Reboot-14: Applying the Law of Love

From XFamily - Children of God
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Applying the Law of Love

By Maria; The Reboot Series - Part 14 of 20; May 2010

(Please note that all references to sexual interaction throughout this publication apply only to adults.)

As we transition into the Family of the future, we will need to make many changes and adjustments—practically, spiritually, culturally, and in our mindsets. Aspects of our lifestyle and ministries will change as we expand our community of faith. Therefore it is imperative that we become more relatable regarding how we practice our interpretation of the scriptures that we refer to as the Law of Love.

What is the Law of Love?

"One of the key passages on the Law of Love in the New Testament is found in Matthew chapter 22, where the religious leaders questioned Jesus, 'Master, which is the great commandment in the law?' (v.36). Jesus answered them, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' (v.37-39).

"These two simple commandments summed up all the other commandments of the entire Old Testament!—That love is God's Law!—That if you love, you are fulfilling all the laws of God! He proclaimed, 'On these two commandments (to love God and your neighbor) hang all the law and the prophets!' (v.40).

"The Law of Love is the godly principle by which our entire lives, as Christians, should be governed. Jesus summed it up very simply in the famous 'Golden Rule,' giving us the key to our relationships with others: 'As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets' (meaning that loving your neighbor as yourself fulfills God's Laws.—Such love is the 'law and the prophets' [Matthew 7:12]). This loving principle should guide all of our actions with others. This is a belief that millions of Christians hold in common with us."

In Part 1 of the series, "Living the Lord's Law of Love," I explained: "This Law of Love that Jesus proclaimed—loving God first, and loving others as yourself—fulfills all the other biblical law. For example, if you love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, then you won't put other gods before Him, nor take His Name in vain. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you won't kill him, steal from him, lie to him, or covet what he has. And the reason you won't do these things is because of love. You don't need the biblical law to keep you from doing these things; you simply refrain from doing them because to do them would be unloving. This freedom from the biblical law, based on the Lord's instruction to govern ourselves by loving God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, is the whole concept of the Law of Love in a nutshell.

"When we talk about living the Law of Love, [we're talking about] putting that love into tangible, everyday action. It's about sacrificial living, giving of yourself to others, helping those in need, living in unity, and bearing one another's burdens."

Your efforts to put the Law of Love into practice—to love God, and to love others as yourself—on a daily basis has contributed toward making our homes loving, happy places. Many of you have shown the Lord's love to others in meaningful, sacrificial ways. This love has not been in vain. As you have loved and cared for others, you have loved and cared for the Lord. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Jesus will never forget the love you've shown others, and He will reward you for it.

Applying the Law of Love to our sexual interactions

Our statement, "God's Law of Love," has stated: "It is our belief that Jesus' Law of Love can also be applied to our sexual interaction with others. Sex, when practiced as God ordained, designed, and intended, is a pure and beautiful wonder of God's creation. We also believe that God designed and created sexuality not only for human procreation, but for human enjoyment and pleasure.—It is a gift from God.

"'Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law' (Romans 13:10). Consequently, Family adults, be they single or married, are free to engage in loving sexual relationships with other consenting adults, provided their actions are loving and with the agreement of others concerned."

Peter and I have reviewed whether the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations is doctrinally sound, according to Scripture. We have discussed this topic with our counselors and others who are well versed in Bible knowledge. We have reviewed the scriptures and the Letters, as well as prayed and asked the Lord about this, and we have concluded that the allowance for the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations is legitimate doctrinally for the Family today and in the future.

Peter and I hold to TFI's interpretation of scriptures that allows adult members, whether they are single or married, to apply the Law of Love to sexual interactions, according to their faith, and with adherence to the principles of the Law of Love doctrine, without it being a sin.

Peter and I realize that there have been a number of difficulties, problems, and hurts that have occurred in many cases as a result of the sexual application of the Law of Love. We are very sorry if you have experienced any hurt, or strain on your marriage or committed relationship, or any other difficulty as a result of applying the Law of Love to sexual interaction. While the sexual application of the Law of Love is a precious gift from the Lord, it can also be very challenging to practice.

As we go into the future, we need to recalibrate our understanding and implementation of the sexual application of the Law of Love. To create a more inclusive culture where people feel comfortable and welcome, we'll need to change some aspects of the culture of the Family. Some modifications are needed so that we will be more relatable to a broader membership. Some members will need to adjust how they interact with one another. In general, the sexual ethos of TFI needs some adjustment.

Clarification of terms [box]

As stated earlier, the Law of Love is a cornerstone doctrine that relates to our relationship with the Lord and every aspect of our interaction with others.

It has many practical applications to our everyday lives, from leading someone to the Lord, to lending a helping hand to someone in need, to giving our will to the Lord, to befriending a lonely person. It encapsulates Jesus' message to the world, that God's law is love—love for God and love for fellow man—and it's a beautiful message to share with everyone we can. We want to share this message of the liberating Law of Love with as many people as possible.

It has been stated in our publications a number of times that while certain of our beliefs and practices regarding sex are allowed by the Law of Love, sex and the Law of Love are not synonymous; the sexual application is a small part of the overall Law of Love. Now, though, we will be taking it a step further, and from here on, we will address the Law of Love and the sexual application of the Law of Love as two separate matters.

The reason for this is that if our applying the Law of Love to sexual relations continues to be confused with the doctrine of the Law of Love overall, the Law of Love will always be seen by some as referring to our sexual practices, instead of the bigger-picture principle which should govern every aspect of our lives.

We need to separate our theology regarding the Law of Love—which is a core belief in our statement of faith—from our sexual practices so that new members, as well as people who aren't members, and who may never be members, can easily understand the overarching scriptural principles of the Law of Love.

Matthew 22:35-40 articulates the foundational principles of the Law of Love, which stand on their own as the standard that can and should be applied by TFI members—and any Christians, for that matter—in their daily lives, both in their relationship with the Lord and in their relations with others.

In keeping with this, the statement, "God's Law of Love," will be updated so that only the theological explanation of the overall Law of Love doctrine is addressed in that document.

The explanation regarding our sexual beliefs and our understanding of the scriptural allowance for the application of the Law of Love doctrine to sexual relations will be addressed separately, in a position paper on sexuality.

When we refer to the Law of Love in the future, we will be referring only to our core belief, as it is articulated in our statement of faith. Here is how this doctrine is expressed in our statement of faith:

We believe that God's Law of Love as explained in Matthew 22:35-40 should govern every aspect of a Christian's life and interactions with others. An expert in the Mosaic Law tested Jesus with this question: "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." We therefore believe that a Christian's actions should be motivated by unselfish, sacrificial love—the love of God for our fellow man.

God's Law of Love is the ultimate fulfillment of Biblical law, including the Ten Commandments, as it fulfills the intent of such laws. "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14). We therefore believe that through Christ's salvation and His Law of Love, Christians are released from the Mosaic laws in the Old Testament and are no longer required to observe them. Instead, they are held to a higher law—Christ's Law of Love, which should guide all their interactions with others.

From this point on, we will not refer to our sexual practices as "the Law of Love." When referring to the sexual application of the Law of Love, we will use terms such as "sexual practices" or "the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations."

It's our hope that this clear distinction will make it easier to teach those we are spiritually feeding and ministering to about God's Law of Love, which is a very important Christian foundational principle in their relationship with the Lord and in their interactions with others.

How TFI's sexual ethos developed

Before we discuss the position we will hold in regard to sexual beliefs in the future, let's examine the context of David's early writings on the topic of sex and how the sexual ethos of TFI developed.

Today many churches and Christians have less conservative attitudes regarding sex than in previous times. More and more, Christians are viewing sex, particularly married sex, as a beautiful gift from God. But that has not always been the case.

In the '70s, David wrote various Letters in which he made the case that sex is a normal bodily function, a physical need, that it is a beautiful, God-given, God-created act that is not only meant for procreation, but also for pleasure, intimacy, and to build a spiritual connection between a man and a woman. He began teaching this message during the time of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s and 1970s in the Western world. This revolution brought about change in traditional perspectives on sexuality and more frank discussion concerning sex. Nonetheless, David's message regarding sex was considered quite outside the accepted norm of the beliefs of most churches at that time.

David's early writings on the topics of sex, nudity, masturbation, etc., were focused on refuting the churches' condemning stance on these subjects. He wanted to make it clear that sex was not the original sin, masturbation is not wrong, and that under the right conditions, sex is godly, nudity is beautiful, and that people don't need to be ashamed of their bodies and their natural functions. David wrote:

God's first commandment to man in the first book of the Bible, first chapter, the 28th verse, is "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth!"—Or, "thou shalt have sex!" Think of that! Sex was God's first commandment to man!—And to have sex was man's first obedience to God!

Contrary to the doctrine of some churches, man's first sin was not sex, because sex is not a sin, but God-created in the very beginning to be enjoyed! Those parts which fit each other, those nerves which give us pleasure when put in pleasant motion, those rapturous ecstasies and orgasmic explosions were being enjoyed by Adam and Eve as a part of the pleasures of God's wonderful creation in the pure, sinless Garden of Eden long before Satan entered in with his temptation!

Adam and Eve enjoyed sex before they fell. They were created with sexual organs to do so in the very beginning! So how could sex be sinful if they were commanded to practice it before the Fall? Sex was not a result of the Fall of man and the introduction of sin, as is taught by some of the churches and believed by so many poor church people to therefore still be sinful today.—This simply is not true according to the Bible!

So sex is not evil after all, but a wonderful gift from God to be freely and fully enjoyed in the right relationships! The Devil was not responsible for sex and it was not a result nor part of the Fall, but was created and instituted by God in the very beginning as His creation for you to enjoy.—Not only to enable you to have children, which is a wonderful part and result of it, but also to have fellowship with the ones you love.

The whole world is absolutely perverted in one hell-of-a-wrong attitude toward sex!—That it's something horrible, dirty, filthy, evil, sinful and wicked! They are virtually blaspheming the creation of God—the most marvelous, miraculous and beautiful of all physical activities that creates life, new human beings! Sex brings the most wonderful, thrilling fruit of almost any human activity—beautiful children that God gives us for His glory!

Thank God that many people today are breaking out of that horrible grip! But the sad part of it is that when people break away from such false doctrines and evil traditions of the church, then they think they're becoming sinners and they wind up giving the Devil the credit for it all! They figure that to really enjoy sex, to really be free, they've got to really become a sinner and break loose not only from the church, but from God also!—How sad!

David's early teachings on sex were largely focused on liberating members from the negative attitudes they had about sex from their upbringing, as well as emphasizing God's ownership of it. He was fighting to free the Family from the hang-ups that he had grown up with regarding sex, and that many of the first generation members had also experienced.

Today it's hard to imagine people in the Family thinking that masturbation is a sin, or that sex and nudity are dirty or evil, but that was what many people believed at that time, especially Christians. David fought hard, and successfully, against that stance within the Family. (As a side note, up until the time that David published his teachings on the Law of Love and grace versus law, sex had not been allowed in the Family unless you were married.)

Now, nearly 40 years later, a number of David's teachings are no longer so completely out of the mainstream. Of course there are some aspects of our sexual beliefs that average churches do not agree with, but generally speaking, most Christians now accept that sex (within marriage) is good and godly, and there are those in the Christian world who make it a point to promote healthy sexual relations. Some churches now turn a blind eye to sex before marriage; it is no longer considered as taboo as it once was.

In the mid '70s, David introduced the first of his writings in regards to the grace of Jesus versus the Laws of Moses in the Letter, "The Law of Love." The most complete explanation of his theological position on this is articulated in "Amazing Grace!—Free At Last!" In this compilation of his writings, David lays out his theological argument that, as Christians, we are no longer bound by the Mosaic Law; we are freed from the law through Jesus' fulfillment of it. He wrote:

In the beginning, God created man to freely and willingly choose to love and obey Him as His grateful, thankful children. He really preferred the whole thing by grace and faith to begin with and there were very few rules, very few laws, everything was to be done voluntarily out of love. That was His original plan.

But as man became more and more disobedient and wicked, God had to give him more and more laws and rules and regulations. … Because man didn't follow grace and faith and love, God had to crack down with rules, the cage of the law for the transgressors. But the rules couldn't save man, they only showed him where he was wrong. "For by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God's sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). …

Freedom and liberty are God's ideal, His ultimate, His plan from the beginning! He's been trying to bring His people step-by-step out of bondage toward this goal through the ages. He brought the Jews out of their slavery in Egypt, but then they were in bondage to the harsh and rigid rules of Moses—the Law.

Then along came Jesus with His grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and truth—our salvation: "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

Jesus Himself never gave them any laws, except the Law of Love! When the religious leaders questioned Him, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" He replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39). He then shocked them by continuing to say, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40). They had hundreds of religious laws but Jesus told them that they now only needed two: Love God and love others.

The Bible says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love; and against such (love) there is no law" (Galatians 5:22,23). Against pure love, the love of God, the unselfish sacrificial love of God and your fellow man, there is no law of God!

Jesus said, "I am not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). And by fulfilling it, He ended it, therefore we are no longer required to keep the Laws of Moses of the Old Testament! "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4).

God's grace through Jesus' Law of Love is the end of the old Law! …The Mosaic Law is done away with for the Christian who is living under grace and under the Law of Love! "Now we are delivered from the law, that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law!" (See Romans 7:6; Galatians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 6:12.)

The Ten Commandments are no more to the followers of Jesus! God only has one law now: the Law of Jesus, the Law of Love, "to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." (See Matthew 22:36-39.)

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Galatians 5:14). "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). We are to "owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

"God is love" (1 John 4:8), and for those who are filled with His Spirit of love, love is the only rule! "For if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18). "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8).

You can't possibly keep His Law of Love unless you're saved and you have Jesus in your heart, the Spirit of God's love within you, to give you the power and the strength to love others more than you love yourself.

We have to receive Jesus first, then His Spirit in us will cause us to do the humanly impossible: love God and man, thus fulfilling "all the law and the prophets"! Praise God!

Remember also that [Jesus] was still preaching and living under the age of law before the age of grace had actually been fully ushered in by His Own death on the cross for our salvation. The Scripture says that Jesus "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us [the law], which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross" (Colossians 2:14). It was on the cross, at the very end of His ministry on Earth, that He proclaimed, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

These writings on grace versus law had a significant impact on the Family's sexual ethos, as it was through David's teaching that the Family began to apply the Law of Love to sexual interaction.

Another factor that shaped TFI's culture on sex was that David saw sex as a human need, especially, but not exclusively, for men. He felt that since sex was natural and not evil, and that it could be engaged in without sin, providing it was done in love and was hurting no one, members could meet one another's sexual needs. He understood that doing so would require sacrifice in many instances, but he considered that sacrificing in such a manner was part of giving God's love to a brother or sister in need. He wrote:

If we have real love, we can't face a needy situation without doing something about it. We can't just pass by the poor man on the road to Jericho! We must take action like the Samaritan did! (See Luke 10:25-37.) …Compassion must be put into action! That's the difference between pity and compassion: Pity just feels sorry; compassion does something about it!

We must demonstrate our faith by our works, and love can seldom be proven without tangible manifestation in action. To say you love someone and yet not try to help them physically in whatever way they may need—food, clothing, shelter, and so on—this is not love! True, the need for real love is a spiritual need, but it must be manifested physically in works—"faith which worketh by love!" (Galatians 5:6.)

David felt strongly that love should be shown to the brethren in the manner they most needed it, including sex. He felt that not being willing to make that sacrifice to love others was wrong, based on such scriptures as: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."

While this approach was a liberation and a blessing to many, it also had a negative side effect of generating a certain amount of pressure for Family members (married and single) to supply one another's sexual needs.

Another factor that influenced the Family's sexual ethos was our exclusive communal lifestyle. We've shared the same beliefs, environment, and culture, and we've lived in close physical proximity. This contributed toward attitudes and behaviors that, in many cases, are unusually open or casual about sex and sexual relations.

An open attitude regarding sex also resulted from the fact that all Family members read the same information via the Letters about sex and about applying the Law of Love to sexual relations, so they were on the same page in their thinking and beliefs, and most Family members were married to or sexually active with others who shared the same sexual ethos.

Many Family members have been free-spirited. Many of us have lived in communal settings for years, and we have rightly adopted the understanding that sex and our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of. Those of the second and now third generations have generally grown up with an open attitude toward sexuality.

In many cases, the manner in which members have dated, engaged in sexual relationships, or have begun and maintained long-term relationships and marriages has not been typical of society at large. Family members are a lot more open with each other about these matters, which are generally considered very personal matters. People in society at large, people who have not lived in our homes or grown up with the sexual ethos that Family members have become accustomed to, are much more likely to be private about sexual matters. (This is a blanket statement that doesn't apply to all age groups in all countries. In some cultures, people are generally more open and casual about sex, particularly young people. But for the most part, people in mainstream society are more likely to be private about matters related to sex.)

Also, because TFI rules were such that FDs did not date or have sexual interaction with non-FD members, but rather, only with people who shared the same sexual ethos, an unusual dynamic developed in which the interaction between Family members was quite casual. Little time or attention was given to courting or dating (in the manner in which people in society at large do). Since people felt like they knew each other and were on the same page, in terms of beliefs and lifestyle, as well as attitudes about sex, the typical process of dating and getting to know the other person to see if they were compatible as friends and sexual partners was minimized.

Another factor is that in more recent years, society at large, especially in Western cultures, has undergone changes regarding practices and attitudes about sex, being greatly influenced by what is seen online, in movies, in music videos, etc. These changes have been somewhat mirrored in TFI's culture, particularly among the younger adult members.

In summary, foundational concepts or recent trends that played a noteworthy role in the development of the Family's sexual ethos through the years include:

David's passion to liberate Family members from the sexually repressive perspectives of churches and society of his day.

The theological position that unselfish love that hurts no one fulfills the law, which subsequently enabled us to apply the Law of Love to our sexual practices.

The many Letters that taught about the beauties of sex and put forth a godly position on the topic.

The expectation that Family members should supply one another's sexual needs, and the merit attached to doing so.

Family members did not have sexual relations with nonmembers (only applicable to FD in recent years), and thus the opportunities for dating and sex were limited.

Due to our communal lifestyle, an unusual openness about sex developed. This was also partly due to members sharing the same culture and belief system regarding sex and life in general.

Greater liberality in society at large regarding what is sexually acceptable, which has especially influenced TFI's young adult membership.

Personal lifestyle choices

Peter and I do not feel that we need to abandon the application of the Law of Love to sexuality in order to be more relatable, expand our community of faith, and fulfill the mission. However, some adjustments need to be made to the mindsets or practices connected to those beliefs, especially now that there are no longer restrictions on sexual relations with nonmembers.

Whether someone engages in sexual relations is a personal lifestyle choice. It is up to each individual to ensure that the intimate relationships that he or she participates in meet the guidelines of sexual propriety.

Members of TFI should feel at liberty to practice our beliefs regarding sexuality, as per the Law of Love. They are equally at liberty to not practice our beliefs regarding sexuality. This is a personal choice. Some individuals might choose to have a more active sex life; others might choose abstinence until marriage (or until they're in a committed relationship); and others might choose not to have sex outside of their marriage or committed relationship. There should be no prejudice or preconceptions regarding someone's sexuality, whether they tend toward being liberal or conservative.

In the past, sexual freedom has often been considered an indication of freedom in the spirit. Peter and I want to make our position on this matter clear: There is no particular merit or spirituality attached to being sexually liberal. A person's sex life is personal, and whether someone is liberal or not is not a measure of their spirituality, yieldedness, or discipleship. What counts is "let all your things be done with [love]," that you act in love and unselfishness, doing what you feel the Lord wants you to do, and living according to Christian principles and our core values.

All sexual matters are a private, personal matter. Your choices along those lines are personal lifestyle choices, which are between you and the Lord. As with all other areas of your life, you would want to seek the Lord about these choices so that they bear good fruit, have a good effect in your and others' lives, and reflect well on your testimony as a Christian.

Applying the doctrine of the Law of Love to sex is no longer something that we will promote or encourage members to practice as part of discipleship. We still hold to the validity of the sexual application of the Law of Love. By saying that we will not promote it, we mean that the application of the Law of Love to sexual matters will not be given extra emphasis or spiritual merit in our publications. How members choose to live regarding sexual matters is meant to be a discreet personal lifestyle choice, and not a prominent part of our culture.

As an organization, we will not conceal the fact that our beliefs allow a more liberal approach to sexuality than those of other Christians, but it's completely up to you and your personal faith and circumstances regarding how you choose to express your sexuality (or not) and how you choose to live, whether single or married.

The question of adultery

After studying the scriptures and reviewing our beliefs on sexuality, the Lord has confirmed to Peter and me that we need to clarify our position on adultery.

Although we have somewhat explained our position on adultery in relation to our sexual practices in "Living the Lord's Law of Love, Part 1" and in our doctrinal statement, "God's Law of Love" (see below), there has been some confusion regarding whether adultery can exist in extramarital relations with others.

While it is true that the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations can override the adultery laws in the Old and New Testament, that doesn't mean that it's impossible for Family members to commit adultery, or that adultery doesn't exist for Family members because of our understanding of the Law of Love.

In presenting our views on the acceptability of sexual relations as permitted by the Law of Love between consenting adults, regardless of their marital status, the question inevitably arises, "What about adultery?"

In support of the view that such relations would be adulterous, some cite the Biblical story of the woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery and brought by the religious leaders to Jesus with the intention that she be stoned to death. They said to Jesus: "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do You say?"

Jesus responded, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Convicted by their own consciences, one by one her accusers left. Jesus ultimately told the woman, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:4-11).

In commanding her to sin no more, … Jesus was saying that adultery was a sin. We agree that it was a sin for her because she was under the Mosaic Law. Jesus' fulfillment of the law by His death on the cross had not yet been accomplished. Nevertheless, Jesus superseded the Mosaic Law, which condemned the woman to death by stoning, by saying she did not have to suffer that punishment: "Neither do I condemn you" (John 8:11).

Our position as believers is different from this woman's, however, because the New Testament makes it clear that, as Christians saved by grace, we are no longer bound to the Mosaic Law.

... [However, for a sexual act] to not be classified as adultery, the act must fall within the guidelines of God's Law of Love, and one must have received Jesus' freedom from the Mosaic Law by accepting His gift of salvation through grace.

According to our sexual beliefs, situations can exist in which a married person could have sex with someone other than his or her spouse and such an act could fall under the "love fulfills the law" category. That does not mean, however, that all such situations do.

"Anything goes" is not what the Law of Love means. If a married person acts outside of the guidelines for applying the Law of Love to sexual relations with someone other than his or her spouse, they are committing adultery. That is sin. Sex outside of marriage is only right and permissible when the actions are done lovingly and unselfishly, which includes having the agreement of all involved parties.

Actions related to sexual activities that fall outside the guidelines of the Law of Love, and that would be wrong, include such things as lying to your spouse, being deceptive about your sexual encounters, going against your spouse's wishes, pressuring someone to have sex, pressuring your spouse to allow you to have sex outside your marriage, threatening to leave your marriage or relationship if your spouse or partner doesn't give you permission to have sex with others, engaging in a relationship that your spouse isn't in agreement with or aware of, neglecting your marriage or primary relationship or your children because of the time invested in an extramarital relationship, etc.

Such actions are not, and have never been, sanctioned under the Law of Love, and would be an affront to the principles the Family is built upon. If anyone were to do these things, it would be sin, and it could very possibly hurt your marriage, your family, your Christian reputation, your ministry, your credibility and your relationships. The Lord cannot bless such actions. Peter and I do not sanction, nor have we ever sanctioned, such actions, nor do the Scriptures allow for such conduct.

Adultery still exists. It is still a sin. Jesus' grace and the Law of Love free us from the law, but only when we're operating within the Law of Love. Therefore Family members can be guilty of committing adultery, if they fail to operate according to the conditions of the Law of Love. Sex is only sanctioned outside of one's marriage if practiced according to the Law of Love. The principle that love fulfills the law is true only if applied properly (without hurting anyone, with all parties comprehending and accepting our sexual beliefs, and being in agreement, etc.). Otherwise, having extramarital relations is adultery—across the board, including for members of TFI.

We believe that when everything is done in love and no one is hurt, an exception to the biblical law of adultery is allowed under Jesus' Law of Love. We are not changing our doctrinal position regarding the viability of applying the Law of Love to sexual relations, which enables married people to have sexual interactions that would normally be considered adultery, providing all the necessary conditions are met so that "love fulfills the law." However, if the conditions are not met, the act does not fall under this allowance.

Ask yourself...

We've established that our beliefs regarding sex do not mean that all sexual relations outside of marriage are sanctioned, or that adultery doesn't exist for members of TFI. We've also reviewed the guidelines that all sexual interaction should be done with the unselfish love of God, and according to Jesus' commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself."

You might ask yourself: "How do I know if the circumstances are present that would allow for a sexual interaction to be an exception to the adultery laws in the Bible?"

You have to determine what your motive is for such interaction. You know your heart and thoughts, and if you're honest with yourself, you'll be able to ascertain whether you're acting in love or lust, or if your actions are hurtful to others in some way or likely to destabilize your or someone else's marriage or committed relationship or family unit.

Applying the Law of Love to sexual relations is not a nebulous, airy-fairy matter with no absolutes. It's not guesswork. There are dos and don'ts, things that make it right, and things that make it wrong.

When all is said and done, you personally have to know that you're acting in love, and that you're obeying what the Lord expects you to do in such a situation. You have to have personal conviction that your actions are right. If you don't have the faith for it, it's wrong for you. "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is that man that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. … Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

Not only that, but if you have a spouse or significant other, he or she also has to have the personal conviction and personal faith that your actions are right. If your spouse or significant other is not in agreement, then a primary condition for pursuing such sexual interaction has not been met.

If you choose to apply the Law of Love to any of your sexual interactions, you might want to ask yourself some questions, such as:

Am I doing this in unselfish love?

Is everyone who is directly or indirectly involved in agreement? And does everyone involved understand and accept the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations?

Do I honestly believe I'm doing the right thing?

Do I have the faith for it? Do the other parties involved have the faith for it?

Am I mature enough to handle this interaction or relationship wisely?

Thinking about the long-term fruit or results, do I have the faith for that too? Do the others involved have the faith for the long-term effects?

(If anyone involved is married or in a relationship:) Will this hurt the stability of my (or the other person's) marriage or negatively affect my (or the other person's) parental responsibilities?

Does this hurt no one?

Have I sought the Lord for His approval on this?

Would it be greater love and adherence to Jesus' Law of Love for me to forgo this relationship or sexual interaction?

Is there a chance that having this relationship will damage my Christian reputation, or hurt or offend the people I'm ministering to?

The preceding points represent some of the principles that should guide your decisions. In addition, it's important that you also bear in mind the laws, mores, and cultural expectations of the country you live in. Jesus' teaching that "love fulfills the law" does not mean you can act outside the law of the land where you live. It's common sense that you would want to avoid conducting yourself in a way that would be offensive to the people of the land in which you live. In certain cultures, extramarital relations can have very serious repercussions, which you would want to be aware of, and conduct yourself accordingly.

Sexual propriety

Being kind and affectionate with one another comes naturally to TFI members. It's a normal part of our lives, and draws us together as a Family. We want to continue to see this warmth and caring affection thrive, as a manifestation of brotherly love among our members. However, it is important to avoid overtly sexual interactions and ways of behaving that could offend others or make them uncomfortable.

Many of us need to become more aware of the way our sexual ethos is expressed regarding relationships, dating, marriage, etc., and make sure it is not offensive to other members, society at large, and the specific culture in which we live.

Again, your choices along these lines are a private matter between you, the Lord, and the immediate party or parties involved. But when it comes to your sexual propriety and etiquette, your daily interactions with those around you, you do need to be aware that your actions could be a stumbling block to others. Therefore you would want to be wise in how you express your sexuality in everyday life.

Here are some brief points that are helpful to be aware of.

  • Be mindful of sexual propriety. (The definitions of propriety are socially correct or appropriate behavior; conformity to the standards of politeness, respect, decency, or morality; quality of being socially appropriate; quality of displaying behaviors thought to be correct or appropriate.)
  • Be motivated by unselfish love in your interactions.
  • Be sensitive to people's comfort zones, so that your actions will make others feel comfortable and safe, and will create an environment that is welcoming, inclusive, loving, and kind to all.
  • Show respect; avoid behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment.
  • Be aware of how direct eye contact with the opposite sex is understood in the culture where you live; in some circumstances it might be understood to mean more than you intend.
  • Stay within your personal boundaries; don't let others intimidate or pressure you in any way. Have self-respect.
  • Know what your personal standards are and act accordingly.
  • Abstinence or exercising restraint is a perfectly acceptable choice.
  • Show respect for other people's relationships; avoid familiar conversation with those you don't know well; avoid inappropriate affection or flirtatious interaction, especially with those who are married or in a committed relationship.
  • Act responsibly and in accordance with Christian ethics and your personal values.
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion, according to the circumstances, bearing in mind that what is appropriate could be more modest than how you're used to dressing.
  • When developing an intimate relationship, take time to get to know the person and build bonds of friendship.
  • Tune in to your body language and dress; ask yourself what message you are sending to people about yourself.
  • Keep sex in its proper place, without overemphasis.
  • Keep in mind that in many or most cultures, sex is a private matter and is not discussed casually, especially with those whom you don't yet know well.
  • Know the rules of etiquette for the culture where you live.
  • Be aware of the sexual mores in the country where you live, and act accordingly in your speech, dress, body language, and interactions with the opposite sex. Learning sexual etiquette is part of understanding the culture of the country in which you reside.
  • Take care that conversations and jokes (including those online) don't cross the line of common decency, courtesy, and etiquette, lest you risk appearing cheap, uneducated, or immoral.
  • Avoid doing anything you'll be ashamed of later.
  • If you drink alcohol, stay within moderate amounts so that you can avoid behaving in a way that is inappropriate or too forward. Be particularly mindful of how you come across in social settings or events where alcohol is served.
  • Be aware that others might not interpret your actions as you intend, if they come from a different background or culture.
  • Be mindful of the fact that some cultures consider intimate relationships (such as when you've been dating someone for a period of time and are obviously developing a friendship or relationship) as "committed relationships," even if you are not having sex together. Being aware of how others see such relationships, if you live in such a culture, will help you avoid inadvertently leading someone on.
  • Don't criticize or judge others for the position they've taken regarding their sexual relations, whether liberal or conservative; accept and respect that everyone is different.

A word to the wise

As you know, the previous restrictions have been lifted regarding whom members of TFI can have sexual relationships with. Peter and I are happy about this change. We believe that it will lead to wonderful friendships, relationships, and marriages.

One consideration, if you begin to date more, is that it would be wise to be cautious about transferring the sexual ethos you've become accustomed to in the Family to your interactions with new friends, new TFI members, or associates. You will want to be careful to avoid causing confusion or hurting anyone.

To be more specific, for example, if a married veteran TFI member were to embark on a sexual interaction with someone they're ministering to, whether married or single, it could backfire and result in problems, hurt to those you're ministering to, loss of confidence, confusion among your flock, and even the ruin of your work.

A "must" for a sexual relationship to be acceptable is that everyone involved comprehends the principles of the Law of Love and is in agreement. It would be wrong to have such a relationship in secret—that is, without your spouse and/or the spouse of your partner knowing—if either or both of you are married. It would also be wrong if all the parties involved do not comprehend and accept our sexual beliefs based on the principles of the Law of Love. That would be nothing more than an extramarital affair, or adultery, which is not right. Peter and I and TFI do not condone such affairs, as they fall outside of the scriptural allowance by which love fulfills the law.

Many spouses in secular society engage in furtive extramarital affairs, contrary to the desires or knowledge of their spouses. These relationships result in broken trust and hurt feelings, often destabilizing marriages and resulting in broken families. Such behavior is unacceptable in our fellowship, as it violates the basic principles of the Law of Love. … Although we are not bound to the Mosaic Law, our sexual interaction with others must be carried out in accordance with Jesus' Law of Love and must not hurt or offend others. If the guidelines for married members having the willing consent of their spouses, hurting no one, and doing all things in love are not followed, then such behavior would be considered sin.

You have probably heard of situations where pastors have been caught having secret affairs outside of their marriages. Maybe the person involved with the pastor was happy enough at first, but then is embarrassed or has a change of heart and ends up exposing the pastor. Or if not that, then somehow the pastor is caught, or someone finds out about the affair. That is usually the end of the pastor's ministry. It destroys his credibility and reputation, because his actions were not representative of the behavior that people expect of Christians, and especially of pastors.

Of course, what you do in this regard is your decision, as is everything else related to your sex life and relationships, but this is a word to the wise. When it comes to your relations with TFI associates or members of the church or congregation, the true manifestation of love would be to not cross those moral boundaries or to not have sex with someone if it will hurt someone, tarnish your testimony, or destabilize a marriage. In other words, if that is the risk, then sexual expression is not the highest form of love; abstaining would be a higher form in such situations.

Greater emphasis on marriage and family units

With the changes that are being made in TFI at this time, one of the results we hope and pray for is that marriages in TFI will be strengthened—spiritually, emotionally, and practically. We believe that creating an environment that factors in self-determination in a greater way will allow married couples in TFI to place more emphasis on their marriage, and parents to strengthen their family unit, which will in turn pave the way for greater happiness and security for parents and their children.

Over the years, Family culture has developed in such a way that there has generally been a lack of priority placed on marriage. It has been challenging for members to build stable, thriving marriages in the Family, for a number of reasons. Those who lived communally had to default to the will of the home at times regarding many issues that married couples normally decide together as man and wife or as parents. Living communally (particularly in large homes) can be time-consuming as well, and when there wasn't sufficient personal time for couples to spend alone or with their children, that put a strain on marriages.

Granted, life as a married couple with children is always time-consuming. People in society at large also have to fight to maintain a balanced life that allows them sufficient time with their children and each other. This problem is not unique to TFI marriages, but it has at times been more challenging for missionaries, especially given the added requirements of TFI membership of the past, which were not only time-consuming, but often made for more pressure in personal situations.

Another factor that has been in existence in the Family for many years and that has put a unique spin on the challenges that married couples and parents in the Family face is the concept of One Wife. This has been a strong part of our culture. In some cases, applying that principle has resulted in the personal family unit—marriages and children—being put too far on the proverbial back burner, in favor of the home, the "greater marriage," and the Family overall.

David's original Letter, "One Wife," was written in 1972. At that time, there were fewer members, fewer marriages, and hardly any children, comparatively speaking. This Letter was written in strong language, though, and David made statements in it that shaped the culture of the Family as he exhorted members not to be distracted with personal relationships to the detriment of God's work and the "greater Family."

This Letter and its presentation were representative of our early army-style, revolutionary focus. We had a mission to fulfill, and David warned that selfishness and too much emphasis on small personal family units could be a risk to the unity of our communal society, which was foundational to our movement in those days.

With time, most Family members adopted a deep-seated point of reference that in order to be true to the Lord and to wholeheartedly be putting Him and His work first, they had to relegate their personal family to a place of less importance. This resulted in progress for our worldwide missionary movement, but there were negative offshoots. In particular, the cost for some married couples, parents, and their children was high.

As Peter and I published earlier: "We acknowledge that prior to the establishing of our Charter in 1995, marriages and families didn't receive the necessary safeguarding to preserve the stability of families. Due to an overemphasis on the principle of placing God's work over personal families, in a number of cases families endured separations that were not initiated by personal choice; or parents were asked to separate for a time, and in some situations these ended up being permanent separations. Teens (or preteens) in a number of cases lived apart from their families for extended periods. We acknowledge that being apart from a parent or children or a husband or wife is very difficult, and we are deeply sorry for the cases where this occurred. The rights of parents and children were addressed in 1995 when the Charter was published, whereby protections for families and clearly articulated rights for parents and children were established, placing greater emphasis on family units."

We know that our apology will not undo the past or make things all better, but we again ask your forgiveness if you or your family experienced any kind of hurt or emotional distress due to the lack of protections for families and marriages. We pray that you will be able to find closure and mend any broken relationships with your children and former spouse(s). We acknowledge that more emphasis and priority should have been placed on the importance of the stability of your marriage and the needs of your children, so that you could sufficiently factor these important priorities into the equation of your choices and actions.

As you might recall, there has been some emphasis placed on marriage since the publishing of the Charter in 1995. The series "Living the Lord's Law of Love" covered a number of topics that related to the practice of our sexual beliefs and marriage. Five of the 12 GNs were devoted to the subject of marriage, covering such topics as your responsibility to your primary relationship, how to deal with emotions developing for others, when to consider starting or stopping having sexual relations outside of your marriage, how to strengthen your marriage, your responsibility to your marriage as far as abiding by your agreements, public affection with others besides your spouse, a clarification on "living the One Wife vision," and other such points. Addressing these topics was an attempt to bring balance and protection for marriages, and to safeguard individuals from inadvertently hurting their own or others' marriages.

In some cases, however, people felt pressured by the counsel and expectations in the Word to venture into applying the Law of Love to sexual interaction. Peter and I apologize to anyone who has felt pressured to put TFI's sexual beliefs into practice in your marriage or life. No one should have felt pressured to practice our sexual beliefs. While the application of the Law of Love to our sexual practices was meant to be liberating and allow for greater intimacy between Family members, there should have been more emphasis placed on your personal faith and choice concerning whether to practice this or not.

Of course, there has also been good fruit resulting from married couples opening their marriage and lives to others. Some marriages blossomed through their giving. I imagine that those couples feel that, while those experiences were not without challenges and difficulties, it was worthwhile and good for their marriage and for them personally.

There were also singles who opened their lives and hearts to married couples, spending years helping them with their children and supporting them in many ways, and in some cases having sexual relations with the husband/wife. This was an example of the Lord's love for the couples and families. Sometimes the cost was great for the singles, yet they gave willingly as unto the Lord, and many consider that it was a good investment of their time, effort and love.

A few Letters have been published on the topic of marriage in recent years, as well as a variety of posts on the HIM site over the last year and a half, as the Lord has led me to offer counsel to help strengthen Family members' marriages. But I acknowledge that throughout our history, as the Family, there has not been enough focus given to the importance of marriage and the family unit overall.

There were also other factors that came into play in recent years, such as the "home accountability" concept, which was similar in some ways to One Wife in that everyone was accountable to and for everyone else, and there was less ability to exercise personal responsibility and accountability. When you put it all together—the One Wife message from 1972, our sexual practices and the emphasis on sexual sharing, the restraints of our communal lifestyle, and the rules that governed home life—there have been quite a few challenges for married couples and parents.

We believe that progress has been made and that our attitudes and approach to marriage and families are becoming more balanced. With the many changes that are being introduced with the reboot—changes that bring more self-determination and less regimentation in lifestyle matters—you married couples and parents are at liberty to live in a manner best suited to the needs of your families, raise your children as you feel led, and take the time you need and are able to invest in your marriages and your children, and you should not feel that you're neglecting the Lord and His work by doing so. If the Lord has entrusted you with a family and children, we believe that caring for your family and raising your children and setting their moral compass is your God-given responsibility; you should give this the attention and priority it requires.

Of course, there may be times when the Lord leads a married couple to be apart for a time or to put extra focus and time toward other endeavors, whether to fulfill a mission need or for a job- or study-related opportunity. Nevertheless, the needs of their children and the responsibility for their well-being should always be a priority for parents in their decision-making.

In "Living the Lord's Law of Love, Part 11," I put forth an updated definition of "living the 'One Wife' vision." I explained that, while we are certainly responsible to care for our spouse and family, we need to learn to draw a circle of love that is big enough so that our spouse and children don't get squeezed out of our lives and time, and so that we're able to also bring others into that circle, as the Lord might lead us to.

I believe that principle, if applied in proper balance, can be helpful to our efforts in the mission, as well as vital in living our core value "a sense of community," whereby we cultivate brotherhood and camaraderie, and seek to develop a spirit of unity, love, and a sense of belonging that provides practical and spiritual support to our members. It's part of demonstrating Christian love to help others to feel close, welcome, needed, and accepted.

Divorce and child support

The discussion of marriage brings up the issues of separations, divorce, single parents, and child support. There were rules in the previous version of the Charter governing separation and/or divorce.

Now, TFI's position will be that any decisions relating to these matters will be the responsibility of the man and woman involved, within the boundaries of the laws governing such matters. There will not be specific Family rules and procedures governing these issues.

The topic of the care of single mothers and their child(ren) was addressed in parts 6 and 7 of "Living the Lord's Law of Love." This is where the concept of "20 months minimum responsibility" was put forth (and then incorporated into the Charter), in order to provide a framework whereby the mother and father would be there to support each other during the first year of a child's life, and in an effort to allow both parents time to see if they could work together as a couple and a family.

That plan worked well in some instances and not so well or not at all in other instances. The effectiveness of the 20-month plan depended on such things as the sense of responsibility that the father of the child felt, how well the man and woman got along, their home situation(s), and whether the woman opted to release the man from his 20-month obligation.

The question of child support had not been addressed earlier; this too was in keeping with the model we had in place for many years. The expectation was that our members would be cared for and provided for in our communal homes, where we would bear one another's burdens and share all things, including the cost of living. This has been a cornerstone of the One Wife vision, the foundational principle that we are all part of the greater Family of God, and therefore we would love and care for one another, as we did our own spouse and children. Throughout the years, our single parents and their children lived in communal homes and benefited, in varying degrees, from that support system.

Now the model of TFI is changing. Not all of our members will have the support of the communal system to the same degree, and thus the principle and intent of the 20-month requirement is no longer viable for the future. We consider it the moral responsibility of a man to be supportive if he fathers a child with a woman and they do not marry.

Peter and I feel that helping your former spouse and children financially and in other ways (or a man supporting a child he has had with a single mother) is not only the loving thing to do, but is necessary. This also applies if the children (and spouse) are no longer members of TFI.

Our communal societal structure of the past, with shared finances and very limited resources in many cases, was not conducive to Family members providing support for their former spouse and children. This was an offshoot of our communal financial structure, which made considerations of this nature very complex and represented a hardship to the community, considering the limited finances available in the homes and the challenges of providing for the needs of the members within the homes.

However, this practical and financial challenge should not have lessened the importance of the support of one's former spouse and children. This issue should have been looked at much earlier and workable solutions should have been sought that would have factored in this important responsibility. We should have instituted policies and expectations so that, in the event of divorce or separation, or in the case of single parents, the responsibility to support children (and one's former spouse) was factored in sufficiently.

This is an area that we need to change in; we need to revise our former mindsets. Supporting one's children is a moral obligation, and in many countries a legal one as well.

As individuals, homes, and communities, we should do everything possible to help support and care for single parents, children, and those who need assistance. This is especially important for us as individuals to be attentive to, as there might not be as much support from communal situations, given the changes in our structure and model. It is in situations like these where we need to band together in even greater love, unity, and community, and do what we can to help meet the needs of others.

The Family is discontinuing the approach we used in recent years, in which we had a unique set of rules for divorce, as well as a 20-month obligation in the event that a child was born outside of marriage and the man and woman chose not to marry. In matters relating to divorce and child support, as in all matters, members are subject to the laws of the land. As such, TFI will not put forth specific rules about divorce and child support, as these are personal decisions (and may also entail legal obligations), but we encourage TFI members to pray about and seriously consider how they can help to support their children and possibly their former spouse, in the case of divorce or separation. Even if the laws of the land make no specific provision for child support (as is the case in some countries), we consider supporting your children to be both the morally right and Christian course of action. (Granted, this might be rather complicated if you're not living near each other, or if you're not in communication, but I'm confident that, as you pray about it, the Lord will lead you to the best arrangement.)

Child support is a matter between the parents of the child, as well as the legal system of the country that they are subject to. If a single mother wants to pursue securing child support from the father of her child(ren) through legal channels, it is her prerogative to do so; that is a personal decision. In some cases, it could be the father who has the children and is seeking child support from the mother, which can also occur in society. Depending on the country, laws on child support may apply not only to married couples who divorce, but also to those who have a child outside of marriage.

When a couple begins divorce proceedings, the court will generally look at the question of child support, unless the couple has already reached an agreement on this matter that is acceptable to the court. In many or most countries, working out an arrangement for child support may be required when a couple divorces. In such cases, child support will become a matter for the parents to come to a decision on, in conjunction with the laws of the land.

We hope these explanations have been a help to you. Peter and I will be praying that you'll be blessed with happy, well-balanced friendships, relationships and marriages, and that the Lord will supply all your needs abundantly.

Peter and I love you very much and are proud of you. You're willing to give of your time and strength so that others can come to know salvation and the genuine, unconditional love of Jesus. As you strive to exemplify the love Jesus has for all humanity, and to love others as you want to be loved, you will be messengers of God's truth that the world needs and is waiting for. There really is no greater love than that!

Copyright © 2010 by The Family International