because women are inferior to men. Under the influence of that “social construct,” fed and fuelled by oafish men, women have been oppressed by men, kept “barefoot and pregnant,” paid lesser wages for the same work, and made to think their only value is in looking cute and sexy. And amazingly, this has been socially acceptable.

It’s not surprising, then, that women are protesting vehemently that they’ve had enough of this nonsense and they want to be treated as equals. And no wonder too, that more women want to transgender to men, because men so obviously get the better deal.

The human solution to this mess is to enforce equality by law and punishment, or, better still, obliterate gender and gender roles all together. But that, of course, doesn’t go down well with those who like gender roles, and especially those who believe gender roles were created by God. To them, gender and gender roles are a Bible construct, not a social construct.

But the Bible also makes it clear that one of the devastating punishments God inflicted on rebellious humanity was the messing up of our gender roles. Genesis 3:16 says men would rule over women, and women would let them, which is exactly what has happened throughout our human history.

So our present confusion over gender roles isn’t the result of ideas created by people, it’s the result of rebellion against God. And while that rebellion continues, so does the confusion. At what point, then, do we go back to Genesis chapters 1 and 2 to see what God created males and females for in the first place, and to see how we can recapture that instead?

Is being “true to ourselves” really the source of happiness?

The latest craze by a suicidal society is to get children believing their troubles are over when they are “true to themselves.”

It raises the obvious question as to how a child can even figure out what ‘self’ is at age four or eight, but to many medical and mental health experts ‘what a child feels’ is the expression of true self. If a biological boy, therefore, feels like a girl and expresses strong leanings to dressing and acting like a girl, then we must all bow to the child’s wishes to become a girl. And if the child then wants to pursue hormone therapy and even sex reassignment surgery to be true to being a girl, so be it.

There are huge risks, of course, especially when puberty hits and a child’s biological hormones kick in with a wallop. But the greater risk, society says, is not allowing children to express what they believe is their true self. To ignore that is putting a child in serious danger mentally and emotionally.

And many parents would agree with that, especially those with children who are deeply unsettled with their biological sex and only become happy when allowed to become the gender (or no gender) of their choice. And who wants a deeply unhappy child?

But when does a child ever really know what “being true to self” means? We already have children and adults switching genders several times a day, or discovering new gender mixes that seem to satisfy their needs better, so at what point does a person actually know who or what their true self is?

I’m so glad, therefore, that the Bible does not encourage me to be true to myself at all, because I could a spend a whole lifetime trying to figure that out, and what would be gained by it? Instead the Bible spares me having to search for my true self by telling me right off the bat in Genesis what my true self is. I am a failed image of God.

My true self was supposed to be a likeness of God, equipped to think and act like God, so that this planet and all life on it would flourish under human care. But we ditched that idea in favour of doing what we wanted, and that now became our ‘true self’ instead.

So it’s not surprising seeing children being taught today that “being true to oneself” means doing whatever they want, and that’s what will make them happy. It’s the same old drivel told by the serpent, and amazingly it still works. Fortunately, the Bible tells me how my really true self is being restored.

The serpent never gives up

In Genesis the serpent was interested in just one thing: killing off humans. Humans would die, God said, if they ate the fruit off the wrong tree. All the serpent had to do, then, was get them to eat the fruit. And it was so easy. All it took to get them to eat it was a clever sounding argument. Result? All human lives from that point on ended in death. Lights out. Job done. Game over.

Jesus, fortunately, dealt with that disaster by resisting the serpent and dying a human death, denying the serpent the chance to ever kill off humanity again. But the serpent hasn’t give up trying. It still believes it can kill off humans, this time by self-inflicted genocide. Get humans to kill themselves.

And the serpent’s found a way of doing it too, by aiming at children. Get children to believe they’re the wrong gender or no gender at all so they grow into adults who aren’t able to reproduce, or don’t want to. And there you have it; self-inflicted genocide. The death of humanity.

It’s a far-fetched idea, yes, but why not give it a try, especially when humans have already proved themselves to be stupid and gullible? All it takes is a clever sounding argument and humans suck it up like sponges. So how about getting children to believe they’re born in the wrong bodies, and that how they truly identify as humans is by feelings, not biology?

It’s ridiculous, of course, but highly appealing to anyone who thinks God didn’t have a clue when he said humans were made male and female. So children are encouraged to be the gender they feel themselves to be, but it means taking hormones that make them sterile. And adults who know better go along with it, as the serpent already knew, having seen it all before. All it takes is a clever sounding argument that does away with what God says, and there you have it, humans willingly killing off their ability to reproduce. In other words, self-inflicted genocide.

It’s nothing new, of course. As humans we’ve tried very hard to kill ourselves off in other ways too, like world wars, legalized abortion, and wrecking everything on the planet that supports life. Nothing can or will destroy life, however, because Jesus made sure of it by dying the death we were so bent on bringing on ourselves, and he’s now alive and in total control. But he still allows the serpent to have a go at us, for nothing more than demonstrating over and over again how helpless and stupid we become when we ignore and resist God.

Mental health/illness from God’s point of view (pt 1)

Having a Sound Mind

Does Scripture offer any positive, practical help in the massive problem of mental illness that’s plaguing so many people today? Is God concerned about mental health and mental illness too?

Yes, he is. In the old King James Version of 2 Timothy 1:7, mental health is top priority on the Holy Spirit’s agenda, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” It is God’s clear desire that we humans have healthy, sound minds.

For ‘sound mind’ Paul uses the Greek word that means curbing one’s desires and impulses, doing all things in moderation, and being modest and discreet. It’s a mind, in other words, that’s under control. Other Bible translations use the English words ‘sensible’ and ‘self-disciplined’.

An example would be 1 Timothy 3:2, in the qualities looked for in a church leader. Taking words and phrases from several Bible translations for this verse it sounds like this: “A leader must have impeccable character, a blameless reputation, and be well thought of. He must be fair, wise, dignified, skillful in judgment, cool-calm-and-collected, shrewd in the management of his affairs, respectful, courteous and welcoming. He’s kind and thoughtful, not hurtful, hot-tempered or quarrelsome, and he never acts rashly, hastily, or foolishly.” And in verse 11, “No exceptions are made for women either – same qualifications, serious, dependable, worthy of respect, and not malicious gossips. They are discreet and can be thoroughly trusted” (The Message).

That’s a lot to consider, but Paul boils it down in Titus 1:8 to “having a good grip on oneself” (The Message). A healthy mind, simply put, isn’t ruled by, or even motivated by, emotion. Runaway emotions, by comparison, are a classic sign of a mind that’s jumped the rails.

Does that mean, then, that Christians should be totally sane at all times, and be totally free from nervous breakdowns or any other mental illnesses?

That’s not what Paul is saying, because all sorts of mental illnesses can be traced back to physical causes, like inherited weaknesses, prenatal damage, brain injuries, infections, accidents, impaired brain chemistry, alcohol and drug abuse, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins (like mercury and lead), and physical abuse and injury caused by other people (like sexual abuse during childhood), all of which can affect a person’s mental state for life, and cause all sorts of mental problems, no matter how ‘Christian’ a person is.

But in answer to all that, Paul says, “Don’t panic, help is available,” and it’s help from a very powerful source too, the Holy Spirit. And what the Spirit has to offer is self-mastery, no matter how handicapped we are by our weaknesses.

Self-mastery is a marvelous gift, because, as one quote states: “God-given discipline (or self-mastery, or having a good grip on oneself) allows people to control every element of their lives, whether positive or negative. It allows them to experience success without becoming proud, and to suffer failure without becoming bitter or hopeless.” Our emotions, in other words, including the dreadful ogre of discouragement, don’t have to blow us to pieces, or lead us around by the nose.

But in saying the Holy Spirit is the source of such control, Paul is also saying that self-mastery over our emotions does not come naturally. We’re not born with self-mastery. It can’t be inherited, or learned in a classroom, or honed by experience. But not to worry, Paul says, we’ve all got access to the God-given gift of a sound mind to stop us becoming loose cannons emotionally, no matter what our circumstances or personality. It’s all part of the Father “blessing us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

But if it’s all Spirit-given, does that mean we cannot help ourselves?

Paul touched on that in Romans 7 and 8. In Romans 7 he talks very candidly about his own state of mind. He wanted to be a good person, like so many people today who have high morals, work hard, raise funds for needy causes, pay fair wages, sacrifice dearly for their families, help neighbours, and win Civic Awards for outstanding service to the community.

But Paul also admitted in Romans 7:21, that “When I want to good, evil is right there with me…waging war against the law of my mind” – and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He couldn’t help himself, in other words.

So, if meditation, therapy, medication, and endless sessions with a psychiatrist were available in Paul’s day, none of them would have worked, because in Paul’s experience what was happening to him was beyond human control. How could mere humans and human aids combat the ever-present and overwhelming power of evil? Even the heartiest believer in God’s law (like Paul) had no control over the evil thoughts in his head. It was Paul’s conclusion, therefore, that we live in a body of death, and only God can rescue us from it (verses 24-25).

Modern-day mental health experts would roll their eyes at Paul’s diagnosis, of course, because they believe the mind and emotions are within the realm of human help, and can be corrected and balanced by medication and techniques for self-control. And the idea that evil is involved in mental illness is just typical, they say, of nutty religion trying to scare people.

But if these experts are right and there’s nothing spiritual at the root of mental illness, or anything spiritual needed to cure it, and we can all have our minds kept under control by pills and therapy, etc., why is there so much incurable mental illness still? Why are jails full of people with mental problems, that no counseling or medication can cure? And why are so many young people self-injuring and committing suicide if it’s within our expert control to stop them?

Paul has answered that already in Romans 7, but how many mental health experts today would accept Paul’s diagnosis that evil was messing up people’s minds? They’d more likely conclude that Paul himself was suffering from a mix of one or more diagnosable mental imbalances like Split Personality Disorder, or Schizoid Personality Disorder. Maybe Paul was even schizophrenic. They might even admit to Paul suffering from Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, but that would be very brave because no one yet knows the cause or treatment for it. It would also be admitting that maybe Paul had a point, that there really are things going on in the human mind beyond our human control, that includes (dare we say it) the powerful influence of evil.

But that’s a scary thought because it means delving into realms we have no understanding of, and no means of dealing with, either. On the other hand, it we can’t find ways of dealing with the likes of Hitler, or serial killers, or madmen who coldly blow up innocent people, or bullies addicted to inflicting injury for pleasure and power, and psychopaths who have no remorse or empathy for their victims, how much more suffering must we endure while we wait for the mental health experts to come up with new understanding and new solutions?

But who wants to admit that maybe we don’t have the answers, and God does? Or that Paul was right after all, that the reason we cannot come up with solutions is because “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7)?

Oops. Now we’re really treading on sensitive ground, because Paul is stating bluntly that we’ll never come up with solutions to mental illness while our attitude to God stinks. “But what’s God got to do with anything?” today’s experts ask. “God’s more likely the cause of mental illness, not the solution,” they say, “because look at all the weird ideas that God-nuts in religion come up with, like messing people’s minds up with visions of hell and burning forever. Religious people and Christians have simply disqualified themselves from any contribution to mental health, therefore, because they’re probably the most mentally sick people on the planet.”

And sadly that criticism has merit, but putting aside religion and its silliness for a minute, does Paul actually have a point? He’s definitely right about our natural hostility to God, because we prove it every time we reject or resist any hint of God’s involvement in our world, either in its creation or its problems. But surely it raises the obvious question as to why we’re so hostile to God, when the only thing he seems to have done wrong is not let us do what we want without consequences. Other than that he’s given us amazing minds that get enormous pleasure out of life and learning, and discovering the wonders of creation.

But not all creation is wonderful. Some of it is horrible, like disease, accidents and natural disasters that remain a constant worry for us. Our minds are never free of anxiety about the future, the economy, or the inability of governments to meet all our needs. The planet is under stress, our kids are being bullied in deeply worrying ways, and their future doesn’t look bright as house prices soar, and secure, satisfying full-time jobs for life are under threat. On the surface people seem to be functioning, but there’s a growing undercurrent of helplessness that suddenly opens up in conversations when someone admits to problems in their family. Then the flood gates open as to what’s really going on, and we discover that all sorts of people aren’t coping at all well in this world.

Can we give Paul a chance, then, to explain what he came up with as the cause and solution to mental illness? And he’s not talking as some superior, look-down-your-nose, “I’ve got all the answers,” head-in-the-clouds religious nut, either. He’s talking our language. He admits to having mental problems himself, and how frustrated he is too at his helplessness.

Well, the first revealing thing Paul says in Romans 8, is that the human mind is governed by two laws, the “law of the Spirit of life,” verse 2, and “the law of sin and death.” Putting aside the religious-sounding language, it’s good to know, at least, that there are laws involved, which is something we can understand. Paul also explains in less religious terms in verse 5, what each of these laws does in our minds. The law of sin and death, or “the sinful nature” as Paul calls it, kicks our minds into doing what our “(sinful) nature desires,” while the second law of the Spirit of life kicks our minds into doing what the “Spirit desires,” each with its own visible consequences (verses 6-7).

This can only be observed in humans too, because humans are the only creatures on earth with what Paul calls a “spirit” (verse 10). The Greek word for spirit means the power we humans have to feel, think, decide and make choices, and what Paul then shows in Romans 8 is what happens to that spirit inside us with and without the Holy Spirit.

What happens to our human spirit without the Holy Spirit is slightly unnerving, though, because Paul says it’s dead. In verse 6 he says “The mind of sinful man is death,” and in verse 10, “your body is dead because of sin.” In other words, if we’re simply operating by the first law of what our nature desires, our entire being, body and mind, is floating like a dead fish downstream. It has no control over the evil impulses banging away in our heads that make us (like Paul) do things we don’t want to do, or not do the sensible things we know we should do.

When a person is diagnosed in the secular world as having Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, therefore, what it really means is the poor chap is operating by the first law alone, and there is nothing in the whole wide world that can stop the injury to his mind and body.

No wonder so many promising young people suddenly begin to fall apart emotionally and start cutting themselves and attempting suicide, as they too discover there is nothing they can do about their volatile emotions and the damage they’re doing to themselves and to others. And they feel utterly helpless, because no one, it seems, can help them.

They may receive therapy and medication that enables them to function, yes, just as Paul was able to function in Romans 7, and thousands of people today without the Holy Spirit are able to function as well – but functioning isn’t “life and peace” – as Paul calls it in Romans 8:6.

Functioning doesn’t stop the rage that wells up inside us when somebody doesn’t live up to our expectations, or life isn’t treating us the way we think it ought to. Functioning isn’t enough to stop people wondering, “What’s the point?” after years of struggle and not much to show for it.

Functioning helps, but it doesn’t equip a person to deal with the stresses, pressures and the horrors of a selfish world bent on its own destruction. It doesn’t stop the madness lurking inside our heads that can spill out any second when sensitive buttons are pushed and our emotions explode. But functioning is all that the world of psychiatry and experts in mental illness can offer, leaving a person open and susceptible to emotional collapse and self-disgust, just like Paul who wailed at how wretched and helpless he was in Romans 7:24.

The tragedy of functioning is that it never gives a person the pleasure of being independent. He is always dependent on others to keep his mind from blowing to pieces, whether it be therapists or friends or the endless patting on the back by parents, spouses, teachers, coaches, employers, minions and mentors telling him he’s such a fine chap and doing great. But one let down by any of those people can send a dependent person into a spiral of depression and self-hate again.

What a tragedy that he can never experience the pleasure of being in control of his life, of having mastery over his weaknesses and phobias, or having mastery over the negative and deceptive influences of others, mastery over his reactions when horrible things happen, and mastery over getting a big head and wanting to be admired and noticed. Wouldn’t it be great if none of those things bothered him anymore, and like Paul he could be content in whatever situation he found himself in (Philippians 4:12)?

But such is the power of the second law, “the Spirit of life.” It offers contentment, an inner peace and life that carries us through the ups and downs, that keeps us on a steady course as the storm rages all around us, that enables us to be independent of all the gods and idols of society selling their empty but highly attractive wares as the means to happiness and self-mastery.

God would love us to be independent of all that stuff, and have dominion over this world as he phrased it in Genesis, not be sucked in by it as Adam and Eve were with the promise of “wisdom” from a tree. Wisdom can’t combat evil, any more than a pill or therapy can enable people today to win the war against their rotten thoughts and runaway emotions.

But where does that leave us if all the “wisdom” of the mental health community cannot win this war against our “sinful nature”? Are psychiatrists and psychotherapists stuck forever with a box full of blunt tools, condemning them to hours and hours of listening to people’s problems with no clear remedies for self-centredness, self-pity, and self-justification? I imagine some counselors must also wonder, “What’s the point?” as patient after patient leaves their counseling room still baffled as to how they can break free of what troubles them.

What troubles people is simple, according to Paul; it’s not knowing that the driving force in human brains that makes people think the world revolves around them and their feelings, their needs, and their wants, has actually been done away with. It no longer rules us, or better put, we no longer need to be ruled by it. It is actually possible, therefore, to break free of what troubles us, because in Romans 8:3, Jesus “condemned sin in sinful man.”

Jesus took the law that constantly injects evil thoughts into our heads, and condemned it. He did it by becoming “a sin offering” (3), meaning he took all that evil into himself on the cross – just like an animal sacrificed for an Israelite’s sin in the Old Testament took that person’s sin into itself. And the law of sin and death could never retaliate with a viable defence. It had killed an innocent man, for heaven’s sake. Never again, therefore, would it be allowed to rule people’s minds, just like a Judge who condemned an innocent man to death would never be allowed to preside over people’s lives in the dock again.

So the first law ruling our human spirits had its back broken by Jesus. It looks like it still has control over people, and we have a massive mental health community acting as if the first law still controls people too, as it constantly pumps out its own solutions to mental illness, rather than telling people that what’s troubling them has actually already been dealt with by Jesus.

And the evidence that it’s been dealt with by Jesus is the number of people in the world who are functioning really rather well. They go through a typical childhood in reasonably stable families, they get good careers, have their own families, become well-known and liked in the community, do lots of fun things with their children and grandchildren and friends, and their funerals are well attended.

And the amazing thing is, they manage to do it all without ever understanding or taking any interest in why Jesus was crucified.

How can that be? Well, they’re simply reaping the results and living in the afterglow of Jesus destroying the power of the first law, allowing the world to at least keep functioning without us all going mad and totally wrecking the planet. But it’s still only functioning. It’s a far cry from the “life and peace” that only the second law can supply. It’s all well and good that Jesus’ death freed us from the ravages of the first law, but to be truly free from it personally requires “the law of the Spirit of life” too, verse 2, because, verse 13, it’s only “by the Spirit that we put to death the misdeeds of the body.”

It’s only by the Spirit’s desires influencing our spirit INSTEAD, therefore, that we have self-mastery over the emotions that cause our misdeeds in the first place, and we have total independence from evil and the influences of the world.

We’re living in a world that thinks that’s all nonsense, however. But where do these happily functioning people turn when things go terribly wrong in their own lives, when their emotions spin out of control, nasty thoughts fill their minds, they say and do things that cause damage they can’t repair, they’re plagued by guilt and self-disgust, and they’re tempted to do something really stupid to themselves and to others? Where do they turn to stop the self-loathing and rage in their heads that threatens to destroy them in both mind and body? And what if their mental health deteriorates to the point they admit to needing counseling? What help can these people who have no interest in God then expect?

Well, let’s hear it from Dr. Allen Frances, who served as the chairman of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the most influential guidebook on mental illness in the world. He’s also had years of experience as a leading psychiatrist, and he said this: “I have reviewed dozens of definitions of mental disorder and find none of them the slightest bit helpful either in determining which conditions should be considered mental disorders and which not, or in deciding who is sick and who is not.”

In other words, the mental health establishment can’t even determine if what’s going on inside your head even IS a mental illness, or not. But that’s the tragic situation this world finds itself in for not being interested in mental health and mental illness from God’s point of view. It is left with no understanding of the laws governing the human mind, no understanding of what opened up to the human mind because of Jesus’ death, and no clue as to what treatment God made available through the Holy Spirit.

So, what is God doing about this awful mess, if anything?….(continues in part 2 on February 26/18)

The conflicting response of Christians to sex and gender

On one end of the spectrum are Christians who believe all sexual orientation outside the scriptural bounds of male and female is wrong and must be cured by the church through prayer, counselling and conversion therapy.

On the other end of the spectrum are Christians who believe the church should welcome those with different sexual and gender orientation as fellow humans made in God’s image. It’s not their fault the way they are, they were born that way, and God made provision, therefore, for sexual relationships other than heterosexual husband and wife.

The result, unfortunately, is yet another source of conflict in the Christian church, not only on what God’s word says, but also on what the church is for. Is the church a curing house or a safe house?

How, for instance, would each of those two groups of Christians run an AA meeting? Would the first group only invite alcoholics who want to be cured? But isn’t that what the church is for, the first group asks, to cure people of their ailments? What’s the point of the church if it doesn’t encourage and promote repentance and change? You don’t create a hospital for sick people to remain sick, you create it to make them well. And isn’t that what Christ came for, to “turn each of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26)?

But, the second group says, people aren’t wicked if they have a problem with alcohol; it’s something they’re born with. It’s not the church’s job, therefore, to cure them, it’s to provide an environment where they feel loved, accepted and safe as they are. The primary purpose of a hospital is not to make sick people well, it’s to make sick people feel comfortable. And isn’t that what Jesus made people feel when they came to him? He didn’t condemn prostitutes, for instance, or insist that they stop being prostitutes to be accepted by him. They felt safe and comfortable in his presence as they were, which made it so much easier for them to approach him.

Is the purpose of an AA meeting, therefore, to cure alcoholics of their alcoholism, or to make them feel safe and accepted as alcoholics?

Well, it’s both, isn’t it? And don’t hospitals do both too? Hospitals exist to make sick people well – and to make them feel comfortable.

So, what if the Christian church did both, where it never stops preaching repentance and cure on the one hand, but it also makes people feel safe and accepted as well? It’s a tricky balance, yes, but surely worth seeking to ease the present conflict in our Christian response.