Homosexuality And The Church

English: A fork in the road Which way should i go?

Burning Question:  Why are we not more welcoming and loving towards gay Christians and non-Christians?

Burning Question:  The homosexual lifestyle and pressure to “accept” it by the mainstream media is more prevalent than ever.  How does the church take a stand against this sin in love while overcoming the labels of being “judgmental”, “bigoted”, and “non-progressive”?  Is it even possible?

These questions were turned in anonymously as part of our Burning Questions message series recently.  Though turned in anonymously by design, they reflect true “burning questions” as the church and Christians today seek to find the balance between the truth of God and love for others.

Sadly, the church has badly lost this balance in many ways regarding this topic. One way has been by becoming strangely mute regarding even speaking to this subject.  Another way has been by attempting to move the boundary lines placed by God in the Bible as they relate to sexual morality.  Yet another way has been to unlovingly spew Bible-laced venom upon anyone who has chosen the homosexual lifestyle at all.

What makes this discussion so difficult is that there are different “camps” represented within the discussion on homosexuality.  One camp sees the issue from the perspective of civil rights, political platform, and social advancement.  This perspective is often easily heard because of the loud voices of those who have chosen this lifestyle (in fact, it’s often presented as a lifestyle that’s not chosen at all but has rather been forced upon one in their creative design).  At times, some within the homosexual community will also seek to join their lifestyle to a walk with Christ.  It is not difficult to find churches who seek to find harmony between a person’s homosexual lifestyle and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Another camp is less vocal, often even silent.  Their  perspective of the issue is of one who silently suffers in guilt, confusion, and embarrassment due to their same-sex attraction.   Often there are peripheral issues that contributed to their same-sex attraction which are difficult to navigate in their own light . . . childhood abuse or neglect, absentee fathers, and others.

Rather than to turn this post into pages and pages of material addressing the variety of arguments concerning the homosexual lifestyle, let me simply seek to address the questions above.  To be clear, my conviction is that the Bible clarifies that the lifestyle of homosexuality is sin, however, the temptation to live that lifestyle is not.  It is here that one could find a number of biblical passages that address the homosexual lifestyle as a sinful lifestyle.  Romans 1:18-32, for example, depicts homosexuality in this light, along with a number of other vices that heterosexuals themselves also engage in.  We must remember that as Creator, God has all right to declare what is right and what is wrong and that living outside of His parameters of right-ness brings tremendous consequences to our lives.  Again, being tempted with same-sex attraction is no more sinful than another’s temptation to lust, or overeat, or punch out their boss on a bad Monday.  But according to the Bible, the choice to act on that temptation and to engage in homosexual behavior constitutes sin.  Sin that can be forgiven and washed away, but sin nonetheless.

So why are Christians not more welcoming and loving towards “gay Christians and non-Christians?”  Perhaps it is because of self-righteousness in that we have lost sight of our bankruptcy before God without Christ as our Lord.  Perhaps it is because of our weakness in that we are too concerned about how our peers will view us if we actually demonstrate love with no strings attached toward this segment of our culture.  Regardless of why, it is simply wrong for anyone who has been forgiven of their sins by Christ and has been re-defined as a “Christian” to hold back love from someone for whom Christ died.

However, it is important that I clarify something here.  Though the church has not always responded well in facing this issue, there is a point where the homosexual community has also fallen short in its response toward its detractors.  Simply because a Christian considers homosexuality as sin does not necessarily mean that the Christian is unloving, unwelcoming, or is a homophobe.  Our media today loves to categorize anyone who disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle as a homophobe, or even a hater of homosexuals, and this is just not always accurate.  Just because I may disagree with your choice to eat collard greens doesn’t make me a collard-green-eater-phobe . . . I am not afraid of you and I do not hate you and I don’t aim to avoid you at all costs.  No, I just don’t want to eat your collard greens!  In other words, can we just lay aside the rhetoric and have grown-up conversations about all of this?

So how does the church take a stand for truth and consider homosexuality to be outside the boundaries of God’s design without appearing judgmental or bigoted?  By remembering that our sin cost Jesus exactly the same to make us right with God . . . His death.  By remembering that a person is rarely reached by shouting at them but by engaging them in friendship and dialogue, which often only occur over extended periods of committed time.  By remembering that it is not our place to condemn or to judge but to merely announce the truth of the Gospel that liberates all who come to Him on His terms.  By remembering that Christ met us where we were with such amazing love, despite our sin, and that He desires us to reach out in that same manner to others.  And by remembering that some will choose to characterize us as hate-mongers no matter how genuinely we care about them, simply because of the message we proclaim.

Watering down God’s truth is not an option to be considered because it’s His truth that sets people free.  As Martin Luther said approximately 500 years ago, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

May the church and every Christian within it be certain that we stand on God’s truth with boldness, regardless of the cost.  But may we also proclaim that message with compassion, humility, and grace, as well.  The shining hope in it all is that God does still forgive sin when we come to Christ in repentance and faith (Acts 20:18-21).  And praise God, He does still transform and re-define the life that finds forgiveness in Christ, changing us from what we once were to washed, sanctified, and justified saints regardless of the specifics of our past sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Advertisements

The Christian And Alcohol

overchilled wine

Burning Question:  How does the church view members who drink alcohol?

The issue of beverage alcohol as it relates to the life of the Christian has been a topic of much debate and disagreement within Christian circles today.  On one extreme is a position of libertarianism which holds that our freedom in Christ grants us the privilege to enjoy life on our terms . . . of course, to those who hold this position, the drinking of alcohol is a non-issue.  On the other extreme is a position of legalism which treats the drinking of beverage alcohol just a little lower than masquerading as Satan himself . . . those who hold this position often miss the heart of God as they focus solely on the “rules” of the Christian life.

What is often missing in this conversation, however, is the quality of objectivity.  In other words, those who evaluate this issue often begin the discussion from the starting point of their own views and only turn to the Bible when it supports their view.  What I believe is most healthy is to let Scripture speak for itself, then we as believers make necessary adjustments to what Scripture has said.  It is extremely important, however, that we examine Scripture regarding what it explicitly states and regarding what it implicitly implies.

So, the Bible does not state that the drinking of beverage alcohol is a sin (score one point for the libertarians!)  Yes, it is true that Jesus turned water into wine (2-0).  Yes, wine is mentioned in numerous places in the Bible (current score: Libertarians 3, Legalists 0).

When we take the time to examine how the Bible speaks of beverage alcohol, we find that the picture it paints, however, is not necessarily a good one.  Proverbs 20:1 speaks of the lack of wisdom associated with one who is intoxicated by wine and strong drink (don’t think “intoxicated” in this passage specifically refers to .08 blood alcohol content.  Any beverage alcohol affects one’s mental and physical capacities in a negative rather than a positive way).  Proverbs 23:30-35 references in no uncertain terms the damaging and dominating effects of beverage alcohol to such a degree that the admonition in verse 31 is to not even look at it.  Proverbs 31:4-5 gives strong admonition for kings and leaders to leave beverage alcohol alone (perhaps this explains some recent governmental decisions in our country, wink wink!) Combining these passages with the current state of our culture shows that Proverbs has hit the nail on the head . . . alcoholism, drunk driving, and abuse are just a few of the negative ramifications of not avoiding beverage alcohol today.  At its core, even our culture understands this because we allow a young soldier to legally risk his life in our military at the age of 18 but do not allow that same young soldier to take a drink with his buddies until he is 21 in most states.

So it would seem pretty clear that, based on the debilitating and addictive nature of beverage alcohol and these admonitions from Scripture, wisdom would dictate that avoidance is the best policy.

Another perspective that must be considered by the follower of Christ is the perspective of witness.  Does engaging in drinking of beverage alcohol strengthen or weaken one’s witness for Christ as Healer, Life-giver, Savior, and Lord?  Can one knock back a cold one while sharing the Gospel with a lost neighbor and expect to be heard?  Can one teach a Bible study and pause between Bible verses to take a drink without compromising their witness to others in the process?  Does the drinking of beverage alcohol in a public setting risk bringing harm to another who may be privately wrestling with breaking the hold of alcohol in their own life?  Does the drinking of alcohol privately not put one in a position of causing another to stumble or struggle if asked by a teenager, for example, whether or not they drink?  For me as a pastor, would I be more willing or less willing to see real ministry impact through my life if I decided to drink beverage alcohol?  Should others view pastors differently in this area than they view themselves as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)?

Paul unapologetically makes the point of putting certain things away for the sheer sake of our witness in Romans 14.  In that context, the discussion centered around whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols . . . choosing to do so had begun to negatively affect others who could not partake due to their conscience.  However, it easily fits into the discussion regarding beverage alcohol today (in fact, wine is even mentioned specifically in the passage.)  So Paul makes the argument in Romans 14:13, Romans 14:15, and in Romans 14:21 that the proper choice as it relates to witness and causing another to stumble is to abstain.

See, when we place the weight upon the Gospel that we should and when we understand that our lives are not our own but that we have been bought with a price . . . when we understand that a lost world is looking at us from the outside to see what a holy, righteous, set apart life looks like . . . and when we understand what it means to deny and die to self daily (Luke 9:23) for the sake of following Christ . . . and when we understand that the culture in which we live today in this 21st century of life is a culture that is ravaged by the effects of alcohol, then it becomes easier to see that the wise choice and the choice that enhances rather than compromises our witness is the choice to abstain from drinking beverage alcohol.

How does the church view those who drink alcohol?  Hopefully without contempt or bitterness.  But, perhaps the better question would be, “How do those who drink alcohol view their Christian family, the lost community, and the church?”