Much has been written recently about the evangelical “purity culture.” Basically it is a culture that emphasizes sexual “purity” in two unhelpful ways. The first is to equate purity with virginity, something that can never be regained once it is lost. The second is to elevate sexual purity above all other aspects of purity of heart, thus creating a culture of guilt and shame.
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As church leaders, it is easy to fall into one of two extremes. We either ignore the fact that couples are living together and do nothing, or we heavy-handedly refuse to serve them at all, imposing rules upon them that don’t lead to conviction or changed hearts. We must fight the temptation of these extremes and instead stay on the road of grace and truth.
Cohabitation needs to be addressed boldly yet graciously. We must remember we are shepherding two people who might resist, not trying to forcefully solve an uncomfortable problem with an ultimatum.
In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.
With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?
Evidence of this prickly, acutely self-regarding perspective comes from the U.S., where a group of forlorn and (by their measure) much put-upon atheists are making angry demands that atheists in the military be granted their own chaplain.
Other than the whiny schoolyard temper-tantrum logic of “He’s got one, so I want one too,” what has this silly demand got going for it? How can a system of thought built on the not believing of/in something, on the non-existence of any god, require the services of a chaplain, a — need the qualifier be emphasized? — spiritual counsellor. Chaplains offer mediation on the supernatural, the afterlife, the individual’s relation with the/a creator.