In the first post of this series, I described what I see as a hermeneutical crisis in relation to the issue of homosexuality. Traditionally solid ways of approaching and understanding Scripture are being abandoned to make room for the acceptance of a lifestyle that has been traditionally viewed as condemned in the Bible. It is claimed the Bible has no definitive view of sexual practice and therefore we shouldn’t use the Bible to condemn homosexual practice. I argued otherwise.
In the second post, I took a brief look at what the Bible does say about homosexual activity. I argued that it condemns such practice consistently in both testaments. In comparing the “redemptive movement” of Scripture on issues such as slavery and the treatment of women, homosexual behavior doesn’t hold up so well. Read that post for a better explanation.
In this third post, I want to close with a few words about our Christian response to a culture that increasingly applies pressure on the Church and Christian people to give full endorsement to the homosexual agenda, especially gay marriage or, at the very least, to not oppose their progress.
If I am right in my first two posts, then the “affirming” position is not available for Christian people desiring to live within the authority of Scripture. The Bible definitively and consistently condemns homosexual behavior. As “ambassadors of Christ” our action towards the world is to be redemptive. It is not redemptive to affirm a lifestyle the Bible condemns.
Sometimes, I hear people argue that the inclusiveness of Jesus and the principle of loving your neighbor mean we should be affirming of the gay lifestyle. I think that is exactly backwards. Jesus’ inclusiveness is not on our terms, but his own, and it is not loving your neighbor as yourself to affirm them down the road to hell.
However, the broader Christian response to our culture regarding homosexuality is often disappointing. Our actions of banding together in greater numbers to enforce our will through democratic majority is incongruent with the way of the cross, a lifestyle of love through laying down our lives for others. I am not against voting our particular position out of the conviction of what is best for our country, but I am not very optimistic that channeling all of our energy into creating voting blocs to preserve our values is going to lead to that redemptive lifestyle we are called to emulate.
I’m not going to do anything to help speed along our society’s acceptance of gay marriage, but the world’s values are the world’s values. My concern is that the Church does not adopt the world’s values, and though I hope for some Christian values to be reflected in our law, I am not optimistic for that path to result in greater confluence between the Church and the world. With that said here are four points of emphases to what I hope is an appropriate Christian response.
Consistent and balanced not reactive
Christians are often accused of being obsessed with the issue of homosexuality to the neglect of other sins, including many at their own doorstep. Well, certainly our culture is pushing for the full acceptance of the homosexual life, so it was somewhat predictable the Church will react. However, a better approach is to be consistent and balanced. Let’s not react to every latest controversy. That’s exactly what happened with “Chick-Fil-a” appreciation day. Let’s be calm and collective, not afraid to speak up, but not speaking up in panic either. Let’s also tend to our own doorstep and make sure the charges of hypocrisy lose some of their truthfulness (e.g. if we value marriage so much, then how about doing something about our divorce rate?).
Love not hate
Sometimes when Christians are charged with hating gays the charges are unfair and leveled simply because Christians don’t endorse a particular lifestyle. However, sometimes the charges are dead-on. I was in a ministerial alliance that once decided to march with gays in a parade concerning AIDS awareness. There was no tacit endorsement of their lifestyle, but I imagine there was certainly shock from the homosexual community at the “love your neighbor” ethic embraced by Christians. Maybe with a little more regularity, it wouldn’t be so shocking. Also, it is important to say that loving our neighbor means making sure they are heard, even if we disagree with their perspective.
Distinguish between orientation and practice
Though it is a little awkward in wording, I have tried to refer to homosexual practice, lifestyle, behavior, etc., as much as possible. There are many reasons why someone might have their particular sexual orientation and few are chosen. These factors may include genetics, but also environmental circumstances. Sometimes the circumstances may remain a complete mystery. There are many homosexuals who have decided to live celibate lives in order to honor Jesus and his call. There are many more who have honest struggles, and it is absolutely imperative that the Church does not ostracize them, which, in fact, has happened way too often.
Biblical faithfulness not cultural accommodation
Though we need to improve our love of neighbor ethic as it relates to the homosexual community (I’m aware that the community now identifies itself as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, questioning–GLBTQ, but addressing all of these subcategories goes beyond the scope of this blog post), this cannot mean cultural accommodation on the issue of homosexuality for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned in this series of posts. What we need is for the Church to be salt and light and to call people out of all destructive and rebellious lifestyles. It is not popular to say, but if the Bible is to be believed, then a homosexual life is one such lifestyle.
As I said in the beginning of this series, my concern is that in responding to a very emotional issue that we do not lose our capacity to faithfully and honestly interpret Scripture and then be willing to live by those interpretations. It is not a flawless process, but I do believe it beats the alternative of giving up the Bible to the cultural movements of our time.