It is true that the Bible identifies a number of sexual practices as wrong and to be shunned by the Lord’s faithful. It is true that homosexuality is among these. It is likewise true that the New Testament sees homosexuality as no worse than adultery and other kinds of transgressions.
Those other areas do not pose as great a problem for the pastor who wants to address them. He can preach against adultery and lust and pornography all he wishes and he will not enrage anyone.
The subject of homosexuality (gay, lesbian, bi-sexuality, however we wish to phrase it) is a minefield for the man of God. Almost anywhere he steps, he takes a chance of stirring up something from one direction or the other.
As the new pastor of a church, I was pleased to get a phone call from a local television station inviting me to speak. New preachers are always glad to get before the community; it helps get their ministries off to a roaring start. But this one I turned down.
“We are putting together a panel to address homosexuality,” the news director said. “We’ll have two gay/lesbian speakers and two ministers. Would you be willing to be one of the ministers?”
No thank you. Not in a hundred years.
There are indeed a few Christian leaders around who can pull that off, but I’m not one of them. This had all the makings of a shouting match or worse, an opportunity to hold the Christian message up to ridicule. Both are to be avoided.
This week, a friend of mine emailed to get my input on a discussion her denomination is conducting on this subject. Here is her note to me and my response.
I’m in need of some advice. This month, I’ll be in a meeting where we will be discussing our feelings about homosexuals in leadership positions in our denomination. The diocese has held several of these meetings and this will be the last of the series.
Our pastor says we must go and “defend the faith.” He went to one last week that was “packed.” After the general meeting, everyone breaks into small groups and they talk about their beliefs. The pastor was in a group of 14. Only four of them, himself included, spoke against homosexual leadership.
I believe that the Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is wrong. What do I say when and if someone brings up passages that say slavery is okay and that women are second class citizens, etc.?
Our pastor says that at his meeting a woman priest said any kind of sexuality is okay as long as no one is harmed. He was astonished and said, “Then prostitution is all right, I assume. Everyone has a good time, so what could be wrong with it?”
I do plan to pray that God will help me find the right thing to say, but I could use some help from you.
Here is my response.
For me, I Corinthians 6:9-11 is an important teaching on this subject. (Stop and read it before going further.)
Here are six points on that text, as I see it….
1) It’s so critical that we say nothing to imply that the people on this list–fornicators, idolaters, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers or extortioners–are not welcome in our churches. They are welcome. We want them in church.
Those who take the opposite view from ours want to pain us into the corner of rejecting homosexuals altogether. We must not let them do that to us.
2) But we want gays in church as people in need of ministry, and not as ministers themselves.
3) Note that Paul says, “Such were some of you.” But not now, no longer.
4) Something has changed them. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
5) Before any of these people can be used of God as His servants, they must be changed so that their named behavior is in the past tense. For that to happen, they must be washed (cleansed, forgiven), sanctified (set apart for holy purposes), and justified (making them right with God).
6) Two points I frequently make to pastors who tend to be condemning toward all homosexuals–
–a. Notice the company of the homosexuals here. Let us not be harder on them than on those with more respectable sins. The Scriptures have nothing good to say about adultery, drunkenness, or idolatry either. These people are likewise excluded from ministry (or, they should be).
–b. If the church at Corinth was reaching them for the Lord, Marilyn, they could not have had a sign out front announcing “Fags will burn in hell.” They must have been loving them into the kingdom. That’s a huge point for the church of today that is trying to find a clear path on this subject.
My strong conviction is that those wishing to put homosexuals in places of leadership in the church today are taking their cues from the world. God told Israel in Deuteronomy 28:13 that if they would obey Him, He would “make you the head and not the tail.” The head is the leader and sets the direction; the tail meekly follows along.
In the church today, many of us have become the tail. The world tells us what will be acceptable in clothing and hair styles, in language, in recreation, in priorities for life. When we allow the world to decide what will be trendy and cool and respectable, the church timidly and passively falls into step behind it. In so doing, we lose our voice for God.
Something is bad wrong with this.
You asked what you should say when our opponent raises the issue of slavery, saying it was approved in the New Testament. The point seems to be that the Bible should not be our authority on these matters since it says things we know not to be true. In that case, we may as well forget about calling ourselves Christians. If our authority is “whatever the world establishes as correct,” we are no longer disciples of Jesus Christ.
Keep in mind that the speaker’s aim is primarily to get you off-message. Don’t let them.
The clearest and quickest answer to the slavery-as-taught-in-the-Bible claim is the second greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). The New Testament has nothing good to say about slavery and when Christ’s message was applied, put it out of business.
Since the New Testament is our authority, we look to it to discover its teachings on various subjects. If we do not do that, the discussion is over before it has started.