HEALING SERVICE – Scripture: Galatians 5:13-23
I was talking to a friend recently who is single about her life of dating. I have to confess that it’s been a while since I’ve been out there on the dating scene. I met my husband when I was 18, and apparently I give off the “I’m not interested vibe" whenever I’m out somewhere without him. (I’m guessing that he doesn’t really have a problem with that).
But, despite my disinterest in picking up guys at the bars or parties where I might be at (Yes, Pastors do occasionally have a little fun) – I do occasionally receive the really bad pickup lines.
Perhaps some of you have heard some of these before.
I put a post out there on Facebook this week and asked people to share some of their favorite and most ridiculous -
“Your body’s name must be Visa because it’s everywhere I want to be.”
And one that was used on a Summit student just this week…
“Are you taking Anatomy next quarter? Because, I want to study your body.”
Really? Does this stuff actually work?
Bad pickup lines are not something Americans can solely claim – it’s an international problem.
While my sister was studying in Spain, she described her first encounters with bad pick up lines. One evening she was walking by a group of guys –
And as she walked by the first group of guys, they nodded their heads and looked at one another and said,
“como un tren”
which means, like a train
And as she walked by a second group of guys, they nodded their heads and looked at one another and said,
“Como un queso”
which means, like a cheese
What does that even mean?
I mean we laugh at these kinds of things because they are ridiculous. But the fact that this kind of thing happens all over the world is also a reminder of what we see when we look at each other. When we pass by the hundreds, sometimes thousands of people that we cross path with in a day or week or month… we don’t always see them as people – we don’t always see them as another creation of God.
Sometimes we see them as objects. Sometimes they are just bodies, just objects,
They might as well be a train, or a cheese, or a Visa credit card.
Sometimes we see each other that way.
This past Sunday, we talked about intimacy. We talked about the fact that we are made to be in connection with each other. We are made for intimacy – it’s part of how we are created and it’s one of the things that helps us remain connected to each other and to God.
And it’s good to talk about what we are created to be.
It’s good to talk about how we were made in the image of a God whose very essence is mutually loving relationship.
But we also have to talk about the fact that what we are created for is NOT always what we are experiencing.
We’re made for love, connection, intimacy…
But in the real world, there is an awful lot of disconnection, a lot of cruelty and a lot of things that leave us feeling very, very alone.
Have you heard people say before – it’s just sex. It didn’t mean anything.
It’s another way of saying. There wasn’t a connection. There wasn’t intimacy. It was just 2 bodies coming together.
Now there are times when people do this and sort of mutually agree that they are doing this and are perfectly OK with it. That’s a whole different conversation than the one we are having today.
But there are times when that’s not mutually agreed upon – when we treat one another as objects and the other party is not OK with that and did not ask for it.
When we call names, when we make statements about someone’s body or sexual orientation, when we touch someone without their invitation, and when we use our bodies in ways that can seek to control or oppress another human being.
Sometimes people in the world don’t just see people as objects but they treat them that way as well.
I will NEVER forget the day when I was sitting in a Starbuck’s café and I received a text from a friend. It said EMERGENCY – come immediately.
That morning as she was stepping out of her home to take the trash out. Two men approached her. When she turned to go inside they followed her, over the course of the next hour they tied her and beat her and raped her.
And then they left her. It took her 2 hours to regain the strength to get to the phone.
And when I arrived at her house, she was being loaded into the ambulance.
And I stepped in the back of that ambulance and rode next to her.
And I held her hand and I just wept.
There are moments where we become so disconnected that we no longer look at each other as people – but simply objects.
And when that happens, we are capable of inflicting some terrible hurt on one another. We are capable of leaving wounds that take a lot of healing.
I don’t think it will come as a surprise to any of you that it turns out… God is not OK with this.
Pauls’ letter to the Galatians reminds us that we are given freedom, but not just to do whatever we want.
Because when we live out of self-indulgence, there are consequences, that as the Scripture said can hurt us, others, and can tear apart our community.
Self-indulgence leads to isolation, hurt, disconnection.
But our call is to live out of the Spirit – treat one another first out of love to be gentle, patient, faithful to each other. To show self control.
Life in the spirit, leads to love, wholeness, connection, and intimacy.
Our bodies were made to be used for connection, for love and to share that with others.
God talks about that all throughout the Bible.
And some of the very places that God talks about this might be a little surprising…
In Gen 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah – a group of visitors comes to the home of a man. And once they are inside the townspeople come and try to rape the men. And God brings judgment on the town – a group of people who try to treat his messengers as objects.
In Corinthians and 1 Timothy – there are passages about the unacceptability of various sexual practices (that some people translate simply as homosexuality) but the root words and connotations used for these words as they are quoted over the next few centuries, are referring to things like prostitution, enslaving people to do sexual acts, they are about oppressive sexual relationships that exploit people’s positions of power. They are talking about how wrong it is to treat another as a sexual object.
And in Leviticus 18 and 20 –there are two chapters about something called the Holiness Code. Now there are a lot of people who just quote the verses about a man lying with a man being an abomination – there are a number of other things listed in this same chapter that are not things we believe to be universal law for today such as cross-breeding animals, not having sex while a woman is on her period, and even not clipping one’s beard. If we just look at it one verse at a time, we are really missing the point.
But what is remarkable about these chapters, while written for a very specific and obscure time, is that they were about one community’s attempt to try and use their bodies in ways that produced love. In ways that promoted connection and healing and worship and brought God glory.
And the Jewish authors did something that they often did when they structure their writings. They would often make an intro point, make their main central point, and then close with their same intro point. The style was to begin and end the same way and to put their main message – right in the middle.
And right in the middle of Leviticus chapter 18 and 20 (which repeat many of the same ideas). There are a few verses about how we are to treat one another.
You might find this verse familiar. Leviticus 19:18 – LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself.
I mean – there are a lot of people who have used these passages for some alternate teachings about Sex. But I think we might need to reclaim them to help us teach that God is simply NOT Ok with us treating each other as objects.
It does too much hurt. It does too much damage to our souls. Whether we are the one inflicting the hurt or whether we are the one that is the victim. Or whether it is some confusing combination of the two.
We were made to love and to serve each other – to be connected – to experience love from God but also from each other.
One of the people who knew this all to well was Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday we remember tomorrow. Even in the face of great abuse and even when he, himself, was treated as less than human. Martin refused to do the same.
He knew that we were not made to treat each other this way
That’s why it hurts so much when it happens – and that’s why it wounds people on both sides -
You aren’t an object.
You aren’t a train or a cheese or a Visa card.
You are a beautiful and beloved Creation of God.
Now I need you to hear the good news – no matter who you are – no matter what you think you may have done to others or what has been done to you.
Because you are NOT an object. Because you are a beloved creation of God.
God is all about bringing new life, and love, and hope and healing to you.
In fact, God is in this very business. Bringing life out of places of death. That’s what God is all about. RESURRECTION. Healing. New Life.