While a student at Dallas Seminary a good friend of mine and I went to an IHOP to study for a Hebrew exam. My friend seemed unusually anxious, tender and, admittedly, a bit awkward. At some point during the evening I finally asked him if he was okay. He looked around cautiously, then in a whisper said to me, “I need to tell you something I have never told anyone else before.”
“Okay,” I said. “You can tell me anything.”
“I’m gay.” With that, I stood up from the table, invited him to stand up, and gave him and a hug and told him he was my brother and that I loved him.
I don’t think that heterosexuals like me can even begin to fathom the intense anxiety embedded within the heart of a gay individual, particularly if he or she is still in the process of attempting to be public about his or her inner-world. Being sensitive about such things, while at the same time affirming and embracing values that are higher than whatever brokenness and messiness we have, whether gay or straight, is tough.
Ironies Christians Must Wrestle With
Here are some ironies that I see regarding homosexuality and Christianity in general. First, I am blown away by the number of couples who claim to be Christian who are living together outside of a sanctioned marriage covenant, are sexually active, etc., and yet willing to denounce homosexual marriage as inappropriate and sinful.
I am also intrigued that our more liberal friends in the church and society move heaven and earth to dismantle the biological/genetic differences between men and women, and yet go to great lengths to amplify the supposed biological/genetic differences between a homosexual and a heterosexual.
I wonder how many heterosexual married men sitting in our pews voice disdain for homosexuality but go home and quietly turn to the Internet to watch lesbian porn.
The church seems so concerned about gay marriage, but I wonder where we were when “no-fault” divorces were first redefining our culture.
What if all the money and manpower available to Chick-Fil-A on August 1, 2012 were directed by Chrisitans toward eradicating the water crisis in Africa or poverty in the inner-cities of America?
When in general terms gays and lesbians find genuine love and care from within their own community and not from followers of Christ, then perhaps their claim we are homophobic is right on.
Values We Must Own, Whether Gay or Straight
Hebrews 12:15-16 puts forward a remarkable statement that on the surface is confusing: See to it . . . that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. The confusion comes because in the Old Testament story of Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup (see Genesis 25:29-34) there is not one reference to sexual immorality. What is it that the writer of Hebrews is saying?
He is laying out a principle of life, one that is applicable to the heterosexual person and homosexual person, and it is this: Esau was born hungry and needed food for survival, but that did not necessitate Esau letting his hunger define him and cause him to set aside God’s very best (in his case, the all-important blessing of birthright) for lesser things (a bowl of stew). From this insight consider the following reflections:
First, being born a certain way, whether real or perceived, does not justify forfeiting God’s best for our lives. Esau was hungry, understandably so, but to throw aside what God had designed for his life due to his hunger was completely inappropriate. The assumption that one has a disposition toward certain behavior or beliefs does not justify settling for something that God has not prescribed. As it relates to sex and sexuality, this means that settling for something less than God’s prescription of a one-man/one-woman covenant relationship, as ordained by God in Genesis 1 and 2 and affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19, is sin, whether one is gay or straight.
Secondly, we must discern how to satisfy our real or perceived dispositions without settling for something less than God’s best for our lives. For Esau it would have been to strongly deny the temptation to forfeit his birthright, satisfying his hunger with something less than the grandiose enticement put before him. As it relates to sex and sexuality, for any of us, straight or gay, it must mean amplifying meaningful intimate relationships without the sexual overtones. It might mean embracing or at least acknowledging an orientation while not letting certain behavior get the best of us.
Thirdly, it might mean we simply don’t get the bowl of soup. “You mean, I am not allowed to be sexually engaged unless it fits within the one-man/one-woman covenant relationship?” Yes. That is exactly what that means. The only alternative to the marriage covenant between one man and one woman is celibacy, regardless of whether one has a gay orientation or a straight orientation. There are no exceptions to this.
Fourthly, we must distinguish between conditioning and conduct. Esau was conditioned by the fact of his existence and his immediate environment to be hungry. Being conditioned a certain way is not inherently wrong. It is what one does with that conditioning that merits attention, and for him it was to throw good things away to satisfy his hunger. With this in mind, it is notable that the Bible never speaks against homosexual orientation–only those who “practice” consensual homosexual acts (see 1 Corinthians 6:9, for example). This has huge implications for gays and heterosexuals–how we perceive one another and ourselves.
Any sexual practice beyond the scope of one-man/one-woman convenant marriage is sin, whether one is homosexual or heterosexual. Period.
We are exhorted to limit our fellowship with believers who persist in sexual immorality (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13), whether gay or straight. This may even include family members or friends that we dearly love. The goal, of course, is restoration (see Galatians 6:1-2).
We should welcome all who in their hunger and thirst for righteousness willingly humble themselves before the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:10).
Quit arguing with gay people about whether or not they were born gay. All of us have real or perceived dispositions to contend with. The question is whether or not we will fully surrender ourselves to the Lord’s will for our lives.
There is never a place for mistreating or being disrespectful to a homosexual. Or anyone, for that matter. Ever. Doing so is evil.
If heterosexuals have found themselves mistreating or being hateful toward homosexuals, then they must repent. We must remember that Jesus bled for all people. Everyone has worth and dignity.
If homosexuals (and heterosexuals, for that matter) are making sexual choices apart from God’s one-man/one-woman covenant marriage context, then they must repent. God never condemns the orientation, but he is crystal clear regarding his expectations for the unique and powerful gift which is sex.
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“Write This Down” is a summary of select teaching moments offered by Pastor Matthew. The preceding summary is from the message “Questions Series: Homosexuality,” the first part of the sermon series “Not Afraid to Ask,” presented on the weekend of August 5, 2012, at Bethel Church.
[For more on having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and becoming a new person, click here]
Mark . . . . thanks for commenting. I think we always have to remember that the non-negotiable means by which anyone is truly a Christian (born-again; declared “right” before God) is faith alone in the person of Jesus Christ. While this understandably assumes a willingness to conform one’s life to the values and vision of Jesus, it does not necessitate that we all “have it together.” That said, there may be those who have called on the name of Jesus in complete sincerity, but who have not yet come to a place of genuine understanding about the ways in which biblical, timeless values such as covenant marriage and the dignity of the unborn integrate into their newfound faith. For some this process of sanctification may come immediately, for others it may be a matter of “truth-discovery,” particularly for those so conditioned to think otherwise. Ideally true believers are on a trajectory forward toward God’s best.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is obligated, frankly, to adhere to the Apostle Paul’s counsel, when he says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). One of my prayers regularly is that I will always be about understanding what God’s will is, and conforming to nothing less that that.
Hope that helps. Awesome question, Mark!
I understand that the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “homosexuals aren’t born homosexual”, but isn’t God’s creation and how we’re designed evidence of His intentions? I’m in agreement about how we should treat anyone whether straight, gay, or a supporter of murdering babies… We should love them like Jesus. This is an issue that is being taken lightly and is infiltrating our churches and many people in our churches are supporting gay marriage and abortion. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a person says they support gay marriage and abortion and they say that they’re a Christian isnt that an oximoron?
In my first statement, it should read, “new creatures in Christ and NOT embrace a homosexual identity”.
Concerning the sermon on homosexuality, using the example of Todd’s confessed homosexuality was not in the best interest of Bethel Church. I understand that Todd supposedly is celebate, but he has confessed as being homosexual. The Evangelical Free Church of America, of which Bethel is a paying member, has the following statement in the Homosexual Belief and Conduct (Both Male and Female)Statement. “Any person who identifies himself or herself as homosexual, is not eligible for any level of credential for ministry within the EFCA”. The statement goes on to clarify the stand of the EFCA on this matter and how we are to be new creatures in Christ and embrace a homosexual identity, even if celebate. In the sermon, Pastor Matthew says that the Bible no where mentions the orientation of homosexuality, only the practice. Well, if the Bible doesn’t mention that aspect of homosexuality, maybe we shouldn’t either. I left the Lutheran church 30 years ago and that is how the homosexual argument started there, by talking about the orientation and look where they are today. The full statement can be provided if anyone is interested.
Well said, Matthew. Spot on!
Beth . . . . thank you for your note. Just to be clear, I do understand the whole matter with Chick-Fil-A, and the fact that it was far more about people’s frustration with the MSM and government beaurocrats who have such condescending attitudes toward our religious beliefs and values and toward the free enterprise system. My comments were not to take away from that frustration or to deny the reason for it; indeed, I support what happened 100%. I’m just musing over what it would be like if that same energy were applied to still other things that are very close to the heart of God, like the things I mentioned.
Pastor Matthew, while I feel your sermon today had some good and Biblically sound points (and I applaud you for tackling a difficult topic), your comments regarding Chick-fil-a missed the mark. You commented that it would have been more beneficial for Christians to mobilize their financial resources around something such as poverty rather than this particular issue. You did not take into consideration that the whole reason why this movement emerged was because of an out of control American government that tried to put a stop to free enterprise simply because of someone’s religious belief. America provides the most humanitarian aid of any country in this world and the only reason we are able to is because of the unique American freedoms we possess. If America ceases to be a free country (and there are those within American leadership whose goal it is to fundamentally change this country in this regard), this world, and humanitarian efforts across the globe, will suffer greatly. Frankly, I would like to see more American Pastors who are bold enough to talk about what is really going on in America today rather than pretending that nothing is happening for fear of offending someone.
After working around homosexuals, I’ve had moments that I believed that almost everybody is gay. A former coworker recently admitted that he spent 52 years in the closet.
What do you think of this Roman Catholic perspective concerning this issue?:
I’ve never encountered any organization of people living together outside of marriage which is actively working to redefine “sin” so as to exclude themselves. With the exception of homosexuals, obviously.
I’ve never known of any organized group of pornography fans who actively attack those who disapprove.
What if all the money and manpower available to Jeff Bezos on any given day were spent giving me a better apartment and a cool new car rather than working to force me to go through life pretending that homosexual marriage is something that actually exists? Frankly, we could play this game all day long.