A We Gotta Thing Guest Blog by “Our Pastor Friend”
Is the swinging lifestyle compatible with Christianity? Well, if you ask this question in your Google search browser you’ll find out very quickly that many within the Christian community say “Absolutely not!” In addition to this, these practitioners of Christianity will give text after text to prove they are right about this issue. So, are they right, and is the matter closed once and for all? Well, I’m not so certain.
Some of the reasons why some Christians have a strong view that Christianity and swinging are incomparable have to do with a warped view of what Christianity is. Further, some have a warped view of what certain words and texts of Scripture are really saying. Let’s cover the warped view of Christianity first.
For many Christianity is a religion. That is, it is living in such a way or a doing of certain things that somehow get us closer to God in one way or another. For these folks, Christianity is a sort of system for how someone makes their way to heaven. Usually for folks like this, they attend church, go to communion, read their Bibles, set aside time for prayer, and many other things in order to get closer to God. In addition to this, there is the notion that one needs to do their best to keep God’s Ten Commandments, delivered to the Israelites by Moses. Within this camp, not going to church enough, or not spending enough time or energy on one’s Christian living, or not doing one’s best to keep God’s laws, can finally make shipwreck of the Christian life and doom them to living eternally far from God in Hell.
But this version of Christianity as a religion is a nothing more that a straw man—a warped view. It is not in fact what Christianity is actually about at all. Christianity is not, and never has been a religion—a way for us to get to God. Rather, Christianity is a belief about how God came to us in Christ Jesus His Son. Its not about how we get our act together to get closer to Him, rather its a piece of good news about how God has come to be with us when we least deserved it, and could never have managed to get to Him on our own.
You see, Christianity as a “religion” is for sinners who believe in their ability to reform and straighten up and fly right. But, Christianity as a “faith” is about sinners who believe that God has done something for them in and through His Son, Jesus, even when they haven’t deserved it.
It just so happens that as the faith of Christianity was spreading into southern Galatia in the first century, it was disrupted by the so-called religion of Christianity and this very thing is discussed within the Biblical Scriptures. The Apostle Paul asks the disrupted believers, “Who has bewitched you?” and “After having begun by faith do you now wish to return to the keeping of the law?” His point is clearly made—real true believers believe, and they are never counted on to perform or to somehow perfect themselves apart from the perfection that God declares them to have in Christ as a result of their faith.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, speaking about the freedom that believers have, he wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free” and to the church in Corinth he wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” In other words, we are free from the constraints of any religion or legal system, as a result of our having believed in Christ Jesus and what He has done for us. Nevertheless, we are not free from bad, immoral or illicit behaviors that might bring harm to us, our family, our neighbor and so on. That is, we may steal and not be damned to Hell, but don’t be surprised if you have to face a punishment from society for your crime.
So, within Christianity understood as a faith, there is no clear prohibition against being involved in the swinging lifestyle, or any other lifestyle, with the one caveat being—some actions we take in our use of freedom can present real messes for us, so we need to act in wisdom. And, that may look different for some people or couples than it does for others (and this includes swinging which may work fine for some marriages but certainly could be disastrous for others).
Now, this brings us to some within Christianity who rightly see it as a faith but come to some texts and words within Scripture and confuse them be ruling out swinging altogether. And, what are those words? Well, there are a few, however, the big one is “adultery.” For these folks, they have a proper view of what Christianity is (a faith, and not a religion), however, they have borrowed in society’s idea, or in some cases, the time honored and understood, church’s idea of what constitutes adultery.
That is, they believe that Christianity is indeed a faith and not some set of moral stair steps to get one to God, but they also know that God has spoken certain truths even within His laws that make things like murder, adultery, stealing and the like wrong, and believers who participate in lifestyles made up of these behaviors are not really believing or part of the church at all.
Now, I am obliged to agree that adultery in fact is not a good behavior, however, I am not obliged to agree that God, or the Word of God defines adultery the way current society does, or the way the church has historically defined it. In fact, adultery within the Old Testament Biblical Scriptures was an issue of property rights. The truth be told, adultery was the act of one man taking and using the wife (what was considered the property) of another without his permission. In addition, when a man stole the virginity of a man’s daughter (something highly valued) a price had to be paid and adultery had been committed. What the Scriptures are trying to put forth is that one should not defraud another in this area—its like stealing. But if I as a man freely share my property or even my wife with another, then this is not considered adultery at all—for I have merely allowed what is mine to be used in accord with my own wishes (and the same holds true for my wife choosing to share what is hers). This issue of how adultery is defined within Christianity and even within society needs a deeper examination than I will offer here. In addition to that, when dealing with Scripture one needs to give some deep thought regarding how one contextualizes passages of Scripture (that is, how we bring the truths of Scripture, spoken into one particular culture and context, into our own culture and context). But suffice it to say, trying to use Biblical prohibitions against adultery in order to to prohibit swinging, which in essence is a consensual non-monogamy, is akin to trying to trying to measure a Chicken with a ruler—its just not the right tool for the job!
One last word before this sounds too much like some kind of a rant—the Christian church is the only institution within the world that God has placed His word of forgiveness. It is in the context of the church that people confess their sins and hear that they are forgiven. It is in the context of the church that we hear the good message that, though we are screw-ups, God has determined to love and forgive us gratis, just as we are. It is within the context of the church that we find out that God has taken off His sin-counting bookkeeper hat—no longer recording and holding people’s sins against them. It is only within the church that we can hear that God has closed the shop of religion for good, and now in Christ Jesus, His Son, He is giving away everything for free. And yet, the church in many places, has forgotten this, and has abandoned the good news for more bad news. It has abandoned telling of God’s grace, and has become addicted to telling people how they need to act and live to conform to a particular Christian-looking-cultural-ideal.
In effect, in many places, the church is no longer the church, and has become nothing more than some new self help scheme, and this is sad indeed. Its high time that the church stops concentrating so hard on what everyone within her is doing (forgiven as they stand already in Christ’s work) and starts concentrating on what it is that Christ has done for us, and proclaims what it is that He has done for us.
And, on swinging and the swinging lifestyle—it seems to me this is an issue that the Biblical Scriptures are actually indifferent to it. They neither condemn it, nor do they set it forward as some high ideal. Rather, each couple, and each marriage needs to love and serve one another, and fulfill each other’s sometimes changing and evolving needs and desires. If couples can do that without bringing harm to their marriages, spouses, families, friends and neighbors, I’m not sure its anyone else’s business. As sinners saved only by God’s free gift of grace and nothing else at all, I suppose the question comes to us in the end, “Free as I am in Christ, how then will I now live?” And the only answer I can give to that is, “I suppose I am to love God and love my neighbor, and when I choke, as I am sure to do along the way, I am grateful to be saved because of Jesus’ work and because of God’s grace and these things alone!”