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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homosexuality, Part 2

As the topic of homosexuality (and same-sex unions) continues to be a large focus in our country and in our church, I have grown increasingly disappointed in how supporters for each side have handled their stance.  This has led me to a series of posts that I hope and pray will reach the hearts of all who read them.  Last week, my focus was on the political side of the debate, the gist being that the government and the Church are different entities who should stop trying to tell the other what to do.  This week, my focus is on the religious spectrum.

We ARE to Speak Up:
Here’s the catch-22: while we (as Christians) cannot force the government to pass legislation based on our biblical beliefs, we also cannot sit idly by and do/say nothing (Barnabas Piper).  When issues of morality come to the front of the line (same-sex unions, abortion, etc), God needs people who are willing to speak out against them.  We don’t, as Mark Driscoll says, “argue like stupid fools,” but we must speak up.  Silence can be interpreted as approval (Ephesians 5:10-14; Revelations 2:6).

“Christians are not to be passive spectators in society’s culture.  While their primary task is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8), they are to engage the culture at all levels, advancing moral principles and seeking to restrain evil” – Brian Tubbs.

Where we cross the line from advancing moral principles and seeking to restrain evil to arguing like stupid fools is when we fail to recognize the evil we are to restrain (Hint: it’s not the homosexual [or any other sinner].  More on this in the next post).

Let’s not be na├»ve, speaking against controversial, moral issues has its consequences (John 7:7).  “Many people believe that (Christians) are discriminating against other people by restricting marriage from gay couples…They see that as unjust and us as bigots” (Ed Stetzer).

I have a few homosexual friends, but unfortunately lost one back in college (I will call him Stan).  Stan, a non-Christian, and I had numerous discussions regarding my faith throughout college.  I enjoyed our conversations because they challenged me, forcing me to dig through my Bible for answers and understanding in order to further our talks.  Stan enjoyed our conversations because he was curious about Christianity (he was feeling a pull towards God).  One day, he asked if God would accept him as a homosexual.  I told him that God would gladly accept him.  Stan asked if being gay was a sin.  I responded with scripture.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I admit that I could have handled the situation better.  My knowledge was very limited, so I went to the only source I had: the Bible.  I never raised my voice.  I never pointed an accusatory finger.  I never told him to repent.  He asked a question; I referred to the Bible.

Stan did not like my answer.

Our conversation ended pleasantly shortly thereafter, but later in the day, friends came to me saying that Stan was claiming that I had “condemned him to Hell” for being gay.  I began receiving emails from people I barely knew, slamming me.  I was called judgmental, a hypocrite, self-righteous.  Numerous people said some form of “This is why I hate Christians/Christianity.”  Another non-Christian friend told me that he was disappointed because he had always respected me and my views…but not anymore.

First of all, I cannot “condemn” anyone.  None of us can (Matthew 13:40-43; 1 Corinthians 5:12-13).  Secondly, that hurt.  Stan had very little to do with me after that, and he made sure to bring as many people with him as he could.  I cannot fully articulate the pain I felt from this.  It went beyond losing a friend.  It went beyond rumor spreading and false accusations.  Through Stan’s claims, I wasn’t the only one being criticized.  God was as well.  I felt as though I had disappointed Christ; that I had somehow misrepresented Him and by my words and actions, drove others away from Him.

We know the Bible talks about being persecuted (Matthew 5:3-12, 10:17-18, 24:13; John 9:28, 34, 16:20), but we’re rarely ready for what that means.  Speaking the Truth isn’t easy, and you will often be hated for it, but it’s exactly what we’re called to do.

What Is the Truth:
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.  Amen. – Romans 1:25

There is one truth: God’s.  We don’t have to like it—and many times we won’t (Driscoll: “That’s one of the reasons I know the Bible is inspired.  It says things that I don’t like.”)—but we must accept it.  We do not get to twist scripture to say what we want in order to find some form of approval for our actions (2 Timothy 2:18), and while we are to love everyone, we must not sacrifice scripture to condone sinful actions (Revelations 2:2).  It would have been unloving of me to walk up to Stan and call him a sinner.  At the same time, it would have been wrong of me to respond to his question with anything but the Truth.

Homosexual practices are sin.  There’s simply no way around this.  The Bible is clear and consistent.  It’s called a sin in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22).  It’s called a sin in the New Testament (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  “Homosexuality is never spoken of positively in the Bible” (Driscoll).  We live in a culture of justified sin.  If we like or want something bad enough, we will find ways to justify it.

Common Arguments for Homosexuality:
·        Jesus never talked about it.
Jesus never spoke about incest or rape either…does that mean they’re okay?  Still, “Jesus does talk about marriage.  He goes back to Genesis.  He (says) that ‘at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female…and for this reason, a man will leave his mother and father to be united to his wife.  Two will become one flesh (Matthew 19:4-5).’  That’s marriage for Jesus.  Man, woman, married, consummation.  That is marriage” (Driscoll).  What’s more, we even find ways to justify things that Jesus did talk about.  Well…that was just a parable, He didn’t literally mean what He said.  The Bible is the inspired Word of God.  Jesus is fully God.  If we accept those two notions, then we accept that the entire Bible is Jesus’s words…and at some point, we have to realize that maybe He actually meant what He said.

·        The verses regarding homosexuality were cultural.  They were meant for those people, not for us today.
I know next to nothing when it comes to interpreting the Bible culturally vs literally, so I turn it over to Gordon D. Fee, who is nearly eighty years old and has been reading, researching, and studying the Bible his entire life.  The following is an excerpt from How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, which Fee co-wrote:  “The homosexuality Paul had in view in Romans 1:24-28 is clearly…homosexuality of choice between men and women.  Furthermore, Paul’s word homosexual in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means genital homosexuality between males.  Since the Bible as a whole witnesses against homosexuality and invariably includes it in moral contexts, and since it simply has not been proved that the options for homosexuality differ today from those of the first century, there seems to be no valid grounds for seeking it as a culturally relative matter.”  Fee is considered one of the best experts on textual criticism of the New Testament in the world, and has been (until recently) one of the chief editors of the New International Version (NIV) Bible for decades.  I think I’ll listen to the guy who has spent the last sixty years of his life devoted to this kind of research.

·        Homosexuals are born as homosexuals, and God would not create someone who had no chance at salvation.
To me, the argument of whether or not homosexuality is a choice is a completely different issue altogether, and one that I’m not going to dive into here.  We simply cannot prove (at this time) if homosexuality is a choice or if it’s something produced at birth.  Regardless, it’s absurd to believe that God creates anyone with no chance at salvation.  That’s what salvation is—freedom from the chains of sin.  We are all born into sin.  We may be tempted by different sins, but we are all born into sin.  That does not justify our acting on those sins.  When we find Jesus, we turn from our sins and cut those temptations from our lives (Matthew 5:29-30).  Even if you feel that your sin is biological, God still made you.  He knows what He’s doing…which means that He has a specific plan for you.  Trust Him.  Seek Him.  Find the path that He’s laid out for you, and see where it goes.

·        “In Matthew 7…Jesus warns against false teachers, and he offers a principle that can be used to test good teaching from bad teaching.  ‘By their fruit, you will recognize them,’ He says.  ‘Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.’  Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences.  That doesn’t mean that following Christian teaching will or should be easy, and in fact, many of Jesus’s commands aren’t easy at all – turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, laying down your life for your friends.  But those are all profound acts of love that both reflect God’s love for us and that powerfully affirm the dignity and worth of human life and of human beings.  Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity.  They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth.  But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality.  It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering.  If we’re taking Jesus seriously that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, then that should cause us to question whether the traditional teaching is correct.”
Over a year ago, a homosexual man by the name of Matthew Vines began speaking at churches across the country.  His message was spread on YouTube, on Facebook, on blogs, and in national publications.  Vines took the current tolerance discussion to a new level—biblical.  Using scripture, he attempted to prove how his homosexual lifestyle was not only approved by God, but endorsed.  The man has done his research and is a solid speaker, so if you’re looking for a challenge, check out the link provided above.  That lengthy quote was the crux of his message.  There are two massive problems I have with the point he's making here.  1) The Bible is the inspired word of God.  The New Testament is based on the teachings of Jesus.  The Bible (including the New Testament) says homosexuality is a sin.  Vines is claiming that the teaching of such a message is not correct because it causes pain and suffering to homosexuals; therefore, it must be bad fruit from bad teachers.  If the message is from the Bible and the teacher is Jesus, then Vines is claiming Christ to be a bad tree bearing bad fruit.  If Vines is claiming Christ’s teachings to be incorrect, then I think it’s clear who the real false teacher is.  2) Using his example, one could replace “homosexuality” with every sin and say that it’s caused them hardships; therefore, the teachings against it must be wrong and every sin is really okay so long as it makes the person happy.  Obviously, that’s not true.  “We are to follow Him, even if it’s difficult.  When we do, we must leave behind the things that keep us from Christ” (NIV notes regarding Matthew 9:9).

While there are numerous other arguments used, the bottom line is this: Vines (and others like Vines) attempts to “examine” scripture by picking it apart and explaining what’s wrong with what the Bible is saying or how it’s interpreted.  However, I have yet to hear one person find and use a verse that supports homosexuality.  The Bible takes one consistent stand on homosexual activity—that it’s sin.  Homosexual sin is no different than any other sin, but it is sin, and we are instructed to turn our backs to sin.

Homosexual Christians:
A “gay Christian” is not an oxymoron.  From all that I’ve read, including scripture, simply being a homosexual does not appear to be a sin.  “Same-sex attraction is not a sin in and of itself.  Sin is how we respond to temptation” (Christopher Yuan, a gay Christian).  It doesn’t matter if someone believes homosexuality is a borne trait or a life choice, attraction to the same sex is not the sin.  The action is the sin.  Being a practicing homosexual is the sin because one has fallen to their temptation.

This is why many churches do not accept practicing homosexuals as members or put them into leadership roles.  (NOTE: There is a huge difference between not accepting them into the church and not accepting them as members.)  It’s not a matter of discrimination, it’s a matter of habitual sin (1 John 3:4).  If my sin is an addiction to pornography, I can still be a Christian…but I have to turn my back to that addiction.  If I don’t, many churches will not accept me as a member or place me into leadership roles…and they shouldn’t.  A Christian is a follower of Christ.  If I continue to watch porn (or replace with any other sin), am I really following Christ?  One can find excuses for their sin (any sin) and make all the arguments they want, but the only source that matters is God’s Word.  If God says that what you’re doing is a sin, then it’s a sin.  Period.  To deny that is to deny God’s Word…and if you deny God’s Word, are you really following Christ?

“If you are a habitual sinner, you don’t go to Heaven.  I thought Jesus loves me.  He does.  I thought Jesus forgives me.  He does, but His love is transforming.  It changes you.  You can’t meet Jesus and not change.  That doesn’t mean you become perfect, but you change.  You get a new heart and new desires” – Driscoll.

In order to not fall into that temptation, many homosexual Christians take up a life of celibacy.  A lot of homosexual (and heterosexual) people feel that is not fair.  That it’s denying them the chance for love and that God never intended us to be alone.  I disagree.  The Bible is full of single men and women doing the Lord’s work.  History is full of the same.  Don’t assume that God wants everyone to marry (Matthew 19:10-12).  A person (even a heterosexual person that accepts a celibate lifestyle) actively denying that kind of love is a person actively seeking the love of Jesus Christ.  We sometimes can’t fathom a love stronger than the one we feel towards our spouse, but Christ’s dwarfs it.  Many celibate Christians experience a powerful, loving relationship with Christ that many married Christians never do (to the same intensity).

“I did not leave homosexuality because it was so bad.  I left homosexuality because I found something better, and that was Jesus” – Yuan.

If you are interested in reading more on the notion of a celibate, homosexual Christian, check out this long essay and this shorter one.

Next post: What Christians need to do to fix a problem they helped create.

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