The power of story to communicate truth (godly parenting)

The Power of Story

A tricky situation

Some years ago, one of my daughters was a bit sweet on a boy who lived in our local neighbourhood. At first, I thought she was just going out to play with his sisters, but then I could see that she was openly flirting with the lad even though she was only about eight years old at the time.

Whenever she saw him, she would go outside and hang around. But it wasn’t until a chance observation that I realised this boy was treating my daughter appallingly. In addition to his nasty behaviour toward her, he was using her affection to get her to do whatever he wanted. I tried talking to her about the issue, but she just couldn’t see it.

Why lectures don’t work

In the West we pride ourselves on Greek logic and rational thinking. Christians in particular are caught up in this and so we teach truth via clear explanations and facts.

But it doesn’t work.

Be honest. How many sermons can you remember? How many lectures from your parents can you remember? In fact, how many of your university lectures can you remember?

If you do remember anything then I can pretty much guarantee it is because you remember a story or illustration or you remember how you felt.

You see information is great for the mind but it doesn’t engage the soul.

Facts are dry and don’t engage the heart whereas stories draw you in and teach concepts in a much deeper way than ever “objective” facts could hope to do. This is the Hebrew way of life – sharing their collective redemption story with their children.

For example, telling their children the story of Israel’s redemption through the Passover meal (Ex 12:24-27) or telling their children the story behind the memorial stones placed by the river Jordan (Josh 4:2-7).  Indeed much of the Bible is written as narrative/story of God’s interaction with people and then Jesus primarily taught truth through parables.

Stories, unlike facts, draw us in and invite our participation whether they’re true or fictional.

A great example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 10:25-37). What more needs to be added to the narrative that would help us understand the Father’s love? It perfectly carries the message as is.

You see parables aren’t merely illustrations for the message – they are the message.

It is imperative that we let the story do its job and don’t reduce it to a moral.

Those who tell the best stories will have the most power.  Many criticised C S Lewis for “wasting time” writing the Narnia books.  But history tells us the power these stories have had in shaping and inspiring people.

This is why Hollywood holds so much power – they are telling stories which influence people far more than a church that simply shouts truth.  This is also why “Christian movies” have often been weak: they are so concerned about getting the message across clearly that they neglect the story.

How a story set my daughter free

Facts and warnings weren’t reaching my daughter and so I needed something else that would communicate the danger of giving her affection to someone who was mistreating her.

So I made up a story called “The Princess and the Crocodile” where a princess who loves animals wants a crocodile but her father refuses saying it won’t be a good pet because it won’t love her back.  So she decides to go to the river and…well, let’s just she gets in a sticky situation…

This opened her eyes to the reality of her situation and now five years later, I’ve expanded the tale, and have released it as an ebook to help other parents teach their children to realise how precious their love is.  It is my prayer that it will help children to only give their heart to those who will value it.

You might also enjoy this post on speaking to children’s hearts (not their minds).

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The meaning of divorce (godly marriage)

Blog pictures1

Two weeks ago my older brother sent me a message to let me know that he was divorcing his wife.

It was like a punch in the gut.

I messaged him back telling him our story of how God turned our marriage around using the marriage course and I pleaded with him to get help from the God who can bring light into the darkest of places. But it was to no avail. He had already determined that was the action he would take and nothing was going to change his mind. All that is left for my wife and I to do is to support his soon-to-be ex-wife in whatever way we can.

Why does divorce affect me so deeply?  Because I understand it’s true meaning.  So let’s take a look at what the bible says about divorce.

The Old Testament and Divorce

Now actually the OT testament only hints at how divorce worked amongst the Hebrew people. For example, it makes no mention the provisions made in the ketubah (marriage contract) of the money that had to be paid to the wife if the husband divorces divorce her and only mentions the certificate of divorce when addressing the issue of remarrying your wife.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD.” (Dt 24:1-4a)

It appears to say that if something is so bad that it warrants divorce then it’s clearly so bad that remarriage is out of the question. This protects against hasty decisions and protects the woman against exploitation. Indeed, the combination of a certificate verifying her status and receiving at least her dowry back upon divorce meant she had a chance of life unlike women in other cultures.

The New Testament and Divorce

Fast forward about 1500 years and this passage is no longer about remarrying but about the meaning of “indecency” that Moses commanded them to divorce their wives for.

There were two schools of thought on this: Rabbi Shammai took the conservative view that the sole grounds for divorce was some grave matrimonial offence whereas Rabbi Hillel who took the liberal view that any trivial offence such as burning the dinner or the husband losing interest in his wife.

You’ll never guess which view was preferred by the Pharisees and indeed the population at large and hence why they asked Jesus whether it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause (Mt 19:3)

Jesus and Divorce

So what does Jesus say about divorce?

Well Jesus would have none of this – he takes them back to how marriage was designed in Gen 2 – one man, one woman, one flesh, joined together (literally glued) by God in a lifelong covenant (Mal 2:14) and no man should ever separate what God has joined together! (Mt 19:6)

“The man who hates and divorces his wife…does violence to the one he should protect,”.
Mal2:16

This is a hard teaching. Small wonder that the disciples despaired saying “it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10)

Jesus makes clear that the commands about divorce were a concession due to man’s hardness of heart (Mt19:8) and not part of God’s plan at all.

Remember the man and woman and the Spirit are a prophetic image of the Trinity. God is many but One eternally. Divorce caused by our hardness of hearts ruptures that image.

Paul and Divorce

However, Paul gives us more insight to the meaning of marriage – not only is it an image of the Trinity but it is a prophetic image of Christ’s marriage to His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:31-32).

Hence to divorce is to proclaim that Christ gives up on us.

Now Israel repeatedly broke their covenant with YHWH and ran after other gods (Jer 3:6).

How did God react?  He wanted to forgive them and have them return (Is 54:6-7). Hosea was even commanded to marry a prostitute (Hos 1:2) to demonstrate YHWH’s commitment to Israel despite their waywardness.

Today and divorce

2000 years on and history repeats itself.

We have the conservative camp (like Rabbi Shammai) that says you can’t divorce except for adultery – even if one spouse is abusing the other.

We have the liberal camp (like Rabbi Hillel) that says you can divorce for whatever reason as God wants you to be happy.

The argument is over whether Jesus really meant what he said or whether we can excuse it due to a cultural thing or whatever gives us what the hardness of our hearts desire.

And Jesus is still calling us back to the heart of marriage and its prophetic declaration about the nature of God and Christ’s love for us.

Reality and hope

Anyone who says marriage is easy is lying – it will bring us to the end of our pride and ourselves as we journey into oneness.

There should be no surprise that it is hard as Satan, the anti-Christ, desires to destroy anything that glorifies Christ and since marriage prophetically speaks of His eternal love for us then of course it will be a target. Of course he’s going to tempt us with lies like “the grass is greener on the other side” or “you don’t feel it anymore” or “it shouldn’t be this hard” or “you deserve better than this”.

We will find ourselves on our knees calling out for His help to overcome our selfishness and hence it is no surprise that the biggest indicator of a marriage surviving is whether a couple prays together. We need Christ’s help and the support of the Body of Christ to daily take up our cross and walk the path of love.

If there are struggles then we stand with them as the Body and support them however we can through godly wisdom, prayer and practical support.

If someone is not living up to their calling in marriage then we should challenge them and use church discipline if necessary — always hoping that they will turn and repent.

However, for reconciliation there needs to be repentance and forgiveness. And without both of these divorce may occur. But let it always be with weeping that Christ has not been glorified and anything thereafter (even if they have successful remarriages) now no longer images the God who gave up everything for us to keep His covenant of love with us.

My wife and I have sought to support those in marriage struggles however we can and we have wept with those where there has been no reconciliation and then practically supported the injured party afterwards.

There has even been an occasion where I have had to rescue someone from dangerous spouse and then ensure they have somewhere safe to go.

However, in all these occasions I don’t rejoice over how things are better now – I weep for what should have been.

Yes the world is broken but may that never lead us to accept anything less than that which brings glory to Jesus, let us do all we can to declare His undying love to a dark world before it is too late.

Amen.

Top 10 godly sexuality posts of 2017

Best blog posts 2017 v2

Now in the third year of my blog and things have only got more honest as I continue to share the revelation I have received my journey into sexual wholeness and to my true identity as a child of God and how that works out in my roles as a godly husband and father.

I can only continue to express my gratitude for those who handle my vulnerable posts with care and give me encouraging feedback and messages of support. Thank you so much.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Finding God in the darkness (godly worship)

This vulnerable post spoke of a period of depression I went through, how I sought to worship God in the midst of it and how He brought me through. (124 views)

9. A brief history of Christian sexuality (godly sexuality)

Despite not being written in the last year, organic search traffic has led to this entry into the top 10. It’s a very quick overview of how we have got mixed up, particularly in appreciating the goodness of our god given sexuality. (124 views)

8. Male and Female: transcendence and immanence (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how God designed male and female to embody his polar characteristics of (masculine) transcendence and (feminine) immanence. So that together male and female give the full image of God. (173 views)

7. Christ, the Church and Charlottesville

A topical post that sought to expose the lies that are being used to divide us and God given answers for unity. (184 views)

6. Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

The second entry for an older post. I talk about how addressing the root desires can help our children’s behaviour. (185 views)

5. Why is God expressed as principally masculine (godly sexuality)

There is much pressure on the church to change the image of God. This post builds on our understanding of what masculine and feminine mean and therefore why God is expressed as principally masculine and we are feminine in relation to Him, even though both male and female are in His image. (331 views)

4. How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

A follow up to my original post (and number 2 on this list), this one talks about how viewing women as mothers, sisters and daughters in Christ can transform relationships and put to death lust. (376 views)

3. Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

A topical post exploring how Hugh Hefner’s religious upbringing affected his sexuality and how we can learn from our mistakes. (1,414 views)

2. How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

The third entry from a previous year that is picking up a lot of organic traffic. In this vulnerable post I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (1,672 views)

1. Forbidden friendships – can men and women be friends (godly sexuality)

A guest post from Joshua D Jones on the need to develop godly friendships across the gender divide to experience the fullness of Christ’s body. (2,783 views)

Honourable mentions

  • The fourth older post (and last year’s top post) that is still receiving a lot of organic traffic is this one on recognising how bad behaviour is often an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose (112 views).

Four posts from 2017 that got bumped off this list due to traffic to older posts were:

 

Forbidden Friendships – can men and women be friends? (godly sexuality)

male and female

After reading the exceptional book Forbidden Friendships it is my absolute pleasure to have the author, Joshua D Jones, guest post on the topic of whether Christian men and women can ever be friends:

Having close friendships with members of the opposite gender is healthy, biblical and important for spiritual growth. Sadly, in the name of integrity, some churches construct walls that keep us from meaningful brother-sister friendships. These divisions are neither biblical nor in line with church history at its best. And contrary to their promise of safety, adhering to them actually puts us at greater risk of sexual immorality, not less.

Many churches employ the terms “brother” and “sister”—but they are often empty of any real meaning. Some now teach that men and women should never be close friends, believing that mixed friendships will lead into sexual sin or “emotional” affairs. Others may admit that men and women can share friendship—but then they let it die the death of a thousand qualifications. One well-known church website boasts of how none of the church staff ever “has lunch with someone of the opposite sex” or “rides alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex.” Boundaries abound. Sadly, though these rules have become commonplace over the last 20 years, adhering to them does not appear to have made us any purer.

God designed us male and female. We need each other. Marriage and family are not the only places this need should be expressed. If that were the case, single people would be helplessly cut off from the love and fellowship mixed friendship brings. And let’s be honest: we often don’t know what to do with the singles in our midst. In other centuries, Christian celibacy was viewed as a gift and a symbol of the coming kingdom of God. Jesus was single. Paul was both single and thankful for it. Now we pray for single people in hopes they find the magical one and only – giving them advice that is more Hollywood than Holy Word.

In response to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, various high-profile scandals – and the recent changes in marriage laws – many Christians have gotten defensive about marriage. It is right for us to defend the Biblical doctrines of marriage. But in doing so we have exalted the relationship to a godlike status – promising it can fulfil every social and emotional need. In the process, friendship – an institution that was once sacred to Christians – has taken a far back seat to marriage, out of fear that a friend might compete with a spouse. Friendships with the same gender are often neglected, and mixed friendships are seen as taboo.

My wife cannot fulfil the role of all of the sister/ mother relationships that my soul needs. Neither can I replace all of the brother/ father relationships that God may have for my wife in the church. We are not called to be a gathering of tightly defined families for God. We are called to be THE Family of God. It’s true that we must avoid putting ourselves in situations that bring about strong temptation – with either gender. And, yes, cross sex friendships can have pitfalls that we must be wise to avoid. We are naïve if we pretend that our fallen nature always makes this easy. But the possibility of something good being abused or misused is not a valid excuse for avoiding the good thing altogether.

Our new integrity rules are counter-productive because we have genuine needs for healthy male-female relationships. If we don’t get those needs met in healthy ways, we make ourselves vulnerable to seeking them out in unhealthy ways. The man who receives holy female affirmation from sisters in Christ is less likely to search for unholy female affirmation on a computer screen or and improper relationships. The woman who has godly fathers and brothers in the church caring for and encouraging her is less likely to be looking for ungodly masculine love through erotica and illicit interactions. By separating ourselves from healthy interaction with the opposite sex, we are not farther from sin but more open to it.

Contrary to what Freud taught, we can live happily without sex. But we can’t live happily without intimacy. Paul instructs Timothy, “Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters” (1 Tim 5:2). The church is to be a place where father, mother, sister, brother, aunt and uncle relationships can flourish – across biological, generational, and gender lines.

Joshua D. Jones tweets, reads, prays, and smokes pipe tobacco in his yellow arm chair in Therfield, England. He enjoys his family and meeting up with his best friends for coffee, food, and conversations about everything and nothing. He gets to pastor Therfield Chapel – a delightful church full of fun and ferocious saints. He frolics in fields of nouns, verbs, and alliterating adjectives over at his blog, sanitys-cove.com.

In addition to his book, Forbidden Friendships, he has just released Elijah Men Eat Meat – a book of short but strong readings for young men based on the life of Elijah.

Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

Hugh Hefner

Last night Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91.

Many in the media are mourning his loss as he was someone who “advocated free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom” and many men are joking that it’s the only death in history where no one will say “he’s in a better place now”.  This is despite the appalling way he treated some of the women in his ‘care’ that girls like, Izabella St James and Holly Madison, are only now starting to reveal.

What are we, as Christians, to make of this man?

Too often we are quick to condemn and despise him for the way he has led so many astray. So much so, that the magazine was losing about $3m annually as its content pales in comparison to what is now available online.

The truth is slightly less black and white. It’s like the parents cursing the next generation for “going off the rails” whilst ignoring that they raised them.

Both Hugh Hefner and his contemporary Alfred Kinsey were raised in Strict Methodist Homes. Kinsey went on to publish “Sexual behaviour in the human male” in 1948 which contained biased research and promoted his view that delayed sexual experience was psychologically harmful and Hefner started Playboy in 1953 and donated millions of dollars to change sex laws and fought a series of cases that lead eventually to Rowe vs Wade and legalised abortion.

In Hefner’s “Christian” upbringing, sex was taboo—the body inherently tainted and “sinful.” Hefner, says that “There was absolutely no hugging or kissing in my family” and so he started Playboy magazine as “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.”

You can see the hurt of this expressed in this quote from him in Playboy, Jan 1974:

“The Puritans thought they could simply repress man’s sexual nature, and they reaped a whirlwind as a result. Their code of sexual morality — which became America’s — was nothing more than a set of rules laid down by people who believed that all pleasure was suspect.”

In fact his parents were simply continuing the long tradition that has plagued the history of sexuality in the Church which says sex is holy but it is not good.

What is the consequence of this repression of the goodness of sexuality. Well, as Christopher West puts it so eloquently in his excellent book Fill These Hearts:

“A person can starve himself for only so long before the choice becomes clear: either I find something to eat, or I’m going to die…That’s why the culture’s “fast-food gospel” – the promise of immediate gratification through indulgence of desire – inevitably wins large numbers of converts from the “starvation diet gospel”. I don’t know about you, but if the only two choices are starvation or greasy chicken nuggets, I’m going for the nuggets”

The children rebelled and said sex is good and not holy.

Neither one is correct but we flip-flop between repression and rebellion.

Why is this? CS Lewis puts his finger on the cause:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”

We as Christians need to get the balance right – it’s so tempting to repeat the same mistakes of our parents and their parents before them, especially as this world becomes more depraved.

Our God given sexuality, like fire, is powerful.  But just like a fire if we don’t light it then the house gets cold and people crave warmth from anything and if we light it outside of the fireplace then we’ll burn our house down.

We must teach our children that our God given sexuality is both good and holy and give them a vision that is so much brighter and purer than anything the world has to offer.

Hugh Hefner, I’m sorry that we preached a gospel that wasn’t a gospel at all but only man-made rules that seem wise but are powerless to bring any change to what we feared (Col 2:20-23).  I’m sorry we then condemned you when you rebelled against one lie and embraced another.  I’m sorry we preached one thing in public but did another in private and never owned up to our faults but kept it all hidden.  Forgive us.

I also recommend Christopher West’s compassionate post on this topic.

God, Gender and the Google memo (godly sexuality)

google manifesto 1

In the film Jerry Maguire, Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) has a revelation about what was wrong with the sports agency company he works for.  He writes this in a manifesto which he distributes to all employees.  However, the management refuses to accept the suggestions and he loses his job.

Last week a Google employee, James Damore, noticed what was wrong with Google’s efforts to get more women working there and realised how they could make changes to their environment to improve diversity.  He wrote a memo to all employees.  However, the management refused to accept the suggestions and he lost his job.

What was it that they didn’t like?

Well he dared to mention that men and women are different (and backed it up with extensive research).

You can read the full memo here.

Why is this so controversial?  Why was it labelled “anti-diversity” by the press and why was he fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”?

Despite the hype, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science (see also here and here).

A little history

God made men and women different to embody His masculine and feminine attributes.  One of the main characteristics that I wrote about in this post is that men embody the masculine transcendent nature of God (outward focussed – doing, taking action, risk taking, creating, initiating, giving, concerned with form (roles)).  Whereas women embody the feminine immanent nature of God (inner directed – being, sustaining, safety, nurturing, responding, receiving, concerned with relationship).

This means that only together do men and women make the full image of God.

This was part of the wisdom of God to ensure that men and women need each other as each has blind spots.  His design was that we honour those differences and create a unity of diversity just like God is a tri-unity.

Satan, who is the anti-Christ, seeks to distort the image of Christ – who is the perfect image of God (Col 1:15).  Adam and Eve, who were already the perfect image of God (Gen 1:27), were tempted to think that by abandoning God they could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  They sought to create their own image apart from God.

The consequence of this was the relationship between God and man and between man and woman was broken.  The differences that were meant to unite us now divide us.

Instead of loving women as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) and instead of using their positions to serve others like Christ served us (Mt 20:26-28) they made women feel inferior.  They no longer valued part of the image of God.

It is no surprise that women rose up against this mistreatment. However, instead of fighting against the cause (Satan, sin and the brokenness that came from these) and therefore seeking to reclaim and restore the image of God – they created another false image.

“Contrary to the world’s view, however, the ‘battle of the sexes’ is not between the man and the woman, one trying to dominate the other – but rather between God and the self-centred desires of the ‘flesh’ in both man and woman.” Gordon Dalbey

Since gender had been used to divide people then women figured that removing gender differences would imply equality and remove division and create unity.  So they put forth the view that all differences (other than reproduction) between the sexes were merely socially constructed.

However any unity created outside of Christ is a false unity – it is partnering with the anti-Christ and so presents a false image of God*.  It also rejects the expression of differences that glorify God (and can also demonise masculine traits such as competitiveness).

It is not unity but uniformity.  It pays lip-service to diversity but as the reaction to the google memo shows, it is incredibly intolerant of any view other than its own.

The flip side to the uniformity view is that:

“If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary.”

And one of the out workings of this logic has worked its way out in men being seen as unnecessary for raising children which children have paid a terrible price.

However, in Christ “There is neither … male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28).  Together our differences make up the Body of Christ.  Together our differences display the image of God to our children and to society.  Together we are co-workers and co-heirs bringing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

From a business point of view, which was the reasoning behind the Google memo (and which some have dubbed the Google manifesto), valuing the contribution that both men and women bring will help businesses to thrive.

Each brings something different, each can see the others blind spots.  For example, men tend to be goal-orientated but on its own they can lack people-orientation and end up with an ends justify the means approach.  Women tend to be people-orientated rather than goal-orientated and so can call out this blind-spot.  However, they tend to see and respond to the immediate needs rather than the long-term issues and so men can call out this blind-spot.  Together they will achieve more.  Which sounds Kingdom to me.

However, the flip side of having differences which add to the business is that these differences will mean that gender parity will not occur:

 Source: quillette.com

As Christians instead of getting caught up in these arguments, let us instead celebrate and honour the differences that God has given in men and women and together go build the Kingdom.  To the glory of God.  Amen.

Are you cursing God’s gift to you and your children?

Blessing or cursing

Would you curse a gift from God?

“Of course not!” I hear you say, “After all, every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

Would you curse a gift that God has given your children?

Again I’m sure you would say no.

But the truth is, we often do.

Our bodies are gifts from God.

“Ah yes John, but sin has entered the world and brought sickness”

True, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the correct functioning of our bodies as designed by God. Specifically I’m talking about periods and nocturnal emissions.

How often do ladies complain about their periods and say to their daughters: “You’re so lucky you haven’t got them yet!”

That is cursing our daughters. We are giving them a fear of becoming women. We are also telling them that God has made something horrible. That God is not good.

How often do us men say nothing to our sons about nocturnal emissions? How often do we leave them confused and feeling ashamed of this natural function?

We are cursing our sons. We are letting them think bad of something good. We are letting shame infect their sexuality – which causing them to either embrace shame as an identity or to reject their sexuality as horrible. Neither is blessing God’s gift to them.

We need to celebrate our children becoming women and men. We need to help them embrace God’s calling (which includes their bodies) for their lives.

But how can we do this?

As I have mentioned before the first principle* is to affirm the goodness of our bodies.
For my daughters I would have a conversation something like this:

“Would you put a new baby in a cot with dirty old sheets?”

To which my daughters would reply “Of course not!”

“Absolutely. We always give a new baby fresh clean sheets. In the same way, every month your body changes the sheets of your womb to get ready for a new baby. It throws away the old ones which come out of your ‘gina (our abbreviation for vagina) as a period.”

In addition, I want to mark their first period as a special moment in their life. And so we talk about when they have their first period daddy will take them out to a restaurant of their choice to celebrate. We often talk about this and discuss where they might go and what they might choose to eat. It creates such an anticipation in them and last week I had the pleasure of talking the second of my daughters out for her meal. She had such a blast and I have never seen anyone eat quite so much.

For my sons I would have a conversation something like this:

“Suppose you’ve got a brand new phone with GPS tracking to use on a mountain climb. Would you check that it works before you start your journey or would you just turn up and try it on the day?”

To which my son would (hopefully) reply “I’d check it.”

“Absolutely, checking it works is a good strategy to ensure that we don’t have problems on the day. In the same way, God has designed your body to check that your willy works for when you are married. When you’re sleeping it tests it out by making sperm and shooting it out. This means that you’ll wake up with sticky stuff in your pants but it’s a sign that your body is working well.”

In addition, I want to mark what could be a source of shame as a special moment in their life on their journey to becoming a man. However, my eldest son who likes food says he’d much prefer to go to a skate park to celebrate. So be it.

But as Christians we can go further than just celebrating our bodies as good. For we are made in God’s image and so our bodies are also holy.  And this was the second principle.

You see everything was made to glorify God and so that means that our bodies tell us something about the nature of our God. The aspect I want to focus on here is how our bodies reflect the redemption story.

Jesus death has brought cleansing for our sins. Specifically it is His blood that cleanses us for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).

This is the first part of our new birth as Christians – we are forgiven and made holy so that we are a fit dwelling for the Holy Spirit.

This is the meaning of a woman’s period. The shedding of blood symbolises Christ’s blood being shed to bring forgiveness of our sins. In fact, the Hebrew word for female (nĕqebah H5347) comes from the root word meaning pierced (naqab H5344) and we know that Christ was pierced for our transgressions (Is 53:5).

Every month women are given a physical reminder of the cost of our redemption – which is easy to lose sight of in our sanitised world far removed from animal sacrifice or killing animals for food.

After the period is complete a Jewish woman would have their mikveh, a ritual bath as the rite of purification. This is our baptism by water symbolising our repentance and death to sin and our old way of life.

The second part of our new birth as Christians is that we are born again of the Spirit (Jn 3:3). Just like God breathed his breath = Spirit into Adam to give life to his mortal body, so too Christ’s Spirit is given to us to give us new life. We receive Christ’s imperishable seed† (1 Pet 1:23) we become Children of God (Jn 1:12-13; 1 Jn 3:1,9) and ultimately receive new imperishable bodies from that seed (1 Cor 15:38, 42,44).

This is the meaning of the man’s sperm. The Greek word Paul and Peter use for seed is sperma (G4690). The ejaculation is symbolising the new life that Christ gives us. And in the same way that children grow up in the image of their parents (Gen 5:3) by genetics and can’t do anything to change that, we grow up into the likeness of God through the fruit of this same spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it is a fruit – a natural consequence of being his children. In fact, the Hebrew word for male (zakar H2145) comes from the root word meaning remember (zakar H2142). It can mean “to mark (so as to be recognised)” which would reflect the fact that the Spirit marks us out as Christians, but it can also mean “a call to remembrance” which isn’t just a mental ascent but a call to action – which is why it is used when referring to circumcision as well as man or God taking action when they remember something. This speaks of how faith without deeds is dead – we are called to live out our new life. We are called to like our true Heavenly Father‡.

In the same way that only together do male and female make up the complete image of God (Gen 1:27), only together do they symbolise the full story of our salvation.

Father, forgive us for the ways we have disparaged our bodies because we have lost sight of the true meaning. We renounce and break off any curse that we have put on our bodies or our children’s bodies. We bless our bodies in Jesus’ name and receive them as a good and holy gift from you. Help us to celebrate the gift of our bodies, let us cry out to you in praise for how they speak to us of the forgiveness and new life you offer us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Click here to be taken to the overview of how to teach your children godly sexuality.

†If you want to dive deeper into this aspect, I recommend Steve Bremner’s book “The Imperishable Seed of Christ: Understanding The Believer’s Spiritual DNA”

‡I am aware that there are many other nuances in these Hebrew words but I hope this gives a glimpse into the richness of the meaning of periods and sperm.