A Teaching Secret of Jesus

I was a second-year youth leader. In the midst of a study on guy/girl relationships, it was time to talk about pre-marital sex. Some students had heard 100’s of times they shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage. Others were considering the idea for the first time—and considered it laughable. The statistics weren’t in their favor. Many students have sex outside of marriage. How to help them deeply wrestle with God’s plan for sex?

Photo by Michael Cordedda at Creative Commons

Photo by Michael Cordedda at Creative Commons

I knew my goal. I wanted them to bring their hearts to the conversation and think new thoughts.  How to help them do this?

I started with, “My high school basketball coach told us, ‘Marrying a girl is like buying a car—it’s ok to try a few out before you buy one.’ What’s wrong with that statement?”

The guys started to sweat a bit. The girls turned red. And they were thinking hard.
“I mean, what’s wrong with pre-marital sex, anyway?” I asked. “Doesn’t it make sense to test out a relationship before you commit to it? What’s the big deal?”

“Because the Bible says it is wrong,” said one.

“You’re right,” I said. “But I’m sorry, but that’s not going to help you enough in a moment of temptation.”

The tension grew a little thicker.

“I want to know why God is against it. Does He just want us not to have any fun?”
“Because you’ll get STD’s,” said another.

“True, true. But that doesn’t seem to stop your friends from having sex,” I answered. “Why is God so against pre-marital sex?”
The students were wondering about this new youth pastor.

Luckily, I’m in good company. Consider these statements by Jesus:
* “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:20)
* “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” (Mt. 18:7–9)
* “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (Jn 6:54–55)

These are strange statements! Can you imagine hearing these for the first time? What was Jesus doing? Was he going a little crazy? Was too much time on this dusty old earth getting to him? Why would he speak in such strange ways? Educational theorists would call this Disequilibration.

What is disequilibration? The root word is equilibrium—balance. To disequilibrate someone is to knock them off-balance, in their brains. Muscles grow when they break down through weight lifting.  Similarly, our brains ‘grow’ when knocked off-balance. We learn most when we are first confused or stretched.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your own life. Someone says something troubling or controversial, and it causes you to wrestle and think. Someone asks a hard question, and you find yourself thinking in new ways. The best small group leaders know how to use disequilibration.

“Because, girls aren’t like cars,” one of the guys finally said.

“Ohh,” I said, in my most interested voice. “What do you mean?”

“Cars don’t have feelings. They don’t get attached to you. If you test drive them and then leave them at the dealership, it doesn’t hurt their hearts.”

(A few car lovers in the room disagreed, but most of us saw the wisdom in this idea.)

“You mean, sex creates a personal connection?” I asked. “Like, God might be trying to help us save sex for something far more wonderful and beautiful … ?”

Now they were starting to get it. We talked and wrestled quite a bit more, and then I ended by saying, “God created sex as an amazing, beautiful thing. Because he designed it, he knows sex is best when it is saved for marriage.” I hope some of the students left that night with a different view of God’s plan for sex. I’m confident they wrestled with God’s plan on a deeper level than they had before. And I trust that—because of disequilibration—the truth embedded in their character and convictions in a new way. It’s how Jesus did it.

Question: What questions do you have about disequilibration? To leave a comment, click here.

(Next time, we’ll talk more about how to use disequilibration like Jesus–and how not to use it.)

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