There is a perception b y some that to loosen restrictions on women in leadership is to hasten the acceptance of homosexuality…the so called, slippery slope.
So, though I have spoken twice before on this subject I am going to address it again, this time with a focus on us, Grace Church and how I believe we should approach this volatile issue.
Today I want to re-iterate our position…our theology…our understanding of scripture on the topic. But I also want to remind us of our purpose as a church and our posture…how we are to carry ourselves in the world.
And let me start there.
Posture = Resolve + Loving humility
What the world should see in you is a wonderfully loving and humble human being who is absolutely committed to the truth.
They should see a person with resolve - Resolve is the courage to stand firm on deeply held beliefs that we determine are from the heart of God and be willing to speak the truth about them.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
You cannot shrug your shoulders on this topic and mumble “whatever”. You must know what the Bible says…stand firm in what the Bible says…even if it is not popular or runs counter to public opinion.
But…you should do so with Loving Humility which allows you to be graceful, compassionate and kind to others, even those who disagree with you.
…as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12,14
We must be strong but we cannot be mean spirited.
"There is an eerie correlation between meanness and how absolutely certain a person is about their beliefs." Skye Jethani
One other thing about the right posture…And we’ll return to this later. Loving humility rarely can be understood through the spoken word – it takes connection or proximity over time.
You can say you love all you want but it will never be understood until it is experienced.
So, in this arena we must exhibit a balance in posture – Posture = Resolve + Loving humility
Second, we can never forget our purpose as a church. Our purpose: To make disciples of Jesus and launch them into the mission of God.
- We exist to lead all kinds of people to discipleship under the person of Jesus . All kinds of sinners. And help those people find their way into the mission of God…find their God given calling.
- We don’t exist to be right. We exist to change lives…that’s our purpose…and it informs how we live out our position on this subject.
So what is our position on the practice of homosexuality?
As with everything we believe we go to the scriptures…you’ll need your bible in a minute but for now look at the screens…
Caveat: As I share our theology based on these scriptures understand there are counter arguments. I do not have the time to unpack all of them. You can find them on your own easy enough on line.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number…” Genesis 1:27-28
- As far as I’m concerned this is all we need to establish the proper pattern of human sexuality and marriage: Which is monogamous sex within the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman.
- That is God’s design for the best condition for every human being and every human family.
- Heterosexual sex is the way our bodies were built to function. And this mom and dad living with their children together is the way families were built to function.
So, how did homosexuality come to be? Homosexuality was one of a myriad of tragic consequences of living in a fallen world stalked by the specters of sin and death. Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting
- Note: Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill I really would like you all to read. Hill is a gay Christian who believes as we do about this subject and has chosen a celibate lifestyle as a result. We’ll come back to him later.
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:13
- this is pretty unambiguous. The law was given by God to a people who had lived without one for 400 years. God established patterns and policies to protect them from dissolving into chaos.
Yes, there are those who say the law is antiquated…with bans on mixed fabrics and shellfish…we would never follow today but… the reason why it is still relevant is because it is consistent with the entire narrative from scripture- beginning to end…
For instance… 1400 years later… in a completely different setting…
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:10
Some debate the Greek words here and insist this was a ban on sex with young teens in a religious ceremony. But, again, in the context of the whole of the Bible we believe the implications are clear.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:18-32
- What we have here is a comprehensive assessment of the human condition from God’s point of view as told by Paul.
- God sees people who suppressed the truth (Vs.18) … hearts were darkened and became fools (Vs.22)
- Result: All manner of evil – Idolatry at the head of the list followed by a raft of sins including homosexual sex. (Vs. 26-27)
- And we have God’s chilling reaction to all this – he doesn’t squash us he takes his hands off…(Vs. 24) Give us over to whatever we want…
So, there you have it in brief: based on the tenor of the whole of scripture we believe Homosexuality was not God’s original creative intention for humanity. It is a tragic sign of human nature and relationships being fractured by sin. Therefore homosexual practice goes against God’s express will for all human beings.
That’s our position. Now, what are we supposed to DO with all that? In particular how should we approach or live alongside those who are gay?
First we must understand. As best we can know what it feels like for them.
In 2005 I sat down with Bob (not his real name) to understand his heart and life better:
- Bob grew up in a strong, loving functional Christian home
- determined to follow Jesus at a young age.
- but…knew early on – age 10 something was different
- never had abuse, never had any homosexual experiences.
- Felt homosexual practice was wrong and wanted to “get this thing fixed”
- 8 years of psychiatrist, support group, pastoral counseling
- “jumped through all the hoops”
- but still he struggles – “not a day goes by that I don’t deal with this. Esp. in trying to keep other from “knowing”
He is not alone. Two weeks ago I sat down with another young man with an identical story and then this past week read the story of Wesley Hill.
- Hill’s story mimics Bob’s. Wesley has chosen, as has Bob, celibacy as his only option.
To say no over and over again to some of my deepest, strongest, most recurrent longings often seems, by turns, impossible and completely undesirable. Wesley Hill
The sorrow and suffering we experience as homosexual Christians is that of saying good-bye to any sure hope of satisfying our sexual cravings. In choosing fidelity to the gospel, we agree to bear up under this burden for as long as necessary. Wesley Hill
- So, as we take our stand…and we decry homosexual behavior understand what we are saying and the ramifications in others’ lives. We should stand strong and as we do…weep.
In addition to understanding we must offer prayer.
- should we pray for healing? Yes. Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.
“If we do not continue to live with that hope, we may be hoping for too little from God” Richard Hays, The Moral vision of the NT
- Stories of transformation should be taken seriously and I have personally seen it in a dear friend who was healed.
We must understand, we must pray and we must over all this…love.
The church must be a loving community that is a place where people of all kinds can find and experience grace and redemption.
On this subject this will not be easy:
I love my church. But I must come to terms with its hierarchy’s hatred of the very core of my being. Andrew Sullivan, Time Magazine 8/11/2003
We must be a community that embodies the arms of Jesus…
The remedy for loneliness – if there is such a thing this side of God’s future – is to learn, over and over again, to do this: to feel God’s keeping presence embodied in the human members of the community of faith, the church. Wesley Hill
In Jesus is the hope for unmet longings
In Jesus is warm community to counter deep isolation
In Jesus is acceptance regardless of your past
In Jesus is love that overwhelms loneliness
In Jesus is mercy
In Jesus is grace
In Jesus is healing
In Jesus is redemption
And we the church are the very personification of that same Jesus to our gay friends and loved ones.
On this issue of homosexuality – the church is Plan A and there is no Plan B. We are the hope of the world.
So…friends, Grace church…you see this crazy balance we must live with don’t you?
We must practice resolve – cannot shrug our shoulders, cannot accommodate the drift of culture, and we cannot soften the clear teachings of the scriptures.
- That resolve must be blanketed with and overwhelmed by a humble love that understands and offers open arms.
- We cannot be mean in our truth telling. We must disarm a skeptical world with our compassion and grace.
God dwells here….in our hearts…
God dwells here in this church...
May we shaking knees represent his holiness to a broken world.
And may we with open arms represent his grace and mercy to a lonely world needing redemption.