Love, not Affirmation

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Gentle Reader,

June 19, 2014 – This post did generate conversation, but most of it happened away from here. After participating in and thinking about these conversations, I am going through this and adding in a few thoughts for clarification. These edits will be in red italics. 

I’ve been reluctant to write anything about homosexuality because everyone gets fired up and the conversation usually goes nowhere fast. However, in light of the SBC’s resolution regarding transgendered people, a resolution that has kicked up no small share of Internet dust (and please know that I’m not part of the SBC):

Should LBGT people be demonized? No. Should they be kicked out of churches? No. Note that saying that LBGT people should be allowed to come to church and hear the Good News does not mean that LBGT people who are not seeking to live as Jesus commands should be in leadership roles. Should gender identity and sexual orientation play a role in whether or not someone gets a job? That depends on what the job is, but, I’d say in most cases, out in the secular world, no.

Should Christians take the stance that it’s “okay” or even “God-ordained” to engage in homosexual activity? That God “supports” gay/lesbian marriage? (I differentiate between orientation and behavior. One may be oriented in many different ways to many different things. Behavior is how one acts or does not act on the orientation).

No.

Before you stone me, note that I frankly state that Christians have done a really bad job of loving and respecting LBGT people. We’ve turned it into the worst of all sins, like there’s some list. There isn’t a list. We don’t need this much Jesus for that sin and a whole lot more Jesus for the other sin. We just need Jesus. All of us.

But whether we like it or not, and I confess that there are many days I don’t, we’re not the ones in charge. We’re not the ones making the rules. We’re not the ones who get to say what sin is and what it isn’t. God alone gets to define that. We get to respond. We all have a choice. We get to submit to or deny what God says. Christians can’t have it both ways. We’re supposed to seek out His perspective, His view, not dance around it and try to get what we want.

Does that mean Christians should protest at gay weddings? No. Should we amp up the rhetoric and blame our horrific marriage statistics on some assault by those pushing the “homosexual agenda?” Definitely not. It is true that some among LBGT people have an agenda, as most vocal minorities among all groups go, but our marriage statistics are our own fault. Should we worry about and stress over LBGT people the way we do? No.

Our stance should be one of love, but not affirmation. Each person has free will. God doesn’t force anyone to do anything. You can live your life the way you want. But just as a lesbian woman wouldn’t look at my life and think, “Yes, I agree with every decision you have ever made,” neither will I look at hers and think the same. If any of us were honest, we’d admit that. Love and respect doesn’t equal total agreement on everything.

Do I think that Christians should expect non-Christians to have the same views on this and anything else? No. So, really, Christians, let’s not seek out a gay person just to get into a debate with him, to try and force him into acquiescence. The Great Commission tells us to share Jesus “as we are going” (Matthew 28:18-20). These kinds of conversations should happen naturally, in the context of relationship. They should be organic, not forced. When disagreement comes (and it will), it’s still completely possible to continue in that relationship, to be loving and respectful. And let me make this quite clear: ANY bullying is unacceptable.

Before you go accusing me of being homophobic, I’m not. No, really. LBGT people don’t scare me. We’re all human beings. We’re all people with hopes and dreams and blood and cells. If a gay couple moved in across the street, I’d introduce myself. (If I was feeling particularly brave that day, because what I am is anxious about everything). Probably take them some (store-bought) cookies. So let’s not fling that term around. Taking a position on something doesn’t automatically mean hatred or fear.

In that same vein, while I firmly believe that Christ enables each of His people to live victorious lives, and that there are people who move away from homosexuality and go on to have happy heterosexual relationships, it is also true that He doesn’t always remove desires. Temptations come. Orientation doesn’t always change. Ask any alcoholic. What matters is what a person does with the desires and the temptations. A homosexual person who has a firm commitment to Christ may never experience a desire for the opposite sex, but Christ can (and does) enable His people to overcome any temptation.  

Sadly, we have made sex an idol in this culture. Anyone who dares to say that a gay person striving to follow Christ should be celibate is seen as being so bigoted, so hateful, so lacking in understanding. Well, folks, nobody ever died from not having sex. We were created to be in relationship, yes, but is absolutely possible to have fulfilling relationships without sex. Go out and ask the scores of people who are happily celibate, homosexual or otherwise. They do exist.

There are many articles, scholarly and otherwise, debating whether or not one can be a gay or lesbian Christian. There are many books. My answer? Of course one can, if one chooses to identify themselves as something other than simply Christian. Just like one can be an alcoholic Christian, an addicted Christian, a cowboy Christian, a feminist Christian, a coffee-loving Christian, a cat-person Christian, or any other adjective plus Christian. But I don’t to see the point in doing so. If I took that route, I’d have to say that I’m an anxious, depressed, chronically ill Christian. Such adjectives draw away from the redemptive work of Christ. They fail to point to the fact that I overcome these things because of what Jesus has done for me.

Certainly Jesus loves us in those adjectives, but He loves us too much to let them remain our descriptors. That’s the point of the Cross.

Therefore, a gay Christian is a gay man living under the shed blood of Christ, striving to obey Him in all things. He does not take the sacrifice of Jesus lightly. He understands that his sin is offensive to God and that it cost everything to make him righteous before that same God. He understands that God knows best. A lesbian Christian is the same. Or, like me, an anxious Christian. And so on and so forth. Is it not better to simply identify ourselves as Christians?

So, do I think that it’s okay to claim Christ and affirm homosexual behavior or continue in it? No. Do I think churches need to issue statements or resolutions, as the SBC has done, to publicly announce where they stand on this and other issues? Yes. That isn’t a sign of hate, but rather a sign of clarity. It’s important to know what views a congregation holds. I want to know what a church thinks and believes before I step through the doors and join in worship. There’s nothing wrong in that.

In conclusion, here is something that everyone needs to understand:

There are definitely people out there who spew a lot of vitriol about this issue. They make me angry and sad because that kind of thing drives everyone away from God. But your average, just-trying-to-follow-Jesus Christian who reads the Bible and comes to the conclusion that homosexual behavior falls outside of God’s design for life isn’t being nasty, stupid or discriminatory. It is very possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. Every one of us does that every single day.

That’s my two cents. Or twenty dollars, depending on what you think of this piece and its length.

My journey to faith. (15)

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13 thoughts on “Love, not Affirmation

  1. We are very similar… Foundationally I would say our views are more aligned than misaligned… and too much time is right. Imagine if we stopped focussing so much on the GLBT group and focussed simply on adulterers. Focussed our negative energy on something that really is destroying marriages and families…
    Great post, Marie! (and hey, I’m married to a Chris too!)

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  2. I meant to get back here earlier but got sidetracked (darn, that job of mine for making me work).

    Actually, I read an article criticizing a video Pastor John MacArthur made for Christian parents of gay children. It wasn’t pretty. My response will be posted Friday morning.

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      1. Oooookaaaaaay….

        I just watched the video. You’re right; it’s not pretty. I disagree with his interpretation of Matthew 18. The relevant section starts with:

        “…if your brother sins against you…”

        I fail to see how a child coming out is a sin against the parent.

        As for the rest of it…well, I don’t like John MacArthur. Anything I’ve ever read or seen of his has left a sour taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m not a Calvinist and I’m egalitarian, so I’m basically a heretic to him.

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      2. Normally I get up at around 4 a.m. so I can pick up my son and we can be at the gym by 5. We work out until around 6, go back to my place to shower, get dressed, and have breakfast, then leave for work by a quarter to 7. What can I say? I’m a morning person.

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  3. I think if more Christians took on a viewpoint similar to this, it would be a wonderful thing. Frankly, I should rephrase that, because I think most Christians do share your views, but many lack the courage to stand up and face down the vocal, hate-filled homophobes who are trotted out by the media as examples of Christianity.

    As a Christian, I am called upon to love as God does, to follow the example of Jesus, and I fall far short of that every day, but that won’t stop me from striving toward that goal. I admit to being horribly biased against gay people many years until I made friends with some and found people just like me–people who struggle with the same day to day issues as I do, who face the same major life challenges and decisions as I do. People who have the same need and desire as I do for spiritual fulfillment through God and a church community, but who unlike me are often actively driven from the church or if they do go must hide who they are and periodically hear people make nasty comments about who they are.

    Why would any sane person willingly subject him or herself to an environment where he or she must live a lie and be insulted? How have we let our churches come to the point where they can BE that environment? A church should be a haven of loving guidance!

    By ostracizing gay people or making them feel unwelcome, I believe churches are neglecting or outright rejecting the very core of God’s teachings. Matthew 22:36-40; John 21:15-19

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