Family Focus 🏡
Two extremes can be seen in our political right and left. There’s the effort from one extreme of the political divide to abandon the nuclear family in favor of the state. This group sees the inequality between children who are raised in loving families and those who are not and seeks to have the government and schools take over the raising of children to create an equitable environment for children.
There’s another side that idolizes the nuclear family. Churches might have their efforts dedicated to married people or pairing up single people. Everything becomes about the nuclear family, its rights, and its promotion.
But Jesus tells us that his mother and brothers were not his family, his disciples and those who follow him were his mother and brothers. The early church’s community wasn’t based on the nuclear family.
Mitchell’s article explores this balance. Michell notes that the modern conservative church has turned the nuclear family into an idol. There’s rightful and reasonable pushback on the extremes of nuclear family idolatry from authors like Sam Allberry.
But Mitchell also notes that we do still need and want to promote the nuclear family. Not as a panacea to society’s woes, but as a good for raising children. It's still the core familial group that God created in the beginning, and when properly treated, it is vital to a healthy society.
Listen and Learn 🎧
Pastor John, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us all on this podcast. Recently, social media accounts have surfaced and gained quite a bit of attention which show numerous well-known pastors wearing extremely expensive and flashy clothes, shoes, watches, etc. These accounts have raised controversy about whether these leaders are justified in doing this.
Many say they should be able to use the money they make however they please. Or that these items are gifts. But others are offended by their luxurious lifestyles and argue that regardless of how a pastor obtains these things, they should still be demonstrating humility and reverence toward their congregations and toward those who are struggling to simply survive. Many think their lavish lifestyles discredit Christ. First Peter 3:3 seems to allude to this issue. But I’m curious, what other texts of Scripture speak to this? And where do you stand on it all?
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
Too often, we want to have the “right” thoughts before we go to God—thoughts that are true, reasonable, and figured out. But often this isn’t possible. We can’t always change what we’re thinking in an instant just because we want to.
What’s more, I don’t believe this is what God asks of us. God invites us into his presence where he can transform even our uncensored thoughts.
There are many reasons that we censor our prayers. We might think that God will be upset with those thoughts, or that he can’t handle those thoughts, or perhaps we don’t think we can take opening that can of worms and those thoughts are better off buried.
This is the exact opposite approach to prayer that we see taught in scripture and the opposite approach to what we should take today.
I also linked to a podcast with Kyle Strobel, the author of Where Prayer Becomes Real: How Honesty with God Transforms Your Soul 📚 (Affiliate Link) in Issue #31. I’ve read Strobel’s book, and it is excellent.
Explore the Scriptures 📖
Jen Wilkin delivers a message at TGCW21 on expanding our understanding of and obedience to the Ten Commandments. Wilkin emphasizes the importance of delighting in God’s law and explains the good that comes from it: “Personal obedience always results in collateral benefit. When one of us obeys God's law, it is good for all of us.”
As Wilkin walks through each commandment, she explains how to look for expansive obedience instead of just rote instruction. Obedience was always intended to be worshipful, and if we meditate on the law rightly, it can become that once again.
Church History Corner ⛪️
Alexander Hamilton has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the popular imagination thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway play “Hamilton.” Mathis walks us through another side of the first Secretary of the Treasury and founding father of the United States.
Yet in his late forties, before dying in the infamous duel at age 49, Hamilton experienced a succession of great humblings, which appear to have prompted him, doubtless with the encouragement of his enduringly faithful evangelical wife, to blow again on the embers of the Christianity of his youth.
Consider Another Perspective 🤔
In this very short video, Biblical scholar Alastair Roberts walks us through the different ways that the Bible attempts to communicate with us. He points to the various genres of scripture, but he also shows us that the diversity of scripture goes even deeper than that. We need a robust and diverse array of tools at our disposal to engage with the different texts in our library of scripture (that’s what the word “Bible” means).
Skilled engagement with scripture—which should not just be relegated to scholars—should lead to the formation of a people saturated with the wisdom of God absorbed through scripture.
It’s not even seven and a half minutes long, but it’s packed with things to think about.
This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
In a strikingly vulnerable 2018 New York Times article, author Courtney Sender casts a light on today’s impoverished sexual norms by describing her own disappointing experience.
Her date, a connection through Tinder, requested Sender’s consent for nearly everything. Kissing. Undressing. Touching. “Are you okay?” he would ask. “Can I do this?” In Sender’s words, frequently pausing to ask permission venerated sex to something humanizing and hallowed. Consenting, she writes, was a “beautiful thing he was teaching me, that we could be fully human to each other, checking in, honoring yes and respecting no.”
Until it wasn’t. After a few brief encounters with what seemed to be a caring, empathic individual — Sender never heard from him again, leaving her “devastated.”
The aspirational virtues we seek in relationship — commitment, trust, sacredness, beauty, honor, and respect — frequently risk betrayal by less noble aims. She wanted love; he wanted insurance. She ends the article desirous of something else — something more:
“I wish we could view consent as something that’s less about caution and more about care for the other person, the entire person, both during an encounter and after, when we’re often at our most vulnerable.”
Sender’s honest reflection is more than a cautionary tale. Her experience is consistent with a broad array of voices longing for the “something more” of sex. These experiences are well documented in Christine Emba’s recent book, Rethinking Sex: A Provocation. In sum, our modern approach to sex is not working. The result is “harrowing dates and lackluster encounters” that leave us dissatisfied, depressed, repulsed, or even traumatized. “If this is ordinary,” writes Emba. “Something is deeply wrong.”
This opens Brown’s wonderfully needed article. If you have teens, this is the kind of article that you should read and discuss with them.
Brown explores how modern culture, knowing but denying the sacredness of sex, has built a liturgy of consent around casual sex.
In a sexual landscape drained of moral significance and dominated by modern, individualized assumptions — it is unsurprising that “consent” emerges as the criteria for establishing boundaries between sex that is good and sex that is bad.
But is this what sex means? Is there not more? This is a fascinating element of Emba’s book. In her interviews, which were primarily with women, when asking what attributes would ideally characterize a sex-positive environment, she heard words like listening, care, empathy, connection, and even transcendence. In other words, sex is not just inconsequential recreation or the satiation of an appetite. Further, the line between appropriate and inappropriate sexual norms is not simply drawn where consent is present.
Beyond someone’s religious commitments, there seems to be an inherent belief that sex is something more. We desire something more.
Brown points our attention to two ways that the Christian worldview can help us think about what is “more” about sex.
Sex Is Embodied
...The Christian tradition rejects the idea that our bodies are extrinsic to personhood and advances the self as an integrated being where internal states such as thoughts, desires, and feelings correspond to our physicality. Sex is not just something we do; it is also an act that does something to us. Sexual activity is intricately woven into a nexus of physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional ways of being.
The Christian tradition emphasizes our embodiedness. We are more than just a body; we were created for embodied existence.
Sex and Love
Whatever else we might say, our understanding of sex will invariably accord with how we define the concept of “love” — an expression that is ubiquitous and multifarious in its modern usage. Love is often understood as a favorable emotional reaction or a positive state of mind towards someone or something. Yet, we know that emotional reactions can be fickle and unpredictable...
In contrast, the Christian tradition has advanced a more demanding definition of love. Here, love exists for another’s good.
This classical understanding of love has an important implication for our current relational landscape. Specifically, it sees the other as a person and not an instrument... Moreover, self-giving love values the other for the sake of the other. To paraphrase Moral Philosopher Josef Pieper, to love someone is not to desire them, it is to desire something for them.
Sex matters. But it matters because others matter.
There’s much more to say, and Brown says much more. It’s lengthy, but it’s essential.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
…The righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Let anyone who has ears listen.
— Matthew 13:43b (CSB)