To judge or not to judge
As Jean, a college student from Long Island, New York, watched the show, she grew frustrated.
She doesn’t believe it’s OK to have sex before marriage but at the same time, she doesn’t believe Christians should shame fellow believers who choose not to wait.
“I guess since I’ve grown up in this world, I know that I cannot judge people for that sin because I have sins of my own and God sees them all the same,” she told CP.
"I learned that I make different choices than even my Christian friends, but I’m not more Jesus-like than they are. That’s why I was so frustrated with Luke P. I know what it’s like to wait 'til marriage for sex and be ridiculed by the world for it, but at 24 he should have known not to judge someone else for their choice.
Jean believes the national discussion revealed a bias that some Christians have toward imperfect people, arguing that it's hypocritical.
“I think the issue half of America is having with Luke is that he told Hannah he would leave if she had sex with one of the other guys — as if it would have tainted her in some way and she would no longer have been good enough for him,” she said. “It made me so uncomfortable and definitely wouldn’t want him to be the representative of all Christians, especially Christian men, because they already have a bad stereotype of being misogynistic.”
Season 17 “American Idol” contestant Justine Grove also doesn’t believe one should judge another believer.
“I’m not a pastor nor will I ever be, but I’m still a believer who actually took the time to read the Bible,” she told CP. “What I’ve noticed was when Jesus was here, He never actively judged the ‘sinners.’ He simply spent time with them, showed love, healed and taught in parables."
People should focus on the plank in their own eye before condemning others for engaging in premarital sex, she argued.
In his observation, Mejia said that those judging people of faith for "slut-shaming" are also "conviction-shaming" those who live out their faith.
"Those calling out believers who are publicly grateful for grace, likely have a weakness in their walk that they freely apply 'cheap-grace,'" he said.
The minister noted that Christians cannot live comfortably in their sin for too long because the Spirit of God lives in them.
"If one's snuggling with sin far outlasts the struggling with sin, that should be a cause of concern to that believer. Introspection, self-examination, and prayer is a good prescription," Mejia advised.
Christian singer and author Joanna Fruhauf told CP that abstaining from premarital sex is a conviction that’s “honorable [and] not shaming to someone else.”
“It's self-respecting and God-respecting,” Fruhauf said.
Still, heeding the Apostle Paul's warnings, Mejia noted that Christians should only judge fellow believers "in gentleness and humility" and correct people privately and prayerfully.
He added: “140 character blanket responses to public and complex narratives are easy and lazy. Private and edifying conversations are good and loving work. Jesus came in truth and grace. Truth without grace is mean and grace without truth is meaningless. Truth convicts of the sin that leads to the grace afforded through the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Following the show's conclusion, Brown offered a reflection on Instagram this week, saying, "My faith has been questioned by thousands who don’t know my heart, and my transparency with my decisions has labeled me promiscuous. Simultaneously, I’ve become a role model for young women and started bigger conversations around faith, and sex."
Getting the message across
In order for churches to be effective and help this new generation understand God's heart concerning sex and marriage, they have to be good disciplers, Mejia stressed.
"For there to be a positive reception of biblical truth, I must lead and teach from a place of permission. I think that harsh and public blanket statements that are not unpacked well will create walls and not bridges of healthy dialogue," he said.
"That doesn't mean that I won't clearly state what the Bibles says as a communicator. I will do my very best to express the 'why' behind the 'what' before an audience, but if I'm going to biblically influence someone’s choices, bridges will be created through permission. That permission gives me a platform to share truth and the rest is up to the listener.
"I also believe that healthy marriages need to come to the forefront as models of what biblically based marriages look like," he added. "The coming generation could be positively impacted by witnessing what a marriage that was thought through and prayerfully decided upon looks like. If good examples come to the forefront, then it might create a demand for answers and advice from the coming generation."