Every one of us is living in a story. The problem is that most of us don’t usually recognize the actual story we’re in.
And if we want to walk in sexual integrity, we need to.
Think about the movie Shadowlands, the powerful 1993 film about C.S. Lewis’s journey from faith through meeting, marrying, and then tragically losing his wife, Joy. Anthony Hopkins plays Lewis, but imagine for a moment what it would have been like if Hopkins were to appear in Shadowlands playing one of his roles from a different movie—perhaps Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs.
The plot line would cease to make any sense, the viewers would be confused, the genre would shift, and you might even walk away with a very different impression of C.S. Lewis.
In a related way, the enemy of your soul has gone after you—attacking your sense of the story you’re living in and who you are in that story, and this necessarily impacts your ability or inability to live a life of sexual and relational integrity.
How do I know? Because this is what the enemy does. Look at what he tried to convince Adam and Eve about the various roles in the Garden. Subtly, he presented them with a story in he was the sage, God was the villain, and they were destined to play only bit parts unless they strayed from the script. When they followed the serpent’s storyline, Eden was lost and chaos was loosed on the earth.
He tried something similar with Jesus in the wilderness, but Jesus didn’t bite. Jesus was clear who He was and the story He was in.
Make sure you check out Becoming a Woman of Sexual Integrity and Becoming a Man of Sexual Integrity. These quick video series are an introduction to becoming more whole in the area of Sexual Integrity!
When it comes to living lives of sexual integrity, knowing God’s story and your role matters. Without this, God’s commands will seem abstract or arbitrary, perhaps even pernicious.
“I cannot answer the question, ‘What ought I to do?’ unless I first answer the question, ‘Of which story am I a part?’” (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory).
God’s story is a love story in which God has created humans to bear His likeness on the earth. Out of all the characters in this story, humanity’s part is the image of the Author. When we forgot our part and the story we were living in, He became one of us and stepped onto the page, rescued us from the tragedy we’d created, and redeemed us to image Him again.
Years ago, I was wrestling with loving someone difficult in my life. In prayer, I was asking God for help because and said, “Lord, you know I can’t handle this kind of thing.” In that moment, God interrupted me with a question that caught me off guard: “Who told you that?”
His question was simple but forceful. I felt no accusation from Him and no sense at all that He was telling me to and do better. What I sensed was more like He was pointing at a heavy chain I’d been wearing without ever realizing it didn’t belong to me. For the next few moments, I found myself vacillating on a precipice between perceiving myself in two very different ways: either as a small, controlling man or a courageous, magnanimous, joyous one. For those few moments, I was “trying on” a different role than the role I’d lived, and it opened up a story about my life that was bigger than the story I’d assumed.
This process of “taking off” and “putting on” is a biblical concept. Paul urges us to “put off” the old self (Ephesians 4:21-22) and to “put on” the new (Ephesians 4:23-24). We have a choice here, and the choice we make matters. But notice it begins not with what we are to do, but with the actual story God has placed us in and who, in fact, God has created us to be.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)
To live a life of integrity then means two things: 1) Living in the story God is authoring and 2) Living as the character that you are. Put another way, it means rejecting as fiction any competing narrative you encounter about God, creation, humanity, and yourself—no matter how “real” it may seem in the moment.
From here it is just a step or two until we understand the basis of Christian sexual ethics. God calls us to abstain from sexual sin not because he is a killjoy trying to keep us from fun and not because humans are animals who need to be bridled. Humanity is specifically designed to image God on the earth, first in who we are as male and female and second as how we live day by day—to love with a Christlike love, not animalistic lust; to rule sexual passions, not be ruled by them; for giving and receiving life, not stopping or taking it; for self-giving union, not selfish using.
In short, God says no to sexual sin not because we are “only human,” but because we are wholly human.
Now you, dear brother and sister, are designed and redeemed to resemble Him—to be a living, breathing representation of the Author Himself, imaging Him in this story.
This is no fiction, and yours is no bit part. Do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.
Question: What stands out to you in this post? Why do you think that is?
Make sure you check out the 4 part podcast series on Sexual Integrity here with Episode 4, Your Story and Your Sexual Integrity
The last few paragraphs of the post really stood out to me! Reading that paragraph where you broke down what living a life of integrity is was powerful and freeing. I think it’s because I think we’ve been attempting to be integral/holy really out of works based ideology and not understanding the full story.
“I cannot answer the question, ‘What ought I to do?’ unless I first answer the question, ‘Of which story am I a part?’” (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory). This quote is quite inspiring and eye-opening. Thank you for discussing it, and for the wonderful insight in this article! At the moment I am very scrupulous, and this is keeping me from truly devoting myself to something, as well as enjoying and fully living my story.
Thanks again for the work you guys do! May God bless you! 🙂
Hi I can completely relate 1
This is an excellent article, as the series has been. And your podcasts are wonderful.
I do think that nearly all of us consider ourselves as characters in a story (as a child, I certainly did – although both my character and the story itself were often fantasy more than reality) – but over time, I have seen myself more and more as a character in God’s story, defined by God and looking to the author to learn who he says I am, in Christ. It makes a huge and positive difference.