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Sample "So What" Document: Just Say No Moving beyond research into response.

Discussion on the Research Results

Rudy Dirks

Gaborone, Botswana

January, 1999

FOREWORD

The document below is the follow-up to the Research Report.  It is intended to help me to present the research findings to the AIC people with whom I did the research (the primary intended audience for this research).  I intend to proceed in the following manner:

  • I will prepare the following document in Setswana.
  • I will first run it by a couple of key leaders for their input.
  • I will then present it in each of my three Bible classes (depending on response, it may take a couple or more sessions)
  • I will use the outline as a basis for presenting my findings to those interviewees who are not in the classes, and who have expressed interest in seeing the results (most likely meeting with them in their homes)
  • My longer-range plan is to use this as a springboard to preparing teaching on marriage relationships.
  • This is not intended to be a final document – but rather a way to continue the discussions about male/female relationships and marriage, and a way to bring my research findings into this discussion.


You all know that I have been doing research on marriage in order to understand how people in the AICs think about marriage, and to prepare to write some teaching on marriage.  Many of you have been willing to answer my questions.  I thank you for help.

 

In the end I spoke with 24 people (Lesego Mmanathoko spoke with five of the young women).

Of the people with whom I spoke:

  • 13 were married -- 7 men and 6 women
  • 11 were single -- 6 men and 5 women
  • 14 were church leaders or their wives
  • 10 were members
  • 11 were young people
  • 13 were older people

These people came from 17 different churches

 

I promised that I would share the results with you.  First let me say that people sometimes gave very different answers to the questions, and sometimes they gave the same answer.  This helps us to understand how people think about these topics.  Some of these answers surprised me, and some may even surprise you.  Even Lesego, when she spoke with someone whom she knew, told me later that she was surprised at the answers which the person had given her.  She had learned something new about how this person thought.

 

As I give you the results I want us to do four things:

  1. Look at the answers which people gave in the interviews and see what we can learn about how people think
  2. Compare these findings with your experiences
  3. Study the verses which were in the research questions to see what they mean
  4. Start thinking about ways I could adjust my teaching and work in light of these findings

Finally, you know that my Setswana is not strong.  I may have misunderstood some things which people said.  Please tell me if you think I have not understood something correctly, or if there is something else which you would like to add to these results.

A)  Regarding the behaviour of Christians:

There was agreement  among most respondents (96%), that sex before marriage, and adultery, are big problems among Christians in Botswana.

Most people did not know of anyone, or only knew a few people,  who had not had sex with someone else before marriage (80%), or who had not committed adultery after marriage (66%).

 

People gave the following reasons for this problem:

  • People are not being taught in the churches about how to behave
  • People say they are just flesh and blood
  • The temptations are great
  • They are following the example of church leaders and parents
  • Sometimes people need money (like when a poor woman will sleep with a man because she hopes to get something from him)

One person said that they knew 275 people in their church who had not had sex before marriage, and they also knew more than 100 people in their church who were faithful in their marriages.

 

Do you believe that this is possible in Botswana?

A few people said that having sex before marriage is not a sin, if the two people are committed to each other and intend to marry some day.  One of them said:  --Kgomo e tshwarwa ka kgole --motho o tshwarwa ka lefoko ("A cow is held by its leather halter -- a peron is held by his or her word."

 

Do you think that many Christians believe this?

Most people said that baruti commit adultery as much as anyone else, and that this influences people in the church to do the same.  One person said: “Everything begins at the top.  If the moruti is not faithful to his wife, the rest of the people will also not be faithful.”

B)  Regarding “one flesh”:

Several of the questions in the interview related to a man and wife becoming ‘one flesh’.  Let’s first look at what the Bible says about ‘one flesh’, and then we will see how people responded.  Read  Genesis 2:24, Matthew  19:3-9, I Cor. 6:15, 16, and 17.

 

What do these passages mean when they say a man and woman are ‘one flesh’?

According to these passages, does ‘one flesh’ mean marriage only, or does ‘one flesh’  happen outside of marriage?  Is ‘one flesh’ a physical thing, or is it a spiritual thing, or both?  Is there a difference between two people being ‘one flesh’ and being ‘one spirit’?  What is God’s intention for ‘one flesh’?  

 

How do people destroy God’s intention for ‘one flesh’?

If this is what the Bible seems to be saying, help me understand the fact that the majority of respondents (83%) said that ‘one flesh’ began, not with sexual intercourse, but with marriage.  Did I misunderstand something?

 

I wonder if this is perhaps like a key.  We know that a key is made to open locks.  When it is used in that way it works well, and locks can be opened.  In a similar way, God intended that a man and wife become ‘one flesh’ in marriage, in other words, that they have sex in marriage.  Just as a key works well when it is used for its intended purpose, so also sex within marriage, makes a man and wife ‘one flesh’, because this is what God intended.  But if I take the same key and use it to try to break a cement block, the key will not work.  In fact, it will be broken – but it is still a key.  In a similar way, if a person has sex outside of marriage, he is like the man who uses the key to break a cement block, he is still ‘one flesh’ with this other woman, but it is not how God intended, so the ‘one flesh’ is distorted and wrong – but it is still ‘one flesh’. 

C)  Regarding the Christian’s ‘Union with Christ’:

Some of the questions which seemed to be most difficult for many people, were the questions about the two baruti and the young man who refused to commit adultery because he believed that he would be joining Christ to the woman if he had sex with her.  Let’s read the Bible verses which talk about this.  Read  Jn 14:20; 15:4,5; II Cor. 6:16, Gal. 2:20, and I Cor. 6:16-20

  • As Christians, what do these verses say about  our relationship with Christ?  
  • Where is Christ, once a person becomes a Christian?  
  • If we sin, are we still united with Christ? 
  • Does our sin have any effect on Christ?

Most of the people (83%)said that they had never heard of any teaching that said that if a Christian has sex with someone else then they are joining Christ to that person, since Christ lives in the body of Christians.  In another question some people did say that they knew of some people who would believe this.

 

How can we understand these responses?  If I Cor. 6:16 tells us that Christ lives within us, even when we sin, then what is a Christian doing to Christ if he or she commits adultery?

 

 If Christians truly believed that Christ always lived inside of them, and that Christ was part of everything they did – even if they sinned, would that make any difference to how they behaved?

 

There is a story of a young boy in a village.  One day the chief gave a beautiful  coat to this boy.  The boy loved this coat and wore it around the village.  Sometimes the boys in the village liked to play and wrestle in the mud.  When this happened, the boy would take off his coat and hang it on a tree. Then he would go and play with the boys and get dirty.  Later he would wash himself and then put his beautiful coat back on.

 

Perhaps some Christians think that Jesus is like that coat.  When they become a Christian, it is like when the chief gave the boy the beautiful coat.  The coat is like Jesus.  The boy liked to wear it around the village.  But some Christians think that when they sin, they can take Christ off and leave him while they are sinning, just like the boy took off his coat to play in the mud.  Then they think they can wash themselves after they have sinned, and come and put Christ back on.

 

But according to these verses in the Bible, Christ is more like a vine and we are the branches.  Once we are Christians, Christ is in us, and we are in him.  He is always with us wherever we go.  If we sin, Christ is still there.  He is offended by our sin, and it displeases him, but he is still there.  We cannot leave him aside like a coat.  That is why I Cor. 6: 16 says that if we have sex with someone to whom we are not married, then we are joining Christ to that person.  That does not make that person a Christian -- rather, it means that we, as Christians, are trying to make Christ sin.  That is a very sad thought.

 

Do many Christians understand our relationship with Christ in this way?  Do these stories explain our relationship with Christ, or is there a better way to explain it?

 

What suggestions do you have regarding what we could do with this discussion?