I have seen and read a lot about this topic with New York approving gay marriage. The first ceremonies were in July 2011. I cannot believe some of the comments that I had read and just wanted to offer my thoughts on it.
I have been reading a book called “UnChristian”. In it the book states that one of the terms associated with me and you when we say we are Christians is “anti-homosexual”. It is a topic that many people have made the center of their faith. Some Churches have made it a doctrinal statement. There are very few current issues that are more divisive inside and outside the Church. As a matter of fact this is one of the few areas where Christians and non-Christians agree on no matter which side you stand.
I’ve really spent a lot of time praying about how to approach this because I have a little bit of a split personality about the issue. I am conservative politically and believe the government should have very little to do with regulating our personal lives- including who we live with and what happens in our bedrooms.
However, I am also conservative theologically and approach the Bible and faith from this perspective. But, I also understand that there is a long history of dealing with homosexuality in the Church. This is not an issue that has come up in the past 30 years and has caught church leaders off guard. There is an actual precedence for addressing this issue as there are for most issues. We just tend to pick one that fits our particular perspective and say it’s the Church’s historical view.
While I was a senior in college I took a Christian ethics class. I went to a conservative Christian college where we all pretty much had the same views on social issues. Our professor had us pick a topic and examine it from various perspectives. As you can probably figure by now I chose the topic of “homosexuality”. I got tired of hearing the bashing of people based on one aspect of their humanity. I’m still tired of it.
Sexuality is an important part of our lives. But, in our society we are actually identified by it! Talk about getting things out of whack. The sexual revolution maybe opened up conversations and allowed people to be more free in their thinking but the consequences have been anything but freedom. Freedom is usually the goal of a revolution. In this case it opened the door to broken relationships, broken spirits, broken bodies and broken families.
So, in my study of the Church’s response to homosexuality I just assumed that it would be a complete stand against it. I was actually surprised to see there were four views held by the Church throughout it’s history. These views were held by various groups but were all recognized as proper responses.
The first view most people are familiar with is that all homosexuality is a sin and is condemned in Scripture. This includes desires, thoughts and actions. The Church did not separate the desire for homosexuality any differently than someone acting it out. They were all an abomination to God and rejected by the Church.
This view is held by many people still today. It is by far the least redemptive of the four views. It makes it nearly impossible for anyone with homosexual desires or thoughts to be open and accepted by a Christian community. Churches flatly deny people fellowship in their Church.
The second view held by the Church looks at the act of homosexuality as wrong but not the thoughts or desires. Just as a heterosexual person is not condemned for desiring a relationship with someone of the opposite sex so a homosexual would not be condemned for their desires.
People that hold this view would ask that the homosexual deny and ignore their desires. They should marry someone of the opposite sex and carry on a “normal” life if they must be with someone. There is a growing number of people who have decided they can no longer live this “lie” and must be true to their desires.
This view tends to be more gracious than the first view but can still be cruel. It’s basically a denial of the desires and feelings of an individual to be with whomever they choose. We all have desires that we should deny and would cause great destruction if we followed through with them. And, there are relationships that would be naturally destructive whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. But, should the Church regulate which relationships are “blessed” and which ones are not?
The third view begins to be a little more liberal towards homosexuality. It says that homosexual desires and thoughts are not wrong but that homosexuality is not God’s ideal for us. However, if it is your desire to be with someone of the same sex then you are to follow the same expectations as a heterosexual couple. Abstinence until marriage, lifetime commitment, mutual submission, and faithfulness.
Obviously, a homosexual would still not be satisfied with this view because it states that homosexuality is a “lesser” ideal. It paints them as second class to the superior heterosexual couples. Plus, until recently homosexuals could not legally marry. But, there are several gay couples who have been partners for their entire lives and have followed this expectation. They have been faithful, loving partners and have had happy lives.
The fourth view is the other popular view most people are familiar with and that states that homosexuality is natural and should be accepted without conditions. This is by far the most progressive view and most controversial. It’s the reason we are even having a discussion and why it’s so hotly debated.
This view demands equal rights for anyone who wants to get married. They want to be allowed the same privileges as any other couple- including financial benefits. They do not want to be seen as “equal but separate”.
Now that we’ve covered these four views you’ve probably found yourself in one of them. Or, maybe you never knew there was more than two views held by the Church. This is not a black and white issue. There are many ways to address this and they have all been endorsed throughout the history of the Church.
I want to address one final issue though- no matter where you stand on the issue we are called to be people of redemption. The old line “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” sounds OK on paper. The problem is that we are no where near to being God. We cannot differentiate between the two and often default to hating people.
The question is- even if you believed in your heart of hearts that homosexuality is an abomination- would you treat someone who is grossly overweight with the same venom you would a homosexual? Would you call them names? Would you hold up signs in front of the fast food restaurants saying “God hates fatso’s”? Or, would you shun someone in your church that doesn’t tithe? There’s more in the Bible about how we use our money than there is on homosexuality.
I have addressed before some of the issues that God hates that are never talked about in Church. Materialism, greed, pride, oppression and abuse of power to name a few. Yet, these are all ignored unless we were to offend someone influential and lose our precious resources. I’ll stop there before I get too far off track!
Have you ever had someone not in a position of authority try and tell you what to do? They strut around with a power trip? Then the boss shows up and that person looks like a jerk. Well, that is how the Church is coming across in all of this. We claim to have “authority” and tell people this and that because we all love the need for power. But, one day when Jesus returns, there will be many who say” Lord, lord. Did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? And He will tell them plainly “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23)
I was with my teenager one night discussing Christian ethics. I was explaining all of this to him and saying that my view on the issue is not the only one. We were walking outside the restaurant when someone randomly yelled out “God hates fags”. I looked at my teenager and was like “did that just happen?” Thankfully we were able to have a blunt discussion about it.
I told him that I have racist and bigotted attitudes. There are some days when I see a customers name and I shudder because I know how “those people” are. I am constantly repenting of these thoughts and attitudes. I told him that in the end what matters to me is not someones sexual identity but whether they profess Christ. If they profess Christ then they are my brother or sister. We all come before Him needing grace for different things. He transforms us into His image.
The Church needs to not get sidetracked on every social issue of the day. I understand the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. But, the sins our Nation commits with trillions of dollars would make homosexuality look like someone said “darnit’ in comparison. The point being- there are bigger, more serious issues at stake here. Whatever your stance is you need to remember that we are all in need of redemption.
There is always some “sin” that needs to be addressed. Our kids will have a different issue and they are learning how to address our culture through our example. But, we need to remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Jesus said that He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. He laid his life down for us when we were his enemies. He understood our brokenness and the only way for us to be healed was through His sacrifice. His death brought us life!
We have a message of good news. How do we address social issues and still be affective as “salt and light”? We walk humbly with God. We allow Him to guide us in our thought, word and actions. We have the mind of Christ and we submit every thought to him.
My prayer is that we would explore this topic in a spirit of humility. Because remember God opposes the proud. The discussion is open…