It seems that everywhere you look there is more news about the social progress of homosexuals in this country. All barriers continue to fall and most recently those barriers came down in two of the major sports leagues in the nation. Jason Collins, who came out as a gay man when not employed, signed a 10 day contract with the Brooklyn Nets a few weeks ago and has since signed another ten day contract. Michael Sam, a defensive football player from Missouri, is a presumptive draftee in the upcoming draft. He’s a good player and will very likely become the first openly gay professional football player.
The majority of the sports media and media in general heralds this news triumphantly, as if we are witnessing history and moving into previously uncharted realms of acceptance and tolerance. Of course, if a media member were to be critical of this news, they would likely soon be a former media member. In our mainstream society today, there is hardly a greater sin than to be perceived as anti-homosexual in any way.
This current climate puts Christians like myself in quite a conundrum. Christians “like myself” are Christians who are very committed toward practicing and teaching what the Bible says about sexuality. I am very aware that many professing Christians today identify with the “affirming church” and have either dismissed the relevant passages concerning homosexuality or reinterpreted them. This is not the post to tackle the issue of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) and sexual ethics, but I have done so previously in a three-part series: part one, part two, part three.
From my perspective, it is not an option to affirm any sexual activity outside of the relationship between a husband and wife as acceptable to God. That necessarily excludes homosexual practice from an acceptable lifestyle for practicing Christians. The world may label me and others a bigot for that position, but I vehemently deny that charge. I am not a bigot. I have no ill will toward anyone, including homosexuals. I’ve just made a decision long ago to follow the Bible as God’s revealed word and there just isn’t a way I can genuinely hold to that commitment while affirming homosexual practice.
On the one hand, I do not want myself or the church to be viewed as discriminators of anyone nor for us to hold any special disdain for a particular sinful lifestyle. This is not the attitude and practice of our Savior, “the friend of sinners” (cf. Matt. 11:19, this title was really an accusation by his opponents, but Jesus certainly shared in fellowship with those that society designated as sinners in a special way). We are, after all, all sinners and everyone is in desperate need of God’s grace.
On the other hand, I will not join in our society’s celebratory march for every homosexual man or woman who declares their sexuality to the world. I understand that there is some courage needed to “come out” when others may be critical of even hold you in contempt, because of your sexual orientation. However, I have never seen a faster track to heroism or commendation for courage than telling the world your sexual orientation! Meanwhile, those who take a stand for what they believe to be godly sexuality, definition of marriage, etc., are treated as narrow-minded bigots and are generally despised. It takes more courage to say you believe marriage is between a man and a woman or that sex should only be practiced in that context than it takes to say “I’m gay.” At least, it sure appears that way on a big scale today.
So, no, I’m not going to jump out there and lead the parade for Jason Collins or Michael Sam, because what is ultimately being celebrated is sin. This would not be the case, if someone admitted to their homosexual orientation, but their intent to live a godly lifestyle. In that case, there really would be something to celebrate, but that’s not happening with Collins or Sam (and almost everyone else who makes the news this way). We are to celebrate not only their orientation, but their decision to live openly gay (that is to practice homosexuality), and I will not and cannot do that.
However, I have no desire or inclination to crusade against gays in sports or the military or wherever. They are people just like you and me. If my team (and I am a big football fan) drafts, Michael Sam, I will not be upset about it. My team currently employs a star running back that is, best anyone can tell, an atheist. That doesn’t diminish my desire to see him cross the goal line with the football.
I had heard Michael Sam ultimately wants to be known as a good football player instead of a gay player. I can respect that, but unfortunately the media will not. I am not against Jason Collins or Michael Sam because they are gay, nor do I consider it Christian to be so. But nor is it Christian to celebrate a lifestyle that the Bible explicitly condemns. I don’t celebrate my favorite athletes getting yet another woman pregnant for the same reason. As Paul admonishes us in Rom. 12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (ESV).