May 19th, 2011 | 10 Comments
I have the depressing feeling that this will fall on deaf ears among most of those it’s intended for. But I’ve got to try.
A friend reacted with disbelief after reading the description of the [ad hoc] Podcast’s recent show on homosexuality and the Church. The offending sentence:
How should the growing number of us who support treating homosexual Christians with fairness (to varying degrees) approach those who disagree?
To paraphrase this friend, “Being a Christian is about setting aside our old, sinful ways. So wouldn’t Christians who are struggling with homosexuality want us to help deliver them from their homosexuality rather than enable them to live in that sin?” A true Christian isn’t content to live in sin.
Many who accept homosexuality as a valid lifestyle do not understand those who object so strenuously: after all, we all occasionally do things that we believe are sinful but that don’t inspire the kind of reaction we see on the homosexuality issue! The answer is that, agree or disagree, the Christian rejection of homosexuality is based on the fact that supporters are viewed as making excuses for and “living in” an obvious sin: people with homosexual desires refuse to do what it takes to reform, justifying themselves by coming up with clever ways of saying that their sin is actually not sin.
Now, granting the sinfulness of homosexuality, this would be understandable — although a modicum of loving concern (what used to be called “Christian charity”) should temper even a justified objection like that. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to grant that homosexuality is sinful behavior. But wait just a second before you expect everyone else to grant this.
Step back for a moment to view things outside the presumption of your correctness. Some Christians have been convinced that it is sinful to ignore Torah’s dietary laws, collect interest (or at very least, high interest) on loans, read versions other than the KJV, drink alcohol, dance, attend church on Sunday, work on Saturday, or – going way back – eat food offered to idols. Other Christians think that although many of those beliefs are well grounded in Scripture, those other believers are misidentifying those practices as sins for one reason or another. Assured that we know better, we are nonetheless considered by those groups to be living in willful sin, making excuses in order to justify our chosen lifestyles.
A growing number of Christians are finding it harder and harder to believe that God has a fundamental problem with homosexuality, even when they do not accept it as ideal. This is particularly true of Christians who have tried their very best for decades to get “straight” again, enrolling in re-orientation programs, getting married to someone of the opposite sex, etc., all to no avail. Their stories are heartbreaking. That is, if you have a heart, and if you can avoid making the awful leap of responding that, since you are confident in your beliefs, those people must just not be trying hard enough (those who do this obviously don’t know any of “those people”).
Let’s take a poll:
1. Can principled Saturday churchers have fellowship with Sunday churchers, despite the latter’s Sabbath-breaking ways?
2. Can usury-eschewing believers have fellowship with interest-charging believers, despite the latter’s greed-driven refusal to acknowledge the difference between the ritual aspects of the Law that did pass away and the moral obligations of the Law (such as the Ten Commandments and usury prohibitions) that are still in effect?
3. Can Christian socialists have fellowship with self-centered, overly individualistic capitalist Christians, despite the clear evidence in Acts that those who try to fool others into believing they are giving all they can to the cause are subject to being stricken down dead on the spot?
4. Can men-pastored church members have fellowship with women-pastored church members, despite the latter’s Bible-ignoring and culture-beholden compromises?
In my experience, reasonable believers on both sides of the fence will answer at least a qualified “Yes” to most of those questions. Even most evangelicals who would be against having a woman pastor come and preach in their churches can accept her as a fellow believer and even work with her church to do outreach, etc. But there are certain other differences in understanding what constitutes “sin” that produce a radically different answer. I’m sure you saw this one coming:
5. Can Christians who are anti-homosexuality have fellowship with Christians who advocate for gay rights? With homosexuals who self-identify as devout Christians?
The question you have to ask yourself is this: if not, why not? They go about their Christian lives learning to live out their faith, worship God, forgive and serve one another, and they usually hold most of the same beliefs about the nature of God and the work of Christ that you do. They, too, have theological explanations for their behavior that many find convenient, compromising, and unconvincing. But unlike the other disagreements over sinful behavior I listed above, it is routinely concluded that homosexual Christians are the way they are because they’re just disgusting, perverse sin-lovers who require only as much of our Christian empathy as will motivate us to cite Romans 1 and expect it to convince them to repent. Until they do repent…let’s not pretend that their so-called Christian lives consist of anything other than justifying their willfully sinful bedroom activities. Jesus wants to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, provided you allow him to start on that sin first!
Why is there a different standard for homosexuals? It’s not as though their every second is spent having illicit sex; and if homosexuality is really just a choice, outside of their moments of lust they aren’t even being homosexuals. I suggest that one common reason for the sharp reaction we see, other than disgust in imagining the sex act, is a fear that what they most boldly proclaim to be true is actually false after all: maybe homosexuals really are born that way. Maybe they don’t have as much of a choice as our theology says they must. Or maybe God has unfairly laid upon them a requirement that’s almost impossible for them to meet. Their very existence, not to mention their recent flourishing and acceptance within mainline Christian denominations, is a vivid reminder that our theology just might be wrong.
We have to come to grips with the fact that not all of those who are committed to picking up their crosses and following Christ will also carry all of our own convictions with them. Jesus makes our own burdens light: how wrong is it of us to insist upon placing burdens on the back of others? Where we are wrong, we trust our loving Father to correct us. And so we must encourage one another’s faith, entrust others’ commitment to error to God, and work on getting the planks out of our own eyes, the secret sins that might not give us a lisp but do cause us to live in enmity with one another and cause the weak among us to stumble — which is a sin Jesus actually did warn us about.