Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Homosexuality, Christianity, and The Gospel

What Does the Bible Say?

About the time Brokeback Mountain came out a couple years ago, I realized I had never addressed the subject of homosexuality in the many years that I had been ministering to students. To remedy that a bit and to address the public controversy stirred up by the movie, I put together a short list of several biblical principles that I felt were critical to the issue.

In light of the Larry Craig scandal, I've reproduced my list in this post, along with some Scripture and a little commentary.

1. Any time we talk about sin, we should not think in terms of “them”; we must think “we/us.”

Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
As I will point out below, the Bible does call homosexual behavior "sin." But the Bible also condemns pride, racism, gossip, hypocrisy, indifference to the poor, lying, heterosexual adultery, materialism, gluttony, laziness, hatred, anger, and a whole host of other attitudes and behaviors. As a result, when Christians speak of homosexuals as "sinners," we are merely putting them in a category with ourselves. It's an indictment we all share.

2. A few fundamental truths have to guide our thinking about this issue and all others:
  • The Bible, as God's word, is true and trustworthy, and it can predict outcomes and consequences with absolute certainty.
  • The Bible predicts that when God's created things violate His purpose for them, disorder and destruction result. When they conform to His purpose, order, life and joy result.
The Bible acknowledges that homosexual behavior can bring pleasure. The Bible also acknowledges that a homosexual couple can find happiness together. But since the Bible warns against homosexuality, we must conclude that God is thereby protecting us from some sort of destruction and disorder. In essence, then, the truly Christian response to homosexuality is motivated by a desire for these people to know more joy and order and life, not less.

3. Homosexual behavior is sin. Homosexual desire is sinful and may lead to sin.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

James 1:14-15 ...but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
4. It is never biblical or true or necessary to say our desire equals our destiny.
1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
The simple fact that we crave a thing does not mean it is good or right for us to have it. Because we are sinners, our innate desires cannot always be trusted. In fact, some of our desires can be destructive, especially if we give them full sway.

5. Christians must learn to love sinners who are still struggling with and even blinded by their sin, and our love must take practical, tangible, undeniable forms.
Galatians 5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The church has erred grievously by ridiculing, ostracizing, hating, and ignoring the homosexual community. In all our misguided (often self-righteous) zeal for keeping God's law, we have neglected this summary obligation: "Love them like you love you."

6. Our sins and the sins of those we love, no matter how deep and powerful, are no match for the power of the gospel.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
What awesome news the gospel is! But here is precisely why our failure to love the homosexual community is so grievous: Christianity is the only source which offers them a power sufficient to wash, purify, and pronounce them righteous before their God.

7. The gospel must be the message we say most often and most loudly, the truth that defines us in our own minds and in the mind of the culture.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
It's sad to me that Christians are often far more outspoken about abortion and homosexuality than about the gospel. I wish we were known for the message "Christ died for our sins." I wish Christians could be heard saying that as loudly and as often as we are heard parroting our pro-life and pro-family slogans.

I'm reminded of some of Al Mohler's comments on Larry King Live during a discussion about Brokeback Mountain. Mohler continually redirected the conversation to the gospel in ways like this:
You know my main concern, Larry, is not with the gospel of heterosexuality, even though I think that's very important. It's with the gospel of Jesus Christ and what I find lacking in the movie, the screenplay and in the short story is any resolution that really brings these persons to know why they were created and how God really intends them to live and how they would find their greatest satisfaction in living just as God had intended them for his glory.
And this (when asked about whether he believes homosexuality is a choice):
I don't doubt for a minute, Larry that there are millions of people who struggle with attractions to the same sex or other kinds of attractions that they don't even know they ever chose. They may never have and as they know themselves would never have chosen them.

But the big issue for all of us is how we find out what our creation was all about and what we were made for and why this incredibly powerful thing called sex is such a big part of our lives and how we are to bring it into a right alignment.

In other words, there are heterosexuals who struggle with all kinds of desires that are just not right desires and when it comes right down to it I, as a Christian, believe that we are also deeply affected by sin that we don't even know ourselves well enough to know why we desire the things we desire.

What I hope for is that persons, heterosexual and homosexual, will come to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, would come to know new life in him, would come to understand that sinners can find the only help that is -- that is worth finding and the only salvation and solution to our problems by coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and then understanding that God, our creator, has the right to define every aspect of our lives including our sexuality.
And this (at the very end of the show):
Well, I think we're watching the breakdown of norms in this society. I don't doubt that. I sense that we have a big task as Christians to articulate what is our most basic concern, and that is, Larry, that on the cross, Christ died for sinners, heterosexual and homosexual, and the only way to be made whole is in him, and that is more important than anything else I could possibly say.
Well said, Dr. Mohler. Well said.


Unknown said...

That movie really tore me up inside, Josh, & I have a difficult time saying what I feel about it. Paul & I also have dear friends who have been a lesbian couple for 25 years now. There is much that wars in the head over this topic, but I love your post. And it's exactly what helps the emotion be placed backseat to truth.

MadMup said...

An excellent post, Josh. Thank you for it.