Homosexuality & the Church

If not for the Iraqi conflict and the latest controversy surrounding the abuse of Iraqi soldiers, the news concerning same-sex marriage might be the most talk about story in our country. Once again, the Church has been forced to tackle the issue as well as homosexuality in general. I have had to reflect a great deal on my own feelings and praxis for dealing with the gay community in a way that above all honors the God I love and serve and also that preserves the dignity of the humanity of gay and lesbian persons as those created in the image of Almighty God. 

This is not a formal exegetical response to either the recent events or even my own pastor’s impromptu sermon on the subject on Mother’s Day a few weeks ago. Instead, it is my own attempt to formulate my own approach to dealing with the people and the subject redemptively. I have pondered this issue, talked it over with numerous fellow friends, and even prayed before writing this. My goal is to simply lay a foundation for how I will minister to and interact with homosexuals in the church and community in which I am planted by God. 

The Foundation: Salvation
Why start here when this paper is supposed to be about homosexuality and the church? For one, the controversial issue really forces those who preach that salvation is truly by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8) to remember this foundational principle before telling the world that there is no such thing as a Christian who struggles with homosexual feelings. Jesus is very explicit in what makes for salvation: 
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall
not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not
send the Son into the world to judge the world, but
that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17 (NASB) 

It is out of God’s love for sinful humanity that Jesus is sent into the world. He came to save and not to condemn. Let me be clear: I am not saying that we ought not to try to discern matters properly and get the mind of God on a subject. I am referring, however, to those of us who attempt to try, convict, and condemn people as if we are in the place of God. He alone has the authority to judge in such a way, not the Church. 

Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost ought to be the mission of any church that is founded upon the Rock of our salvation. The church of Jesus Christ is not a special interest group with a political agenda; we are the Bride of Christ, united in Him to do His will in the earth (Matt. 28:19-20). 

Salvation in Christ does not require that we “get right? before we receive the gift of salvation from the Lord. I cannot recall anyone asking me about all the sins I ever committed and whether I was sure I had forsaken each and every one of them before being declared justified and sanctified by Christ. Rather, I remember recognizing that I was a sinner whose fractured soul had been crying Abba for sixteen years and whose heart longed for the Prince of Peace to come in and take over my life. The tears I shed as I stood before my church are like no other tears I have ever shed. 

How can I stand in the way of someone else experiencing the glorious divine exchange of grace, mercy, and forgiveness for shame? I have seen alcoholics who received Christ and still struggled with substance abuse afterward. What will the Church say to them? Is there no such thing as progressive sanctification or are believers perfect at the moment of salvation? I do believe that a believer is positionally sanctified in Christ, set apart as His and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30) But I also know that believers are also progressively sanctified, changed, and conformed into the image of Jesus Christ our Lord daily. Last time I checked my own life, this is not an instantaneous event. There is no such thing as McSanctification, McDeliverance, or McHoliness. We are to walk in the Spirit to avoid fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). If anyone reading this stopped sinning the moment they received Christ, call me. I need to know your secret. 

The responsibility to call, justify, sanctify, and glorify believers is the Lord’s alone. Salvation is ultimately the work of a righteous and merciful God. Hence, we have no right to tell God who can be saved and who cannot be. The apostle Paul reminds us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast? (Eph. 2:8-9). None of us have it “together? in God’s eyes. If Jesus Christ is indeed the Author and Finisher of our faith, then let Him do His thing (Heb 12:2). Jesus does not need the church to be the editor of the faith. 

The Texts 

Leviticus 18:19-23; 20:9-16
This is the clearest prohibition of homosexuality in the Old Testament. Some biblical scholars point out that God is only speaking of male homosexuality as if to almost imply that lesbianism is somehow acceptable. The fact is that God has a lot to say about sexual immorality and He does not speak just to homosexuality. He pulls no punches on bestiality and incest either. In addition, all of the sexual laws spoken of in Lev. 20:9-16 require the penalty of death. We really need to thank God for Jesus! If we argue that homosexuality is acceptable because these precepts came as part of the Law and because we are now under the covenant of grace, then I should be able to sleep with my brother or an animal. I don’t think so. 

Romans 1:18-31
This passage sent my New Testament class into a frenzy last spring when my professor claimed that the New Testament does not condemn homosexuality but rather pederasty, an adult male having sex with an adolescent boy. But Paul uses the Greek word for “males? and age is not a part of the context.[i] Other scholars argue that Paul is only disparaging homosexual prostitution.[ii] The part that gets ignored too often is that females are also included in this discussion. 

But two points must be stressed concerning this passage. First, the words Paul uses in connection with the activity like “unnatural? implies that there is a natural order of things that God intended and that homosexual activity goes against that. We all could argue for days on end as to whether one is born gay or decides to become gay. Recent scientific studies have certainly sought to prove the former. However, I struggle with the idea that God knowingly created someone to do the very thing He prohibits throughout His word. 

Another point that bears stressing is one that those of us who use this passage as proof that homosexuality is a sin often overlook: the entire passage is NOT about homosexuality. In fact, the thesis of the pericope is found in vv 18-19: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.? 

The point of the entire passage is merely to outline the guiltiness and ungodliness of all humanity. Homosexuality, like the murder, strife, envy, etc listed here, are merely the by-products of unbelief and disobedience to the revelation of a holy God. In essence, we are ALL guilty of sin and need the grace and forgiveness of God (Rom. 3:23). 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
This passage has been hotly debated for a couple of reasons. First, the passage has raised the question of whether a believer in Jesus Christ can lose his or her salvation if he or she continues to practice a particular sin. Though I personally am committing to the theology of the eternal security of the believer, I do not want to overlook the serious tone of the text. The context appears to be those believers who were still practicing certain sins as if they had not been regenerated, as if they were still not saved.[iii] 

The second reason this passage is a hot potato for biblical scholars—both conservative and liberal—is because there is confusion as to whether Paul is speaking of sex involving male prostitutes and active homosexual male partners or whether he is speaking of homosexual activity period. Fee believes that male prostitution is probably the issue here.[iv] Irrespective of the context here, homosexual activity of any kind has already been prohibited elsewhere in Scripture. More importantly, the big picture of intended transformation cannot be overlooked. The very fact that Paul mentions that some of them used to partake in such activities (including drunkards, thieves, etc) but no longer did since being redeemed tells me that there is an expectation of change and transformation. We were justified or made right by God and now by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we are to walk in the newness of life (1 Pet. 2:9). 

What Would Jesus Do…Or Say?
Exegesis means nothing to me if I cannot apply it. We all can sit in our ivory scholastic towers and send down our own exegetical positions and hermeneutical perspectives on a given text. But I need to know how I can walk out God’s word in my own life and ministry. To do that, I need to look to the Savior FIRST as the starting point for how I ought to respond. 

There are many instances in the Gospels where Jesus crosses paths with folks dealing with all kinds of sins, demonic oppressions, etc. When I think of what Jesus might say to the homosexual, I think of an incident that actually has nothing to with this paper’s primary subject. John 8:1-11 tells the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery and how some scribes and Pharisees bring this woman to him. There are several themes that shape my own perspective on how to handle the subject of homosexuality and the church. 

MISAPPLICATION
The religious leaders may have fooled the crowd into believing that they were concerned with justice but they did not fool Jesus. They were not the least bit concerned about obeying the law since they only brought the woman and not the man she was with (cf. Lev. 18:7, 8; 20:10). Instead, they were more concerned with trapping Jesus and making themselves look holier than they actually were. This reminds me of the way some in the Church treat the gay community. Instead of being concerned with them being transformed by the Spirit of God, they revel in exposing, shaming, and condemning them. Kudos! Not. 

The relegation of homosexuality as the “representative sin? makes it easier for some of us to hide our own secret sins, sins that pollute our walk with Christ and hinder our testimony. We make excuses for gluttony but damn homosexuals. We complain of about same-sex marriage (I am not for same-sex marriage) yet some of us cannot keep our own heterosexual marriages founded upon the rock of Jesus Christ. 

I do not believe that God has changed His mind about the sinfulness of homosexuality in any context. Nor, however, has He changed His mind about the sinfulness of hatred, of adultery, of lust, of gluttony, and of beating people to death with the straw from their eyes while we still have our own logs logged snugly in our own eye. I am sick of hearing about the “gay agenda? from people who cannot even show the love of their Savior to others. The fact is all of us have sinned and all of us need to be saved and delivered from the penalty and power of sin. PERIOD!!!! Lord, help me to not be a hypocrite! 

CORRECTION
A second aspect of this story I find helpful in the discussion about homosexuality and the Church is the correction Jesus gives the leaders. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her? (v.7). There is nothing like divine correction. The scribes and Pharisees had no choice but to leave the scene because they knew what Jesus was getting at: they simply were not qualified to judge her. No one but Jesus could have stoned her and yet He did not. Remember, He came to save and not to condemn even though the Father had given Him the authority to do so (Jn. 5:27; 9:39). Jesus knows what His mission is. The question for the Church today is do we know what our mission is today in His name? 

I am not suggesting that there is no place for confrontation, correction, and discipline in the Church. I am simply saying that we must point persons to the Living Christ. 

NEW DIRECTION
Please notice that Jesus did not ignore the sin of adultery despite the dishonorable intentions of the Pharisees and scribes. He balanced mercy and grace with truth, commanding her not to continue in that sin. Jesus did not dance around it or give it some new tag like “issue? or “alternative lifestyle.? He called her adultery what it really was: sin. We cannot preach grace and love without truth. Grace and no truth is license while truth and no grace is condemnation. Neither approach works for me. We desperately need both grace and truth to be proclaimed. Poems tickle the ear but a word from the Lord delivers! Where is the anointing that breaks the yolk of bondage to sin? All of us need the power of God to break the chains that bind us. 

I have little intention of preaching so that we all can be comfortable in our chains. It’s not cute. Jesus not sent the woman away forgiven and commissioned to live a new life. We who have believed and received Jesus according to the Scriptures are to walk out a life that bears the fruits of repentance (Matt. 3:8). We who call Jesus Lord are indwelt by the Spirit of God who empowers us to live the life we simply could not in our own strength. May we follow hard after our God, seeking His face, being conformed daily into the image of His Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29). 

Amen. 

[i] Douglass J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 116.
[ii] Moo, 114, note 117. Scroggs is a proponent of this view.
[iii] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 242.
[iv] Fee, 244. 

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2 thoughts on “Homosexuality & the Church

  1. This article was helpful as I recently learned a family member was gay and want to express the love of Christ to him first and foremost. I am searching for ways to minister to him and support him without judgement. However I also want to be able to speak the biblical truth as God provides the opportunity. This was a good starting point.

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