I remember sitting with my father at the SBC many years ago, when we were considering the motion to change our governing documents to disfellowship churches that took a soft stand on homosexuality. I will never forget what he said, as some argued that the action violated principles of autonomy and Baptist polity.
They may be right that this is a departure from Baptist polity. But I can tell you that twenty years ago, no one in the Baptist world would have believed that we would be having a meeting to talk about what to do with Baptist churches that said homosexuality was okay.
The world is changing, and it is changing rapidly. There was a time when a judge in the confirmation process or a politician running for office would be forced to resign if he was found out to be homosexual. Today, if a candidate stated that he believed homosexuality to be a sin, it would be treated as a scandal and he would not likely be either confirmed or elected.
It’s a new world.
And Christians are having a hard time trying to figure it out. Some have adopted the “kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” (well, figuratively at least) attitude toward homosexuality and homosexuals. There are the extreme versions of this – the disgusting Westboro Baptist folks and the rantings of Charles Worley. But even within the more sane (and Christ-honoring) branches of the church, there are many who lead the discussion with condemnation and disdain, not only for the acts of homosexuality but for homosexuals themselves.
Others have adopted the common but disastrous tradition of the American church and capitulated to culture. Lo and behold, some have found that the clear teachings of the Bible about homosexuality aren’t so clear after all. The Second Commandment forbids us to make our own gods, but some are doing it anyway. They have created a Jesus who is in complete contradistinction to the Christ of Scriptures. This fictional Jesus is all love-all the time and would never think of calling homosexuality a sin! He accepts us all as we are and in great Hallmark fashion says, “Don’t ever change.”
Most of us wander in between these extremes, trying to find a balance between loving homosexuals while still standing against their sin which we believe is contrary both to nature and to the revelation of scripture. It is no easy task.
- Sometimes we meet a person struggling with same-sex attraction and we want to reach out in love.
- Sometimes we see a brazen and obnoxious advocate of the “gay-agenda” who inflames our religious zeal and our political passions.
It is not going to get any easier. It is hard to envision popular opinion conforming again to biblical revelation and as opinion shifts, we who hold to scripture will be viewed as extremists and homophobes and merchants of hate.
It is not going to get any easier, but there are some principles that can guide us. I’d like to share a few. There is little that is stunningly original here, but simply a reminder of biblical principles that can guide us.
1) We are pro-homosexual!
No, put down your stones. We are not for homosexuality, but we must be FOR homosexuals. They are not our enemy, they are our mission field. We do not battle against flesh and blood, Paul told us. Our battle is against the spiritual powers that deceive homosexuals and bind them into a destructive lifestyle!
This must be the bedrock of any biblical approach to the homosexual issue and I’m not sure we always remember it. Homosexuals are broken people who need Christ, not our anger or scorn. I’ve been in the church all my life, and I think it would be hard to argue that the evangelical church has been a welcoming place for homosexuals.
If a flaming, out-of-the-closet homosexual sashayed into your church next Sunday, how would he be received? Or, more to the point, what if one of the men in your church announced he was gay? What would be the response?
We cannot forget that the homosexual is a victim of deceit that can only be corrected by the light of God’s truth; he is enslaved by sin and can only be freed by Christ. He is not our enemy, he is our battleground! We do not battle against him, but we battle against the forces of darkness on his behalf.
2) We must not compromise the Word to earn favor in the world – this is a hill to die on!
There was a time when the world and church at least swam in the same ocean on this issue. Now, those who follow scripture and declare homosexuality to be sinful are disdained and insulted by our culture. But we have been down the road of cultural compromise before (and often) and we cannot do it again.
Christianity was born in a hostile climate and has often thrived under opposition, oppression and even persecution. That may be our future.
But we cannot glorify God or advance his work by compromising his truth for the sake of popularity. If the world hates us for our stands for Christ’s Word, then rejoice. This is a hill on which to die, a moral stand on which we cannot compromise.
Same-sex sex is a sin against God and we cannot bless what God has cursed!
3) The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to transform homosexuals!
The only hope for the salvation and transformation of a homosexual is the gospel of Jesus Christ – the same as for all of us.
I don’t have to change a homosexual. I don’t have to convince him. I don’t have to prosecute him or out-argue him. I have to introduce him (or her) to Christ who is the only one who can change lives.
4) We do not live in a theocracy, nor is that our aim.
This is hard for Americans to understand and accept, since we have become so used, over the years, to a government that is sympathetic to our beliefs and goals. If something is wrong, we assume it ought also be sanctioned by the government.
Christians in the Roman Empire did not expect the Caesar to promote or defend the faith. They just prayed he would stay out of their way while they spread the gospel. Chinese Christians don’t expect the communist government to enact their convictions as law. They just want to do their work with as little public interference as possible.
In Israel, God’s law was the law of the land and it was publicly enforced. Homosexuality carried the harshest of penalties – death. But so did adultery and idolatry and Sabbath-breaking and a host of other sins. It was a theocratic society. America is not a theocracy and it is not our purpose to make it one.
5) We do live in a representative democracy, and we must be the salt and light in our world.
We have a privilege that the Christians in the early church didn’t have – we have a voice in our government. We get to speak out freely and we get to vote our conscience. We would be both foolish and ungodly to squander the opportunity we have to influence our culture in a positive way. We are salt to slow the natural decaying effects of sin and we are light to show the way.
As long as America remains a free and representative democracy, we will walk a tightrope between competing truths. We do not live in a theocracy and it is not our goal to impose one, but we also have to wield the influence that God has given us. Some fall off in one direction and some in the other. More than one church or pastor has conflated the interests of God’s Kingdom with the interests of the US of A. It happens. On the other hand, those who would tell Christians to abandon their place of influence are foolish.
The homosexual issue is a great example of this tightrope. I believe that standing for God’s intent for marriage, opposing homosexual marriage and resisting the more radical agenda of some in the homosexual community is an important role. However, we walk on dangerous ground when we speak of criminalizing homosexuality or denying basic civil rights to homosexuals.
This will always be a difficult balancing act for biblical Christians.
6) Cliches don’t work and should be avoided.
When Charles Worley’s rantings (I refuse to call that preaching) went viral, several of his members defended him in interviews. One of them made me cringe when she said, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
God put Job through deep waters for his own purposes. His three friends showed up and made things worse by throwing a litany of cliches at him. They didn’t help Job and they don’t help in dealing with sexuality issues.
This is a serious issue and needs serious thought, not just pronouncements and cliches. We need to approach this issue with calm, caring, biblically-based rationality, not with epithets, cliches or angry pronouncements. They may make us feel better but they will not accomplish the goal we are here for – to lead homosexuals to Christ!
7) The “nature” argument is vain and silly.
How much effort have Christians devoted to maintaining the concept that homosexual desire is a conscious choice people make? It is a wasted effort. Certainly, homosexual behavior is a choice. I may have a natural tendency to lust when a beautiful woman walks by, but I have a choice whether to act on that. But the idea that homosexual desire or orientation is a conscious choice just does not pass the reality test.
Is homosexuality genetic? Is it rooted in parental relationships? Childhood abuse? Some other unknown factor? At this point, we just don’t know.
But those who struggle with homosexual desire are pretty unanimous that this was not something they freely chose.
Why have we fought the “nature” battle so passionately? Because advocates of homosexuality have claimed that the fact that homosexuality is natural means it is okay. “God made me this way and God doesn’t make mistakes.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Nature is fallen and cursed because of human sin. The New Testament uses natural as a designation for the sinful, unredeemed state. Pride comes naturally to me, and greed, and anger, and lust. Nature does not imply goodness, but sin. If homosexual advocates knew the Bible, they would not use the nature argument!
The Christians I have read propose some variation of factors as the genesis of homosexual desire. Could there be a genetic disorder or some other physical cause? Perhaps. There are likely family issues, often a dysfunctional relationship with a same-sex parent. Some have posited that sexual abuse is a common denominator in many homosexuals. I’m not an expert.
The issue is whether homosexuality was part of God’s created order (it was not), not whether it is a part of the fallen world we now live in. And whether homosexuality is a congenital disorder caused by the workings of sin in a fallen world, or whether it is caused by a combination of environmental factors, the vast majority of people with homosexual desires do not choose those desires.
The choice they have is whether they will act on them, or if they will obey God.
8.) We need to argue for real tolerance.
The most intolerant people I encounter are those who proclaim tolerance as the ultimate virtue. Hate merchants like Dan Savage have revealed that in many ways, Christians are more tolerant of gays than gays are of biblical Christians. Many homosexual advocates have become the mirror images of the Westboro bunch – as tolerant of biblical conviction as Westboro is of gays.
We need to define tolerance rightly. Tolerance is respecting the right of people to disagree and live their lives by their convictions. The intolerant tolerance advocated by the left in America demands not that their views be respected, but that we acquiesce to them. They have no tolerance for those of us who want to be loving toward homosexuals but maintain that it is a sin against God.
We need to argue for a tolerant tolerance that contrasts with the rigidly intolerant views of our predominant culture. If we kindly but firmly point out how intolerant the merchants of tolerance have become, it is possible that we can gain some ground at this point.
9) We must live with gracious confidence – Creation is on our side!
As the world moves farther in the homosexuality-is-okay direction, we sometimes get defensive and fearful. But we should walk in confidence as we proclaim truth. There are two things that are true that can help us walk in godly and gracious confidence.
God created us male and female and called his creation very good. What we proclaim is part and parcel of the natural and created order of God. We advocate what God intended.
10) Another reason for gracious confidence: History is on our side!
God is at work to bring an end to sin and to bring all things under obedience to Christ. While this world might be in rebellion today, one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess, and the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord.
It is common to hear the phrase “history is on our side” from those who are promoting homosexuality and homosexual marriage and such things. That is only true if you look at the nations rage in disobedience and assume it will always be like that. It will not.
The power of God is at work to make sinful people like Jesus. Whatever the present holds, the future will be won by the glory of Christ and homosexuality like all other sin will be banished from earth.
Yes, it is never going to be easy. Homosexuality is one of the thorny issues of our time. Biblical truth and cultural belief run in direct opposition on this one.
It is going to be one of those watershed moments for the church. How will we respond? Will we sacrifice our convictions to find popularity? Will we go along to get along? Or, will we respond to sin-broken people with disdain and anger and rejection, or will we love them in Christ and try to help them find freedom in Christ?
This issue isn’t going away any time soon.