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The Elephant in the Church Room: Homosexuality

24 Oct

I preached on homosexuality and the Church yesterday.  This is a tough topic that is very polarizing.  I think my biggest problem with the Church’s traditional approach to it is that it has offered a 2 cent answer and has failed to comprehend that this is a million dollar question.  I think the reason we (heterosexual Christians) have done this is because homosexual attraction is not an issue we have to deal with personally so we make humongous assumptions about the people who do, assumptions we have no way of validating.  The root of this problem is that we don’t have any friends or even acquaintances who are gay or lesbian, so we really have no idea what they are going through.  And we won’t be able to have any friends who are gay or lesbian because we have created such a stigma around it that both sides are now feeding off of, only making matters worse.

What would help?

It would help if the Church would stop creating such a stigma around homosexuality.  The Bible calls homosexual acts a sin; that’s well and good and it’s okay for us to stand behind that, our entire faith is based on the Bible after all, but the Bible calls a bajillion others things sin as well, and I don’t see this type of stigma created around those things. And by stigma I mean: 1.) we (as well as many on in non-church culture as well do) make a mockery of homosexuality with gay impersonations, jokes, sarcasm, and calling one another homosexual slurs, either maliciously, or in fun.  We do not do this with any other issue that the Bible calls sin.  It would help if we stopped this because it is tragically destructive to those who do struggle with homosexual attraction.  Why would you ever want to confide in someone who is blatantly making fun of you and your deepest struggles?  Or even want to be around them?  2.) We say the Church is a place for sinners to come and find Jesus but if your sin and/or temptation is homosexuality, you are shown the door.  It would help if we didn’t expect people to be perfect before they are allowed to hear about Jesus.  It would help if we stopped acting like homosexual acts are a worse sin than all of the things we repeatedly struggle with and do on a regular basis.  I think one of the main reasons we treat homosexual acts like they are a worse sin than others is because since we don’t struggle with it, it makes us feel self-righteous and superior to those who do.  We’d never create this type of stigma about arrogance, greed, lust (see my blog post about my issues in this area), premarital sex, malice, or disobeying our parents, which are sins that Scripture condemns in the exact same context as homosexual acts.  The reason we wouldn’t create this type of stigma for these acts is because we’d be ostracizing ourselves and our close friends.  3.) It would help if we stopped teaching that homosexual attraction is a sin.  Show me in the Bible where it says that being tempted is the same as sinning?  Attraction and lust are two very different things.  I am a married man and I am often attracted to other women that I see.  This is not a sin.  All other women will not become ugly the moment I say “I do”.  But when I choose to lust over them, I have made the conscious choice to sin by acting on my temptation.  It would help if we stopped treating homosexual attraction as the same thing as homosexual acts.  It would help if we stopped making things up that aren’t in the Bible.  It would help if we stopped plucking verses out of the Bible and posterizing them, without any concern for the context of the rest of the Bible, let alone the context of the rest of the same sentence…what a concept!

It would help if as soon as I say “I think homosexual acts are a sin”, I am not called a bigot, homophobic, or hateful by those who disagree with me/the Bible.  It would help if those who disagree understand that I love all homosexuals in the same way I love all heterosexuals who are having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends out of wedlock, i.e. the same way I love everyone who disagrees with the Bible.  And to Christians who’d ask how I do this, it is a very simple answer: you just love them, it’s what we are commanded to do by Jesus.  And no, love is not synonymous with approving of that person’s behavior.  I find it odd that we’d have to agree on 100% of things in order to love someone, it would help if both sides of this issue understood that.  I can 100% love you but not 100% approve of everything you do, yes that is possible, in fact it’s how nearly all of our relationships already function.  It would help if those who disagree with me/the Bible understand that my church has a welcome mat on our front doors to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, or any sexual behavior outside of marriage for that matter.  It would help if church people didn’t assume that a church approves of homosexual acts just because they see gay or lesbian couples in attendance.  It would help if those who disagree with me/the Bible understood that a Bible church like mine is going to follow what the Bible says–that we call everyone to the journey of aligning their lives with God’s commands, because we have made Him the King of our lives and it’s our soul’s aim to walk the path of life He has set before us, not to earn his approval, but out of thanks, love, and worship to Him for all He has done for us, and out of faith and trust that God’s ways are better than ours, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m not saying you have to agree with me on this, I’m just asking that you see ahead of time that this is our mission on all matters, whether it be sex, money, humility, conflict, forgiveness, you name it.  We (by “we”, I mean myself and those who say they believe in the Bible) can’t pick the parts we like and dismiss the parts we don’t, because then every Sunday morning is simply Noah’s opinion session, and nobody needs that.  If you have a beef with what the Bible says, I can thankfully say that is above my pay-grade and you can take that up with God, it’s His book.  There are things that I have a beef with, and I do take them up with Him, honestly expressing my frustration and confusion, but still submitting to Him in spite of some difficulties.

This is a difficult topic but instead of ignoring it or letting it fester, it would help if we put our weapons down and followed the path of Jesus, talking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  Loving her as a friend when everything in his culture told him not to, while at the same time gently showing her why she was so spiritually thirsty, and pointing her towards the answer to her thirst: a relationship with Jesus himself, which would bring her the wholeness each and every one of us is looking for.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2011 in My Thoughts on My Sermons

 

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9 responses to “The Elephant in the Church Room: Homosexuality

  1. notbeconsumed

    October 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I found it so encouraging that you’d be brave enough to tackle something that the church has seen as taboo. I think that many pastors, churches, denominations, etc, have used oven mitts on the subject of homosexuality, as if it’s some sort of plague. I also think that our apparent fear and confusion over the matter has damaged many people who have struggled with attraction, and may have caused them to give up the struggle all together. My husband was a minister, and we are currently trying to put our lives back together after he confessed multiple same-sex encounters. If you’d like to know what things are like from the inside, I just started a blog to tell my story. Maybe it would help you in counseling or preaching.

     
    • Noah

      October 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks for being transparent notbeconsumed, I will definitely check out your blog. Thank you.

       
  2. Random Ntrygg

    October 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Homosexuality isn’t what we do, it’s part of who we are

    so if you say things like “homosexuality is a sin” – that’s a conversation ender, not a starter

    so being told you’re homophobic, bigoted and uninformed is how that conversation ends.

    by condemning something and someone you don’t understand and pronouncing judgment on them (us)

    isn’t being compassionate or curious or trying to understand, it’s upholding the status quo and it’s what’s causing said status quo.

    and it’s a big part of why religion is shrinking – the more people know that they know gay people, the less able they are to discriminate against gay people

    and when religion clings to outdated ideas – the bible is all for slavery, yet, no modern believer would insist on owning slaves

    so why cling to other ideas that exclude people and make them social outcasts?

     
    • Noah

      October 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for the post Ntrygg. I do want to point out that I didn’t say “homosexuality is a sin”, and said that the Church needs to differentiate between same-sex-attraction (“homosexuality”), and the conscious acting on of these attractions (“homosexual acts”), as only the latter are called a sin in the Bible. You bring up a valid point that if someone says “homosexuality is a sin”, that that is a conversation ender, if they are saying that same-sex-attraction is a sin. While I don’t expect you to agree with my nuanced statement that the acts of it are a sin (while the desire is not), I do think the nuance is essential, especially as it relates to how the Church approaches homosexuals.

      The 2nd piece I want to reiterate is how the word “sin” is perceived by the homosexual community. When I say that homosexual acts are a sin, my goal is not to incite feelings of inferiority, shame, or condemnation. While I’m not trying to say that sin is no big deal, what I am trying to say is that I am just as guilty of sin as you are, and is the next person. Sin is common to us all and it shows up in many different ways. And by “sin”, I’m defining that as what the Bible calls sin, not my opinion of it. I do not expect anyone who does not call themselves a Christian to follow anything that the Bible says, and I don’t make any efforts to make non-Christians follow the Bible’s commands; the efforts I make to non-Christians are to show them that Jesus loves them, longs to forgive them, and desires a “marriage” relationship with them.

      I do not believe my church discriminates against gay people, yet we do hold the view from the Bible that homosexual acts are a sin. I have a question for you, and my heart is simply to converse and learn from your perspective: Do you think a single celibate person with same sex attraction is still a “gay person”? My answer is yes, I think they are still a gay person, and I would hire this person to be a pastor at my church (pending other qualifications, obviously). If you say yes you would still call them a gay person, then I feel you’d have to agree that I’m not discriminating against gay people. If you say no, they are not a gay person anymore since they are single and not sexually active, then that would be another conversation (and I think many single, celibate homosexuals would disagree with you).

      Your question about slavery is a great question and it hits on an essential topic about Bible reading and that is hermeneutics (how we interpret something we read). In a nutshell, we used universal principles from the Bible as whole to abolish slavery in today’s culture. In the Bible itself, it never commands or applauds slavery, what it did is give provisions to help slaves and make their lives much better, as well as give wisdom and guidance to them in their situation, being written from the current social construct of the day. A main difference with homosexual acts is that they were widely accepted in biblical culture and were a common mainstream practice, so the biblical commands were already very counter-cultural when they were written. The fact that homosexual acts are accepted in today’s culture does not mean we should change something in the Bible that seems counter-cultural to us today, because it was equally (if not more-so) counter-cultural when it was written. The same can be said for the Bible’s commands against premarital sex. Just because premarital sex is extremely accepted in today’s culture, doesn’t mean we should change the Bible. What I 100% agree with you on is that homosexuals should not be discriminated in our culture and I would use the Bible to show that.

      Like I mentioned in my original post, I don’t expect you to agree with what the Bible says on homosexual actions, in the same way I don’t expect my friends who are having heterosexual sex outside of marriage, or who have a subscription to Playboy magazine, to agree with what the Bible says on heterosexual actions. But that doesn’t mean I can’t befriend people and love people who don’t agree with the Bible, as well as invite them to my church–in fact my church is designed with them in mind. I am called by the Bible to show love to people who don’t believe the Bible, it’s one of the main reasons for my existence as a Christian.

      If you, or anyone, has a disagreement with the Bible, they have to take that up with God himself. You are certainly free to reject the Bible, just as I am free to accept it. As mentioned, I do not expect anyone who does not call themselves a Christian to follow anything that the Bible says, period. What I’m trying to show is that acceptance of what the Bible says does not justify the discrimination that has happened to homosexuals. Nowhere in the Bible will you find it saying that we should discriminate against homosexuals*. Christians and others have done sinful things to homosexuals, which we need to repent of and ask forgiveness for.

      *I understand that readers will define “discriminate” differently in this context, as well as “homosexual” for that matter. This is the problem with written text. I am defining a homosexual as: A person with same sex attractions. I am defining discrimination as: being shunned or being mistreated unjustly. Ntrygg, you may have a different, or more specific, definition of “discriminate” you are using, if so I think that would be helpful to define for this conversation. And if you have specific questions about mine, I can elaborate.

       
  3. Cara

    January 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Okay I will jump in as someone who does have gay friends – including gay Christian friends.
    Here is the thing I have been pondering – when people say gay people should remain celibate are we saying that they shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage like we would say (in the church) heterosexuals shouldn’t. Or are we taking it to a place we would not for heterosexuals and say that they shouldn’t even have a romantic relationship. I feel then we are holding them to a stricter, harsher standard – and one that is grounded in that “homosexuality is sin” concept.
    I agree with a lot of what you said about the stigma about it in the church.
    My personal thinking on the issue is in process and has been for years now. The biggest moment thus far for me came when a friend I grew up with told me he was gay – it didn’t one as a shock. I had suspected for a while and then had heard thru the grapevine that he was. But when he trusted me enough to say “I want to tell you myself” that was meaningful and when I realized that my gut reaction was not based on the anti-homosexuality principles I grew up with but rather in love and friendship as when he told me he had a long-term partner I simply asked as I would a heterosexual friend “How did you guys meet?” and I really cared about that. And when his partner abruptly left him after four years and talk of marriage I didn’t think “well that was wrong anyway” – I was heartbroken for him.
    So my thinking is still in process but I am finding truth in my gut reactions that are based on my interactions with Scripture, others and God’s I dwelling of me and not in the principles I was raised with.

    – Cara

     
    • Noah

      January 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      I think you bring up a great, and very challenging, question Cara. An older Christian friend of mine has a sister who is a lesbian and she is a Christian. She is committed to a sexually celibate lifestyle, based on her Christian beliefs, but she lives with her lesbian partner and has for many years and they consider themselves a couple. Tough one for me to call.

      I think my initial response is it depends on how you define the “act” of homosexuality. Is the act just intercourse? Or is it the “act” when you act on the attraction in any way? Realizing that all analogies are flawed, bear with me on this analogy… I think an analogy could be made to my relationship with my wife when it comes to me and other women. If I am tempted by another woman, I am not sinning. Temptation is going to happen and I will still find other women attractive, even though I am married. But what I do with that temptation/attraction determines if I’m sinning or not. We wouldn’t draw the line at intercourse and say that anything else with another woman is okay. Because the principle, the “sin”, is that I’m breaking God’s design for a sexual relationship (which I think this analogy shows goes beyond simply sex itself), so by even kissing another woman, or by even flirting with another woman, or even consciously fantasizing about another woman, I’d be sinning and breaking God’s commands of how I am to act sexually. Obedience is depriving myself of acting on these other attractions, even though my flesh wants to act on them.

      I realize that this answer won’t sit well with some people who don’t see the Bible as a foundational authority and haven’t committed themselves to it–> and with that I think it may be best to agree to disagree because we could debate the Bible’s authority all day long, and this really isn’t meant to be the forum for that. I’m simply trying to answer from what the Bible says, not trying to add to it or take away from it, in a way to help others who also have the same commitment to and view of the Bible and are trying to navigate their way through this, or for those who are considering the Bible as an authority, and considering a commitment to this, and what its take on this would be.

       
      • Cara

        January 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm

        Well that then brings up the question: What does the Bible say about it? Because I know gay Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative.
        So what does it really say? Are we pulling out mentions about homosexuality from the Law while leaving behind many other commands? Is there a reason for doing this? If so, what is the reason? Is it legitimate?
        (welcome to the way my brain works)
        I think it’s easy to say “The Bible says it is wrong” but we have to ask those questions because the Bible says a lot of things are wrong that we do, like eating certain animals. And I for one don’t go live separately from my husband certain times of the month. And I don’t think any of us sacrifice animals anymore.
        So that’s where I’m at with this: Why have we pulled that out while ignoring other commands or at best saying “Well those aren’t for us anymore” and yet determining that the mention of homosexuality is still for us.
        Why?

         
      • Noah

        January 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        The simplest answer to that question, with this example, is that “The Law” is the Old Testament Law, specifically the Laws within the first 5 books of the Bible. And since commands against homosexual acts are also reiterated in the New Testament, the discussion of “which parts of the OT law do we apply and which ones don’t we?” doesn’t apply to this example. Because the Old Testament is old covenant (not our covenant) and the New Testament is new covenant (our covenant), so we if we know it’s in our covenant, then we know it applies to us, without the confusion of wading through Leviticus.

        I’m happy to give you my thoughts on things that the NT doesn’t mention that are in the OT Law (several of them that seem quite odd), as I do think it is very helpful to know how to decipher those things as a reader of the Bible, who believes that the entire Bible is still authoritative. But I’m not sure if that’s what you were asking, or just the above about homosexuality.

         

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