Homosexuality and the Church

This blog is in response to World Vision’s recent announcement regarding Gay Marriage and Jen Hatmaker’s blog response. I reference and highly recommend John Piper’s blog on this issue.

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Oh, what a difficult issue. I agree with what Jen Hatmaker says about being humble, loving, and gracious toward others. I really like Jen Hatmaker’s blog, writings, thoughts on Christ, the modern Church, the poor. Christians are terrible when it comes to these issues. This is a massive failure of the Church, and Christians in general. If at all possible, try to read what I say through this paradigm – I am a sinner, I am flawed, I need Jesus, and I am no better than anyone else out there. As a Christian, I am not called to advocate my own beliefs and stances. The Gospel does not call me to propound or teach my own ideas, but to put forward God’s teachings and truth, especially when the Bible speaks so clearly on an issue. I am called to speak the “truth in love.” I am called to speak God’s Word, even when it’s uncomfortable or considered “culturally insensitive” or “narrow.”

The first question raised in World Vision’s argument is, “Is World Vision’s decision a neutral decision or not?” By allowing gay men and women who are actively and unequivocally pursuing their homosexual desires to work for their Christian organization, are they taking “no stance” on the issue of homosexual marriage, or does their “non-decision” legitimize their union as “marriage” and call them “Christians marriages?” When a Christian organization makes a decision like this, it IS making a theological decision, despite what they are saying. Apathy and non-confrontation are decisions, not a lack of a decision. Non-action is a decision. Not stopping your child from walking into the street is a decision.

TruthInLove

Christians are called to speak the truth in love. So what is the truth, lovingly spoken? Is homosexuality a sin in lieu of the Bible, or is it simply an interpretation issue? Is having sex (as World Vision argues) with someone of the same gender just like divorce, remarriage, evolution, women in leadership, being dunked or sprinkled? I would lovingly say, “No” because the Bible lovingly says “No.” This is a false argument, at best intellectually dishonest. If we are calling sin by its real name, then no, these are not the same issues. Divorce, Evolution, Women in leadership and Baptism are not salvific issues – they are given guidance and allowance under certain circumstances. Some were circumstantial or cultural (as with the Corinthian church which was turning into a cult under female leadership) but they are not the same as homosexuality. Let me expound on this.

A man having sex with another man is not the same as how to baptize someone. A woman having sex with another woman is not the same as believing the world was created over a 5 million year span. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 DOES NOT say, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[evolution, divorce, allow women in leadership, baptize differently than we do] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, now swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” What does the Bible specifically say about homosexuality? Look at Lev 18:22;20:13, 1 Cor 6:9-11; 7:2, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 1:10, Jude 1:7, Hebrews 13:1-25, Rev. 21:8. These are not my words, they are God’s words. All say that homosexuality is a sin, not a preference, not a cultural issue, not an issue to be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is not a cultural preference or interpretive issue. It is right there in black and white. So when a Christian organization makes a decision to “not make a decision” on this issue, in essence they are calling sin by another name – it’s a “cultural” issue, a “preference”, an “interpretive” issue. The Bible says they are calling clean what God calls unclean (Isaiah 5:20). God calls us to holiness, despite our inadequacy and struggles (2 Timothy 1:9). God has not called us to impurity (1 Thessalonians 4:7). We are not called to hide from God’s truth or put fig leaves over our sin.

By giving her 3 options, Jen Hatmaker is giving you three different ways to respond to something that God calls “sin” – 1. You can call it sin and refuse to support it (with the caveat that your actions will stop the support of poor children around the world, which is asking you to allow for a “little evil” to accomplish a greater good. This is a false argument because there are plenty of other organizations who do the same work without compromising God’s truth or advocating a sinful lifestyle), 2. You can ignore sin in lieu of the good the people are doing, or 3. You can support an organization that supports sin, validate them, ignore the truth, bury it, and by ignoring it, you make homosexuality a cultural issue and not a sin issue. This is not only unbiblical but emotionally manipulative and disingenuous. It is all done under the auspices of “Tolerance,” what Jen Hatmaker calls letting “cooler heads prevail.”

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I am all for practicing what Jen Hatmaker calls “gracious disagreement and radical love in the midst of theological disparity.” Yes, I want to be “tolerant,” if by that you mean loving, gracious, and merciful. Yes, people in gay marriages should be able to work. No we should not discriminate against homosexuals. Homosexuality is just like every other sin, and ALL of us struggle with sin. However, we are commanded to have accountability, to have loving brothers and sisters in our lives to call us out, to confront us, to address our sins. (Galatians 6:1-5; Luke 17:3; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 27:17; Romans 14:12; Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13; Matthew 12:36-37; Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 16:10-12). As Matthew 7:3-5 says, I need to look at myself and my own sin before I help someone with their sin. But I still must help them! In fact, we ARE commanded to be discerning, wise, and held to God’s standard.

Corinthians 5:12-13 says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Romans 16:17-18 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Even Paul practices judgement when he says in 1 Corinthians 5:1-12 says, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

So the idea that we are to sit passively by in our own Christian churches and organizations when sin is being actively pursued and endorsed is a fantasy.

Should homosexuals be treated differently? No. Should we ban them, oppress them, slander them, call them names? No. This is what many Churches have done, to the shame of us all. Those who struggle with homosexuality are just like me – they are made in God’s image and deserve respect. They are sinful and flawed and need the Gospel, just like me!  They should be loved, respected, honored, served, and blessed just like everyone else you encounter.

However, when homosexuals choose to go to work for a Christian organization, they are representing God’s truth to everyone they work with, and if they are actively, publicly living outside of and against the principles of what that organization holds to (and what God says in His Word), they are hurting God’s witness, they are doing the opposite of what that organization claims to be doing, and they are undermining their effectiveness. If I, as a straight man in a heterosexual marriage, want to go to work for a pro-Gay organization (ILGA, IGLHRC, IGLYO, ILGLaw, GATE, GRIN, to name a few) and ACTIVELY and publicly disagree with the homosexual lifestyle and gay marriage, what kind of tolerance would I be shown? How do you think that job interview would go? “I want to work for your organization, but I don’t agree with gay marriage.” It is a question of working for an ideal that an organization espouses which is different that yours. The problem is that homosexuality is no longer considered a sin by many outside (and inside!) of Christianity anymore.

Tolerate

Now, let’s ask the question no one is asking – What is going to happen to those organizations (Christian, non-profit, or otherwise) who, in future, refuse to hire people whose life and views are diametrically opposed to their goals, teachings, mission, or creed? Homosexuals are slowly moving from a demand for “tolerance” and “civil rights” to actively persecuting those who disagree with them. They not only want to be accepted, but they will FORCE you to agree with them, their decisions, their lifestyle. In a recent NY Times OP Ed post, Ross Douthat shows us what to expect from some in the homosexual community when he says,

If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job. Already, my fellow Christians are divided over these issues, and we’ll be more divided the more pressure we face. The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.

I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

But it’s still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.” (emphasis added)

Do you hear the threats, the intolerance, the judgement being exercised? When a Christian photographer in New Mexico refused service to a gay couple for their wedding, he was sued and labeled a “bigot.” How’s that for tolerance? When a baker in Oregon refused service to a lesbian couple who want wedding cakes, he was sued and harassed, and his family was bullied. When a baker in Colorado refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple, he was ordered to comply by a court. When a florist in Washington refuses to serve a gay couple, she was sued. Businesses no longer have the right to refuse service, but are labeled, slandered, sued, bullied, targeted, and put out of commission . . . all in the name of “civil rights,” “tolerance,” and “fairness.” Now, I don’t know these individuals personally, nor can I vouch for anything they may have said. My point is that tolerance to homosexuals is really intolerance. Truly, tolerance is “one way.”

Homosexuality is just like any other sin. But when we bless it, give it room, then it grows. Sin is not inactive – it is either growing or dying. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, now swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” This same organization (World Vision) who allows gay couples to work for them would fire an executive for having an extra-marital affair. World Vision, while being “tolerant” of homosexuality, would call promiscuity or adultery “sin.” On what are you basing that judgment? The Bible calls both sin. How do you justify that in light of Scripture? Why is one a sin while another is not? When you begin calling sin by another name, you get into really funny contradictions like this.

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This does incredible damage, because we no longer reach out to homosexuals in love and call them to Jesus and the Gospel. If God calls homosexuality sin, He is saying that it is deadly, destructive, life-threatening. . . . But if we, as a culture (or as the Church) “redefine” it as cultural or interpretive, then homosexuality is magically not a sin anymore, and therefore not something to save people from. It is to be tolerated as a theological difference. “Oh, you were immersed? I was sprinkled. That’s okay. Agree to disagree.” “Oh, you are in a gay marriage? I’m in a heterosexual marriage. Agree to disagree.” What God calls sin, we call “cultural preference”, “civil liberty,” and “tolerance.” As Christians, we are called to love everyone and serve them, but we are not to call sin by any other name. We are not to give sin safe haven, not in our own lives, and not in the lives of those we care about. Christians are sinners. I am a sinner and I need accountability and help from those around me to keep me from pursuing things that would kill me. Sin is evil and destructive – we must love our brothers and sisters enough to call them away from the things that would kill them. We are called to be ministers of the Gospel, not culturally sensitive and politically correct. We must love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). We must do to others what we would wish done to us, treat others as we would wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12). I want to know when I am pursuing something that will kill me and that God calls “sin.”

In response to Jen Hatmaker’s statement, “Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely no unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been. Historically, Christian theology has always been contextually bound and often inconsistent with itself….” I am shocked. This is another way of saying that the truth we disagree with is relative. If homosexuality is “contextually bound” then we should reconsider the Virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the salvific attributes of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. “I don’t like that adultery and drunkenness is called a sin – I’m just going to ignore that and chalk it down to a matter of cultural interpretation.”  Truth is not cultural. Truth is truth. Just because some “respected” leaders around the world don’t agree with gay marriage, what does that matter? Who do we submit to, men or God? Who do we want to please, God or man? Do we obey the Bible? Is God and His Word true or not? When the Bible says in Lev 18:22;20:13, 1 Cor 6:9-11; 7:2, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 1:10, Jude 1:7, Hebrews 13:1-25, Rev. 21:8 that homosexuality is a sin, what mental gymnastics do you have to go through to say God does NOT call homosexuality sin? We don’t listen to leaders and get our theology from them when it so clearly deviates from God’s Word. We are called to be readers and doers of the Word of God, and God’s Word is imminently clear on this issue. It is a sin. We don’t make room for it or bless it. We speak the truth in love, we love those who struggle with this sin, we point them toward Jesus as their hope and joy, but we don’t call sin by any other name. We don’t pass over it and call it a “cultural” issue, and thereby stop loving them enough to save them from something God says will destroy them. If we are truly compassionate, if we truly love those in the homosexual community, then we will stand for what the Bible says and speak the truth in love.

Charity toward all. Love toward all. Grace and mercy and kindness toward all. And AT THE SAME TIME, love must be tempered with truth. Love is not telling people what they want to hear, but what they need to know. Love is not a doctor ignoring someone’s cancer and telling them they are fine. Love is not ignoring a friend who is addicted to sin that is leading them away from the Source of Life, God Himself.

So what do we do as Christians? Do we name-call, do we fight back, do we slander back, do we sue, demand? Or do we equivocate, mediate, compromise, or ignore parts of our Christian Bible that don’t line up with hip, modern, “culturally relevant” topics? There is, indeed a third way, a middle way, but not the ones Jen Hatmaker advocates. We are indeed to be the hands and feet, the voice and hope of Jesus Christ to all of those around us. We are to love and serve deeply all of those around us, even those who persecute us and sue us and call us names. We are to bless those who curse us and love those who hate us. We must, as believers in the Truth of God’s Word, stand behind God’s Word, unequivocally, and yet in great humility, grace, mercy and love. In other words, we are to teach the truth of God lovingly to the dying world around us, we are to love as we are loved, forgive as we have been forgiven, even when if they slander us, persecute us, sue us, condemn us, crucify us or kill us. Because that is what Jesus did. He loved fully and completely, and at the same time spoke God’s Word faithfully. They will know us by our Truth. They will know us by our Love. 

 

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