“Jesus is saying the same kind of thing to everyone. When we rightly understand what he teaches about sexual ethics and about marriage, it is deeply humbling for every one of us. It’s challenging for all of us because none of us naturally lines up with what Jesus teaches. His teaching on marriage and sex has been countercultural in every single culture in one way or another. This has never been easy.” — Sam Allberry
Date: March 16, 2018
Event: TGC Arizona Regional Conference
- You Are Not Your Sexuality
- Why God’s Sexual Ethic Is Good for the World
- How to Communicate the Beauty of Christian Sexual Ethics
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Sam Allberry: Thank you for coming along to this event. Tonight, our topic is, “Is God anti-gay?” And so thank you for caring about this issue. I’m sure for every single one of us, when we think about issues of sexuality, we’re not primarily thinking about what’s going on in the world at large. We’re not primarily thinking about culture. I’m sure for the vast majority, if not all of us, we’re thinking about people that we know as we think about issues of same-sex attraction, or LGBTI, or whatever it might be. I’m sure virtually every one of us has someone in our close orbit who would self-identify in that kind of way.
And so what we’re thinking about this evening is not abstract. It’s personal. It’s people that we love very, very dearly. And maybe for some of us, it’s even more personal than that. We’re not just talking about people who are very close to us. For some of us, this is part of our own lived experience. That’s certainly been the case for me.
The only romantic or sexual feelings I’ve ever had have been for other men. That took me a very long time to realize that. I was a teenager a good 25 years ago. The world was a very different place then. I remember when I was about 14. I was at high school. And one of my best friends at the time suddenly announced to a whole load of us that he had just started dating a girl.
It was a Monday morning. We were all catching up on each other’s news from the weekend. And he told us how he had just started dating this girl. Everyone was kind of congratulating him and enthusing about this. We’re English, so we do that in a very subdued, understated way. We’re not too expressive. I was going to say everyone was kind of slapping his back. But that’s far too expressive for English people. If we’re really excited, we might get as far as, “Hmm. Hmm.” It was that kind of thing.
So anyway, he was sharing this news with a whole gang of us, and I just remember at the time feeling crushed. I couldn’t tell you why. I hadn’t consciously thought of my friend in a sexual way. Just the thought of him now being intimate with somebody else left me feeling devastated and feeling very vulnerable.
And over the ensuing months, I began to realize I was developing in a very different way to my friends. I wasn’t experiencing the same romantic feelings towards girls that my friends were. I was at a high school that was just for boys. It was an all-boys school. And so there were only ever two topics of conversation. One was sports and the other was girls.
I wasn’t much good at the sport. I can’t throw a ball if you pay me money to. If it’s possible to have a center of gravity outside of your body, then I think mine is because anything involving balance or coordination, and I’m flat on my face. And I wasn’t much good at talking about girls either. I just wasn’t having the same feelings that my friends were.
And very often, people would say, “So is there any anyone you like? Is there anyone that you are hoping to date or to pursue?” And I would change the subject. Occasionally that didn’t work. And so as a very last resort, I would just think of a name and make up someone. They would say, “Who do you like? Is there anyone you like?” And I think, “Quick, think of the girl’s name. Denise. Denise. Yes. I like a girl called Denise,” and think that’s got me off the hook. And they followed up with, “Oh, do we know her?” And I’d have to say, “No. No, you won’t know her. She’s not from around here. Actually, she’s from Scandinavia, so you won’t ever have met her or…”It never occurred to anyone that Denise is not a traditional Scandinavian name. But I could make up a back-story to cope with that.
One day when I was 17, I was on my way back home at the end of the day from school, and I was waiting for a bus. And just as I was stood there by the roadside, I remember the thought entering my mind for the very first time. “I think I’m gay.” That thought hadn’t occurred to me consciously up until that point, but at the moment those words were formed in my mind, it was obvious. I said, “Well, of course, I am. I don’t have those physical feelings for girls and I do have them for other guys.”
This was at a stage where I was just beginning to apply for university. And so I remember thinking to myself, at that very same bus stop, I remember thinking “Maybe this is something I could explore when I go to university.” I knew that the universities I was looking at would have had, in those days, LGB societies. So I remember thinking “This could be something I run with when I go to university. I could explore it there and no one back home would need to know.”
I’m ashamed to say, this was just before the internet, which ages me catastrophically to some of you. But it meant it was entirely possible to lead a double life. You could be one thing at university and an entirely different thing back home. So that was my plan.
But in between standing at that stop waiting for the bus and starting at university, something else happened. A very dear Christian friend of mine invited me to his church’s youth ministry. And not really thinking of any reason not to go, I went along. I was kind of open-minded on the God question. I had gone back and forth as a teenager as to whether I believed in God or not. But I was fond of this guy. I had a couple of other Christian friends from the same church that I was also very fond of. And I thought, “Yeah, I’ll find out what it is you believe.”
I went along thinking “Maybe this is a youth ministry, it’s the early 90s, there should be something to laugh at. Hopefully, there’ll be some kind of youth worker who’s about 40 but trying desperately to sound like he’s a teenager. I think, you know, the kind of guy who would bring a chair up and then turn it around and sit on it backward and be kind of ‘Hi, guys.'”
So I was pretty devastated when a man in his 80s stood up to give a talk and I thought, “Oh, come on. At least give me the kind of really cheesy Christian youth worker thing.” But this old man stood up to speak and I was captivated because for the very first time in my life, I heard the Christian gospel.
I had grown up with a fairly anemic view of Jesus. I had just assumed that if you were good enough and obnoxious enough that made you a Christian and God would like you. And in my mind’s eye, Jesus was a kind of a cross between Gandhi and one of the Bee Gees. He sort of said ethical things, and in my mind’s eye he had long flowing blond hair and good teeth, and all that kind of thing.
But as this man started to explain the message of Jesus, I realized immediately that Jesus was not as easy as I thought he was. He was actually far more confounding and far more compelling. And I realized that evening for the very first time that Christianity is not about God rewarding good people, but God forgiving bad people.
And even that very first evening, I had just had a sense in my heart that I was someone God had come to forgive. And so around that time, I think a week or so later, I remember thinking, “I want to follow Jesus,” and I gave my life to Christ which then led to a pretty obvious question.
Having so recently kind of come to terms with what was going on in my own sexual feelings and now as someone who wanted to follow Jesus, the big question for me was what does Jesus think about this? I really had no idea. But that was my question. What does Jesus think about sexuality? Does he have opinions? What does he say on it?
So I began to explore what is it this guy I’m now following has to say about this area of life I’ve only just began to understand. Well, a couple of passages immediately started to help me understand something of what Jesus says on these things. I’m hoping they’ll be on the screen behind me. If you’ve got a Bible on you, or if you got one on your phone, you’re welcome to follow along. If not, you can listen in.
But the first passage is in Matthew Chapter 15:19-20, really significant verse. Jesus is talking to a group called the Pharisees and the scribes. And the main thing you need to know about them is they believed that sin was a bit like an infection. If you avoided the wrong kind of people and places you could avoid catching it. It was like a contagious infection.
And so they kind of built a system of life that avoided the wrong people, the wrong places, and the wrong things to try to keep themselves spiritually uncontaminated. “All the bad stuff is out there somewhere. We just need to avoid it and then we’ll be fine.”
And Jesus says something to them in this verse that is absolutely devastating. Have a listen to Matthew 15:19 and see if you can hear why this would be devastating to these people. Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
So Jesus is saying that the Pharisees and the scribes are partially right. There is such a thing as sin. It is a contamination. Where they were tragically wrong is where that sin is found. Jesus says it is from out of the heart that sin comes. And so sin is not out there to be avoided. It’s in here to be confessed.
And I want to suggest that message is equally devastating to our own culture because our own culture now is saying something along the lines of that in order to truly flourish, you need to understand who you really are. You need to look deep down inside your heart and discover your true self, discover your true identity to find out who you really are. When you’ve discovered that true identity, you have to embrace it, you have to live it out, and that is the path to flourishing.
But again, Jesus says, “If we look deep inside our hearts, we are not going to find the solution to our angst. We’re going to find the cause of it.” He says, “Our hearts are not right.” There is something radically wrong with the human heart. And that’s the case for all of us that the symptoms will vary from person to person. But the same basic condition is the same. And Jesus lists some of those symptoms in verse 19 that are evidences of a heart that is not right. It’s not a set menu. It’s just a sample of some of the things.
Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery,” and then this phrase, “sexual immorality.” That phrase, “sexual immorality,” is a translation of a Greek word porneia. And if that word sounds slightly familiar, it’s where we get the word “pornography” from.
It actually meant, in the time of Jesus, any sexual behavior outside of marriage. That would include adultery, which Jesus mentioned separately as well. It would include sex before marriage. It would include prostitution. And it would have included, in the time of Jesus, any same-sex sexual behavior as well.
It was a catch-all term for any sexual behavior outside of marriage. And Jesus says, “It is one of the things that is a sign of a heart that’s not right.” It’s not the only thing but it is one of the things. And friends, I mention this first because although Jesus doesn’t name homosexuality in passages like this, he does say things that have very strong implications for how we think about these issues.
There’s a kind of myth going around at the moment that Jesus was neutral on sexual ethics. The myth is that, yes, the Old Testament has some fairly stringent things to say. And according to the myth, the Apostle Paul, depending on how you read him, may have been having a…got out of the wrong side of the bed one day and said some grumpy things about sex as well. But Jesus was just kind of relaxed.
But in fact, Jesus is not neutral on these issues. Jesus is not easy on these issues. Jesus took the Old Testament sexual ethic and didn’t lighten it, he intensified it. So that was the first thing I began to realize is that Jesus reinforces this teaching from the Old Testament that any sexual behavior outside of marriage is not morally right.
Well, the next passage is just a couple of chapters later and it’s Matthew Chapter 19. And again, Jesus is interacting with a similar group of people, the Pharisees again, and in verse 3, they come up to Jesus. We’re told they’re coming up to him to test him. They’re not trying to learn from him. They’re trying to trick him. And they say to him, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” And this was a very carefully constructed question. They knew that whatever Jesus said, they would find some way of clobbering him.
It was a very contentious issue of the day. If Jesus said, “Of course, you can’t divorce your wife for any reason,” they could say to Jesus, “Well, you’re out of step with a lot of people today.” If Jesus said, “Yeah, of course, you can. It’s fine to divorce your wife,” they could say to Jesus, “Jesus, you are very soft on sin.”
It’s one of those questions where there’s no right answer. But look at how Jesus responds in verse 4. Jesus answers, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?'” Now, there’s a lot of things going on in Jesus’ response. The very first thing Jesus is doing, I think, is he’s gently mocking them.
Okay. Pharisees prided themselves on how well they knew the scriptures. They knew our Old Testament very, very thoroughly. They knew swathes of it off by heart. They had memorized it. And what Jesus is doing is he says to these guys, “Have you not read…” and then quotes from Genesis Chapter 1.
It is as if Jesus is saying, “Listen, guys. When you did your study of the Bible, did you get as far as, I don’t know, page one? Did you make it to Genesis Chapter 1? Have you read that far? Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife?'”
So Jesus, he’s asked a question about divorce and Jesus answers not by talking about divorce, but by talking about marriage. Jesus is saying, “Listen, you’re not going to understand divorce unless you understand marriage.” But more than that, by beginning where he does, in verse 4, with creation, Jesus is saying something else, and it’s very hard for many people to hear today.
Jesus is saying, “You’re not ultimately going to understand marriage unless you understand the whole issue of God making us as male and female.” In order to explain marriage, Jesus begins with the fact that we are made as sexually different people as men and women. And it is because of how we’ve been created that we have this thing called marriage.
Verse 4 is the reason for verse 5. God has made us male and female, and therefore, people marry. As far as Jesus is concerned, our sexual difference as men and women is the foundation for why we have marriage. And as we look at the broader sweep of Scripture, it’s easy to see why that is the case. This union of a man and a woman is unique in Scripture.
Let me just give you a very brief survey of that. In Genesis Chapter 1, if you’re familiar with the Bible, you have the accounts of creation. It’s a kind of epic scale. It’s all wide-angle lens. It’s dramatic. It’s operatic. You’ve got special effects and CGI, whole universes and ecosystems and species are being created. It’s extraordinary.
And then a curious thing happens in Genesis 2 that would be curious if we weren’t so familiar with it. After this grand scale sweep of creation, we find ourselves in a garden and a guy and a girl get together. And the question we should be asking is, “What’s going on? Why are we suddenly here? Why are we watching this happen? And the reason is that this coming together of a man and a woman in Genesis 2 is a clue to what the whole of the Bible is going to be about.
This man and woman were literally made for each other. And we begin to see as scripture unfolds that heaven and earth were also made for each other. And the relationship between this man and a woman becomes a picture of the relationship between God and His people, that the union of the man and woman is a picture of the eventual union of heaven and earth through Jesus.
And so as the Old Testament unfolds, God is not just the big authority in the sky. He’s a husband. And his people are not just his servants. They’re his bride, often sadly, in the Old Testament, his wayward and unfaithful bride. And then as Jesus appears on the scene in the Gospels, one of the ways he refers to himself is as the bridegroom. He says, “The bridegroom has now come.” Jesus is that divine husband who has come to win a people to himself.
And so the Apostle Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 6 that, “He who has faith in Jesus is one with him in spirit, just as the man and the woman are one with each other in flesh.” Famously, in Ephesians, as Paul is talking about husbands and wives, he can suddenly step back and say, “Guys, I’m really talking about Jesus and the church. That’s what this is ultimately pointing to.”
And then as the Bible ends, we have this wonderful union of heaven and earth as the New Jerusalem comes down from earth to heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. And we have the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride. It is not the strength of the feelings that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 19 that lies at the heart of marriage. It is the type of union that results.
And Jesus is teaching that this male-female union uniquely is a one-flesh union. That is a picture of the big thing God is doing in the universe of winning a people to himself. So uncomfortable though it is for us, we do need to recognize that Jesus is teaching that marriage, by definition, is one man and one woman united for life.
Well, as Jesus begins to unpack some of the significance of this one-flesh union, his disciples in verse 10 begin to get cold feet. And so they say to Jesus in Matthew 19:10, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it’s better not to marry. I mean, Jesus, this one-flesh union, that sounds a bit serious. That sounds a bit like commitment. Maybe it’s better not to marry,” not the first nor the last group of men to have that kind of reaction.
Now, here’s the interesting thing. I have taught on marriage. I’m an ordained pastor back in the U.K. I get to take weddings from time to time. I’ve spoken at numerous weddings. Never once…note to me and to any pastors in the room. Never once when I’ve spoken on marriage has someone come up to me afterward and said, “Yeah, I think it’s better not to marry,” which makes me wonder, “Am I teaching marriage the same way Jesus is? Because as Jesus teaches marriage, it’s a big deal.”
And so the disciples say, “Well, maybe we’ll just give the marriage bit a miss.” And notice how Jesus responds to them. The moment they question getting married, Jesus starts talking to them about eunuchs, people who were kind of celibate at the time of Jesus.
It’s interesting they say, “Maybe it’s better not to marry.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Yes, live together for a bit first and see how that goes.” No, the moment they question getting married, Jesus talks about celibacy. As far as he is concerned, the only godly alternative to a man-woman marriage is to be single and celibate. That is to be sexually inactive.
Now again, I’m aware that is a screamingly offensive thing to teach in this day and age. So let me say again, Jesus is the one teaching it. So as a very young believer, I began to realize Jesus says sex outside of marriage isn’t right. He teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that the only godly alternative to that kind of marriage is to be single and celibate.
So that then left me with a decision to make. Several months into my newfound Christian faith, the decision is do I continue with Jesus or not? Option one would be to just ditch Christianity. “Sorry, Jesus, it was nice while it lasted. But I’m not really in a relationship-ey place at the moment. So I’m just gonna, you know, go my own way on this.” I could have ditched Christianity and thought, “I’m going to pursue my own sexual fulfillment and that means I’m going to walk away from Christ.”
Option two would be to somehow try to do the Jesus thing and my own sexual fulfillment at the same time. But even as a very young believer, I recognized I couldn’t do that with integrity. I can’t say I’m following Jesus whilst also not following Jesus.
Option three is to continue to follow him in obedience to him. Now that decision, and I’m guessing it’s obvious I did option three in case you were wondering there. Spoiler alert. To so many people today and I’m imagining a number in this room, that sounds like an absurd decision to make. If you’re faced between a choice of fulfilling your own sexuality as you understand it and following a religion, it is ridiculous to do the latter. It’s nonsensical. So let me give you a couple of reasons why I decided to do that.
The first, at the risk of sounding trite and obvious, is because of who Jesus is. Again, to so many people today, following some guy from 2000 years ago or sexual fulfillment, that’s a no-brainer, unless you know who that man is from 2000 years ago.
When I became a Christian, I was convinced that Jesus Christ was exactly who he claimed to be. I was convinced that I was exactly who he claimed me to be as well. And more than that, I was convinced that Jesus had come, not just to diagnose the state of my heart, but to rescue me from it. I was convinced that he laid down his own life for me, that he had risen up from the grave for me.
And so the day I became a Christian, I remember consciously thinking to myself, “If Jesus has done those things for me that is someone I can entrust my life to.” I had no idea what that would look like, or what it would involve, or where he would lead me. I just knew that I could trust him. I just knew he would do a far, far better job of leading me than I would. And that is the case for any of us who are Christians. We’re Christians because Jesus knows far more about how to run our lives than we do. It’s wonderful.
You have, in Jesus, someone who knows you better than you know yourself. You have, in Jesus, someone who loves you more than you love yourself. You have, in Jesus, someone who is more committed to your ultimate joy than even you are. And if that’s the case, it’s a no-brainer to follow him.
When I’m talking to friends of mine, who aren’t Christians, about this, I have to say to them, “Listen, you’re never gonna make complete sense of this choice I’ve made unless you understand who Jesus is to me. When you understand who he is, it makes total sense to trust him.”
A friend of mine has a little motto thing on the wall of her office, one of these little sayings that someone has kind of printed out prettily and put a frame around. And it says this, “Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad. Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.” It’s true. If you watch a music video and you take away the volume, okay, it looks ridiculous. There’s a lot of strutting, a lot of pouting. You put the sound back on and it does now begin to make a bit of sense.
Jesus is the music. Our lives as followers of Jesus don’t make sense apart from Jesus being who he claims to be. If Jesus is who he claims to be, then he is worth trusting.
But the second reason I made that decision was because even at that stage of my young Christian life, I began to realize that, actually, Jesus is saying the same kind of thing to everyone. When we understand what Jesus teaches about sexual ethics and about marriage, if we understand him rightly, it is deeply humbling for every one of us. It is challenging for every one of us because none of us naturally lines up with what Jesus teaches.
Jesus’ teaching on marriage and sex has been countercultural in every single culture in one way or another. This has never been easy. Part of what Jesus teaches about our hearts is that this sense of our hearts not being right actually touches and taints every single area of life. In no area of life are we what we should be or we are what we were made to be.
One of my favorite desserts back home is a kind of apple cobbler-type thing. We call it an apple crumble. And I remember having lunch with a family from church once and they said, “We’ve got apple crumble for lunch,” and I was like, “Yes, yes.”
And then they spoiled it by saying, “And we’ve done something a bit different with it this time.” And I smiled thinking, “Why would you do anything different to apple crumble? It’s absolutely brilliant the way it is. Don’t muck around with it.” They said, “We just kind of added a bit of a few extra ingredients just to give it a bit of extra, kind of…a bit of an extra edge.” And I’m thinking, “It does not need an edge. Just don’t mess around with it.”
And what they had done is they had put a load of, I think it was lemon juice or orange juice in it, and it was disgusting. And the problem was because of what they had done, it didn’t matter which bit of it I was eating, all of it was disgusting. They had ruined the whole thing. A Little public service announcement: if you’re making apple crumble, don’t put citrus juice in it.
And Jesus is saying, this concept of sin, it taints the whole of life. It means in every area of life we are disordered and broken which means that every single one of us is broken in our sexuality. All of us have sexual desires that, in one way or another, are disordered.
If I can put it this way, there is no one who is straight. All of us are skewed. Some of us are skewed in a same-sex attraction kind of way. Some of us are skewed in an opposite-sex attraction kind of way. You may be attracted to men. You may be attracted to women. You may be attracted to both. But all of us are broken in this area of life. And therefore, Jesus is saying all of us are going to have to say no to certain sexual desires. No one gets everything their way.
And again, this shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus says this is what discipleship looks like. In Mark Chapter 8, Jesus famously said…this is Discipleship 101. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me,” this is brilliant. Jesus doesn’t bury stuff in the small print. He puts it front and center. He’s upfront about it, wants us to understand it.
“If you’re wanting to come after me,” he’s saying, “If you’re investigating becoming a Christian, if you are thinking of being a disciple of Jesus,” he says, “Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus was really bad at marketing.
I know Christians aren’t supposed to lie, but… It’s always a good sentence beginning, isn’t it? “I know we’re not supposed to lie, but…” I was downloading an update to my computer. It had the little thing coming up, “Have you read the terms and conditions?” “I don’t have that kind of time. So, yes. Yes, I’ve read the terms and conditions,” which means I may well have promised my soul to Apple which doesn’t bother me because I think I already gave most of it to Google a couple of years ago anyway. If there’s anything left over, Apple are welcome to have it.
It’s not like that with Jesus. He doesn’t bury all the stuff down in the small print and hides it from us. He’s very, very open. If you want to come after me, you’ve got to say no to self. Anyone would come after me. You’ve got to deny yourself.
You have to say a profound no to some of your deepest longings, and yearnings, and ambitions, and inclinations, if you are to follow Jesus Christ. We have to take up our cross. That’s not a piece of jewelry. It’s a way of saying, “Actually Jesus, I’m giving all to you.”
He then says in the next verse, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospels will save it.” This is the beautiful paradox at the very heart of the Christian faith. Jesus is saying on one hand, at some point, following me is going to feel like it’s killing you. At some point, it’s going to look like Jesus is taking life away from you. And yet, the very reverse is happening.
It is actually as we give Jesus our deepest self we become who we were meant to be. We become our true selves. we receive life rather than lose it, which means that Jesus is saying following him is always going to be costly. And it is always going to be worth it.
And those of us who are involved in the Christian faith, we know that there are all kinds of things which, from one side of the spectrum, looks like it’s going to be just utterly awful. And yet as you look back on it, you think, “No, Jesus has been doing me good.”
I was doing a talk on this kind of issue one day and a couple of Christians came up to me afterward and said, “Yeah, but the Gospel is harder for you because it goes against who you really are, doesn’t it?” And I remember thinking, “If you think the Gospel has slotted in easily to your life, I don’t think it’s the Gospel of this Jesus you received.”
So friends, let me put it this way. If you think the cost of discipleship is too high for our LGBT friends, you think it’s too high for everyone. And if you’re a Christian thinking that, it’s probably a sign you’ve not counted the cost of discipleship in your own life because Jesus demands everything from all of us because everything from all of us is going to be so much better in his hands. It is going to be costly.
And so I began to see, even as a young Christian, that actually, the cost for me of following Jesus was just one example of the cost for everyone. For each one of us, Jesus is going to put his finger on something that feels sacred to us. And he’s gonna say, “No, you’ve got to trust me with this.” And yet, it is always worth it, not in a grit-your-teeth because one day you’ve got heaven kind of way. But even in this life, it is worth it.
Let me close with a well-known verse from John Chapter 6. John 6:35, some of us will be very familiar with these words if we’ve been around church things for some time. Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
“I am the bread of life,” a very famous claim of Jesus. I think we tend to misunderstand it. We hear Jesus saying, “I’m the bread of life,” and we think, “Well, that’s lovely. I like bread. I’m pro-bread.” I was out for lunch with a friend recently. We popped out to a restaurant to get some food. The waiter came up and said, “Would you like any bread for the table?” And we kind of went, “No, we’re fine.”
And so when we hear Jesus say, “I’m the bread of life,” we think he’s saying, ‘Would Sir like a bit of religion for the table?” And we think, “I can take it or leave it.” But in the time of Jesus, if you didn’t have bread, you didn’t eat. No bread meant no life. And so when Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” Jesus is saying, “I am to your soul what bread is to a starving stomach.”
When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” he’s saying, “I am the only one who can satisfy you at the very deepest level.” And the problem for us is we keep looking for that bread elsewhere. And for so many of us in our culture today, we’re looking for it in romantic fulfillment. And Jesus says, “No, I am the bread of life.”
If you get together with someone, if you marry someone thinking they are going to satisfy you, you’re going to be a bit of a nightmare to be married to because you’re putting a burden on that person they are not designed to bear. They cannot satisfy you, they are not the bread of life. Some of our relationships can be a wonderful blessing. But none of them can be enough.
I’m going to immediately lower the cultural term by talking about the movie “Zoolander.” Apologies for those of you who, you know, read books and stuff. “Zoolander” is a movie which is based on the notion that the more attractive you are, the more stupid you are. I personally find that quite offensive.
The main character is a male model who’s very good looking and therefore is very, very stupid. And there’s a scene in the movie where some people decide they’re going to build a school in his honor. And so they invite him to look at the… They got the architect’s model of the school and he comes in. He has a look at this model of the school and he’s furious.
I can’t do the impersonation. I’m sure someone else in the room can. But he says, “Is this is a school for ants? It’s far too small. It needs to be at least three times bigger than this.” And the stupidity is he’s mistaken the model for the real thing. And we do the very same thing. God has given us marriage as a model as a picture of the ultimate marriage of our union with Jesus. And we mistake the model for reality. We think the model is what is meant to fulfill us and it can’t. But Jesus says he can.
If I’m honest with you, there are times when I would love to be a husband. There are times I would love to be a father. But that is not the win for me. No, the win for me is I might get to know Jesus better. I might even get to be just a bit more like him because his is the one relationship that will never disappoint us. We’re never going to get ditched by him. We’re never going to get fired by him. We’re never even going to be deserted by him. He pledges himself to us forever as the bread of life.