Two Sundays ago, I preached on Genesis 1:28 in our Origins sermon series. The focus was on what it means to be fruitful and multiply, how sin has affected that, and where and how the gospel comes into play. I heard feedback from some people who were encouraged by it and from some others who were discouraged by it. To be honest, the experience left me a little disoriented.
This experience reminds me why I am grateful to be a part of a church and pastoral team that listens, leans into, values, and cherishes the preaching of God’s Word. I am also grateful for a church committed to walking in community, including your willingness to share with me your experiences and perspectives even when it involves critique.
One of the suggestions I received was to respond to the sermon by clarifying a few things I either said or didn’t say. I’d also like to share with you some of what I’m learning from this experience. I hope this will help as we step forward together in faith and faithfulness, no matter where we find ourselves on our journey with Jesus.
As I sought to listen and learn, I realized something—it is really hard to preach a 35-minute sermon on complex topics. Several times I’ve felt the tension of trying to say all I want to while knowing I can’t possibly do that due to time and personal limitations. That being said, I also realize the irony of what I’m doing now. Because even in writing this I know I still can’t cover everything. So if you’d like to talk further about this or any other sermon or topic, please reach out directly to me. I’d love to speak with you.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned and have become clearer to me…
First, when preaching on a complex, complicated, or emotional topic (like marriage and having kids) it would be helpful to give a preamble of sorts, acknowledging the complexity and also my inability to talk about all related situations and circumstances. I am going to work on being more attentive to that in future sermons.
Second, there are also a few things I wish I had explained more or said more about.
For instance, some have experienced past (or current) family trauma that gives him or her great pause before getting married or having a child. Some are going through difficulty related to things like personal health or finances that also might give him or her pause or cause uncertainty about the future and what God is up to. That’s not sinful. It’s a result of living in a sinful and broken world. That isn’t wrong. It’s a wise and commendable effort to follow Jesus with the wisdom He provides.
It was not my intention to communicate that all people will or must get married and have babies as fast as possible. I could have made that clearer. Because of the brokenness of our world and the myriad of circumstances any one person might be facing, that would be a misapplication of this text (and the Bible). Instead, my hope is that all of us can seek the leading of the Spirit and wisdom of our community to help us know how God is leading and what God is calling us to as it relates to marriage and family, as well as help one another grieve with hope when it doesn’t happen. We need both as we seek to live under the kind rule of our gracious and good King.
Speaking of calling, I want to also speak to the single men and women in our church. I wish I had spoken to you more during the sermon. I realized afterward that both some of the things I said and some of the things I didn’t say may have made you wonder what I think about singleness and if I value it (and you) or not. I’m sorry for that.
I do value singleness and I do value you. Some of you desire marriage, but are seeking to patiently wait on the Lord. Others may not be called to get married. And all of that is for a variety of individual reasons and circumstances. But not only do I value singleness and you, most importantly, God does! Paul speaks to singleness in an encouraging and positive way in 1 Corinthians 7. He sees it as a blessing to the person and the Kingdom as God is uniquely at work in and through that person’s life. And let’s not forget that both Paul and Jesus were single.
Marriage is important, but it isn’t elevated over singleness nor singleness over marriage. Each person in each season of life with each of his or her gifts plays a different and important part in the body of Christ—imaging God more fully as a unified family. I am grateful that we have men and women of all ages and all life stages at our church who are helping one another become more and more like Jesus.
And that is our hope and goal: to see people cross from death to life and then follow Jesus for all of life. I spoke about this in the sermon but want to reiterate it again here. Part of fulfilling the call to be fruitful and multiply is carrying out the Great Commission to go into all the world making disciples. All of us can be faithful to carry this out because Jesus is with us and always will be. And I am so very grateful for that truth.
I love you and the story of grace that God is writing and weaving in each of your lives. Sin has made life in this world difficult and challenging. But God gives grace upon grace. Thanks for coming and talking with me. I want to keep listening and learning together. May we continue to strive to honor God with our life and lifestyle and work side by side to help one another do the same.
– Justin Pearson