There is a quiet pain that is evident within the walls of our church when we hear about someone in leadership who has had premarital sex and becomes pregnant or has gotten someone pregnant. As a result, we have seen these persons begin to hide themselves, stop going to ministries or church functions and at times eventually disconnect from the church altogether. How powerful should this type of shame be, to have the ability to establish such a separation from the church, which inadvertently creates a fog to be unable to see who Christ is and can be for their lives?
At what cost does our role to become so “churchy” by frowning upon certain decisions others make outweigh denying someone the feeling of belonging within the body of Christ? At what cost in a parental role do we shame sex by telling them they will no longer be pure by risking our children having STD’s or having a baby at an early age all because they were too afraid to ask for a condom or be caught with one? Should one taboo topic be held on such a high pedestal that we are willing to risk a lifetime of pain or disease?
When we read the first five books of the old testament, we see the same treatment of separation for those persons going through different types of ritual purifications; depending on the severity of what the unclean person did it would determine how long they would be cut off from the sanctuary, festivals or sacred duties. These ranged from having a skin disease, doing sexual acts, touching a dead body, women on menstruation, and more.
How can we as Christians bridge this painful gap between sexual abstinence and the consequences from shame within the church, our family household and communities? There are two beneficial remedies. The first answer is being empathetic. I read an article in Psychology Today called, The Empathy Trap where it discusses three main points of what empathy involves. 1. Balance between emotion and thought between self and other 2. Attention to another’s needs without sacrificing one’s own 3. Knowing the difference between sympathy versus empathy and having compassion towards one another. Compassion is the act of caring for another’s suffering. The church has become so engulfed with the applications of biblical principles that we have to be careful not to dehumanize The Bible by negating that we are humans, we have emotions, we reconcile things differently and we all sin. Although we may not agree on the choices or decisions people make, (and yes, we are entitled to be disappointed) but once the decision is made we cannot let those feelings of disappointment last longer than the time it took to make that decision. As Christians and as the church, now is the time to have empathy about how one may feel and lets start the healing process through the use of communication so we can create a safe haven and allow ourselves to be naked about our feelings, desires and temptations to one another. By doing so, this will consequently purify and remove feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, shame, guilt, and anxiety and help each other within our Christian journey.
Another answer for bridging this gap is called Restoration. In the Bible, even the “separated people” were RESTORED, through purification, to the enjoyment of all the privileges that were once taken away. If we are to say “God is love”, empathy has the ability to show how powerful God is by conveying to his people that no matter what you have done God still loves you and He will bring people in your lives to show you different facets of what His love looks like. This type of restoration can save a life from suicide and depression as it creates a healthy dialogue of coping with the aftermath of no longer being a virgin or having premarital sex. So let’s restore the communication, restore relationships that were only built on conditional principles and create an unconditional love for one another that God has shown to all of us.