|Homosexuality, Gay Marriage & The Church|
(by Chris Long)
I don't think it's any big news to anyone that the subject of homosexuality and "gay marriage" has become a big deal in our society. But before I say anything about that, I need to say this: The way the Church as a whole has handled this issue has just plain been pretty terrible. Regardless of one's beliefs on a specific issue, Christians are supposed to be known for love. In our culture, Christians are largely known for being arrogant, judgmental jerks. And while some of that is definitely undeserved (people these days love to say you are a "hater" simply because you disagree with them), some of it also is brought on because of the way Christians have portrayed themselves. In expressing our opinions, sometimes it has been done in a seemingly loveless and graceless manner, which just fuels people thinking that Christians are judgmental jerks. Regardless of how you might feel on the homosexual/gay marriage issue, I think it's only fair that we all acknowledge and admit that.
We also all need to acknowledge that for near 2,000 years the Christian Church, and even for the most part society at large, pretty much agreed on the whole homosexual/gay marriage issue. It really is only in the last 20 years that this has become a major cultural issue where the Church has been splintering over it.
In society, things have shifted pretty radically on these subjects in a relatively short span of time. In 1996, Democrat President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) with nary a peep from many who now are on the other side. In the year 2000, 61% of people in liberal California voted to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. A court struck that down so another vote was held in 2008 (the infamous "Prop 8"), which also passed but by a much narrower margin (52% instead of 61%). Just 2 years later in 2010, polls showed that if the same 2008 vote had been held again, it wouldn't have passed. The point being that in the span of 10-20 years, the cultural landscape on this issue has completely changed.
Regardless of how one feels about this issue, it cannot be denied that many corners of our society are pushing the narrative that homosexuality not only isn't wrong, but is to be celebrated. Literally, it is everywhere, from pretty much every primetime t.v. show in the last 20 years to news outlets to movies to schools to companies and their "diversity training" - this certain narrative is heavily pushed all over society. In many circles, it has actually become fairly "cool" to say that you are gay, where you are to be looked up to and celebrated if you "come out" and say you are gay. Many have come to believe that for thousands of years everyone was oppressive hating bigots but that now we are all much more enlightened.
The issue has also infiltrated our churches and many denominations have been battling this very issue and have been, or are in process of, being ripped down the middle over this. There are already major prominent denominations that held to a certain view for their entire history that in the last decade have done a 180-degree shift. This is a real issue for churches to grapple with in this culture.
Thus, what I hope to accomplish with this article is to take an honest look at these issues in light of what God's Word, the Bible, says. But before we do that, let's step back for a minute. I do need to warn you that what I'm about to say is going to be REAL blunt, so brace yourself. :)
Let's forget Christianity or religion entirely for a second. Just basic human reasoning ought to reveal some things. There are men and there are women (DUH!). Men and women's parts are clearly made to fit together, and when the two have sex, the man's and woman's components work together and the sperm from the man is made to meet up with the eggs from the woman, which of course when successful results in the woman getting pregnant and being able to produce offspring that further the human race. There is a clear biological purpose and all the components promote that purpose. For instance, the vagina produces secretions that generally allow for the penis to be inserted smoothly and also self-cleans itself, etc. The anus, by contrast, is clearly not really intended as a sexual organ in that way. The anus's job is to expel poop. It wasn't really made to have a penis stuck up it. There is zero biological benefit to a penis being put up it, and there are many potential problems. Because of the naturally unsanitary nature of the anus, even if you clean well, there is much greater chance for disease spread. You have to use fake lubrication (i.e. KY jelly) to facilitate anal sex because there is no natural lubrication there, and again there is no biological benefit. Just using basic human reasoning ought to tell people that men and women were made to be together sexually, and men and men were not, and women and women were not. A man having sex with a man will NEVER produce a baby. And a woman with a woman will never produce a baby. You know what gay couples who want a baby have to do? They have to get someone else's baby that was produced between a man and a woman. That's just the way it is. And no amount of wishing differently will change that.
Then you add to it all the other things about men and women. We are naturally clearly made for one another. When men are acting as men, and women are acting as women, men and women compliment one another beautifully. And again, nearly universal through the centuries has been the acknowledgement that men and women are intended for each other and that marriage is reserved to be between them only.
That all just uses basic human observation and logic and has nothing to do with using arguments from the Bible.
Yet, the Bible also backs up this view. Going all the way back to the creation account in Genesis where men and women are created, it is ultra clear from the get-go that they were made for each other (physically AND emotionally), and God specifically tells them to be fruitful and multiply the earth. God specifically created a man and He specifically created a woman. Both humans, but two distinct categories of humans that were made for each other.
I don't want to go too far down a side-trail, but you know all this transgender stuff that's come up in the last few years? If you noticed, that only became an issue after the whole gay marriage thing was won in the courts. NOBODY was talking about transgender stuff and which bathrooms people should use and whatnot 10 or 15 years ago. Now all of a sudden it's the big issue. Everywhere you look now, people are trying erase the notion that there are men and women as distinct types of humans, but that really they are the same and what matters is what you FEEL you are not what you ACTUALLY are. Thus if a man decides he wants to be a woman, he should, or that if a woman wants to be a man, she should. We are completely trying to blur it all now. And that's what happens when a culture goes down these roads of disregarding what even basic biology and logic dictate.
Just in case humanity might get confused as to the way things are supposed to be, God even explicitly says it in His Book to mankind, in numerous places. Here is just a brief rundown of some pertinent Scriptures that affect homosexuality and the gay marriage issue:
- Romans 1:18-32 (homosexuality called "unnatural" and "indecent" and discussed in the context of God's wrath)
Don't take my word for it - feel free to go ahead and look these up in any translation you like (i.e. KJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, etc.) Some of the wording might be slightly different from translation to translation, but they are all pretty clear. [I used the ESV and/or NIV 1984 to look up the Scriptures above].
So despite what some might say, the Bible is actually quite clear on the issue, and those within the Church that try to explain this stuff away are misguided at best (or downright delusional to be honest). There are some things in the Bible that one could maybe say are kind of unclear or grey areas, but this is not one of them. We aren't talking about one passage here, but a pattern across the entire Bible.
Let's just look at one of them briefly. I love to talk about God's love as much as the next person, but the Bible also talks of God's wrath. Yes, wrath.
Romans 1:18-32 says:
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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.
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. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 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.
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. 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, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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." (NIV 1984)
And now, the bonus text just 1 verse later in Romans 2:2:
"Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." (NIV 1984)
There is a whole lot in that passage, but we are explicitly told that God judges based on HIS standard of truth. This text as shown above clearly shows that God actually allows people to be given over to wickedness in their unbelief. God honors the choice of men and women that reject Him and His truth and He allows them to do the evil they desire.
This passage tells us a bunch of things that are shown as evil/wicked/wrong/sin. Homosexuality is one of these. Notice that homosexuality is discussed with words such as: "unnatural", "shameful", "indecent". And it specifically spells it out as applying to both male and female homosexuality. It doesn't get much clearer than this. And this is from the New Testament...
But as mentioned, homosexuality, and by extension gay marriage, is not only mentioned in one or two places in the Bible. It is in the Old Testament. And it is in the New Testament. It is in the beginning of the Bible in Genesis. And it is at the end of the Bible in Revelation. And it is in places in-between, such as in the Romans passage above.
And if you let Scripture interpret Scripture, then there's LOADS more passages as well because the 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 passages which showcase homosexuality as an immoral act, means that many of the myriad other passages referencing the more generic "sexually immoral" also could be taken to encompass homosexuality.
The point is that you have to work REALLY hard to explain it away from the Bible. But that is exactly what many in our churches that try to merge Christianity with homosexuality do. They somehow manage to "explain away" the several clear references to homosexuality in the Bible, including the Romans one from the New Testament, where homosexuality is clearly called "unnatural". They claim that God didn't really mean that homosexuality was an "abomination" when He declared it in the Mosaic law, even though it is referenced right between infanticide and beastiality! Or they claim that it doesn't matter any more because that was the time of law, even though the Bible also tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever - see Hebrews 13:8. If God thought something was an abomination to Him then, I don't think He's changed His mind. It's not like He thinks "Oh well homosexuality is an abomination to me now for the people of Israel, but 2000 years from now I won't care if people commit homosexuality." To counter this, people try to say it was translated incorrectly, etc. When it comes to Sodom & Gomorrah, they explain that homosexuality wasn't really a major sin of Sodom and Gomorrah - even though it is quite clear from reading the text at face value - that it is. They instead claim that the sin was only rape and not being loving or caring for their fellow man, etc. In other words, one by one, a case is given for why we can't just take what God's Word says about homosexuality at face value.
Now if one wants to read what the Bible says and just decide: "I don't agree with the Bible", then at least they are being intellectually honest. But to claim that the Bible doesn't really say what it clearly says is just ludicrous.
So yes, Christians that do believe the Bible are faced with a decision: to go with the Bible and what their own basic human logic and biology tell them and what the Church has held to for 2000 years, or go with the whims of a culture that has changed its mind on this issue in the last 20 years. The challenge is that if the Christian doesn't embrace what the culture is now embracing they are labeled as "haters". Now like I said, the WAY in which Christians sometimes have presented themselves have made that charge much easier. But the culture also loves to just throw around words like that and accuse people that believe the Bible as unloving, hate-filled people because HOW DARE THEY say that a man should not marry a man or a woman marry a woman. Because after all, if two people love each other, that should be all that matters (that's what our culture says). While I understand why people think that way (after all who wants to deny people from loving who they want to love?), that's NOT all that matters. There are other considerations, including impact to society as a whole, beyond just what one individual personally thinks they want.
Another common issue that comes up when talking about homosexuality or gay marriage is the "born that way" issue as many people believe that people are born as homosexuals. We've seen above that numerous Scriptures, if you take them at face value, clearly show homosexuality as being a sin. So, in order for a person to claim that God made them a homosexual, they in essence are saying that God made them to sin against Him. Since we know lying and murder are also sins, this would be the same as a person claiming that God made them to be a liar or a murderer. If a person is going to say that God made them gay, that only logically leaves one option: you must reject the Bible by either stating that it isn't really God's Word, wasn't translated right, or in some way isn't really saying what it clearly says. Because you can't, with any intellectual honesty, have it both ways.
I don't think there's any denying that it is clearly true that some people are more prone to 'homosexual feelings' then others. I myself can tell you that as a young teen I had some of these feelings myself. Whether you want to point to your genetic makeup, societal effects (your family environment/those around you), or however you want to explain the "why" for why a person has these feelings - at the end of the day they are just feelings! Whether a person acts on those feelings or not is the issue! I do believe that people may be born with traits that in certain environments could definitely lend towards a person having homosexual desires, and I understand why this could be confusing for the individual because to them they just see it as "who they are" and "how they were made" and so they might think they just need to embrace it (especially if society tells them that is what they should do). I understand this and since usually these feelings surface in early adolescence (already a confusing time where people are trying to figure out their identity), I understand why it can easily seem like "this is just who I am". But it's not true - The lie that is so commonplace right now is that a person needs to embrace these feelings to "embrace themselves" because that is "how God made them" and thus God approves of those feelings. That they need to embrace themselves as a "homosexual" - to find their identity in being a "homosexual".
When discussing the "born that way" issue, some like to throw out the rare aberrant cases of people born with both male and female genitalia (though for the record, they are not two complete sets). The logic goes that if a person can be born with parts of both sets of genitalia and we don't really know if they are male or female then a person's sexual orientation can be decided at birth also. There certainly are those extremely unusual cases out there of aberrant physical situations which ultimately gets traced back to the Fall back in the Garden of Eden - but that doesn't really affect the underlying homosexuality question. Throughout Scripture, we see that all sin is of the heart. If a person is born with physical characteristics that resemble both male and female and let's say they see themselves and identify as a male, and then have sex with other males even though they know the Bible says homosexuality is wrong - I don't see any difference - it's just as much sin as it would be for someone that didn't have the female components. Even if, just for a crazy argument, they ACTUALLY were female - if they saw themselves male and had sex with men, sin has been committed because sin is a heart issue.
To use cases like this though to say that a person's homosexual attraction and behavior is fixed at birth is quite a stretch. Again, I do definitely believe that people can be born with characteristics that, in concert with certain environmental situations, could absolutely lend more towards them experiencing homosexual attraction and desire. But that doesn't mean they are actually "born gay". But even if a person were to be born with characteristics that could lend that direction, that does not mean a person has to act on those feelings. The reason people embrace the "born gay" thing is because that is what people want to believe because they think it absolves people of any responsibility. It's a lot easier to just embrace homosexual feelings as "how I was made" than to face the possibility that it's not right before God and may have also been spurred on in our lives by (1) our own choices, (2) the choices of others - including our parents and other environmental factors, and (3) the devil - who the Bible says is out to destroy us and has been lying to us about what's true and not since the beginning of time (go read Genesis 3). It's a lot easier for people to just embrace the feelings as "who I am" - to make it their identity. And once that has been done, then the next logical extension is to insist that OTHERS accept their identity and approve of their homosexuality as well.
This is the crux of the homosexual issue we see in society right now. The homosexual community finds their identity as human beings in their sexuality rather than God! (read that again!!) Their whole identity is largely based around them being a "homosexual". Thus when someone such as myself dares to talk about what God has clearly said about homosexuality, they see it as an attack on them PERSONALLY! They've bought the lie - they've embraced it - rationalized it however they needed to - and made it their identity. That is why they are very passionate on issues such as "gay marriage". They believe that it is their fundamental right because they in the core of who they are, are "homosexuals", and thus they should have the same marriage rights as everyone else who is not a homosexual.
This is WHY they see things like gay marriage as a "civil right." It is because they truly do believe that they are homosexuals just like African-American people are black, etc. They believe they were "born gay" and thus should be a protected group just like an ethnic group is. They don't see homosexuality as a behavior, but as an identity.
Thus they want everyone else to affirm them that it's okay that they practice homosexuality and agree with them that they were born that way and it's just who they are. To them, those that believe differently are "haters" because they take it as a personal attack against their very being.
Let me be clear: I don't hate those that practice homosexuality and I don't have a special vendetta against that one sin. I believe ALL sin is a problem, and is the reason why ALL of us need Jesus. As a Christian that believes the Bible, I believe we human beings are ALL really screwed up and we ALL need Jesus. Yes, I've made the case today that according to God's Word, homosexuality is a sin. But, you know what? So are lots of other things. Gossip, according to God's Word, is a sin. Lying, according to God's Word, is a sin. Lusting, according to God's Word, is a sin. And while some of us maybe haven't committed homosexuality, we've certainly committed other sins! ALL sin is wrong, and is the reason why Christians believe EVERYONE needs Jesus! Homosexuality doesn't condemn anyone to hell any more than lying or lusting or any number of other sins. We have ALL sinned, and thus we ALL need a Savior. This is the central message of the Bible.
So to those who think Christians are just "haters" against homosexuals, I would say they don't understand the Christian message because Christians (that are following the Bible anyway) don't hate homosexuals as people - they LOVE all people but hate sin in general (even in themselves) and believe that everyone needs to accept the lifeline offered in Jesus.
It is true though that some people, under the banner of "Christianity", have been very vocal and loud and angry-sounding and myopic against homosexuality where they've made it far too easy for people to just label them as haters. And the fact that culture views Christians merely in these terms and knows us more by what we are against rather than what we are for is a big problem.
Believers in Jesus Christ are called by Jesus Himself to first love God and secondly to love others. Christianity is really all about LOVE! Christians believe that we all have sinned and we all need a Savior and are called to love all people. The words "hate" and "Christian" are like polar opposities. Yet many in our world see it differently and the way some Christians have presented themselves has unfortunately made that easy.
But we also can't get around the fact that we do ultimately believe that sin is sin and we all need a Savior. Christians that take the Bible at face value are going to believe that homosexuality is a sin. That doesn't mean they hate people that practice homosexuality though. While people that identify as homosexuals see that as a core or big part of who they are, Christians don't view people that way - we view sin as behavior and we can absolutely have deep love for a person despite whether we agree with what they do or not. Just because we don't affirm every single person's behavior as being right (sexual or otherwise) doesn't mean we hate them as people! Is there someone in your life that maybe you think does something that's not right or good for them (maybe they drink too much, etc.) but you still love them anyway? If so, you can understand why as Christians it's no different in that we can disagree with someone and still love them. Just because we think something is wrong because we believe the Bible that says so, that doesn't mean we hate people that do that thing.
And on the sin issue, look, we all want to believe that sin isn't sin. We can all explain stuff away to fit what we want to believe. You can try to explain away most of the Bible if you want (and many people do) using arguments such as "it wasn't translated right", "God didn't really mean THAT", etc. We can all try to explain away things we don't like!
We can think whatever we want. God gave us the ability to have choice and decide what we want to believe. We can have any opinions that we want. But if there's a God, wouldn't you agree that all that REALLY matters is what God's opinions are, and that the smartest thing that we can do is align our thinking with what God has revealed about what He thinks? It is silly for the creation to think they can try to tell the Creator what is right or wrong! We have no place. God defines what's right or wrong, not us. While we need to be loving to all, if people want to label us as backwards-thinking, intolerant, bigoted people, because in simple belief we accept what God says, then so be it. In the end, God will be proven true.
The Bible says that God is Love (see 1 John 4:8-9). His heart is one of absolute love for all. He is merciful and He is compassionate. He wants all to come to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
God loves all people and wants all people to be with Him forever. And He calls us to love all people too.
But love doesn't mean approving of sin. Some just love to talk about Jesus in terms of being loving and non-judgemental. Any reading of the Gospels will make quite clear that Jesus made all sorts of judgements BECAUSE of His love. He even got a whip and ran everyone out and overturned the tables of those who were selling merchandise in the temple court. (see Matthew 21:12-13). He frequently 'judged' the religious leaders that were misleading the people - calling them among other things, "snakes", "hypocrites", and "blind guides." He talked often of the need for repentance, faith, watching out for false teachers, the "narrow" gate to Heaven, etc. He wasn't afraid to call things out as sin.
God is love, but He also has standards on what is right and what is not. In order to come to Him, we must acknowledge that we are sinners who have fallen short of His righteous standards. We must acknowledge who we are and what we've done, and then who He is and what He's done for us! He loves us so much that He suffered for us by coming to earth as a man and dying for us as a sinless sacrifice, so all our sin - including homosexuality - could be paid for and we could be with Him forever! He loves you and me that much.
God does love you. He loves you and me more than any person EVER could. And for those that come to Him and accept Him as He is (and not as they think they want Him to be!), He will not only save them for all eternity, but will also give them a new nature now by which they, with His help, are able to live rightly. There are many testimonies of people who originally bought the lie that people are born homosexuals and can't change and need to just embrace it, only to have their eyes opened - realize that it was indeed sin - come to Christ - and find that Christ has the power to help them overcome any homosexual feelings!
We come to God on His terms, or we don't come at all. We don't get to negotiate terms upon which we come to Him. He made the terms. We either believe and accept those terms or we don't. We either believe that there's such a thing as sin or we don't. We either believe that we are sinners or we don't. We either believe that He loved us so much that He paid the penalty for our sin, or we don't. We either believe that the way He provided is the only way for us to be right with Him, or we don't. We either believe that those who choose Him go to Heaven and those who don't choose Him go to hell by their own choice, or we don't. It all comes down to simple belief...simple faith in what God says is so.
Our society is only a drop away from a society where people could be put in prison for even writing things like this article. People that speak up for what God says in His word will be convicted of "hate crimes". Mark my words. If a course reversal doesn't happen soon and mass repentance occur, this will be coming (it's already starting!).
The truth of course is that it is my LOVE for people that is prompting me to write this article today. I don't just spend hours on a Saturday afternoon writing about sin and homosexuality because I'm out to hate someone. I am doing it because, as the Scriptures mentioned earlier, God is love and He loves all people and wants all to come to repentance. And homosexuality is just a high-profile issue in our society these days. I can honestly say that I don't believe I hate anyone. I want to love all and want all to be in a right standing with God.
Lest anyone reading this start thinking that I am setting myself up as "high and mighty" trying to condemn others, I feel I must share a few things. I certainly am not without sin. Those that know me know that I myself struggled much in the area of sexual purity for many years, and there still is a battle in my mind. I sometimes find myself having a lustful thought that I need to repent of. Given the mercy and grace shown to me, I most certainly am not out to condemn others.
But you see, it is one thing to struggle with sin as a believer, recognize that it is sin, and desire to stop that sin in your life with God's help. As Christians, we have a new nature (spirit) but we still have fleshly patterns we've learned that can produce a struggle. This happens with all believers (myself included!). It is another thing entirely though to claim to be a believer and yet be steeped in sin that you won't even recognize as sin, and worse, even become "proud" of and convince yourself that God approves of. I always take the claims of anyone that says they are a believer seriously, because I don't know the heart and only God REALLY knows and so I need to be careful not to pass the judgement that only God can pass. But it is also true that the fruit of a person's life always eventually shows itself. If someone is claiming to be a follower of Jesus and yet they practice homosexuality or other sin where they won't acknowledge it as sin, are proud of their sin, and defend their sin, then how much of Jesus is really showing in their life? What's the fruit? A life of disobedience to God's Word?
When someone is flaunting sin that God specifically says is wrong, well, it is fair to question just what their relationship really is with Him. Because more likely than not, what has happened is someone is really just using Christianity as a veil so they can still claim they are right with God while doing their sin. Many people that claim to be Christians in actuality have a "smorgasboard religion" of a little of this, a little of that - where they have chosen to embrace things they want to hear but discard things that actually set boundaries for their lives or tell them things they should not do.
God loves you very very much. But He also hates sin very very much. He hates what it brings about in people's lives - which is death (spiritual, physical, eternal). In fact, it is partly BECAUSE He loves you that he hates so much that which would destroy you. All sin, regardless of the sin, brings forth death in its various forms.
Because God does love you and me so much, He provided a way whereby we can all be restored to Him and where as we live in obedience to Him, LIFE will conquer death in all its forms. God is really big on LIFE. He wants you to have life - and life to its fullest (John 10:10).
The main purpose of life here is for each person to choose Life for all eternity. Everything else is secondary to that. Our identity as a person is meant to be found in Him! (NOT in our sexuality!)
Rather than trying to rationalize sin and explain away what God says in order to fit our own agenda, may we just humbly acknowledge sin as sin, and then turn to the One who paid the penalty for that sin, Jesus Christ.
The reality is that a person can think they are being "open minded" and "tolerant" all day long - convincing themselves that they are "enlightened" and that all who believe what God says are "haters", "bigoted", "closed-minded", "intolerant", and the like. A person can do this if they want - and many do.
But if He is the standard of truth and we reject that standard because we want to make our own standard of truth and what is right or wrong, we can foolishly do so. He loves us so much that He gives us the choice to choose Him and His truth or not. And if we don't want Him, He, in sadness, will honor that choice. But He loves us and wants what is best for us. We are to simply believe God for what He says. It is that simple. And yet, simple belief - and the obedience that follows - is the hardest thing for humanity to do.
Why? Because we are full of pride and want to do things our way. We want to be "in control" - in control of our bodies; in control of what we do or do not do. We don't like someone telling us that we can't do something. It offends us. We want to be the "master's of our fate"; the determiners of right and wrong. We take offense when someone suggests that we really aren't in control - that there is a standard of right and wrong that is NOT determined by us, but rather by the One that made us. This offends people! It may even be offending you right now!
If God really is God, and God really does have standards on what's right and wrong, and what's good for us and what's not, that's something we really need to pay attention to. It sometimes amazes me just how vehemently someone will defend their unbelief because they want to come to God on their terms. They want God to be who THEY want Him to be, rather than who He clearly has revealed Himself to be.
Really when you get down to it, God is a good God that loves us deeply and wants what is best for us. He says some things are right and some things are wrong, not because He's trying to be mean, but because He knows what is best for us. And men having sex with men, and women having sex with women is not what is best for us and was not God's intention for humanity.
God still loves all people regardless of what we do, and He wants us all to come to Him and choose Him by accepting the gift He has given humanity in Jesus Christ to pay for all our sins. God is still all about love. And Christians are called to be all about love too.
Love, according to Jesus Himself, is supposed to be the trademark of Christians. And sadly, in the world, that is NOT what Christians are known for. And to be honest, that's largely our fault. We are too often seen as exclusive, holier-than-thou's, that are anything but loving. We are known more for what we are against than what we are for. And that's a problem.
We really need to re-think our strategy as a Church. I'm not saying we compromise on the truth. But I am saying we need to give serious examination to our attitudes and approach as we engage on not only this issue, but quite bluntly, a whole host of other issues as well.
You know, all people just want to be loved and to "belong". It's a common denominator that everyone wants. If the church isn't providing an environment that oozes the love of Jesus and where people are welcomed in to an immersive loving environment where they will be loved and valued and find true belonging, they will look for that love and place of belonging elsewhere. And our culture right now is heavily pushing a narrative whereby those that identify as homosexuals are seen as being a "special group" that is really to be celebrated (i.e. "gay pride" etc.). And that's a very powerful draw to people because they can then feel like they are valuable and worth something and cherished and can "belong"; thus it is very easy for people to wrap their identity up in "being gay". The gay lifestyle provides an alternate means of trying to meet these basic needs that really we as the church should be providing a welcoming environment to meet. Again, I'm definitely not saying we should approve of sin - obviously I believe we need to maintain the Biblical standard - this is where many churches have recently been making their mistake as they've basically dismissed the Word of God in favor of being "inclusive". That's wrong and a mistake. But we do need some serious examination as to how we are coming across and ways that we can foster a more loving and inviting atmosphere, both personally and corporately. Again, love needs to be our trademark, rather than only being known for "what we are against". The world should know we are Christians by our love.
A person's embracing of homosexuality is merely a symptom of deeper issues with God, the Bible (i.e. whether it's really "God's Word" or not), and the "Good News" Gospel message. We don't want to make the easy mistake of focusing only on the external sin and getting caught up in trying to deal with this issue on a purely moral plane by just telling people "it's wrong". If the root issues are dealt with, the external manifestations (i.e. homosexuality or other sin) will eventually get taken care of.
Loving someone doesn't mean you don't share the truth with them, but it does mean that truth is proclaimed in love (see Ephesians 4:14-15) and I would also add that there needs to great wisdom used as to timing both of when to share truth and how to share it. People want to know you love them and care about them FIRST, and then you may have an opening to speak into their lives. Just shouting at, or arguing with, people isn't very effective...
Finally, I need to address one other quick angle: How to handle family members or close friends that are in the "gay lifestyle". I know that this is a very real struggle for many believers that DO understand what God's Word says but feel conflicting emotions because of their close relationship with someone in the homosexual lifestyle. I get this and know that it can be a hard and difficult tight-rope to walk, and I don't think there's anything anyone can say that will really make it much easier. As long as we believe what the Word says and also have a loved one in the lifestyle, there will be some unavoidable tension - and that will hurt. They will think we are old-fashioned and narrow-minded and bigoted, and we will think they are only hurting themselves by living in disobedience to God. That will produce some tension no matter what way you look at it.
But I think, again, that love needs to rule the day. We adopt the same attitude that God adopts for us, and that Jesus modeled for us in His association with "sinners". We can speak the truth in love to them so that they know that we disagree with the lifestyle and why - why we don't think it's best for them, but we also don't need to harp on it and keep bringing it up. We don't stop loving them or cast them aside. We still love them; we still do our part to maintain our relationship with them (we can't do their part though); we understand that we are not their judge, but we also don't compromise on our beliefs. We just keep adopting a posture of love and acceptance of them as an individual (not acceptance of their sin - which can be a real challenge because as discussed earlier, they see them as one and the same). So, for instance, if I have a daughter in the lifestyle, I might say something like: "I will always love you simply because you are my daughter and nothing you can do or say will change the fact that I love you." We see beyond the sin to the person that God loves and died for and wants in a right relationship with Him. We need to realize that the homosexuality really isn't the issue, but that it is just a symptom of a deeper issue. Again, that doesn't mean we excuse the sin or "accept it" or in any way lower the Biblical standard, but love needs to pour out of our speech and actions.
Many people like to use their idea that Christians are "so judgemental" and "unloving" and also that God is unloving as a means of rejecting the Christian's message and Christ himself. This is all fuel that they use to further the hardness of their heart and to remain far from God and His truth. They incorrectly, but understandably, use the love or non-love of Christians to judge Jesus. As we love on them and show them Christ's love as we are called to do in Scripture by Jesus Himself, we lessen their ability to have this as a perceived valid argument in their mind. Or at least it makes it harder for them to hold on to such excuses.
This entire article today can be boiled down to two statements:
1. Let's maintain the Biblical standard that the Church, for good reason, has always held.
P.S. - In the article, I mentioned that views on homosexuality are merely a symptom of deeper issues. There is an absolutely fascinating follow-up to this article (actually an earlier article of mine called "Rationalizing Sin" which has similar content to this one) that really showcases one of these core deeper issues and really gets into the meat of why some of our churches view homosexuality differently than I do. In the follow-up, you will get to see a real-life showcase as you'll see a pastor from one of these churches respond to my writing, and my response. You can view this follow-up at: http://www.laughandlift.com/personalarticles/rationalizingsinfollowup.html
This is version 2.2 of this document (January 27, 2018).