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My point when I bring up SSA counseling is to point out the contradictory treatment in the church of SSA versus excessive opposite sex attraction. With SSA, counselors routinely work to de-sexualize affection (which includes hugs) and teach healthy relationship skills. But when a guy struggles with wrong desires for women, the message mostly boils down to avoid. Avoid time alone with them. Avoid hugging them. Ect. These are complete opposites. They can't both work.
As regards Col 2:23: It is true that Paul is rebuking asceticism, and that asceticism has it's rules because typically (always?) it accompanied the belief that the body is evil, but Paul says nothing to rebuke that idea in this verse. The fact of the grammar is that Paul is stating the rules for severe treatment of the body are of no value. There is no possible antecedent for the word "These" beginning v. 23 that could be referring to the belief that the flesh is evil. The article you shared makes the point I'm trying to make by bringing up that verse incredibly well.
"It’s easy to fall into deceitful ascetic practices when fighting sexual sin. We may begin to believe that any form of sexual pleasure is wrong, as many have falsely taught throughout church history. We may believe that certain external practices, such as internet filters, accountability partners, or self-harm for sin, will solve the problem.
However, focusing on external behaviors will never change the true problem in our hearts. They can be very helpful guardrails that stop the bleeding and keep us from further external sin while God’s grace transforms our hearts, but they can never change our hearts in and of themselves. That’s why asceticism has no power to stop the indulgence of the flesh. Even if we put up the perfect external system to prevent us from looking at pornography, that still won’t change our hearts, and that heart-corruption will simply manifest itself in another way. In this way, asceticism can be like a medicine that cures a surface symptom while the patient still dies of cancer."
Avoiding normal hugs with the opposite sex fits into that as well. If the non-sexual act of hugging a woman creates thoughts of lust in a guy, the hug obviously isn't the problem, and avoiding hugs entirely can only push it down until it comes out another way.
One could say that a past porn addict who freely surfs the web with no filter or safety net is “truly free” or “living dangerously.” The fact is both could apply. And we should also never attach negative judgement on a similarly recovered PA who chooses to keep the filters in place and the accountability active. That does not mean they are only partially recovered or otherwise. Do you wear your seatbelt when you drive? Do you put on your helmet when you skydive? Or check the chute twice? Or do you deride the one who does?
I do wholeheartedly agree with the unbalanced handling of SSA/homosexuality and “normal” sexual sins by the church in general. Too many place one in one column and the other in a less offensive column. That attitude is patently wrong and sinful in and of itself. All sin is abhorrent to God, though sexual sin is more detrimental to the sinner, as scripture tells us “one sins against his own body.” Both should be handled with truth and grace.
A good hug can be good for the soul - for the right person, at the right time, in the right way. However, I have seen that “huggers” often look suspiciously at “non-huggers.” Some even express their suspicions outright.