Ask Sam Allberry (December 3-7, 2018)

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

Our moment in history is marked by intense interest, polarization, and discussion around sexuality. In my view, Sam is one of the clearest, most persuasive, and gentlest communicator of the good news Jesus offers - including what the Bible teaches us about sexuality. I believe this is at least in part because Sam comes at these topics - and many others - from the point of view of a pastor.

There are some exciting events on the horizon as well. Sam is the author of the forthcoming book, 7 Myths about Singleness, to be published in February 2019 by Crossway.

We’ll also have the chance to hear from Sam again on February 15th, when he will be speaking at the Zacharias Institute’s live-streamed #TrendingQuestions event, “How Can I Know My Gender?”

Please join me in asking your sincere questions of Sam. I trust this week will help us grow as disciples in the way of Jesus, with a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and a greater wisdom in sharing the gospel with our neighbors.


Sam Allberry’s bio:

Sam Allberry is a pastor and writer based in Maidenhead, UK, and a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He is an editor and a writer for The Gospel Coalition and the author of a number of books on Christian belief, including Why Bother With Church?, James For You, and the bestselling Is God Anti-Gay?

Sam studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He worked at St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford where he oversaw the ministry to university students and then at St Mary’s Church in Maidenhead where he has been based since 2008. He is an ordained minister in the Church of England and was recently elected to serve on its governing body, the General Synod.

Sam speaks widely on issues of sexuality and identity and continues to minister as a Bible teacher and pastor. He is currently working on projects concerning singleness and the Christian understanding of the body.

In his spare time Sam enjoys hiking, American history, and slowly perfecting his recipe for Thai green curry.

(SeanO) #2

Sam, the topic of sexuality can be very tense when it comes up in modern culture. The graduate research group I am in occasionally brings up these issues and they know I am Christian, so when they ask me directly I try to say something unexpected like “Actually, Jesus says there is no sex in Heaven. What do you think of that?” I hope that those kinds of statements act as icebreakers and help the conversation remain meaningful.

What wisdom would you offer on how to make these types of conversations meaningful with people who view your position as intolerant or old fashioned?

(Tabitha Gallman) #3

I am so glad that this topic is being discussed. Sexuality is a topic that has divided so many and continues to be used by Satan to encourage prejudice. I, myself have been influenced to pass judgement and voice my opinion before feeling empathy toward friends and loved ones that are living in a lifestyle of sin according to scripture.

I recently listened to a Christian guest speaker on Moody Radio that was gay. His testimony was also similar to that of Mr. Allberry in that he was clear and gentle and not defensive at all. He spoke of great conviction for His love for Christ. What stood out to me was his emphasis on singleness and the fact that there is not a lot of support for singleness from a Christian world. Marriage is always emphasized and encouraged, which is not of course in any way bad. I am thankful, very thankful, that I am married. I couldn’t imagine not being married.

I also could not imagine having the struggle that Mr. Alberry has in a world where there is already so much loneliness, hurting and pain. I can’t think of a bigger sacrifice than what Jesus did on the cross for a lost and dying world. He himself lived a celibate life. God knew Mr. Alberry and countless others would have to make a huge sacrifice in their walk with Christ, and I believe they will have a huge reward in heaven.

I appreciate and admire Mr. Alberry for preaching and proclaiming the word of God. I pray for his renewed strength daily.

(chandra kishore sardar) #4

Dear Sir Sam Allberry, would you like to please talk a little about your book ,7 myths of singleness?
After reading a book on singless i am pretty much convinced that on the beam balance of God, singleness and married life weigh the same.Please correct me if I am wrong sir. What would you say to those who would want to live single in their life? I am 21 and have been wondering about singless being an option but sometimes i am scared about things.

(christopher van zyl) #5

It is a pleasure for me to ask these questions to you!
I would also like to ask what wisdom you can give me. I have two friends who have recently told me that they are homosexual, but ever since then they have been so promiscuous and think that because they are gay they can do whatever they want. (this is their words. Because they value feelings over truth of scripture, they think love is love and they can do whatever, because God isn’t against what they say)
So, What limits are there for homosexuality and how does this differ from being straight? Is there a difference between them?
And lastly, what would you say to someone who can only believe in God if he allows for homosexual relations?

Thank you so much. I look forward to hearing from you, and may God bless you richly!

(Sam Allberry) #6

Dear Sean,

Thanks for such a great question!

I think your approach is the right one – to say something surprising that will take the conversation forward in a way that is unexpected but also constructive. I hadn’t thought of that response before about there being no sex in the age to come, but like it. It immediately indicates that however good a gift sex may be in this life (in the appropriate context), it is not ultimate: we will spend eternally happily without it. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that God has given us the gift of sexuality in order to show us something of his own love for us. It is not for nothing that God often describes himself in Scripture as a husband or groom. It is one of the primary categories for how we are to understand and relate to him. We are not just his people, but his Bride. Our human, earthly marriages are therefore a signpost to and anticipation of this ultimate heavenly union. When we have that relationship in all its perfected fulness, we will no longer need the signpost.

The other great thing about your response is that it is a general comment. It is not saying anything specifically about LGBT+ people. This is very important, I think. So often, when Christians say something specific about same-sex relationships it is (mis)heard as being an attempt to single certain people and certain sexualities out for special condemnation. I think it is often more profitable to talk about sexuality in broader categories and to show something of what the message of Jesus means for all people in this aspect of life. I often encourage Christians not to say to someone what they can’t say to everyone – in other words, to show how the gospel levels the playing field and challenges all of us before moving on to how it challenges particular people in particular ways. (I say more about that here:

I hope that helps. Every blessing,

(SeanO) #7

@Sam_Allberry Helpful indeed! I think your points about the modern view of our body as ‘accidental’ and the erosion of marriage into a self-fulfilling romantic contract are both so pertinent. Our culture has lost a sense of shame because they think they came from nowhere and are going nowhere and we have lost the ability to express / understand true love because we have exalted our desires. Self-fulfillment has replaced self-sacrifice.

Thanks for the reply and may the Lord Jesus guide your heart and mind as you seek His face. Grace and peace.

(Susie Ford) #8

Hi Sam!

Thank you for your time in considering questions.

I’ve been reading a lot on SSA and came to the Living Out conference in London in June. I don’t struggle with this personally, but both your teaching and that of others has been really challenging. I agree that those who are SSA do not have a higher calling- we are all required to surrender everything to Christ, and I think it’s incredibly hypocritical of the church to apply a different standard on sexual sin to other sin, so I don’t want to take my own sin lightly. I think what I’m struggling with, and would value your thoughts on, is how we go about surrendering areas that we are not obedient in so we can live the radical life of a disciple. And how do we know when we must try harder, and when we admit we cannot free ourselves and rest in Christ? I am aware of so much idolatry in my life and areas that I’m simply refusing to allow Christ to reign. If these involved my sexuality then I’d be excluded from ministry and subject to church discipline, but because they’re “respectable sins” I’m not. I’m not sure if it’s ok that there is only snails pace progress evident in my life, since that wouldn’t be ok in most churches re sexual sin. Are there habits/support systems that you recommend to lay down areas of idolatry and stay away?

(Carson Weitnauer) #9

Hi Sam,

A member of the community, who wishes to remain anonymous, would like to ask this question of you:

Can a person with same sex attraction marry a person of the opposite sex, live as a heterosexual, and be in God’s will?

(Jake Holden) #10

Hi Sam! In your upcoming book on singleness, do you lean toward the Lutheran/Reformed tradition of singleness being default with marriage and continency being gifts, or toward the Wesleyan tradition of singleness itself as a gift?

(Matthew Johnathan) #11

Hi sir, I’m not a professional or anything. I just want to know if you could shed some light on my questions, Is evil/sinful nature apart of our free will and if so why didn’t God just remove that evil/sinful nature that is sort of us?

(Sam Allberry) #13

Thank you for this question, Christopher, and for being part of this site!

These are really significant issues you raise.

There are some ways in which all sins are alike, and ways in which sins differ from one another, and I think this applies to the forms of sexual sin we encounter in ourselves and in others. So it is true to say that all sins are alike in some ways: all fall short of the glory of God; all are expressions and evidences of fallen sexuality that is common to us all. This means that none of us can feel proud for not having fallen into certain forms of sexual sin, or look down on those who have. We are all alike fallen in this area of life. The gospel levels the playing field. We’re all in this together, irrespective of what temptations we experience and what temptations others experience. One of the mistakes I think the church has sometimes made is in treating homosexuality in a disproportionate way — singling it out for regular condemnation while not necessarily treating heterosexual sin as seriously. It is significant that the references to homosexuality in the Bible always come in the context of other forms of sexual sin also being warned against. (One exception to this might appear to be Romans 1, where Paul talks about men and women exchanging natural relations with the opposite sex for unnatural relations with the same sex. But even here he immediately follows it up at the start of ch.2 with a condemnation of those who look down on these sins but do not adequately come to terms with their own.) Truly understanding our common sexual brokenness should actually make Christians the most compassionate people on the planet.

But that is not to say all sexual sin is the same. Genesis 1-2 shows us God’s blueprint for human sexuality (echoed by Jesus in Matt. 19:3-6): one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage. It is therefore fair to say that certain forms of sexual sin represent a greater departure from this blueprint than others. Promiscuity is a further departure than does fornication. Homosexuality a greater departure than adultery. We see this reflected in the codes on sexual behaviour in Leviticus 18 and 20. In both cases sexual sins are listed in a clear progression, one which takes us step by step away from God’s design.

We need to hold both these aspects of the issue together at the same time. A common mistake in evangelism to our gay friends is to talk about the difference before we have sufficiently expressed the universality of our sexual fallenness. So I think it is generally best to start by showing how the Bible’s teaching is deeply challenging and humbling to all of us, before ever then talking about one particular type of sexual sin.

Thanks again for joining us and asking great questions!
Wishing you every blessing today,

(Sam Allberry) #14

Thanks for passing this on, Carson. It is a really important question, and one that will be very close to home for a number of Christians. I thank the questioner for raising it.

The short answer to the whole question is Yes. God is sovereign. I know a number of instances where this has been the sort of thing that has happened. I know one man whose whole pattern of attraction changed dramatically from exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual. Interestingly, this wasn’t something he had been particularly seeking; it just seemed to happen through no agency of his own. I know of a number of others whose attractional patterns have shifted more gradually in a similar direction. It is more common than many realise for people to go through a period of same-sex attraction while younger in life (perhaps as a teenager or undergraduate) and then to find those feelings begin to change of their own accord. I suspect our sexual feelings in that stage of life are not always fully settled or fixed.

But I also know other Christians whose attractional pattern has not changed, but who nevertheless met someone of the opposite sex who was the exception to the rule. You can see one such example here. Sean himself has said, “It turns out I didn’t need to be attracted to women. I just needed to be attracted to Gaby.” I know quite a number of same-sex attracted Christians who have a similar story, and are now have happy and healthy marriages. In each case they have been open with the other person all along about their same-sex attraction, and that is vital.

You ask about God’s will, and it might be helpful to make a comment on that. 1 Thess. 4:3 shows us that God’s will is for us to be sanctified, which includes avoiding sexual sin. So God’s will is that we be holy, whether in marriage or in singleness. If we are married, we need to be faithful to our spouse, and if we are unmarried we need to be faithful in our abstinence. So we can be in God’s will whether we are married or single. I think that helps to take some of the pressure off from thinking we might be going against God’s will by getting married or by not getting married. More significant than the state of marriage and singleness is what we are doing as married or single people.

I hope that helps. I know these are really sensitive issues, so please do come back to me if you would like to (via Carson if needed – he is a very good carrier pigeon!!)


(Sam Allberry) #15

Thanks so much for being part of this, Susie!

That’s a great questions. And the most immediate thing to say is that every single one of us struggles to some extent with the challenge to give all of life to Christ. None of us is there yet.

The call of Christ himself is very clear. When he calls the first disciples (see Mark 1:16-20) a few things are very clear: Jesus is calling them to himself — not to religion, not to morality, and not to church. They (and we) are to follow him. Next, we see that they are called to serve him in his work. We mustn’t think we can be devoted to Jesus while indifferent to his cause; nor must we think we can be committed to his work while not being devoted to him. We see too that their response is both immediate (they do not delay) and total: they are willing to put Jesus before their family and work.

This is the same call to which we must respond. Jesus is to come first, before everything else in life. For all of us, there will instinctively be aspects of life we want to hold back from Jesus; things we might be anxious about entrusting to him. Perhaps it is an area of guilty pleasure we don’t want to surrender, something we continue to hang on to. This is always going to be an impulse within us in this life. The old self will not want to let Christ in to each area of life.

So this is what helps me in my own battle to surrender all to Christ: to remember that no area of life will ever be improved by holding it back from Jesus, or ever ruined by giving it to him. He will always, always want what is best for me. There is nothing I know more about than he does. It is as simple as that. So it helps me to realise that giving all to Jesus is actually a mercy to me; it protects me from my self. Jesus is willing to be involved in and committed to each part of life. That’s actually a beautiful truth about him. Nothing in my life is irrelevant to him or beneath his interest. He’s not so big that he overlooks the details of my life, nor so small that he can’t do anything about them.

If you’d like to think a little more about this, this is a message I gave on it a few months ago.

Needless to say, it is a huge help to have other believers around us who are rooting for us to be doing this and who are needing us to root for them, too. This is not a solo project. We need each other.

The Lord bless you!

(Sam Allberry) #16

Hi Chandra,

Thanks so much for joining us at RZIM Connect! It is great to have you participate.

Thank you for your question about singleness. I’m so glad the Lord is leading you to think about this topic. The Bible has so much rich material for us to think through. I’m glad you are thinking about serving the Lord as a single person.

There is much to affirm the desire to be single in life. Jesus commends those who are “eunuchs [ie. celibate] for the sake of the Kingdom” (Matt. 19:12). It is an appropriate and honorable vocation. Paul, speaking of his own singleness, says, “I will all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Cor. 7:7). Paul is saying there is something about singleness that makes him sometimes wish all were single, but recognises that God means for some to be married and some to be single. The reason for Paul being so pro-singleness (in marked contrast to much of our own Christian culture, which tends to see singleness as second best to marriage) is found a few verses later, “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord… I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32, 35). Singleness increases our capacity to serve the Lord – singles are (generally) being pulled in fewer directions than those who are married. Paul is not saying marriage makes someone spiritually compromised, just that it brings obligations with it which can and should affect our capacity for Christian service outside the home.

So the Bible is positive about the idea of being single in life. But it is also good to make sure we’re doing this for the right reasons. The fact that singles have greater flexibility can, if we are not careful, make us very selfish. We get to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. It is very easy to wrap life around our own priorities and wants.

The fact is both marriage and singleness are good gifts from God. Both should be honoured and esteemed. Both are glorious vocations, and both can be sought for good reasons and for selfish ones.

If you’d to look a little more at this, I spoke on it last Sunday! You can see it here.

Hope that helps, and that you have a great day!

(Carson Weitnauer) #17

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