Oh, what a difficult issue. I agree with what Jen Hatmaker says about being humble, loving, and gracious toward others. I like Jen Hatmaker’s blog, writings, thoughts on the poor, serving the needy, and simplifying our lives. Christians are terrible when it comes to these issues. This is a massive failure of the Church, and Christians in general. I believe that the very existence and need of government assistance to the poor, addicted and outcast is an indictment on the modern Church. If we truly followed Jesus’ commands to love the poor, feed the hungry, house the homeless and clothe the naked, Americans wouldn’t outsource this to the government to do that for them. I want to start here, at the Christian Church and individual point of failure, because this failure flows into the Christian relationship with the LGBT community as well. The church is the last place where people in the LGBT community would go for counsel, help or truth, and this is a very sad reality.
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 … and neither is any other Christian 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. It honestly doesn’t matter what I think. I’m small and feeble. My opinions are most often self-serving.
However, as a Christian, I am called 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.” I don’t have the luxury to interpret my beliefs through the lens of modernity, because God’s Word and laws are not subject to cultural relevance.
The first question raised in Jen Hatmaker’s article is politics, and she discusses how her views have shifted over time. As I read, I can see her logic. We don’t just want to stop abortion, we want to see the child fed, clothed and supported. We want that child to have an education and thrive. The problem begins when Hatmaker answers a question about gay marriage:
“From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.”
The “side” she does not propound is the moral “side”, the biblical “side.” Again, what you are seeing is a modern Christian trying to express her views through a modern framework, but in order to not be offensive or “backward”, she cannot use the Bible as her reference point because the Bible disagrees with her. You see, I hold Hatmaker to the same standard to which I hold myself-my opinions on what God says do not matter, and neither do Hatmakers’ opinions. God is clear and the Bible is clear on gay marriage, and no amount of contextual interpretation or lingual gymnastics can wipe away
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 the legalization of gay marriage the same as equal rights and opportunity and an end to institutional slavery (i.e., The Civil Rights movement?). Quite simply, no.
“From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.”
Again, Hatmaker is confusing supporting and loving the sinner with supporting and agreeing with the sin. They are not one in the same. Yes, the church has done a terrible job with loving those in the gay community. However, the solution is not to throw the Bible out the window and call “holy” what God calls “sin.” There is not help available to someone who does not realize they have a problem.
But she is also using a powerless argument. She is saying, “Well, gay marriage is legal, so that issue is laid to rest. Let’s move on now to supporting and helping the gay community.” Is this a legitimate argument? As Christians, shouldn’t we obey Romans 13:1, which says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities”?
The simple answer is that Christians are to obey human law except where that human law violates God’s Law. Our supreme duty is to obey God. Since God tells us to also obey human laws, we should. But, when they come in conflict, we are to “obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) – “But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.” Daniel is a great example of this when prayer to any other “god” was outlawed. Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel disobeyed this human law because it contradicted God’s law, and Daniel was rewarded for his faith and obedience by being a powerful symbol to Nebuchadnezzar – his law said to kill anyone who prayed to anyone other than Nebuchadnezzar. So he threw Daniel in the lion’s den. But God showed that obedience to His law is supreme, and closed the mouths of the lions. God’s law doesn’t change.
So, let’s look at the Bible. 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 these verses 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. Now, how we choose to love and serve and engage the gay community must be from a place of love and preference. We are to love those in the gay community as we love ourselves, serve them, pour ourselves out for them… but this love does not include us equivocating on God’s laws in order to make them feel comfortable or accepted. We must be in the world but not of the world. We must be the most aggressive people to love and engage the gay community, but at the same time, we must obey what we know to be true. The Bible does not make exceptions or create escape routes for sinful behavior, and neither should we if we intend to be faithful to the Bible.
So when Hatmaker says that gay marriage is “holy”, she is disagreeing with the very Bible she claims to believe in.
In its most simplistic form, Hatmaker is picking and choosing the biblical values she agrees with, elevates them to fit her worldview, and disregards any other verse that contradicts her. She, like so many before her, refuses to interpret Scripture with Scripture, but instead conforms selected verses to fit her cultural mandate of love, acceptance and grace for all, with no need to obey the uncomfortable verses in the Bible that just so happen to disagree with her worldview.
Here’s what The Bible says: the wicked are those who call 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. So when God says that homosexuality is wrong, we have to stand behind it. It’s that simple. Otherwise, we are lying to ourselves and others.
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. 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 to flee from sin, including sexual immorality.
1 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 in 1 Corinthians 5:1-12: “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 honored just like everyone else you encounter.
However, the Bible is clear: we cannot call “holy” what God says is “sin”. And homosexual relationships, in the Bible, is sin.
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.”
Let me present a hypothetical to demonstrate the madness of her logic: This same teacher and leader who, presumably, would allow gay couples to work for her and join her church, would, presumably, fire a staff member for having an extra-marital affair. Jen Hatmaker, while being “tolerant” of homosexuality, would call promiscuity or adultery “sin.” On what would she base 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.
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, “This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting,” I would remind you of an earlier quote that seems to point to a consistency in this vein: In her response to the World Vision decision, Hatmaker said: “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….” In other words, it’s complicated, difficult, and every respectable Christian has different views on this throughout Christian history.
I am shocked by this attitude. It is patently false. 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 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.
If we truly believe God loves us and knows what is best for us, then we must elevate the Bible over our own preferences. Because if we do not stand on the Bible as our source of truth, all we have left is our own opinions.
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. And the truth will set us free.