reason4thehope

Thinking about life, faith and the world.

Archive for the tag “homosexuality”

The Right Questions

question“Has no one condemned you?” – John 8:10

If the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage didn’t turn out the way you hoped, you may have some questions for God right now. How could He allow this? Has He changed His mind about marriage? Is He still there?

Maybe we as Christians need to ask ourselves some questions instead. Principally, if God allowed the battle to be lost, was He ever in it? You may think, of course He was!  God always fights against those who break His commandments, doesn’t He?

God’s judgment has come and is coming. He judged sin at the cross. For those who don’t accept that judgment poured out on Jesus in our place, judgment will come at the end of time, and there will be no intermediary to absorb it. Until then, however, Jesus won’t raid the speakeasy and send the revelers scurrying into the night. He’ll enter, in our skin and on our feet, and invite them to come out into the light.

God invites us into a covenant relationship, and marriage is a sacred, earthly symbol of that covenant, as the Bible repeatedly makes clear. That may be one reason it’s hard to believe God wouldn’t stand and fight with the defenders of marriage as He established it. But when God gives a symbol to represent a deeper concept of faith, the symbol never trumps the spiritual reality.

When venomous snakes attacked God’s people as they wandered the wilderness, God commanded Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it high; all who looked to it would be saved (Numbers 21:4-9). Through this symbol God demonstrated His power and foreshadowed Christ being lifted up to save all who would look to Him. What could be more sacred than that? Fast forward several hundred years. When people persisted in worshiping the bronze serpent, the righteous King Hezekiah destroyed it.

Am I suggesting that God wants traditional marriage destroyed? No, though in the next world, earthly marriage won’t exist; its time will be past (Mark 12:25). But sacred as marriage is in this life, there are more sacred things – such as God’s invitation into the higher relationship marriage symbolizes. We can’t extend that invitation impaled on a sword of judgment.

Speaking of symbols, it’s interesting that the rainbow, which God declared a symbol of His covenant never to flood the Earth again, has been adopted as a symbol for marriage equality. We can sit and fume about that. Or, just as God made the rainbow a symbol of judgment suspended, we can see it as a reminder to suspend our own judgment.

The Peril of a Soft Heart

Vintage Chenille Red Heart Pillow

(Photo: Nesha’s Vintage Niche)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Let me be clear up front: a Christian should have a soft heart. Soft with compassion, soft with forgiveness, soft with refusal to judge or condemn people God longs to redeem. That would be everyone.

So where’s the peril of a soft heart? It arises when our gracious choice not to judge people becomes a foolish choice not to judge sin. Or when we call morally neutral, or even celebrate, what God calls sin. With this kind of soft heart we can deceive ourselves and raise our own risk of falling. Or we can deceive others that a saving relationship with God doesn’t have to change their lives.

This struggle is most visible right now surrounding homosexuality and gay marriage. I have said before, and I will say again, that it’s time for Christians to drop the culture warrior mentality on this issue. It’s not our job to chase after a culture that’s running from God; these fights can only raise barriers between us and individuals outside the faith. So I applaud the Christians who are reaching out, even apologizing to the gay community for hateful behavior, both past and unfortunately present.

But some Christians are walking right up to a very fine line and crossing it. Suddenly, God accepts not only homosexuals but their behavior, and the advance of gay marriage is a victory.

It all feels like earthly values of tolerance and enlightenment bundled into a happy package with heavenly virtues of kindness and compassion. It also doesn’t square with what the Bible says. It’s just another case of trying to live with one foot in the world and the other in God’s kingdom.

This kind of thinking extends to other behaviors, mostly in relationships. Premarital sex, living together before marriage, hasty divorce with no effort to reconcile – even abortion in some Christian circles – are things to tiptoe around. God’s teaching is too hard, or our fear of rejection is too strong, for our kind hearts to lay the truth on the table. Again, we shouldn’t be slamming doors on people who have engaged in immorality, or beating them over the head with their behavior. Jesus certainly didn’t, and every believer lives under the same grace. But that’s not the same as saying these behaviors are okay.

If we deceive ourselves on moral matters, we become unreliable witnesses to others, and we passively deny God’s power to change hearts. We also become vulnerable. Are you married? It could end; tomorrow you could be widowed. How would you behave in a future relationship? Would you think yourself entitled to whatever makes you happy, because that’s what your soft heart would want for others? Or would you remember and follow the Bible’s teachings?

And if someone asked you point blank what your faith teaches about relationships, would you be able and willing to answer with the truth? Or would you give tacit approval to lifestyles that are incompatible with committed Christianity? If it would be the latter, chances are your soft heart has become shapeless as to God’s truth, choosing to spare feelings even at the cost of endorsing sin.

Reality Chick

When Dan Cathy was asked his views on the family recently, he had the nerve to answer honestly. He believes that the Biblical model for a family is built around the marriage of a man and a woman. He could have evaded, could have lied, but he said what he really thinks. For this he and his company, Chick-fil-A, are being dragged through the mud, as if they were Westboro Baptist groupies picketing military funerals.

I have taken Christians to the woodshed for their sometimes fearful and hateful attitudes toward homosexuals. Now it’s the other side’s turn. As much as Christians are guilty of un-Christ-like attitudes in this debate, the side that currently holds the upper hand is not being very gracious in the march toward victory.

Gay marriage is advancing at a breathtaking pace. I think there are some gay activists who smell blood in the water, and they can’t resist a good feeding frenzy. The trouble with feeding frenzies is they don’t leave much room for nuance. So Dan Cathy is effectively lumped in with Westboro’s ringmaster, Fred Phelps, or the pastor who wants gays behind an electric fence, or the other pastor who says gays should be killed.

If we all vetted everyone we do business with and boycotted those who don’t share our views on social issues, commerce would be paralyzed. If Chick-fil-A and its president offend you that much, don’t go there. But must every disagreement degenerate into a smackdown?

Straight Talk

“You say…love is a temple, love the higher law. You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl.” – “One” by U2

Like it or not, we are in the midst of a cultural and political shift on a par with the Civil Rights era. I’m not old enough to remembers those years, but any Christian who stood with God for justice should have seen the rightness of the cause.

This time around, homosexuals are at the center of the change. And many Christians, however firm their convictions may sound, are adrift. I am one of them, trying to drop an anchor somewhere.

If you’re a Christian and this subject hasn’t made you squirm, you may not have thought hard enough about it. No, I’m not talking about knee-jerk revulsion at relationships that make us uncomfortable. I’m talking about the knife edge we need to walk between upholding Biblical truth, and giving every person outside the faith room to come as they are.

Even as I try to strike a blow against hate, I know that based on the following paragraphs, some readers will mark me as a slave to ignorance and possibly a hatemonger, though I am no such thing. Christians need to bring a delicate balance of honesty, perspective and love to this discussion, and I believe most are missing it as the progression of gay rights accelerates.

Some Christians thunder judgment, fear and hate from pulpits, street corners or any handy soapbox. It’s un-Christian, un-Biblical and immeasurably damaging to the testimony of the church.

Others timidly surrender principles and honesty as they go with the flow – bowled over by the tide of history, fearful of being labeled a bigot, or perhaps giving voice to the tender spot in the heart that wants to believe mutual love between two people is always right.

I’d like to propose another way, taking the three key principles – honesty, perspective and love – one at a time.

Honesty first of all demands that we acknowledge what the Bible teaches. Accept or reject the Bible’s authority, but it’s a mighty stretch to find the Bible neutral on homosexuality, much less in favor of it. I’ve seen many attempts to do so, and they all seem to involve selective reading, wishful thinking or both. They appeal to a desire to be excused from wrestling with this issue.

But the sum of the Bible’s teaching is clear. It’s stated in the Old Testament, repeated in the New. If the Bible’s authority is from God, then the matter ought to be settled.

And so what?  I don’t mean to make light of what God forbids, but this is where perspective comes in. God has forbidden many things. If we as Christians struggle with what to say about homosexuality, the better question is why we feel compelled to say any more about it than we do about anything else God disapproves.

Sin is sin. We need to talk about sin, because it’s the chasm between God and everyone who hasn’t received His gift of redemption. But if we are reading the Bible correctly as to homosexuality, we can trust God to deal with it in the lives of those come to Him – just as He is dealing with everything the rest of us brought to our relationships with Him. The Christian’s job is to hold the door open.

That’s where the love comes in. The easy, trite thing to say is that we hate the sin but love the sinner. But we need to understand that homosexuals regard their orientation as part of their very identity. To say “we hate your homosexuality, but we love you,” reads to them as “we hate what you are, but we love you.” It sounds like self-contradicting nonsense.

It hardly matters whether homosexuals have a choice about what they are. They see it as their identity; for all practical purposes, it is, unless and until God changes it.

As for what the Christian’s attitude should be, consider the arc of Jesus’ life – from the angelic birth announcement to the shepherds, to the travels of His earthly ministry, to his dying promise to a dying thief. He went places where the religious leaders wouldn’t have defiled their sandals, seeking encounters with people who would never have found a place in the temple courts. He didn’t ask who was clean or unclean; he simply pursued those who needed Him. “All those the Father gives me will come to me,” he said, “and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37 NIV).

Perhaps we should learn the lesson of Peter, who got an earful about clean and unclean in a vision from God. When God set an un-kosher buffet before Peter and commanded him to eat, He was not abolishing every Old Testament command, but it was about much more than food. What came after the vision was not a shipment of shrimp. It was an invitation to a pagan home that no ceremonially clean Jew would dare enter.

If by clean you mean sinless, then no, gays are not clean. Neither are you, and neither am I, apart from God’s grace. Nor is anyone defined by just one sin. But as God made clear to Peter, under the new order established at the cross, all are approachable, all can be offered the same grace by which we are saved. We can’t approach anyone, however, if we are unbearable company.

When asked directly what we believe, we need to be honest (see above). But we need to realize that gays’ sense of injustice and desire for affirmation is from the heart, and their pain is real when they are attacked. Pain may eventually be unavoidable, but if so, let it be the sting of cleansing, not our words falling like fists on their heads. And never, ever, real fists.

What about law and culture? Please remember that we do not live in the God-ordained theocracy of ancient Israel. We live in a pluralistic, secular society that, for a time, fairly well represented Judeo-Christian values. That is slipping away, and it’s scary, and perhaps that’s why Christians get so agitated when another domino falls, as is happening now.

But at what cost do we try to recapture the fading shadow of our “Christian nation?” What is most important – individual souls or this abstraction we call our culture? In the supercharged atmosphere of the moment, almost every word spoken in the public square against gay marriage comes across as hate speech toward gays, whether it’s intended that way or not.  And in the age of social media, the public square is unimaginably large. After all they’ve seen and heard, how many gays will ever set foot in a church that presents the full Gospel?

The Bible tells us to submit to the civil authorities and pray for them. That doesn’t mean Christians have to celebrate the legalization of gay marriage, vote for the candidates who support it, or bless those unions with church weddings. But we would be wise to run every public word through that filter of honesty, perspective and love. I suspect far fewer words would come out of Christian mouths if all did this. We ought to restrain our speech not out of fear, but out of love for those who just might come to trust us, and so allow us to speak our hearts in private.

Speak our hearts about what? The Gospel. The rest is in God’s hands. If Christians have become the ogres in the gay marriage debate, maybe it’s because we forgot to put first things first.

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