An Open Letter To All Those Who Call Me An Intolerant Bigot

Dear Friends,

It’s been a pretty big brouhaha (I’ve always loved that word) lately, hasn’t it? First, NBA player Jason Collins openly admits that he is gay. Then, ESPN analyst Chris Broussard raises questions about the rightness/wrongness of being gay. Then all fury erupted. Now, Christians, and anyone else who questions the morality of homosexuality, are being accused of “intolerance”, “bigotry”, “closed-mindedness”, and other similar things.

And I get it, I really do. It takes a lot of courage for a professional athlete to admit that he is a homosexual. And then us hoity-toity Christians swoop in, raining on everyone’s parade. If I wasn’t a Christian, I’d probably be mad too. Christians are always ruining everyone’s party, or so it seems.

But see, here’s the thing: the reality is, you probably shouldn’t be calling me a bigot, you should be calling Jesus a bigot. Or I suppose you could call us both bigots. What I mean is, the only reason I oppose homosexuality is because of what Jesus says in the Bible. If it were up to me, I’d agree with the Beatles that all you need is love. Or, as Sheryl Crow put it, if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. I want everyone to be happy, to find love, and to be able to find meaningful relationships in life.

But ultimately it’s not up to me. As a Christian, I have given my life completely over to Jesus, which means all my opinions, ideas, desires, and dreams are submitted to him. He is the king, I am not. His word is final, his rule is complete. I can’t make Jesus fit me, I must fit him. I can’t make Jesus fit my opinions, I must make my opinions fit Jesus. The reason I oppose homosexuality is rooted solely in what Jesus says in the Bible (I am counting all of the New Testament as being the words of Jesus). The New Testament makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin. It’s not worse than any other sin, but it is a sin nonetheless.

Therefore, please don’t interpret my opposition to homosexuality as personal opposition to you. I have no vendetta against you, and carry no grudge toward you. I love you, and want you to experience God’s absolute best. I want to be friends with you, hang out with you, barbecue together. My opinion about homosexuality springs out of my allegiance to Jesus. My allegiance to Jesus takes highest precedent in my life, and informs everything I think and do.

So am I an intolerant bigot? I guess that depends on what you mean by “bigot”. Do I think certain things are objectively right and wrong? Yes. Jesus defines what is right and wrong, and my opinion must line up with his. Does that mean I hate those who do wrong things? No, absolutely not. In fact, I actively “tolerate”  and respect those who hold different opinions than me, which is the true meaning of tolerance. When you call me a bigot you are implying that I actively hate you, which is far from the truth!

Ultimately, I want to be like Jesus. The Bible describes him as being full of grace and truth. On the one hand, he was gracious, loving, and respectful to those who did what was morally wrong. He spent many hours hanging around those who were despised by the religious leaders of the day. His love for people was not based on their righteousness. On the other hand, he lovingly spoke the truth to those who did what was wrong. He called people to submit their lives totally to him.

So if you’re going to call me a bigot, you must also call Jesus a bigot. But please don’t call Jesus a bigot. Bigotry implies venom and hatred, which is the opposite of Jesus. He loves you far more than you can possibly imagine.

Note: I’ve left comments open for now, but I don’t want this to turn into dogfight. As soon as that happens I’ll turn off the comments.

Second Note: I hope you can tell from the tone of this post that I obviously disassociate myself from the folks in the photo…

Do We Really Want to Defend The First Amendment By Buying Chicken Sandwiches?

I seem to have touched a nerve yesterday, given the fact that I was called a non-Christian and a liberal and supporting the mainstream media! You find out something new about yourself every day!

The main point made in the comments was that the demonstration at Chick-Fil-A was not primarily about homosexuality, it was about defending our First Amendment right to free speech. It was about showing solidarity with a company that stands for traditional marriage. Many people argued that they could go to Chick-Fil-A and still be just as loving and kind toward the gay community as before. Well, maybe.

I don’t think we can separate the issues of free speech and homosexuality as neatly as everyone claims. Regardless of your intent in going to Chick-Fil-A, we as Christians made a collective statement to the world. We said, “We will band together as Christians against your homosexual agenda. We are against your homosexual agenda.” No one may have said this individually, but this was the overall effect of the demonstration. We Christians hunkered down on our side while the rest of the world hunkered down on their side. We circled our wagons against the attacks of the wicked. Disagree all you want, but that’s how it is being interpreted by many people.

Trust me, I’m all for traditional marriage and I believe in free speech. I need free speech so that I can continue to proclaim the gospel boldly. I don’t want restrictions on gospel proclamation. I want to protect those values. But I strongly believe that we need to find more winsome ways to do it. We may have won the Chick-Fil-A battle, but I don’t imagine that we won any unbelievers to Christ.

Am I too worried about offending people? I don’t think so. I’m more than willing to offend people for the sake of the gospel. The gospel is an inherently offensive message, and I’ll proclaim the offensive gospel of grace and repentance until my dying breath. But I don’t want to offend unnecessarily. In 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 Paul said:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Paul sought to avoid offense in order that people might be saved! As Christians, we must keep that goal before us  - the salvation of many. Paul was willing to lay down his rights to eat whatever he wanted in order that people might be saved.

The primary problem with the Chick-Fil-A battle was that there were very few words used. The watching world did not hear our love for the lost, our love for Christ, and our desire to see them know the truth. It didn’t feel our compassion. It simply saw a bunch of fired up Christians eating chicken sandwiches. To me that doesn’t seem like the best way to defend the First Amendment in the name of Christ.

So yes, let’s defend the First Amendment, but let’s do it in a gracious, winsome, God-centered, Bible-saturated ways. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Paul said:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

The primary weapon that Paul is talking about is the weapon of the truth! So yeah, let’s fight against the arguments of the world, but let’s do it by graciously speaking the truth, just as Jesus did and Paul did. Let’s work to protect what we value, but let’s do it with the truth, not chicken sandwiches. Write to your paper, engage in public debate, write your representative, blog, have coffee with your homosexual friends, and do it all with grace and truth. I love how John Piper regularly writes in to his local newspaper. Preachers, boldly proclaim the full counsel of God. Let’s proclaim the name of Christ in a way that shows just how glorious, wonderful, and attractive he is.

And when we speak the truth, let’s expect to be persecuted. After all, Jesus said that we would be hated by all men for his name’s sake.

Why I Did NOT Eat at Chick-Fil-A Yesterday

[NOTE: Please see my new post above for additional thoughts on this.]

Yesterday millions of conservative Christians went to Chick-Fil-A in support of the company’s stand against gay marriage. Now, if you got a chicken sandwich or three yesterday, this post isn’t to condemn in any way. But, I think it’s really important that we think about how our actions reflect upon the gospel. So think out loud with me.

I didn’t eat at Chick-Fil-A yesterday. Yes, I believe the Bible teaches that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. Yes, I believe that homosexuality is a sin. But yesterday’s mass show of support for Chick-Fil-A didn’t bring the gospel of grace and repentance to homosexuals. It simply erected another barrier. It didn’t display the glory of Christ, it simply demonstrated that we don’t like it when someone attacks our faith. It didn’t glorify the life-changing, sin-destroying power of Christ, it simply said, “We won’t stand for this.”

My biggest concern is that we may win the culture war on gay marriage and yet drive homosexuals away from Christ.

Instead of voicing our disapproval of homosexuality by buying chicken sandwiches, what if we followed Jesus’ example instead, and made friends with homosexuals? Hung out with them, ate with them, listened to them, heard their stories, and then shared the life-changing gospel with them? What if we asked them to tell us about their experiences with homosexuality, then showed them how the gospel meets them at every point in their lives? What if we told them about how Jesus has completely changed our lives?

Consider how Jesus led people to repentance. He hung out with the wino’s so much that people called him a drunkard! He asked the Samaritan woman (an “us” vs. “them” situation if there ever was one) at the well for a drink of water. He ate dinner with Zacchaeus. Jesus demonstrated a beautiful boldness and gentleness.

The cause of the gospel will lose if we ban gay marriage and yet at the same time create an “us” vs. “them” battle. Our ultimate goal should be to win homosexuals for Christ, not win a culture war.

If a homosexual comes into my church I want him to feel welcome. If everyone came into the church carrying Chick-Fil-A bags, I think that would create the opposite effect. It would make him feel very unwelcome. Excluded. Hated. Like no one wanted him around.

I don’t believe homosexuality is right, but if we’re going to effectively reach those in the gay community, we’ve got to find better ways to do it. The only people Jesus boycotted were the religious leaders. With everyone else, he entered into their world. Yes, he called them to repentance, and we need to do that. We can’t back down from what the Bible says about homosexuality. But we need to do it with the love, gentleness, and affection of Christ Jesus. Not with snarky Facebook comments and loud demonstrations.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners. I don’t think that buying chicken sandwiches puts us into that category.

What Would I Do If My Daughter Told Me She Was Gay?

My oldest daughter, Charis, is four, so hopefully we’re a little while away from having any sort of sex talk. But at some point in the future I’m sure I’ll be talking to Charis, along with the rest of my kids, about sexuality, and there’s the possibility that one of my kids will experience homosexual attraction.

What would I do if Charis told me that she was experiencing homosexual attractions?

The first thing I’d do is give her a giant hug and tell her that nothing, nothing, nothing can ever change my love for her. She’s my precious little girl, and nothing is ever going to change that. I’d thank her for telling me about her feelings and tell her that she can always tell me anything, no matter how big or small. I want my kids to feel comfortable telling me anything, and to know that I won’t get angry with them no matter what they tell me.

I’d tell her that God loves her even more than I do. He created her in his image, and because of that, she is precious to him. He sent his son to die for her sins, which also proves that she is precious to him.

Then I’d tell her that if she follows Jesus, her sexuality is not her identity. Her identity is rooted in Christ. She is a child of God who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in her. Her fundamental identity is not her sexual desires, her fundamental identity is as a forgiven sinner, united to Christ, full of the Holy Spirit. That’s what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he said:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I’d say, “Sweetie, if you follow after Jesus, your identity is as a new creation in Jesus. These desires that you’re experiencing don’t define who you are. Jesus defines who you are. You are his. You belong to him. That is your identity. It’s who you are.”

Then I’d gently take her hand and say, “Charis, following Jesus is really costly. Jesus even said that we have to die to ourselves. He said we have to take up our cross and follow him. That means submitting every facet of our lives to King Jesus, including our sexual desires. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you’re going to have to submit these desires to Jesus. You can’t give in to them because the Bible says that any sexual expression outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is wrong.”

She might ask, “Will God take these desires away from me?”

“I don’t know,” I’d say. “But I do know this – he’ll give you the power not to give in to them. That’s the beauty of the gospel. Jesus forgives all of our sins and then gives us the power not to give in to our sinful desires. And it will be hard, and it will be costly, and there will be times when you will feel lonely, but Jesus is worth it. He is so worth it. When you hear Jesus say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’, it will be worth it!”

“But why do I have these desires?” she might ask.

“Well sweetie,” I’d say. “Sin has distorted every person’s sexuality. Every time I’m tempted to lust after a woman, that’s a distortion of my sexuality. Every time you’re tempted to lust after a person of the same sex, that’s also distortion. See, you and I are the same. It just works itself out a little bit differently. We both desperately need Jesus. But the wonderful thing is, Jesus is in the process of repairing the distortions. He gives me power to not give in to lust, even though it feels really strong at times. He can give you that same power. And someday, when he comes back, everything sad and broken will finally be undone.”

Then I’d say, “You know what? We’ll keep talking about this, but right now, let’s go get ice cream”.

UPDATE: I’ve turned off the comments at this point. Things were starting to get a bit out of hand. If you’d like to talk about this in person with me I’d love to talk on Skype or something like that.

When It Comes To Homosexuality, We Need More Stories, But We Need Even More of the Bible

Epidemia de Pánico / Panic Epidemy

photo by eneas

In a recent blog post on the debate about homosexuality and Christianity, blogger Rachel Held Evans said:

Time and time again, I talk to Christians whose experiences, like mine, go something like this: “I used to think that homosexuality was a sinful, promiscuous lifestyle that people chose in rebellion to God, and that Christians need to rally against the ‘gay agenda’ through legislative action. Then, my best friend (or brother or sister or son or daughter or high school buddy or neighbor or mentor) came out, and everything changed. Their story didn’t fit the stereotype. It didn’t fit into my previous categories. Their story made me see that things aren’t that simple, and that the ‘war’ between Christianity and homosexuality represents a false dichotomy that is incredibly painful and destructive to Christians with same-sex attractions. After that, I could no longer support the sort of rhetoric and actions that only serve to make this world a more hostile and hopeless place to the ones I loved. I kept thinking about all the depression, all the suicides, all the secrets. I just can’t support a culture that, perhaps inadvertently, fosters that.”

Everything changes when you are confronted with someone else’s story.

She’s right. When discussing the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity, we do need to hear people’s stories. We need to know what it’s like to experience same-sex attraction. We need to understand the feelings of pain and isolation that so many of them feel, and we need to express our love, affection, and compassion toward them. If we’re going to minister to those in the LGBT community, we need to understand them and love them and bless them.

However, we can’t let people’s stories determine our convictions. Only the Bible has the authority to do that. As a pastor I am confronted by this brutal dilemma all the time. A couple comes into the church out of a messy background. They love each other deeply. Their past marriages have been a disaster. They finally feel like they have found their soul mate, and they want to be married. But due to past circumstances, one of them may not be free to remarried.

With all my heart I want to tell them that it’s okay to be married. I want to tell them that God wants them to be happy above anything else. I want to be an encouragement and a joy to them. Their story is a wonderful story of true love, and I want them to be married. I don’t want them to be lonely for the rest of their lives. But I can’t marry them. The Bible supercedes our stories. I don’t understand all the reasons why God established marriage the way he did, but he’s God and he is the standard of truth.

The same is true when it comes to homosexuality. I have friends who are gay, and I wish I could tell them that it is totally fine in God’s site to be gay. You have no idea how much I wish I could say that. I don’t want them to be lonely. I want them to find meaningful sexual expression. I want them to have deep, meaningful relationships. But I’m confronted by the Bible, and the Bible makes it clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin.

My concern for my generation is that we tend to place more value on experience than anything else. Our experiences shape our theology and our ideology rather than God’s word shaping our theology and ideology.

It is true that everything changes when you are confronted with someone else’s story. But the Bible confronts us with an even bigger story. It tells the story of God taking a world that is a complete disaster and recreating that world. All of our stories are footnotes in the larger story. We fit into God’s story, not the other way around. We need to make sure that we let him tell his story. That really does change everything.

God’s Grand Plan For Sexuality

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the subject of homosexuality and Christianity.

In all the discussion and debate surrounding issues of sexuality and the Bible, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. To have one of those “missing the forest because of all the trees” experiences. The debate over these issues often centers around specific passages of scripture. Did God really condemn Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality? Why did Paul tell women to be silent in the church? Isn’t Romans 1 really about pagan fertility rites?

These are all important questions, but not the most important question.

The most important question is: why did God create sexuality (defined as God-given gender and sexual desires) at all? God could have created a race of androgynous people who were neither male nor female, just like the angels. But he didn’t. He created humanity as two distinct genders, with each gender having it’s own particular sexual desires.

Why did God do that? What was his reasoning? We see part of the reason in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God created us as male and female so that we might reflect his image. Men reflect the image of God in a way that women cannot, and women reflect the image of God in a way that men cannot. God has made me a man, and has called me to honor him in a way that only a man can do. God has made Jen a woman, and called her to honor him in a way that only a woman can do.

What we so quickly lose sight of is the fact that ultimately, our sexuality is not about us. Our sexuality is about honoring and imaging God. It’s not about my desires, or even my happiness. It’s about bringing honor to God as a man or woman created by God.

I realize that this is a hard truth, and I don’t say it lightly. I realize that this effects real people who have real desires. I have single friends who really want to get married. They have real, sexual desires. But they also know that they can’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t follow Christ, and so they have chosen not to give in to their sexual desires, even though they certainly could if they wanted to. A man named Wesley Hill recently wrote a book about his choice to remain celibate for his entire life rather than give in to the homosexual attractions that he experiences.

This is really hard sledding. But ultimately, the honor of God is at stake in our sexuality.

Sin distorts all sexuality. That’s why I think it’s odd that the church tends to focus so much on homosexuality. Millions of men struggle with sexual lust. That is a distortion of sexuality. Lust diminishes our ability to honor God and bring him glory. Lust diminishes our ability to properly reflect the image of God.

When a man or woman expresses their sexuality within the covenant of marriage, in some way, that reflects the image of God. God delights to see himself reflected in his creatures. The ultimate reason that all sexual sin is wrong is that sexuality is no longer about honoring God, but about honoring self. When we sin sexually, we are no longer honoring God. We have made ourselves the center of reality and existence.

As I’ve said before, these are really tough subjects that affect real people. The reason I do is because ultimately, God’s honor is at stake in all this.

What Commands In The Old Testament Am I Supposed To Obey?

On my last post regarding the issue of homosexuality, my friend Jeff asked a very good question. He said:

…why do we ignore many of the rules and commands of the Old Testament on many issues, yet when it comes to homosexuality the Church tend to hold onto them? I have heard many explanations on this, but most of them seem very hollow.

This is a very important question in determining how we interpret the Old Testament, and how we deal with the issue of homosexuality in particular. As Christians, we don’t have the option of picking and choosing which scriptures we want to obey.

In general there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the Old Testament. Most of us who are Christians know that, in some way, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. But what exactly does that mean? And what commands are we supposed to obey from the Old Testament. We’re not supposed to commit adultery, right? I mean, that’s right in the Ten Commandments. But why do we not obey the command about wearing mixed fibers, or eating shrimp, or building a parapet on our house? Something doesn’t add up.

The big question is, are Christians under the law in any way (by “law” I am referring to the Mosaic law)? The answer clearly given by the New Testament is: no. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (see also Romans 7:4-6, Romans 10:4)

All the commands of the Mosaic law, including all the moral commands, civil commands, and ceremonial commands have been fulfilled by Christ and we are not obligated to obey them. The law was given to Israel for the purpose of helping them be the people of God in their particular culture. Many of the commands are tied very closely to the cultural, civil, and geographical issues that Israel faced, and are difficult, if not impossible to apply to our current circumstances. The law was a covenant between God and the people of Israel, and when Jesus died and rose again, that covenant was replaced by a new one. Now the people of Christ are the true Israel.

So does that mean that the laws of the Old Testament are of no use to us? No, not at all. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” All of the Old Testament is to be used for teaching and training in righteousness. Every single command, whether moral, civil, or ceremonial is useful to us and gives us insight into the mind and heart of God.

Okay, so if we’re not bound by the law, how should we interpret it? Here are a few helpful questions to ask when evaluating questions regarding the Mosaic law:

Does the New Testament speak to this issue at all? At least nine out of the ten commandments (with the possible exception of the Sabbath) are carried forward and even expanded in the New Testament. Adultery can happen with the body and the heart (Matt. 5:27). Murder can be done with a knife or with angry words (Matt. 5:21). So when dealing with the issue of homosexuality, I don’t think we can form our opinion solely from the purity instructions in Leviticus 18-20. Those passages are helpful, but we also need to look at what the New Testament says about the issue. The New Testament is God’s own interpretation of Old Testament commands and events.

What was the original purpose of this law? It’s very helpful to try to determine why God gave specific commands to Israel. For example, why did God command them not to wear mixed fibers? It was probably because God wanted to constantly remind Israel of their need for purity and their need to avoid mixing with the surrounding inhabitants. Great, but how does that apply to me? Well, the Bible tells Christians that we are to be pure as well!

What was the theological significance of this law? In other words, what does this law reveal about God and his ways? The laws of God are insights into the mind of God. We shouldn’t build a case against homosexuality solely based on the verses in Leviticus 18-20, but we can’t just dismiss those verses either. God gave those commands to Israel for a reason. Why did God say that it was wrong for a man to lay with another man? What about that particular action was detestable to him?

What are the practical implications from this law for my life as a NT Christian? God’s laws in the Old Testament are meant for my instruction. What can I learn from these laws?

If we run the laws of the Old Testament through these questions, things begin to make more sense. They were meant for the people of Israel, but they are still God’s words to us as well.

NOTE: The last three questions were taken from David A. Dorsey’s helpful article “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise“. David also has another helpful article here.

Sodom, Gomorrah, and Homosexuality

As I said several days ago, I’d rather not talk about homosexuality and Christianity. It’s a lightning rod topic that often polarizes people. Homosexuals have been on the wrong end of weaponized Christianity for many years, and a lot of hate has been done in the name of Jesus.

In spite of all this, I do think it’s very important to talk about the subject of homosexuality. I have friends who are gay. I love them and I want to make sure that I represent the Bible fairly to them. I only want to draw lines where God draws lines. I only want to push where God pushes. My opposition or support of homosexuality must be based solely on the Bible. It can’t be based on the culture, my feelings, my history, or anything else.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:17-19:29) has often been used as a weapon by fire and brimstone preachers to decimate homosexuals. In light of this, I can understand why many homosexuals would cringe at just the mention of the story. In more recent years, pro-homosexual scholars have given alternate explanations of the passage, saying that God didn’t punish these cities for the sin of homosexuality. Rather, God punished them for either gang rape, inhospitality, or some mixture of the two.

Because our interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah will shape our understanding of homosexuality, I want to look at the passage closely. We don’t want to mess this one up. Specifically, I want to look at the alternate explanations given for this passage. I’m not going to quote the passage at length here, but would encourage you to read it on your own.

The first objection raised against this passage is that it’s not really referring to homosexuality, but is actually referring to a form of gang rape. This is the type of gang rape that often occurs in prisons and isn’t about sexuality so much as it is about power.

So, what exactly is this passage talking about? Is it gang rape or homosexuality?

Jude 7-8 brings some clarity to the subject:

…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

I would agree that what happened in Genesis 18-19 was a form of gang rape. But, in light of Jude 7-8, it also seems clear that God punished them for their pursuit of sexual immorality and “unnatural desire”. In the New Testament context (see Romans 1:26-27), “unnatural desire” most likely refers to homosexual desire.

Also, it would be unjust for God to punish the inhabitants of Sodom for a gang rape that never actually took place, and the inhabitants of Gomorrah for an event that they took no part in. The clearest explanation of Genesis 18-19 is that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah for pursuing (not having!) homosexual desire.

The second argument raised against Genesis 18-19 is that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah not for homosexuality, but for a serious violation of an ancient hospitality code. Hence, when the men of Sodom said that they wanted to “know” the two angels in Lot’s house, they were actually saying that they just wanted to get acquainted with them.

This interpretation is difficult to hold for several reasons. First, the Hebrew word for “know” (yada) clearly has a sexual meaning just a few verses later when Lot offers his daughters to the men. Second, the men of Sodom clearly intended harm for the angels. If not, why didn’t Lot just open the door and let them in? Third, why was Sodom destroyed and Lot spared? In reality, Lot would have been the one chiefly responsible for violating any codes of hospitality. There are several more arguments against this interpretation, but you get the point. Again, the clearest understanding of the passage is simply that God punished them for fully pursuing homosexual desire.

Sorry if that felt technical, but I think it’s important to be really careful with this stuff. I also realize that this passage doesn’t deal specifically with the issue of a Christian, gay relationship, but I think it lays some groundwork. Rather, it addresses the consequences of giving in to homosexual desire. I’ll address other key passages and issues in some future posts.

So, to my friends who are gay, please consider these verses very carefully. There sure is a lot at stake here. I really believe that heaven and hell are at stake. I don’t carry any personal grudge against any of you. I love you, and care about you very much. Because I love you, I believe it’s important for me to tell you what the Bible says. And please know, I don’t think for one second that I’m better than you. I’m not. In many ways I’m worse. I desperately need a savior.

I also know that many of you have been dealing with homosexual desires since you were young, and it can feel unfair to say that God punishes people for their natural desires. I’ll deal with that later, but I just want you to know that I can imagine the tension and pain you would feel.

Oh, and by the way, please come to my church if you’re ever in town.

And to my friends who are Christians, make sure you use these verses with compassion and care. They aren’t to be used as weapons. Use them as Jesus would have used them.

NOTE: The arguments I used in this post were adopted from a very helpful book called God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger. I highly recommend it.

What’s At Stake For Gay Christians

I’ve got to admit, I’m very hesitant to write this post.

Here’s why: I have friends and relatives who are gay. I care about them very much and would never want them to see this post as a personal attack on them. I want them to know my affection for them. I also know that the issue of sexuality is very important to them, as it is to all people. I never want to make flippant or derogatory statements about the issue of homosexuality.

The issue of homosexuality and Christianity is becoming more and more important. As the topic of homosexuality is getting more air time on the news, in music, and in movies, Christians seem to be responding in a couple of different ways. Some Christians, like the folks from Westboro Baptist Church, say that God hates homosexuals. They’re completely wrong, and they do damage to the name of Jesus. I think that most Christians know that.

On the other hand, a growing number of Christians are coming out and saying that the Bible does not condemn loving, Christ-centered, homosexual relationships.

I think that this second question is one of incredible importance. Why? Because ultimately, heaven and hell are at stake in this debate. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul says:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

I plan on taking a closer look at this passage and a few others in future posts, but for now I just want to highlight what’s at stake. If these verses condemn all homosexual behavior, then every person who engages in homosexual behavior will experience the wrath of God for their sins. In other words, if we get this wrong and say that homosexuality is okay, we could end up pushing people toward hell.

But, if these verses (and similar ones) are only talking about a very specific behavior and not all homosexual behavior, then we are doing homosexuals a terrible disservice by telling them that homosexuality is wrong. Man, I want to get this right.

This matters very much to me. I care a lot about my friends who are gay. I want them to experience all the joy that comes through knowing Jesus Christ and obeying him. I want them to know the redemption that I’ve experienced. If homosexuality is wrong, then I need to tell them. I would be unloving if I didn’t. If it’s not wrong, well, then a bunch of us are making a big mistake. We need to get this right.

If we’re indifferent on this issue, it could result in people going to hell. Or it could result in us actually harming the faith of those who are gay. In the next couple of weeks I’ll write more on this. For now, this is where the conversation starts.

NOTE: For the record, I do believe that homosexuality in all forms is wrong. But if you’re gay, please don’t let that fact cause you to tune out of this discussion. In fact, I want to hear your voice. Thanks.

Homosexuality, Derek Webb, and Following Jesus

I’m a big fan of Derek Webb’s music. It’s catchy, enjoyable to listen to, and it doesn’t fall into the musical ruts that so much Christian music falls into. Musically speaking, he’s a breath of fresh air. Which is why I was disappointed to read a recent interview with Derek, in which he made several statements that really bothered me.

For example, when answering the question: “How do you think the Christian community can build bridges to the LGBT [Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual/Transgender] community?”, he says:

The church has spent so many years dealing publicly in the morality of the issue, in a way that misrepresents the response that I believe Jesus would have, that Christians have forgotten, or maybe never really [knew] in the first place, that whether your moral response to the gay issue is that it is perfectly permissible in the eyes of the Bible, or that it is totally reprehensible, your interpersonal response should be absolutely no different to gay people.

The response, by the way, is love. Period. It’s love and open arms, regardless of your position on the morality.

I want to be careful that I don’t misrepresent what Derek is saying. He seems to be saying that the problem is the church’s emphasis on the morality of homosexuality, and that we’ve ignored the fact that we’re supposed to love people. This may have some truth to it. I really do want my friends and relatives who are homosexual to know that I love them and care for them.

But, I think we need to be careful about driving a wedge between loving people and calling people to righteousness. We do need to love people, but not at the expense of God’s commands. If someone that I love is engaged in sin, and I believe that homosexuality is sin, at some point I need to call them to repentance. If I don’t do that, I’m not loving them.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace always leads to righteousness. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” God’s grace and love have come to us, and they train us in righteousness. There is no division between God’s love and a life of righteousness.

Now, do we need to be careful about the way we communicate God’s call to righteousness? Yes, absolutely. All our discussions should be flavored with love and grace. But we need to stand firm on the issue itself.

A little later in the interview Derek says:

I have a lot of friends and family that have suffered because of the church’s judgment; my best friend in the world is gay. I felt a lot of people around me drawing lines in the sand, and that year I decided: I don’t want to draw lines and have to be on one side or the other, but if someone’s going to push me to one or the other side of the line, I’m going to stand on the side of those being judged because that’s where I feel Jesus meets people.

He’s absolutely right, in that Jesus does go after the weak and the suffering. Jesus spent time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and he loved them, and I want to be just like Jesus. But Jesus never left people where they were. He called tax collectors like Zacchaeus to give money back to the poor. He called the adulterous woman to sin no more. He didn’t just love sinners, he also called them to godliness. That’s what God’s love does. It meets us where we are and then draws us to godliness.

We must love homosexuals, and we must identify with them as sinners. We’re sinners, just like them, who desperately need a savior. There has to be a place in our churches for those who struggle with homosexuality. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised or fearful if someone we know is a homosexual or struggles with homosexuality. But if we are really going to love homosexuals, we also need to speak the truth of God’s word to them, which clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. This isn’t an either/or thing. It’s not that we either love homosexuals or we call them to righteousness. It’s both.

I may have misunderstood what Derek was saying. I hope so. And I hope that I have the grace to treat my homosexual friends and relatives with kindness and compassion, and the courage to call them to godliness.