Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Self-Denial in the Christian Life

John Meunier writes about a homosexual man who almost killed himself over the conflict between his sexual desires and traditional Biblical teaching. John writes:

Self-denial is hard. The self is fierce and tireless. When told to be subordinate to another - to God - the self is endlessly inventive in coming up with arguments and battling against such a claim.

Lord knows it is the work of a lifetime with God’s grace to put all that in its place. Should - because it is so hard or even impossible - should we stop teaching self-denial?

Is the church wrong to teach self-denial? If not, then how should we approach it?

How would you answer?

6 comments:

A united method said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A united method said...

As a Methodist minister I also teach that we can work towards perfection. If that ain't self-denial, I don't know what is.

Besides, there is a big difference between saying "You can be perfect" and, "you should be perfect." Neither of which is "you can't be perfect" - unless you say you can't deny yourself.

your thoughts? :)

All of which has nothing to do with homosexuality unless you believe its a sin.*

*sorry...geez, I need to complete a thought once in a while. Didn't finish this sentence....

Larry B said...

In my opinion, the link between the young man's story and the conclusion that self denial is the primary cause of his circumstances is not well established by this one snippet. So I don't see the burden of self-denial to be so overwhelming that it merits consideration of being eliminated from the churches teaching.

Alternatively there is, at least for me, anecdotal evidence where self-denial has resulted in a better situation for someone. I have a close personal friend who left homosexuality due to the teachings of the church and understanding the benefits of self-denial in their spiritual life.

Therefore, I would answer the question that the church is not wrong to teach self-denial.

Keith Taylor said...

The church is not wrong to teach self denial because the Bible teaches self denial.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."

To love God more than one loves themself is not in our fallen nature. To love my neighbor as myself isn't either. It is always in our natural self to look out for number 1.

Since this is a commandment straight from Christ himself, how could the anything other than a false or half truth church not teach self denial?

It is self denial grounded in my Christian Faith and teachings of our United Methodist Church that has kept me married, kept me from theivery, kept me from murder, kept me from adultery, kept me from drugs, kept me from .... you get the point.

The enemy will come to you and tell you that you should be entitled to try all of the above and many more. The enemy will tell you that you should put yourself first and everyone else (certainly God) second.

Therefore, I'd argue that any church that says they will not teach a Biblical paradigm of self denial is Anti-Christian.

John said...

If an understanding of Christianity doesn't include self-denial for the sake of Christ, then it isn't Christianity.

Dan Trabue said...

The church is not wrong to teach self denial because the Bible teaches self denial.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."


I'd suggest in order to love one's neighbor as one's self, one must first love self.

The Bible certainly teaches that a follower can show their love by putting the needs of the other above their own needs.

And I reckon I'd agree that we ought to deny ourselves the "pleasure" (if that is the correct word) that comes from incorrect, unjust or "bad" behavior - the satisfaction of punching the braggart in his mouth, the joy of gossiping about one's weird neighbor, etc. Deny ourselves behaviors that are "missing the market" of living within God's Will.

I'd suggest, however, that it is wrong to talk about denying ourselves something that we innately ARE. The white (black, brown, etc) person who tries to deny he is white (black, brown...) and is as a result, self-loathing (if such a thing exists) - that would be a bad thing.

Similarly, the person who has same gender attraction - it is harmful physically, emotionally, societally to deny that reality. We are who and what we are.

The difference, it seems to me, between BEHAVIORS that are harmful (even if they give us some measure of satisfaction) - ie, "sin" - and characteristics that are innate, is whether or not the behavior is harmful to us or others.

I think Harm is a good measure of whether or not an action is a sin or not - or perhaps more specifically, harm inflicted upon others by our actions.