Counter-Cultural Christianity: Homosexuality
January 24, 2015 | Brian Bill
An unloving group that calls themselves a church and uses the name Baptist is spreading a message of judgment and hatred in the QCA this weekend by picketing and protesting in front of churches and a school in our community. Referring to one evangelical church as a “dog kennel,” the website for Westboro (I’m not going to call them Baptist or a church) spews venom like this: “God hates fags…and will repay you right in your face for your hatred of him.”
This is what they posted on their website about another church whose doctrine is almost identical to ours: “WBC will picket the faux Christians…where they teach the soul-damning lies that God loves everyone, Jesus Christ died for everyone, and it is up to the human to ‘receive’ Jesus Christ as his/her savior.” This group has also protested at military funerals with signs like, “God hates dead soldiers,” bringing embarrassment to Christ and his followers.
I’ve reached out to five of the pastors that have been targeted this weekend. This is the email I sent: “I wanted to let you know that we stand with you. It grieves me that a group calling themselves a church would be so filled with hatred and judgment. As a pastor of a Baptist church, it saddens me that they would not only claim to be Baptist but that they also call themselves a church. May God give you wisdom and love as you shepherd your people through this.”
As we continue in our series called, “Counter-Cultural Christianity,” we’re going to focus on what God says about homosexuality. Next week will be on racism and then we’ll conclude in two weeks with a sermon on suicide. I want to begin where we did last weekend when we gave our attention to the topic of abortion.
1. Some churches clobber sinners.
We want to always remember that the gospel is for sinners. It’s ok to be incensed about evil but we’re to extend love to those who practice evil things. This angry group from Kansas is not extending kindness or compassion to those in need of the gospel. Just last month a pastor from New Zealand gained international attention when he said these awful words to a homosexual: “You cannot be saved…I pray that you will commit suicide.” In a later interview, Pastor Logan Robertson said this to a reporter, “I think every single one of them should be put to death.” That is just wrong. No pastor should be preaching a message like that.
2. Other churches have caved on sin.
Our aim is not to be politically correct, but to be biblically correct. It’s time for churches to speak out…and reach out to those who are confused and ensnared. As our culture spins out of control we must maintain our call to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world. Several mainline denominations have legitimatized and even glorified homosexuality by ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex unions. The mantra has become, “As long as you love each other then you can live like you want.”
A Pew Research study show that support for so-called same-sex marriage among white Evangelicals has jumped 10 percentage points in a little over a decade. Some are calling for churches to change their stance on this issue in order to remain relevant.
3. Our model is Jesus Christ.
We don’t want to cave into sin or clobber sinners but instead to follow Christ as our example. John 1:14 says that Jesus is “FULL of grace and truth.” The word “full” means, “abounding and abundant; complete and perfect.” When a woman was caught in adultery in John 8:11, Jesus ministered grace to her and told her truth: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Likewise, we’re called to minister in truth and with grace. One pastor is calling on evangelicals to demonstrate “bold truth and sweet grace.”
Chip Ingram has rightly observed, “One group champions truth without love and another champions love without truth.” Some pastors have preached truth without grace and it has caused great damage. More often than not however, evangelical pastors have avoided the issue altogether. I don’t see that as an option according to 2 Timothy 4:1-5: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Preaching about God’s heart on homosexuality certainly doesn’t seem to be “in season” but preach I must. One Edgewood member told me this week: “I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.” But then she said she’s glad we’re looking at what God says. Our society is all about discussing “our rights” but we’re increasingly hesitant to declare, “what is right.” I would not be able to say that I love God or my neighbor if I stay silent.
I know that just preaching on this topic will lead some to think that I’m a homophobe or a homosexual hater. I am neither. Others might think I’m too soft. My aim is to be true to Scripture. I recognize that I will not be able to address every issue related to this topic and I certainly will not answer all your questions. I understand that this issue brings up a lot of angst. Some parents are struggling with the decisions their child has made. Others have family members who are practicing homosexuality, which has created conflict in your home. I’m sure there are some who don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, that being “gay is okay.” There are others who are struggling with same-sex attraction and want to be free, but don’t know how freedom could ever happen.
There’s no doubt that there’s been a huge and rapid seismic shift on homosexuality in the past 10 years. The Economist ran a cover story this past October called, “So Far, So Fast” in which the author argued that the moral revolution isn’t just now taking place, it is basically already accomplished. Just a few days ago the Supreme Court decided to hear an appeal in a so-called same-sex marriage case and will give its answer in June whether there’s a constitutional right for what has been called “marriage equality” in our entire country. Currently, 60% of all Americans now live in a state in which marriage has been redefined and not coincidentally, nearly 60% of Americans have no problems with same-sex relations. Incidentally, a recent study found that 73% of 18-29 year-olds are in favor of gay marriage.
Ray Pritchard has helped me tremendously in my understanding of this topic and much of what I will say today comes from his mentoring and teaching. Listen to what he said in a post from this past summer: “The evangelical movement is about to divide…It isn’t just about homosexuality or even about gay marriage…it will be clear that we have divided over biblical authority.” Albert Mohler agrees and insists that there is no middle ground on this issue. Here are just four recent examples.
- Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired recently for his view that marriage is designed by God to be between one man and one woman for life.
- Two Idaho pastors are facing fines and jail for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
- A professor from Marquette University reportedly told a student that if he doesn’t support gay marriage then he is homophobic and should drop out of her class.
- Two Christian bakers who recently made headlines for refusing to make a cake featuring Bert and Ernie and the slogan, “Support Gay Marriage,” are reportedly facing prosecution.
My purpose in preaching about this topic is the same as every other sermon I preach – What does Scripture say? We don’t need to consult surveys or wonder what the Supreme Court will decide; we need to know what God has declared. And let me say again that the main issue is one of biblical authority. Time magazine ran an article this month by Elizabeth Dias in which she said, “In many evangelical communities, the Bible itself is on trial…the marriage debate isn’t really about marriage or families or sex – it is about the Bible itself.”
And in a Newsweek cover story earlier this month called, “The Bible So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” Kurt Eichenwald writes this about evangelicals, “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals…[they] twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”
I guess it’s good for us to know what some people think of Christians but let’s go to the Bible, not to pick and choose or to twist and modify, but to allow the authority of God’s Word to be clearly communicated.
Before we dive in, this chart from Chip Ingram’s excellent book called, Culture Shock clearly communicates the two different perspectives on homosexuality.
Cultural View Biblical View
Born Gay Learned/Developed
Homosexuality = An Identity Homosexuality = Same-Sex Behavior
“Who I Am” “What I Do”
Alternative Lifestyle Destructive Lifestyle
Civil Rights Issue Moral/Sin Issue
Let’s look now at what the Bible teaches on this topic.
The Foundation of Marriage
Genesis 1:27-28 says that God created humans as males and females: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…’”
In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Adam realizes that none of the created animals can provide deep companionship as we read in verse 20: “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” Notice that the helper he needed was not another man but a woman. God’s intention is clearly seen in verse 24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Friends, the account of creation is clear – heterosexuality is God’s design for marriage. One man united with one woman in the covenant of marriage for life is the created and natural order. I like how Pastor Ray puts it: “Homosexuality must be seen as something outside of God’s design for the human race. It represents a denial of the two-fold nature of man as male and female. It is a deviation in the truest sense of the word. The importance of Genesis 1-2 cannot be overemphasized. It is the foundation upon which the entire Bible rests…to substitute a man with a man or a woman with a woman is to distort God’s original design.”
Actually, the term “gay marriage” is an impossibility because biblically marriage is defined by God to be monogamous between one man and one woman for life. Ronald Sider, in a recent Christianity Today article puts it like this: “This cannot be understated. Again and again, the Bible affirms the goodness and beauty of marriage between one man and one woman and at the same time it consistently condemns the immorality of sexual acts (heterosexual and homosexual) that do not honor that bond.”
We’ll come back to the Old Testament in just a moment but let’s consider the words of Jesus Christ because he quotes Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-5: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
Jesus Christ clearly held up the Genesis account of marriage as between one man and one woman. Again we see that homosexuality contradicts God’s original plan.
Biblical Passages on Homosexuality
Let’s walk through the seven passages from Scripture that deal with homosexuality.
- Genesis 19:5. In this account we read about Sodom and Gomorrah. Men surrounded Lot’s house and set forth a demand: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” The city of Sodom was eventually destroyed because of all the sexual immorality.
- Leviticus 18:22. In a list of prohibitions against certain sexual relationships, this verse categorically and clearly states: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” This word means, “offensive.”
- Leviticus 20:13. In chapter 20, a number of capital offenses are listed like adultery, incest, polygamy and bestiality. The prohibition against homosexuality is repeated: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
These two verses show the consistent heart of God. Homosexual acts are unnatural and an abomination to God because His original design is for one man and one woman to be united in the covenant of marriage for life.
- Judges 19:22-23. In a story reminiscent of what happened with Lot and the men of Sodom, a gang of wicked men gather outside a house and demand that an older man send out his guest so they can satisfy their homosexual desires: “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!” The man is repulsed by this and replied: “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage.” This story does not end well and no one looks good when it’s all over but it is a vivid example of what happens when people reject God’s Law.
Let’s look at three New Testament passages.
- 1 Timothy 1:9-10. The Apostle Paul is arguing here that the Old Testament Law serves a good purpose because it helps us see our sinfulness. God’s laws are also designed to set limits to keep us from harm. The Bible then lists those who are busted by God’s standards: “…for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers…” It’s worth noting that the common word for homosexuality is sodomy and is listed with other vile and immoral acts.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The church at Corinth had a number of immoral issues going on. The Apostle Paul called out those who were living in sin and yet thought they were in right standing with God: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” If you have not yet been declared righteous through the new birth then heaven is not your home. This is a good reminder that unless we admit we are sinners and repent from the way we’ve been living, we are not saved. Actually, until you know you are a sinner you won’t even want to be saved.
- Romans 1:21-32 is the central passage on homosexuality in the Bible. In the opening chapters of Romans, Paul is establishing that everyone is a sinner in need of the Savior. He starts with irreligious Gentiles and then moves to moral people and finally in chapter three he takes on the Jewish person. He concludes this section in 3:10 by saying, “There is none righteous, not even one.” All of us know how to sin, don’t we?
The first chapter of Romans paints a picture of what happens in any society that turns its back on God. In verse 21, their hearts are darkened, in verse 22 they become foolish and in verse 23 they ultimately turn to idolatry. When a society rejects God, we see His response in triplicate in verse 24: “God also gave them up.” In verse 26: “God gave them up” and in verse 28: “God gave them over.” Let me be quick to say that it doesn’t mean that God gives up on people but that He simply allows a society to slide into the depths of depravity.
Notice in verse 24 that the first result is widespread lust, impurity and immorality. Secondly, a society then spins out of control into open homosexuality. Listen carefully to verses 26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
Listen again to these strong phrases – “vile passions…against nature…burned in their lusts…committing what is shameful…penalty of their error.” I don’t know how God could be any clearer in His condemnation of homosexual acts.
Paul then lists some more sins in verse 31 and concludes his argument in verse 32: “Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” The New American Standard puts it like this: “they give hearty approval.” The New Living translation captures it this way: “Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.” That’s exactly what’s happening in our culture, in our courts and in many of our churches today where sin is now celebrated and even paraded in public. This reminds me of what Erwin Lutzer says: “What’s unthinkable in one generation is thinkable in the next.”
I quote from Pastor Ray again: “It is occasionally said that God does not single out homosexuality, that it is no worse than any other sin. In one sense that is true since…they may be saved just as easily and quickly as anyone else… Having said that, however, we must not miss the emphasis of this passage. Widespread homosexuality is a mark of a society that has forgotten God and rejected His word. In that sense, homosexuality is singled out for special treatment. Why? Because it is, as Howard Snyder puts it, ‘a primary symptom of total moral decay.’”
The Bible teaches that homosexual behavior in any form is contrary to God’s will and is always a sin.
The Bible teaches that homosexual behavior in any form is contrary to God’s will and is always a sin. For those who uphold the Bible there can be no other conclusion, no matter what our culture declares or our courts decide.
Hope for the Homosexual
But God’s heart for the homosexual does not end there. In the passage about certain people not inheriting the kingdom of God, Paul holds out hope for the homosexual (and anyone else who is ready to change). Check out 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Look at how the past tense is used: “And such were…you were…you were.” They were homosexuals but now they have been washed from their sins and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. All three members of the Trinity are involved in this life change process!
Don’t buy the lie that homosexuals can’t change. With Christ, they can! When someone encounters Christ through the new birth they become someone they never were before. When adulterers got saved they became former adulterers. When slanders were saved they were former slanderers and when homosexuals were saved and sanctified they were no longer homosexuals – “and such were some of you!” Former homosexuals were in the First Church of Corinth!
Homosexual behavior is sinful but salvation is available through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m not suggesting that it will be easy to stop the sin of homosexuality but what I am saying is this – the only way to change is through Jesus Christ! The church is not out to clobber or to cave but instead to offer Christ, who is full of truth and grace. Homosexual behavior is always wrong (that’s the truth) but complete forgiveness and deliverance is available through Jesus Christ (that’s grace). Here’s the bottom line. Homosexual behavior is sinful but salvation is available through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How Do We Respond?
- For men and women who are married, it’s time to live out your vows and responsibilities. Ephesians 5:33: “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
- Let’s live with purity and watch our words and actions. We need to stop with the demeaning jokes and the unkind comments and the malicious names. Ephesians 5:3-4: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
- Remember that everyone matters to God. Practicing homosexuals are still made in the image of God. They are sinners…and so are we. Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Pray for those caught in the sin of homosexuality. Pray that they would see their sin and confess Christ as Savior and Lord so they find freedom. I’m reminded of a saying I once heard: “Sin will always take you further than you planned to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.” We all need to be on guard against all kinds of sexual temptation. Genesis 4:7 paints a vivid picture: “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
- Reach out in love and look for ways to introduce them to Christ. Let’s move from us vs. them to us for them. I like what Christopher Yuan, a former homosexual, says: “God’s unconditional love is not the same as His unconditional approval of our behavior.” We must welcome sinners without endorsing evil. And we need to realize that some will continue to struggle as Galatians 6:1 says: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
- It’s time to be saved. Everyone is a sinner and everyone needs to be saved. I had the privilege of being on Moody Radio Friday morning along with two other pastors to discuss a biblical response to Westboro. I mentioned that this is really a gospel opportunity for us since everyone is talking about it. I appreciated something Pastor Tim Scott said. He reminded us that God is angry about sin but that His judgment was poured out on His Son when He died on the cross. God’s justice has been fully satisfied and His anger has been appeased. The Bible calls this propitiation. Romans 3:25: “Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness.”
If you have not yet responded to the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life, it’s time to repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and then determine to follow Him as your Lord for the rest of your life. Listen. The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality but holiness. Whether we’re drawn to the same sex or opposite sex, God’s goal is for our purity and His ultimate desire is that we all be saved.
The only way someone struggling with homosexuality will see God’s love is for us to show it. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and He’s calling us to do the same; not to hate on people, but to love on them. Are you a friend of sinners? If we were to put a sign up for the public to see, what would it say? Would it say that Edgewood is a Friend of Sinners?