Do some churches inadvertently promote gender-based violence?

This week was the start of the international campaign of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” (focussing on violence against women and children).

“Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3,000 from 15,000 to just over 18,000.”  (EWN News)

According to research, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.

As Christian people, we ought to be at the forefront of condemning any form of GBV.

We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbours as ourselves and to especially care for the weak and vulnerable.  Husbands are called to love their wives and be willing to die for them.

Our churches ought to be safe-spaces where victims of abuse receive help, care and support.  We ought to assist in reporting any perpetrators of violence to the civil authorities.

I wonder, however, if some of our more conservative churches may unintentionally promote intimate partner violence in their teaching about marriage and divorce?

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For Better, for Worse

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating at a wedding in a township church in South Africa.  The marriage ceremony took place as an addition to the Sunday morning service.

The vibrancy of the singing was contagious and the warmth of hospitality humbling.

In African culture there is no such thing as RSVP!  If you attend the wedding – and all are welcome – you join the feast afterwards. And there’s always enough food.

I reminded the wedding couple, and the church, that the Bible has a lot to say about marriage.

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Sex has a price-tag

A World War II venereal disease poster

As I read the CNN article, “STD rates reach record high in United States”, I remembered watching (twenty years ago) the DVD, “Sex has a price-tag” by Pam Stenzel.

Pam, while speaking to high school learners, made the point that condoms may prevent pregnancy, but they certainly don’t protect one from a whole host of venereal or sexually transmitted diseases. Pam’s point is even more urgent today.

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When does the Bible permit divorce?

No-one ever marries intending to get divorced, but divorce is a reality – even in the church. Divorce can be for biblically permitted reasons or non-biblical reasons. In my experience we are tempted to make two common mistakes in the church when dealing with divorce:

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Being single and satisfied

being singleAt church we often hear sermons about how to be a godly wife or husband, but not about how to be a godly single person. Many times we seem to esteem marriage only and unconsciously think that if you are not married you must have some issues, hate men or be gay. Churches frequently advertise themselves as family churches – but what if you have no family? Often in churches single people feel left out or neglected. We forget that there were lots of single people in the Bible, with the most famous being Jesus. Singleness is not treated as strange in the bible and it is even in some cases preferred, like in 1 Corinthians 7.

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Why the bible is for sex in marriage (and some surprising advice)

marriageThe city of Corinth in the 1st century was like most big cities, very sexually immoral. The city abounded with mistresses, prostitutes, homosexuals and adulterers. It was not uncommon for a man to be married to his wife, have a mistress and habitually visit temple prostitutes. To “corinthianize” was slang for sexually immoral behaviour. The citizens of Corinth would have felt right at home at this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony where Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performed, in an act of public debauchery, “Drunk in Love”. Beyoncé’s song starts with these words:

I’ve been drinking,

I get filthy when that liquor get into me

We be all night, last thing I remember is our

Beautiful bodies grinding up in that club, drunk in love

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Why there is so much sexual scandal in the Roman Catholic Church

Sex scandalA South African cardinal on Monday apologized for offending victims of child abuse when he described paedophilia as an illness and not a crime. While we can agree that those who have themselves been abused (as some priests were) are perhaps more susceptible to becoming abusers themselves, we cannot excuse such deliberate, evil behaviour as simply “illness” or “syndrome”.

Priests know, sometimes even better than most, what is right and wrong. If we go down the illness-path, one day we will be reading of “drunk-driving” syndrome, “hijacking-with-assault” syndrome and “toddler-beating” syndrome.

One of the reasons there is so much sexual exploitation and scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is that priests are burning with lust.

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Sanctity of marriage

In my previous post I mentioned some of societal factors hampering good marriages.  I mentioned that we needed to get with God’s plan for marriage.  Jesus spoke about God’s intentions for marriage in Mark 10:1-12.

 Jesus reminded the religious leaders of the day that marriage was God’s plan from the very beginning by referring to Genesis 1.

In V6-8 Jesus said, “at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.”

 Marriage is a creational ordinance.  Marriage was not invented, discovered, enacted by law or forced on people by the church.   God knew for humans to be happy and healthy and enjoy God’s good world, marriage is what’s needed, not cohabitation, civil partnerships or multiple-partners.  Because marriage is a creation ordinance it is good for all people, nut just Christians. Continue reading Sanctity of marriage

Till divorce do us part

We live in a world with a high divorce rate, many children born out of wedlock, teenage pregnancy, marital unfaithfulness and premarital promiscuity.  People are still getting married, but they are getting married later, less frequently, more hesitantly and less successfully.  A prenup contract is the norm, as often we expect divorce.  A large number of people, Christians and non-Christians, are realising that there is something seriously wrong.

We know that we live in a fallen world and sin pervades every aspect of our society, including our relationships and marriages.  Here are some ways, I think, sin has affected society and caused the failure of many marriages*:

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How not to commit adultery

Every week there seems to be another report of a pastor falling into sexual sin and disqualifying himself from the ministry.  Adultery is more and more the norm and even celebrated by some.  The book of Proverbs gives us some really practical advice on how to keep our marriage beds (and future marriage beds) pure.

1. Remember that God is all-seeing and all-knowing

Whatever you were doing a hour ago, God saw and heard and knew. Proverbs 5:21 says, in the context of temptation to adultery, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths”. God is like Norton’s Internet Protector on steroids and that’s a good thing! Its good to know that God know all we say and do and think.  God sees where we go on the internet and what pics we download on our phone. God listens to our phone calls. God reads our SMSes and Facebook statuses.

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