Hi, Reed: I wanted to take a minute and tell you that I very much appreciated your sermon last week on homosexuality. With how fast things are changing, and the quick rate that many of our Christian friends are becoming supportive of same-sex relationships, it was good for us to be reminded about what the Bible says on this very complex and heated issue. I’ve said many times over the last few years that in some ways what’s happening with gay marriage in our country isn’t a surprise, but what has been surprising is how many Christians have “evolved” to a more “progressive” view. I’ve felt the need to better understand, study, and be prepared to defend my views to Christian friends more than our gay friends and neighbors.
On June 7th, I preached a sermon with the title, Jesus, Marriage, and Same-Sex Marriage. Throughout the day I had several meaningful and robust conversations. Several asked good questions of my teaching and seemed willing to receive what I believed to be good answers to their questions. The subject matter, quite obviously, is one that is dear to our hearts. A few days after my teaching, I spent time with one man who is actively involved in SBCC and has struggled with same-sex desire for years. He has never acted on those desires. Furthermore, he is married and has children. We prayed together and celebrated the gradual healing God is doing in his life.
I received a handful of emails from members of our church like the one above. It is always encouraging to have someone tell you he or she appreciated your sermon. Those of us who have the responsibility and delight of opening God’s Word for God’s church pour our lives into our teaching, and a simple word of encouragement after the fact is like cold lemonade on an August afternoon.
But there is a corresponding heartbreak. The email above refers to Christian friends becoming supportive of same sex relationships, and the surprise over how many Christians have “evolved” to a more “progressive” view.
My question: Does this matter? Is this an issue over which we want to have conniption fits? Or can we live and let live? Can we agree to disagree on the legitimacy of committed same-sex relations? Is it okay if our Christian friends believe that God smiles on homosexual behavior as long as it takes place in a committed relationship? Is there more at stake than, say, our understanding of the millennium, our view of baptism, or our understanding of women’s roles in the church?
There is much at stake. It matters greatly. There is more at stake here for the church than religious liberty, which is a huge issue in and of itself. Yes, we have read the news stories of the baker, the photographer, and the fire chief who have all bumped into the exacting juggernaut of political necessity. Now that the Supreme Court has legitimized same-sex marriage as the law of the land, the church, the mosque, and the synagogue will inevitably face a new era of severely curtailed religious freedom. This and a host of other issues are at stake. But something deeper, something much more fundamental, should concern us.
Consider 1 Corinthians 5. The apostle Paul is writing to a church that has become tolerant of sexual immorality. In fact, the people of this church are welcoming as a member a man whose sexual behavior is shunned even by the pagans (5:1-2)! Paul argues for the strongest measures of church discipline against this man who has a sexual relationship with either his mother or, more probably, his mother-in-law. The apostle explains himself with this:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
Paul says that within the body of Christ, there is to be a line of demarcation. The Corinthians were instructed by the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to separate themselves from unrepentant people who insisted on calling themselves brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul is aghast. He says the credibility of the church is at stake.
So what does this have to do with our question “Does it matter?” Does it matter if our Christian friends are becoming supportive of same-sex relationships?
Think of what is happening when we become supportive or evolve into a more progressive position on the propriety of same-sex activity. Is not the gospel itself being compromised? As theologian Al Mohler recently said, If we confuse people about what sin is, we confuse them about why they need Christ. I would add that when we re-label sins the Bible condemns, we obscure the reason for which Jesus had to die. In giving our approval to a committed same-sex union, we are saying that such a union is not a sin. Again, when we say that God approves of sexual relations between partners of the same gender, we are saying that Jesus didn’t need to die for such sins.
One problem in giving our approval to other people’s sins (Romans 1:32) is that very soon I will be giving hearty approval to my own sins! I will quickly forget my need for Jesus, the sweetness of God’s grace, and the call to holiness. I will turn the Christian faith into an abstraction and forget that Jesus died for sins –for my sins– every single one of them. Again, the gospel itself is at stake because I have an almost endless capacity for self-deception.
Church, we face difficult times in the near future. We are living in the midst of a sexual revolution that is truly unprecedented in history. Voices outside the church assure us that virtually every civilization that has ever existed has had it wrong with regard to marriage and same-sex behavior. And some voices from within the broad tent of evangelicalism would agree. Increasingly we find leaders, writers, and church denominations who would lead us astray in these areas.
How do we respond in times such as these? There are no easy answers. But let us recommit ourselves to stand under the authority of God’s infallible Word. Above all, let us guard our own hearts and minds, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Let us study the Bible to show ourselves approved, as people who can rightly divide the word of truth and give an answer to those who ask (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15). Let us eschew what Charles Colson called the spiral of silence. Let us lovingly give an answer to our friends with a more “progressive” view. And let us pray for the church for which Christ died. Let us ask that when Christ returns, he will find a church trusting, obeying, and radiant with expectation.