by Steve DuPlessie | May 30, 2018
Never before in the history of our country has there been a faster or more significant culture change than the wholesale recognition—in academia, public policy, popular culture, and the marketplace—approving of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.
This immediately presents a challenge and many questions for any followers of Jesus who take what the Bible says seriously.
One of the first questions people might ask is, “If homosexuality is wrong, why didn’t Jesus talk about it?” And your Bible’s concordance will quickly show you that Jesus condemned murder and greed, hypocrisy and pride among other sins, but he never used the “h” word.
But Jesus did condemn “porneia,” the common Greek word usually translated in our English Bibles as “sexual sin” (NLT) or “sexual immorality” (NET, NIV, NASB, NKJV) as in Mark 7:21. Porneia is usually defined as any intercourse outside of marriage. In ancient Greek literature outside of the Bible, porneia included adultery, prostitution, and same-sex acts. Jesus may not have mentioned same-sex acts specifically because all of his listeners understood that same-sex behavior was prohibited in the Hebrew bible, and considered as just one of the many expressions of sexual sin (porneia) off limits for Jews. Besides this, Jesus repeatedly affirmed God’s original design and intent of marriage for one man and one woman.
So then, some ask a second questions, “What about obvious gluttony and rampant divorce? Don’t you people have a big enough plank in your own eye to worry about without picking on someone else?”
And of course they have an embarrassing point. Gluttony is a huge problem, pardon the pun. And it seems quite hypocritical to condemn committed same-sex relationships … when traditional marriages are failing all around us. And the blatant hypocrisy of Jesus-followers is as big a problem as our judgmental attitudes.
But, accepting that criticism with humility, someone’s struggle with cheesy fries and too much of a good thing does not excuse my habit of robbing banks, or her not-so- hidden racism, or his struggle with same-sex behavior. (One sin – hypocritical or not – does not excuse, minimize, or give a pass to another; we all ultimately stand, or fall, before the judge of the living and the dead, God himself.)
Third, some say, “It’s not fair! God made me that way!” And of course the implication is that gays and lesbians, trans and intersex people, are born that way. And while that might seem to be true as you observe one person and another, scientists still have not been able to identify a gay gene that makes it inevitable for a person to be gay. In fact, the most recent statement of the American Psychiatric Association, concludes…
“Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”
And that truth is demonstrated simply and un-arguably in the fact that identical twins—exactly alike in their genetic makeup, even down to the prescription for their glasses, and frequently alike in their nurturing environment as well—are not always the same in their sexual preference or behavior, including homosexuality .
But even if biological causes for homosexuality could be isolated—and even if the desire is almost always uninvited and unwelcome—that doesn’t change the conversation. We are all products of both nature and nurture. We all struggle with inbred inclinations and weaknesses—some to addictions, some to anger, others to, whatever—and we all wrestle with learned desires that should not be gratified, and with intense longings for things we should not have or do. Our own sense of desire or pleasure is not self-validating, though just saying that is very unpopular in our current “Me and my rights, my comfort, at any cost” culture.
So then some will ask a fourth question, “But how it is fair for those with same-sex attractions to not be able to ever be married?” Sam Allberry, a single Anglican pastor with same-sex attraction, writes in his brief but excellent book, “Is God Anti-gay?”, that “…for Christians wit same-sex attraction, the only alternative is to actively embrace a life … of hope-filled celibacy.” And again, that self-denial flies in the face of our culture that refuses any personal limits, any denial of personal comfort or pleasure.
But actually, get this now, a life of celibacy is what the Bible expects of all Christians outside of marriage, gay or straight. Those who are single, dating, even engaged. Those who are divorced, widowed, whatever the circumstance. Sex is designed by God (Genesis 2:18-25) not only to be pleasurable but to knit a woman and a man together at a deep and intimate soul level. And God knows that kind of soul intimacy is best reserved for a committed, unbreakable covenant relationship: marriage.
“A life of celibacy is what the Bible expects of all Christians outside of marriage, gay or straight.” – Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-gay?
Resisting sexual desire outside of the marriage relationship is part of discipleship for every Christian of every age and every relationship situation.
So then others ask, “Aren’t you on the wrong side of history, like those who tried to support slavery from the Bible?” Well, that phrase, “the wrong side of history” implies that any progressive change is always good, always positive.
And yes, it certainly was a positive change when Christian activists like Baptist pastor Roger Williams organized the first effort to make slavery illegal in Rhode Island in the 1600s, and later when British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce led the effort to abolish the slave trade in England in the 1700s.
Here in the US, Harriet Tubman made 13 missions to lead slaves to freedom on The Underground Railway from 1849-1865, and Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 which exposed the cruelty of American slavery. Among many others, they each were motivated by their devout biblical Christian faith to change the course of history.
But some progressive changes have not been so positive. The move to no-fault divorce in the ’70s and early 80s has, in general, devastated the American family. The advent of the birth-control pill and the resulting sexual freedom movement of the ’60s have devastated the lives of millions of absent-father children. And before that many progressive intellectuals thought that it was best eliminate the “inferior stock” in humankind, Darwinian-style, through restricted immigration, institutionalization, abortion, and sterilization. Not all progressive change is good.
That being said, the Christian church has universally held the traditional view of marriage of “one man and one woman” for the better part of 2,000 years. And while it is possible to be old and wrong, some things are old and right, no matter what the current cultural or political temperature might be.
And then some might ask, “I love my son, but should I go to his gay wedding?” Put another way, is it possible to love someone and still not approve of what they are doing? And of course the answer to that is … yes. Every day parents who love their kids deeply – love them enough to die for them – yet don’t approve everything their kids do. From leaving their wet towel on the bed all day, to picking a loser for a boyfriend, parents can love their kids and still not approve what they do.
But how about a significant life decision? Where they go to school? What job they take? Who they marry? On the kid’s side, it sure is difficult to feel loved when mom or dad don’t approve. Yet parents also are concerned with what is best for their child. Love naturally wants what is best; and Christian parents can love their child deeply and yet, wanting what is best for them not approve of that same-sex relationship or that trans surgery.
So do you go to the wedding, or stay home? Every family has to decide that themselves. I’m inclined to think attending the wedding means “I think this is great! I’m really happy for you! I pray that God will bless this union!” And if you can’t say that with authenticity, then maybe it’s best to stay home that day, and try hard to hold the door open for a relationship based on love and authenticity.
Last question for today. Some might ask, “But I thought the church is a place for broken people. Why not homosexuals?” And the answer is “Yes, praise God, the church is a place for broken people!” And gay people are very welcome here. Let me say that again, LGBTQQIFC (see the endnote below) people are very welcome at GNBC. See, we’re all about God’s story here. We looked for a few minutes earlier at the beginning: Creation, fall… and the central plotline of the Bible is a holy God making a new way to dwell in the middle of unholy people.
From an ark that saved God-fearers from destruction, to a ram that took the place of a doomed son; from the lamb that took the place of the first born in Egypt, to the God-guided trek to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey; from the tent of God’s presence set up in the middle of the camp, to the altar of sacrifice at the entrance to that tabernacle; from the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, to the recall from exile in Babylon—the Bible is story after story after story of God pursuing a rescuing, redeeming relationship with broken and fallen, cursed people.
That’s the story. That’s what the bible is all about. In one sense, there’s not a lot there about homosexuality. The 1,189 chapters of the Bible are not filled with God giving a finger-pointing lecture on same-sex relationships. Although LGBT rights are one of the most pressing and painful controversies of our day, it’s not what the church has been singing and praying and preaching about for 2,000 years. And yet in some ways … it is.
For 2,000 years the church has focused on worshipping a Christ who rescues, a Christ who forgives, a Christ who cleanses, a Christ who challenges and changes us, a Christ who is not content to leave us where we are, but convicts us and converts us. See the good news of the gospel is…
We are all—straight and gay—we are all … more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are all—gay and straight—more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
That’s why Jesus came, holy God living here (John 1:14), in the middle of unholy women and men. He came to live, and finally to die in our place, enduring all of God’s wrath for our brokenness, our sin, taking on himself our curse at the cross. And because of his death in your place, in my place, we can be forgiven, redeemed and restored from our brokenness.
So 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV) says, “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. (I love that!) Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were (get this) you were … made holy; you were … made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…”
Listen, if you’re struggling with same-sex attraction or other gender issues, the good news for you is that God knows all about that struggle, and God loves you deeply (John 3:16): let me repeat that so you can let that truth from the Bible wash over you… God knows all about your struggle, and God loves you deeply, so deeply actually that sent his Son Jesus to pay the price in full for all your brokenness, all of your sin.
And because God loves you, he wants only what is best for you. And he won’t pat you on the head like a celestial grandfather and say, “Oh, that’s okay.” No, he calls you to repent, that’s turn from your sin, to accept His offer of complete forgiveness, and to trust Him to help you live between the two worlds of broken, but being restored; lost, but coming back home; blind, but beginning to see.
Then again, maybe you’re not struggling with same sex attractions, but there’s something else that has a strong hold on you and won’t let go, and Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” So the invitation to you is the same: Come, come to the cross where Jesus died for you; give all that stuff to Jesus, and trust Him for forgiveness, healing, and rebuilding.
Is God anti-gay? Well God hates all sin. Let me say that again: God hates all sin. The sinful behaviors of gay people. And the sinful and arrogant pride of straights who look down in judgment on gay people. God hates all sin. The sex-saturated lifestyles of our culture—straight and gay—that value personal freedom over commitment, pleasure over sacrifice, and independence over obedience. God hates it all because it ignores and rebels against his original design, and so God calls all of us to repent, to accept his offer of forgiveness, and submit to his call to live the holy life he designed us for.
In closing, one last question: How should Christians see and act towards gay and lesbian, bi- and trans-, queer and questioning, intersex and fluid, family and friends and neighbors, school buddies and family members? Pretty simple really. Follow the example of Jesus who loves people—genuinely loves, authentically loves, sacrificially loves people—just the way they are. Start there. And pray for God’s redeeming love and healing grace to break through.
Endnote: LGBTQQIFC: The growing academic area of Gender Studies has named some of the numerous ways that people “identify their gender.” L = Lesbian; G = Gay; B = Bi-sexual; T = Transsexual; Q = Queer (a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders); Q = Questioning; I = Intersex (ambiguous anatomy); F = Fluid (individual, personal gender identification is an ever-changing personal choice); and C = Cis (traditional gender identification according to biology/physiology recorded at birth). In this article I use the more common “LGBT” as a shorthand abbreviation for the longer list of gender identifications.