I’ve struggled in my responses this past month. As most of you know June has been designated LGBTQ pride month. I grew up with pride being a mostly negative word. The Bible contains a warning, in Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride is the opposite of humility and is warned against frequently. Luke 14:11 warns us that those who lift themselves up will be humbled, promising an eventual downfall to pride. Theologians have expounded upon the Bible’s many warnings against the feeling, with C.S. Lewis saying, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” (– C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity) With it being no light matter, how do we navigate the issue?
First off, it’s important to recognize who our LGBTQ friends are, they are our neighbors. In Luke 10 an expert in the Old Testament law challenged Jesus, asking him what the greatest commandment was. He gave the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 as His answer, in short, we are to love God with our whole being. We know from a parallel passage that Jesus said, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39 NASB) In Luke, the man challenging Jesus asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus turned that on its head, by telling him the story of the Good Samaritan and ultimately to be neighborly.
Samaritans were (and are) a group of people who lived in central Israel. We can trace their creation from 2 Kings 17:24 when new foreign colonists were brought in to replace the deported Israelites and intermarriages occurred. The Jewish people of that area had already worshipped other gods, worshipped in ways and places they were not supposed to, and broken from the Davidic line of kings. Unfortunately, 2 Kings 17:25 records that the new mixed people continued their spiritual rebellion and did not follow God. The Jewish people developed racist tendencies towards them, which was wrong and unfortunate, and only served to provide a barrier to winning the Samaritans over to the truth. The religious division was legitimate, but rather than in love to heal and correct, the division grew because of the Jewish attitude toward them. The Samaritans only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament and mixed many pagan ideas into their home-brewed religion. In John 4:22 Jesus says “salvation is of the Jews” pointing out to a Samaritan woman that the Jewish people were correct in what was revealed so far. Despite having no problem with addressing their view as incorrect, Jesus still went out of his way to talk to a Samaritan woman breaking social norms, and in Luke 10 used them as an example of behaving neighborly.
By using the Samaritan in His parable, Jesus demonstrated that people whose beliefs are wrong and are different from us can perform commendable actions. Not only should we treat our LGBTQ friends neighborly, but we must recognize that they live in God’s world, and while they may get some behaviors wrong, they do get many things right (and conversely, we too can get things wrong.) Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” so regardless of what each individual gets right or wrong, we each need a savior and thankfully God took on humanity, in Jesus, and paid the price for us and any sin can be forgiven. So, while there are commendable things that our LGBTQ friends do, they too need a savior, just like us. Neither we, nor they can earn our salvation, and each of us has our own flaws. We must keep that in mind and be loving towards them as God loved us while we were still sinning.
How does love respond to error? When my children err, I tell them. When there is danger I warn them, when necessary I correct them, not because I dislike them, but because I love them. Proverbs 3:12 says that God has the same relationship with us, as I do with my children. I correct them because I love them. I want them to improve and be safe. I tell them not to run in the street because I don’t want them to get hit by a car. I tell them not to run in the driveway, so they don’t fall and skin their knee. Hosea 8:7 says, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind.” God can let us learn through natural consequences, but in His love, He would prefer that we learn in advance. Out of His love, He has set up the bounds in which sex is to occur. You may have heard it said that Jesus says nothing about homosexuality or gay marriage, and thus conclude that it isn’t wrong, but Jesus actually does speak on marriage in general. In Matthew 19 He teaches that marriage should be between one man and one woman, for one lifetime, apart from the sin of pornea. We usually translate that word adultery but it means a variety of sexual sins, including extra-marital or pre-marital sex of heterosexual or homosexual nature, sex with animals, or even withholding sex by a married partner. Jesus didn’t have to mention homosexuality by name because it was already understood to be one of many sexual sins, and the Jewish people’s stance on sexual issues already caused tension between them and their less strict gentile neighbors.
Paul tells us in Romans 1 that homosexuality is the result of God turning people over to their own designs, and it was not His design. The design is an obvious lock and key mechanism, that will be enjoyable, serves multiple purposes, like bonding a mother and father together so that they have a stable home and a deep concern for one another, but also, and very obviously reproduction.
In my lifetime I’ve watched the LGBTQ community’s journey. Letters have been picked up along the way. At first, I was on board with their cause and would stand right beside them to say that name-calling and insults were not appropriate. The tragic murder of Matthew Shephard was an abomination. I even concurred that I did not want a government so powerful that it could tell me what I could and couldn’t do in my own bedroom. When they said that the Christians didn’t treat those who committed pre-marital sex, or divorce for non-biblical reasons the same way as we treat them, I said Amen! We need to take sin seriously, all of it, not just pick out our favorite ones. All that said, I could not, and will not say that I think that a person is defined by their sexual desires or that just because a person has sexual desires that they should act on them. I’ve been there with a dear friend who cried in prayer for God to remove his homosexual temptations, it didn’t happen for him, it has for others. I have a family friend who I’ve known all my life who has remained celibate because of his attraction to other men, no doubt this has been difficult for him.
The Christian sexual ethic is far more extreme than it gets credit for. Pre-marital sex is and “living together” is an accepted and common occurrence, even in churches. I wouldn’t claim to be perfect in that area either, only forgiven. Yet I can be sympathetic to the claim that at least with heterosexual Christians, there is a hope that they can find someone eventually, where those with homosexual temptation may feel doomed by loneliness. God has changed people’s desires, authors like Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan have penned their own journeys to show God can work in the lives of people with same-sex attraction. Rosaria is married, Christopher remains single last I was aware. But they aren’t the only ones. Many with heterosexual attractions choose to remain single to honor God. Those of us who have spent much length of time married can assure sexual desire is just one part of a marriage.
Much of our reflections on this month are colored by a framework we have adopted, heterosexuality vs. homosexuality. Author Christopher Yuan challenges that dynamic and concludes the goal of the Christian is holiness, not heterosexuality. He defines Holy sexuality as chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. It’s important we keep that distinction in mind when responding to our LGBTQ friends and loved ones.
Yuan has important insight into the LGBTQ culture. If we want to be effective communicators, we need to realize that when we identify an action as a sin and communicate that, they often do not receive it as we intend, even if we do so in love. They confuse who they are, with how they are. Sexual preferences become their identity. It is a buy-in to a community that outdoes the American church in supporting their own. While a separate issue, it should convict us to do better in our internal relationships in our church, and with other churches. To embrace LGBTQ pride month is embracing that fallacy, that one desire someone has defines their whole being. That isn’t healthy for heterosexuals either.
I must reject participating in LGBTQ pride month because I reject the kind of pride it uses. “so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.’” ( 1 Corinthians 1:31) I don’t think our sexual identity or actions are the kind of thing to take pride in. If it’s something God ordained, and good, I can give thanks. I can be proud to see Holy actions in others, excited when I see spiritual maturity in a way that makes me thank God for the growth. I can stand with the LGBTQ citizens when they demand that we don’t name call, or attack them. We should treat them in a Christ-like manner, as ambassadors with a goal.
I think it’s important that we as Christians begin to realize that they didn’t “choose” to be that way. No one I know with same-sex attraction has said they chose to pursue that over opposite-sex attraction, just like straight individuals, even married ones, notice when others are attractive. Even though I do think we should confirm that they do have these feelings and that they didn’t choose them, it doesn’t mean I think we should celebrate them, or say that one should act on a desire, just because it is experienced. While I don’t want to argue that all homosexuals are promiscuous, promiscuity occurs in nature even more than homosexuality, it does not mean that we should all be promiscuous if we feel tempted to be. I would reject a promiscuity pride month in the same manner as I do the LGBTQ pride month. I would reject an adulterer’s pride or a pre-marital sex pride month as well.
How then do we go about rejecting it? It’s increasingly difficult to keep our dollars away from the logos that highlight themselves with rainbows at least once a year. While I think that’s one avenue to express rejecting it, I think primarily, it should be continued conversations and relationships, good study into the Bible, into effective communication and good arguments and getting to the issues behind the more obvious ones. C.S. Lewis says, “The most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones being argued, but the ones that are assumed.” I think we need to think more about where rights come from, why the government is involved in marriage at all, what marriage really means, are we addressing other social issues in the same way as this one, are we targeting it because it is more on the outside, or is this where society is pushing it (it’s the later.) We need to ask smart questions, like are all sins equal and then spread what we learn persuasively.
Are all sins equal? It’s an important part of this conversation, but it is a very complex and nuanced topic, so we will cover that issue in the next newsletter.
Originally printed in the July 2019 FCC Newsletter