MIXEDconception #3: Christianity and Homosexuality
It's one of THE most complex and debated issues of our day. What's a grace-filled, reasonable follower of Christ to do with this topic?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing in our MIXEDconceptions series this morning.
And as you saw by the video, we are covering an incredibly difficult topic this morning. Christianity and Homosexuality.
Perhaps THE most complex and difficult topic of our culture right now.
And for a lot of people, even though there are some really strong opinions out there, I think it’s still a confusing topic.
Particularly, if you’re a Christian, living in America, in 2013
Because if you’re here right now, I’m guessing you love God. You probably like the Bible too.
And I think a lot of Christians want to know…what do I do with this subject? What do I do because I heard the Bible talks about this…yet…I want to be a loving person.
I don’t want to be some bigot or something like that
What should we really believe in 21st century?
I don’t want to be like some of those crazy Christians on the news.
And it’s one of main reasons, we finally made the decision to actually talk about this subject.
I feel like, whenever this topic is talked about by Christians, it’s almost never represented well.
There are an unbelievable amount of MIXEDconceptions: Mixtures of American culture and Biblical ideas. On both sides of the issue.
They always show “supposed Christians” on TV waving some “God hates gays” banner or interview some Christian who talks about God cursing homosexuals with AIDS…
And I’m always covering my face going, “Please stop talking. You do not represent me as a Christ-follower”
So I wanted to give what I believe is a Biblical and logical middle-ground.
By the way, let me be candid about the timing of our message.
We planned this message months ago with the hopes of avoiding all possible political connections.
When this topic surprisingly came up as discussion within the MN legislature a number of weeks ago, we even considered cancelling it because we’re THAT serious about having zero political connections to this message whatsoever
But decided that we needed just go forward with it anyway
But you’ve got to know: This is not connected to politics.
Sure, there is a political sub-topic related to this issue.
But as far as it’s possible for you, I want you to not think about politics this morning.
In fact, we’re not even going to talk about marriage today. That’s how far away I want to stay from the political debate.
This isn’t going to be a statement on what the government should and shouldn’t do.
I just want to look at this topic in Scripture.
And let me say this…even if I say something you disagree with today, my prayer is that you would remember our entire body of work here at Renovation.
Don’t just jump to, “Oh and David and Renovation…they’re crazy”
You probably weren’t thinking that when you walked in today
Just because you didn’t like Rocky 5, doesn’t mean you still didn’t like the Rocky franchise.
By the way, Rocky 5 is seriously one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
Not that I don’t think what’ I’m going to say today is important…and Biblical…realize too that you’re never going to 100% agree w/ ANY church
It’s impossible. And that’s okay.
That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I don’t want you to have an open mind today.
For a lot of us, our minds our completely closed on this issue.
And not only that, when people bring it up…we get pretty passionate about it…maybe even a tad defensive.
But I encourage you to open up your mind to it…
And let me challenge you from the outset with something I learned in psychology:
Whenever we tend to get pretty emotional/defensive in discussion or when someone is presenting something we don’t agree w/, we’re usually getting emotional because deep down inside we’re not truly sure WHAT we believe.
Like, if you said to me, “David, your sister doesn’t exist!”
I wouldn’t get emotional about it, because I just absolutely KNOW she exists
So…if you feel yourself getting emotional today…don’t tune out…maybe that’s God challenging you to bend your perspective.
And if you’re listening today…even if it’s online later…I encourage you to bite the bullet and listen to the whole thing…because this is going somewhere…maybe someplace you aren’t even expecting.
If you didn’t happen to catch our message last week, I highly encourage you to watch the video online.
Because it’s REALLY important in regards to what we’re talking about today.
Last weekend we talked about the MIXEDconception of thinking that the Bible is inspired in some areas and not in others.
To say that is to say that you KNOW God’s character SO well, that you can actually pick out the parts that are God and the parts that are not
We said that based on the Bible’s internal testimony of it being entirely inspired, based on the amazing fruit of the Bible over thousands of years, and based on good reasoning skills, that the Bible is through and through the Inspired Word of God.
It’s one of the core doctrines of Christianity: It’s called Biblical Inerrancy.
That the Bible is fully true in all of its teachings.
And if we don’t believe in that…there’s really not a great reason to believe in Jesus…
Because if you can’t believe the book that talks about Him in the first place…what’s the point?
So we start there. Because without belief in the Bible…this is a totally different discussion.
But because we do believe that Scripture is the inspired word of God…what does it say about this topic?
And again…hang with me as we start walking through this. Even if it makes you uncomfortable at first.
Because while it’s important that we look at what the Bible says…I want you to hang with me through the application. Deal?
Well, it all starts at the beginning in Creation.
(Genesis 2:18) – NIV
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
We see that the focus of the passage is not procreation (as some would say), but it’s actually to find a suitable companion for Adam
Someone that is different from him, yet complimentary to him
There are some other passages along the way (in Genesis & Judges), but for the sake of time, we’re going to focus on the big ones. The other one that gets a lot of play, is in perhaps the least read book of the Bible in the OT: Leviticus
(Leviticus 18:22) – NIV
“‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
There’s a similar verse in chapter 20 as well.
In any sort of debate, this is usually the first one thrown out, as debaters will say, “Yeah, but in the surrounding chapters it also says “Don’t eat rare meat, don’t wear clothes of 2 materials, and don’t get tattoos” (even if it’s a Bible verse) j/k
So, it’s said, how could that verse on homosexuality possibly mean anything if there’s a verse that says don’t get tattoos?
Well, interpreting Levitical Law (which is a minor portion of the Bible) is a little bit more complex than that. Not a lot… But a little.
For one, you already probably know that we don’t practice some of the surrounding Levitical laws because they were religious/ceremonial laws about sacrifices…sacrificing animals, etc.
But Jesus changed all that…in that he was the final sacrifice. And the NT tells us we don’t need to that
But there are also a few other laws in there that were there for their cultural, Jewish, and governmental structures of that time.
For instance, they didn’t tattoo themselves because that’s how the pagans around them worshipped God by branding each other, so that’s how the Israelites were set apart.
But that’s not our culture today.
So then, how in the world do you tell what’s cultural and what’s not?
Couldn’t this just be cultural?
Here’s how we know: What’s still applicable is what’s called moral law. Items on morality.
These are things like the ten commandments.
Because God’s character and morality doesn’t change over time.
It’s a hard word, but God in Leviticus 18, even calls the actual practice of it…detestable.
And what was once against God’s character…is still against God’s character…as His character doesn’t change
And that’s why we are still held to all the moral law of the Old Testament.
Perhaps the most comprehensive passage on the subject in the Bible is from the Apostle Paul, who wrote the famous book of Romans…about 30 years after Jesus.
The context of this passage is that: People know God exists, yet they keep denying Him and living for their own pleasures.
And as a result of that…we’ve lost what God really wants for us
(Romans 1:24-27) – NIV
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Paul makes a pretty clear argument that acting out sexually in a homosexual relationship…is an example, just one of them (as he continues to list tons of others later on)…but an example of moral depravity.
There are even more verses on this subject in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 put it in a list of sins as well.
But this is enough for now…I think you get the idea.
Sidenote: Sometimes people say, “Well, Jesus never talked about homosexuality, so HE’S okay with it in a loving relationship.”
And, yes, while it’s true that Jesus never talked about it explicitly (although I would argue that he did implicitly), we interpret all of the Bible as authoritative…not just Jesus’ words.
Plus, Jesus also never talked about rape or incest…and that doesn’t’ mean he’s okay with that.
About 10-15 years ago, it was actually fairly common for people to engage in debate about “What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality?”
“Perhaps Paul actually meant this?”
But now, in 2013, it’s not really debated that often anymore.
Because one would have to go a lot of interpretive gymnastics to come to a different conclusion.
And thus if people disagree, they usually just say, “Well, I don’t believe in the Bible then”
CHRISTIANS MAJORLY DROPPED THE BALL ON THIS ONE
So there it is…that’s a Biblical look at it.
It’s not sugarcoated. It’s not changed. It’s…that’s what it is.
HOWEVER…..HOWEVER…that doesn’t mean, in any way, that Christians have handled this subject even remotely well.
Because the Bible says a whole lot of other things about grace, and love, and how we should treat people as well
In fact, I would even say, for American Christians, this is perhaps our worst blunder of the last generation
I’ve been reading some stuff lately about the Christians of the early centuries…and how many of them risked their lives to care for plague victims.
They said, “I may die caring for you…but I’m here.”
“Some historians think it’s one of the reasons that the growth of Christianity was so exponential.
And, a similar, but smaller scale opportunity came our way in the 1980’s as the AIDS epidemic first hit the gay community.
And the church…instead of getting in the midst of it and saying, “How can we pray for you? How can we help? Instead of telling people about a loving God who cares for them and spreading hope…the church stood back and said, “See, that’s God’s judgment”
And the gay community has never forgotten it. And we’ve never recovered.
And now, 30 years later…most Christians still struggle with what to do about this
Part of the problem is…that in dealing with this issue, we’ve completely missed the example of Jesus
Who was SO committed to reaching out to EVERYONE, no matter what!
And yet, we don’t reach out. We ignore. Some even mock.
We stand back and just throw stones from a far. Trying to make sure people know they’re wrong first.
But our job is not to go out and convince everyone their wrong and need to change.
Our first and primary task is always to go love people and tell them about Jesus
That doesn’t mean we water-down the Bible…doesn’t mean we lie about sin…or say it’s not sin…but we always lead with introducing people to Jesus…
Another part of problem here, is Christians have withdrawn too much from their gay and lesbian friends. As if we’re worried about being seen w/ them or something
We say things like, “well, I can’t be associated w/ that person. if I’m associated with them…or hang out with them…that means “I SUPPORT THEM and their lifestyle.”
But that’s not how Jesus thought. That’s how the Pharisees thought!
They were the ones saying they couldn’t hang out or be seen “with sinners”
But Jesus, even though he was VERY clear about what was sin and what wasn’t…
He constantly hung out with all the people that the religious people thumbed their noses at
So, let me just say…to the homosexual community…before we go any further…on behalf of my Christian brothers and sisters…we are sorry.
We’re sorry for treating you like you were different or worse than us…when you are most certainly not.
We’re sorry. We really are. We missed the boat here.
SO WHAT DO WE DO
So what do we actually do about this then?
Well for one, let’s not make it the poster-child of all sin.
Again, I’m not saying it’s not sin. I’m not saying it’s okay. But let’s not make it into the worst thing imaginable. That’s ridiculous.
We’ve given close to 200 messages here at Renovation and this is the first time we’ve even mentioned it..
We’ve talked about 199 other issues. This is not THE big issue. Or THE big sin. It’s one among hundreds.
I’m not going to change Scripture and say it’s not an issue. But it’s ONE among 100’s.
Every sin obviously has different consequences (lying obviously has a different consequence than murder)
But every sin is equal, In the sense that every sin can be forgiven by Jesus Christ
In other words, a homosexual act is no less forgivable or redeemable than any sin you committed on your drive here.
There’s no special judgment for homosexuals and there’s no special righteousness for heterosexuals.
And I think what happened, is the church, apparently just decided to make this their poster-child for sin because most people don’t struggle with it.
Or at least aren’t admitting to it.
But we’re just picking on other people’s sins, so we can feel better about ourselves.
It would be nice if we heard American Christians talk about the sin of gluttony as often as we heard about homosexuality
But we don’t do that…because that doesn’t make us feel as good about our own “supposed righteousness”
But if we’re going to actually change how we live out this issue…we need to start with more intelligently, and more gracefully speaking into the issue
Because we already have a major perception issue centered around our views…thanks mostly to crazy people who go on the news representing us.
David Kinnaman, in his book UnChristian (a book about how nonChristians view Chrisitans) states that 91% of non-Christians view Christians as anti-homosexual
And a big reason for that is because we are really struggling to gracefully and yet, still accurately communicate Biblical beliefs on the issue
So, yes, the Bible is clear on it…but let’s try and use ALL of Scripture now to level the playing field a little bit.
For example…and here’s where I think a lot of the confusion is…I’m anti alcoholism (I think it ruins people’s lives), but I’m for the alcoholic.
I love them. Want to see them meet Jesus. Grow in God.
And it’s the same way with people struggling with homosexuality.
I’m not anti-homosexual. I’m highly for them. For showing kindness and compassion, and just like anyone else, praying they meet Jesus if they don’t already know Him.
But it’s more complicated than that. Because homosexuality, for a lot of people, isn’t just something you do…like go take a drink of alcohol.
For many people…they feel like…this is who I am. So you can say, I don’t approve of the sin, but I love you…but to them, it still feels like… “No you don’t.” You just said “WHO I AM…is wrong.”
And I think this is the nuanced area where we mess up our conversation…and perhaps as Christians are confused on what to say?
But I would say to that person, “Yes…you are wrong…you are broken.”
But so am I. Perhaps even worse.
This too, is one of the basic doctrines of Christianity. It’s called, the doctrine of Original sin.
It’s the idea, from what we see in Genesis, that every single one of us is born (because of Adam’s fall) with innate impulses which go against God and innate desires that are sinful.
We are all NATURAL-born sinners. All of us.
We are good, made in God’s image.
But we’re also BORN predisposed towards sin.
Its’ why we need a SAVIOR
Ok…but then let’s bring it back to our topic.
Isn’t it true that if you were actually born this way, that’s it okay? I mean, if you’re born that way…it has to be okay. God made you that way…so He approves of it?
But that’s not what the Bible says.
It says that we were all born broken. Sinful at birth. King David puts it this way:
(Psalm 51:5) - NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!
For I was born a sinner - yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
We are all equally broken people.
On a scientific note, let’s not be SO quick to accept this idea that someone is born gay. There still is no major genetic study proving this.
If there was, trust me, you’d know about it…and we’d all be talking about the Johnson Genetic Theory or whatever it would be called.
But even if people are born that way (let’s say it’s proved someday) …remember…we’re ALL born into sin…and the way we were born…our innate desires never justify our behaviors.
For example, we actually DO have scientific evidence that some people are born predisposed with tendencies towards alcoholism
Children whose mothers drank while they were in the womb for example
But you would never say, “well, since they were born with a predisposition towards it, it’s okay if they get drunk every day”
Here’s another example…from the sexual arena even.
Many heterosexual men and women constantly struggle with what seems like an innate desire to be attracted to and drawn towards someone of the opposite sex who isn’t their spouse
In fact, 25-50% of married heterosexuals will act on that, seemingly innate impulse and commit adultery
But just because they’ve always been attracted to multiple people at once…doesn’t mean it’s ok
And that’s where I think we’re philosophically not thinking very clearly on this.
But we might still say…but it’s not fair. Let’s say…maybe people are born this way…how could it possibly be fair for God to make someone with a desire to have sex with someone of the same sex…and yet…tell them they can’t do that?!
For starters, ALL of us are BORN w/ certain weaknesses and bents towards things the Bible would call sin. They’re just different.
For some…that’s disproportionate lust of the opposite sex, for others it’s overeating…for others it’s rage and abuse even.
Since we’re all broken, we’re all bound with limitations.
The recovering alcoholic who’s now trying to live a Godly live, is LIMITED, in that they can’t drink leisurely like everyone else, they can’t just go to any party…to any bar…or even some restaurants.
They’ve limited in living out a Godly life
But you could say…yeah…but that’s not quite the same…it’s not the same on the fairness level!
Part of this whole issue is that “Fairness” is an American MIXEDconception.
God never guaranteed you fairness. That’s a cultural MIXEDconception.
The argument for fairness doesn’t get us very far, since life is never “fair” in the sense of “the same for everyone.
No one has equal abilities or opportunities
Some people are born with severe handicaps or deformities.
Some people can’t have sex in marriage because of a physical limitation. Some were born that way.
Some people get cancer.
Some die too young.
30,000 kids die of hunger every day.
Life in this broken world is not fair.
But every single one of us, regardless of the hand that we’re dealt, is responsible to God for what He has given us.
Regardless of our situations and different types of brokenness, we’re all called to live lives of faith and obedience.
And that’s how we should determine morality…not based off of what’s “fair.”
Speaking of MIXEDconceptions, even the concept of sexual identity, is a MIXEDconception
Because, as difficult as it is, homosexuality, or heterosexuality, is never the primary definition of your identity.
Your sexuality…is not the main thing that makes you human. Far from it.
That would be a slap in the face to all the disabled people who are unable to engage in sexual relations.
Our identity must always first and foremost be in being a Child of God.
We are a broken, messed up people whom God loved so much…no matter what we’ve done…that He sent his son for us to offer us life and forgiveness.
Everything else…Your occupation, your race, your sexuality, your financial status, is just a secondary issue.
TEMPTATION AND CONCLUSION
But this is all become such a difficult conversation, because the truth of the issue is complex…it’s not simple. But when emotions run high, wild accusations and misconceptions also run high
Just like if you get in a fight with your spouse or family member over something kind of complex, half way through fight you’re throwing out accusations and statements that are so broad and off-base that they aren’t very accurate to the original discussion…and this same sort of thing can happen here.
“An example of that is yet another MIXEDconception around the issue of identity.
And it’s a MIXEDconception that people on BOTH sides of the issue, have. And it’s the fact that, we are calling people with attraction towards people of the same sex…sinners.
We’re calling them sinners.
People are saying, “You’re gay. You’re a lesbian. That’s a sin.”
Yes, on the one hand, we’re all broken…we’re all sinners.
But it’s not true…it’s wrong…to say…you’re a lesbian. That’s a sin.
That’s like saying, “You’re heterosexual…that’s a sin…because you might sin sexually with another person”
Let’s be very clear about what the Bible actually calls sin here.
A temptation is not a sin.
We’re all sinners, but it’s not a sin to be tempted. The Bible is incredibly clear on that.
It’s not even a sin to be attracted to someone.
What if someone walked in the room right now, and you thought, “They’re a good looking person.”
Is that a sin? No
You might even think that about someone of the same sex and be a heterosexual person. Good looking guy!
No, the Bible merely says, that when it turns into LUST it’s a sin…or when it’s actually practiced or acted out. That’s sin.
Same thing for heterosexual people.
And this matters…because if you’re struggling with this personally…you have to know that…on the one hand yes…you mess up just like the rest of us…that’s humanity.
But on the other hand…YOU are not the sin…the action is. Just like everybody else.
So what does it mean going forward from here??
For one, for believers, as incredibly difficult as it’s become, we need to still trust God’s Word as God’s Word.
My fear is that, if we out of fear, let this be the first area where we say, “I know the Bible says this, but I don’t believe that part”
Then, in America, this will be the issue that is the chip in the dam, that begins to break our faith in Biblical inerrancy…that the Bible is fully true.
If we don’t believe it here…then where will it stop?
And secondly…What if this is YOUR life? And you are attracted to people of the same sex? Or your family member is?
1: God…just like with ANY other issue in the Bible…can change us. And make sin less appealing.
He does it every day with people struggling with lust….anger…hate…racism…greed…gossip…etc.
And it’s not like there’s some area that God can’t change us in. God can help you here.
If He couldn’t, He wouldn’t be God.
But secondly, I don’t know what that will look like.
Just like I don’t know what the future will look like for the alcoholic, the drug addict, the porn addict, or the compulsive gossiper.
Some people…God comes in, does a miracle in their heart…and they never take a drink of alcohol again.
Others, who love God very, very much…will struggle with alcoholism, or at minimum the temptation of it…the rest of their entire lives.
And thus you might…struggle with these temptations the rest of your life.
Although God can and does do miraculously things, I think some Christians have hurt the conversation even more by saying things like, “Just pray the gay away” and you’ll be fine.
You might struggle…just like so many heterosexual people really struggle with the temptations to act sexually outside of their marriage…the rest of your life.
I believe God can make it easier…make it better…but it might not disappear. Often temptation doesn’t.
But my challenge to you…if you are struggling with this personally…would be to trust in God’s Word as truth.
Not just our current culture.
Because, culture, in history is constantly fluid. Constantly changing.
It said one thing yesterday, it will say one thing today, and it will say another in the future.
But Jesus Christ, and God’s Word…is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
And if you are struggling with this, I really want you to know that you are NO different than any other person here at Renovation.
You might feel like that’s not true as we’re talking about this today…but again…for 199 other weeks, we’ve been talking about everyone else’s stuff…and some of your other stuff too J
Because every single one of us is broken. We’re all messed up. None better than the other.
And our only real identity is not our type of sexuality, but that we are all people…ALL of us…that God loved SO much…no matter what we’ve done…no matter WHO we are…
That he sent his own son to die for us on the cross and offer us forgiveness and eternal life with Him.
And I thank God for that grace. For all of us.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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