At Disciples Road Church we have a time during the service when I describe some everyday situation and ask, “What would Jesus have us do in this situation?” My original plan for the segment was to play off the old question, “What would Jesus do?” But the first time I included the segment in our service someone wisely noted that oftentimes what Jesus would do isn’t the same as what He would have us do. For example, if Jesus attended a funeral He might very well raise the deceased! So, I changed the whole theme to, “What would Jesus have us do?”
Understand now that we’re not talking about questions like, “Should I rob this bank” or “Should I beat my wife?” I always choose situations that don’t have obvious, cookie-cutter answers. What I’m after is a good discussion, one that addresses all the sometimes conflicting angles of the situation. I find it fascinating to moderate these discussions and listen as sincere Christian people banter back and forth in their answers. By listening to a person’s answer, you can tell what his or her priorities are. Each Christian is unique, and each one tends to major upon different aspects of Jesus and His teachings.
Two Sundays ago I waded into the shark-infested waters of our nation’s cultural war by talking about the new gay and lesbian ads for J.C. Penney as well as the counter stance that was taken by Chick-fil-A. I said, “At one end of a shopping mall you have a J.C. Penney store. At the other end, in the food court, you have a Chick-fil-A. If Jesus was in that mall, what would He do? Would He shop at J.C. Penney? Would He boycott them? Would He eat at Chick-fil-A? And even more than that, what would He have us, as Christians, do?
The discussion that followed struck such a nerve that folks wanted to revisit it this past Sunday. So we did. And the second discussion was even better than the previous Sunday’s. One woman noted that Christians condemning homosexuals and alienating ourselves from them hasn’t led one homosexual to attend church, join a Bible study, or accept Christ as Savior. One man said that he believes that Christians have given up way too much ground already and that if we had spoken up early enough and loud enough we wouldn’t be in such a mess today. Another man said that he just couldn’t see himself shopping at a J.C. Penny store now. Another woman said that it’s easy for Christians to come down hard on homosexuals until the homosexual is a family member or close friend. In my opinion, each of these points was definitely valid.
All of this discussing caused me to personally revisit the subject of the proper Christian response to the homosexual movement, and I thought it would be good if I used this post to share some of my thoughts concerning it. Some of these I recently picked up from listening to my church folks the past two Sundays. Others have been with me for many years now. I’ll ask you to read each thought and consider it carefully. Keep in mind now that what we’re after here is a maturing of our Christian faith and a heightening of our spiritual discernment. That goes for this author as well. By the way, please forgive the length of today’s post. We’re dealing with a hot-button issue that deserves adequate time.
#1: Jesus is much more complex than many Christians want Him to be. The same Jesus who taught, “I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39) flew into a rage against the wicked money-changers in the Jewish temple and angrily ran them out of there with a whip of cords (John 2:13-17). I wonder, which Jesus do you like? The same Jesus who showed mercy and refused to condemn a woman caught in the very act of adultery also made a point of telling her, “Sin no more.” Then He started talking about the difference between walking in darkness and walking in the light (John 8:1-12). Which part of that story do you like best? You see, the actions and character traits of Jesus that personally appeal to you the most will be an indicator of how you feel a Christian should conduct himself or herself in the cultural war.
#2: Christians aren’t all the same. Paul was an educated intellectual (Acts 22:1-3), but Peter and John were uneducated fishermen (Acts 4:13). Matthew was a tax-collector (Matthew 9:9), but Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14). You get the idea. Some Christians are very comfortable grabbing a picket sign and marching against a sin. Other Christians oppose the same sin but simply aren’t hardwired to be so vocal and outspoken. And how wonderful it would be if every Christian stopped criticizing fellow Christians who don’t think and act exactly as he or she does.
#3: God knows how to use each Christian effectively based upon that Christian’s individuality. Joshua was a great military man who led Israel in their conquering of Canaan (Joshua chapters 6-12). Daniel, on the other hand, allowed himself to wrongfully be thrown to the lions rather than fight (Daniel 6:1-23). Which man did God use mightily? Both. Therefore, Christian, I would advise you not to try to be something you’re not. If you are a Joshua, don’t be ashamed of it, but if you are a Daniel, don’t try to grab your sword and go play Joshua. Daniel was God’s voice in the highly charged political atmosphere of Babylon for decades, and that’s a role that Joshua couldn’t have played nearly as well. Think of it this way: A hammer is a fine tool, but it can’t do the job of a Phillips screwdriver. God is a master worker who knows that no one kind of tool can do every job. So, Christian, whatever your individuality is, God knows how to use you effectively in His service.
#4: Christians simply don’t have the option of ignoring the fact that the Bible plainly teaches that homosexuality is sin. The biblical truth about homosexuality isn’t complicated. God’s written word classifies the act as sin and condemns it. Homosexuality would have been sin in the days of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Matthew 19:4-5). It was sin in the age before God gave His law to Israel (Genesis 19:1-29). It was sin under the law that God gave to Israel (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17). It was sin during the centuries that Israel lived under the law (Judges 19:11-13; 1 Kings 14:21-24; 15:9-15; 22:41-46; 2 Kings 22:1-2; 23:7). And, make no mistake, it is still sin in this the New Testament “church age” (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).
#5: Christians are commanded to share God’s truth with others, and that includes the truth about homosexuality. I really do sympathize with every Christian who says, “I’m just so tired of all the fighting. Can’t we all agree to be cordial to one another and talk about something besides homosexuality?” Recently one Christian said to me, “I’m Switzerland,” and I had to laugh because if anybody is Switzerland he is. But during last Sunday’s discussion at church another Christian pointed out that if you know that certain people are living in sin, and you don’t tell them the truth about that sin, you aren’t truly showing them love. And you know what? He was dead right about that. Jesus Himself understands this, and that’s why He commands us to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). Think about it, if every Christian stopped condemning homosexuality today, how long would it take for the sin to become a hundred times more commonplace than it is now? So, don’t we owe it to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to try to hold back the tide of the homosexual movement as long as we can?
#6: When we Christians speak God’s truth concerning homosexuality (or any other sin), we must do it in love. In Ephesians 4:15, the Bible talks about “speaking the truth in love.” Some Christians are very good at speaking the truth, but their words aren’t always laced with love. I fall into this category. Other Christians excel at speaking in love, but their words are hollow because they lack the bite of the truth. The goal and ideal is a God approved balance. Don’t get me wrong, though, even if you master the art of speaking the truth in love, many homosexuals will still label you a homophobic, hate mongering, bigoted Neanderthal. That just goes with the territory. Nevertheless, Jesus will know that you are out there trying to share the truth in an appropriate way and He will reward you for it.
#7: We Christians leave ourselves wide open to the charge of hypocrisy when we speak loudly against homosexuality and whisper against other types of sexual sin. Is homosexuality sin? Yes. But so are premarital sex, adultery, incest, pedophilia, and pornography. Christian, do you know any young folks who are “fooling around” before marriage? Do you know any couple who are living together without getting married? Do you know any husband or wife who is cheating on their spouse? Are you covering up for someone who is committing incest or pedophilia? Do you speak out against homosexuality at your workplace during the day and then go home and look at pornography on your computer? These are all probing questions. The point is, you need to address each of these other types of sexual sin with the same fervor and voice level with which you address the sin of homosexuality. To fail to do so makes you a hypocrite. And such hypocrisy causes us to lose our credibility as voices for God.
Now, as I begin to close all this out, I want to offer my answer to one reasonable question that some Christians ask concerning gay marriage. The question goes like this: “Since marriage in the United States is a legal contract as much as it is a religious covenant (you have to get a license to get married), do we Christians have a right to impose our definition of it onto the whole country?” Stating it bluntly, everybody living in these United States is not a Christian, and a legitimate case can even be made that we are not a “Christian nation.” Like it or not, America really is home to Muslims, Jews, atheists, and agnostics. That’s a fact that we Christians tend to conveniently ignore. For that matter, even millions of professing “Christians” don’t bear the fruit of Christianity with their lives. That’s another fact we like to ignore.
So then, should we Christians continue to demand that marriage be defined exclusively according to our narrow definition of it? My answer is, yes we should. And guess what, I’ve got a Bible passage to back up that answer. It’s Mark 6:14-29. Those verses give us the story of how John the Baptist publicly rebuked the Roman ruler Herod because Herod had committed a form of incest in marrying Herodias, who had previously been married to Herod’s brother Philip. John told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Now, what law was John talking about? Well, it certainly wasn’t the Roman law of the land. Obviously he was referring to God’s law, that body of law that God had given Israel to live by. And so, you see, here we have a case of a saved believer (John) holding two unsaved Romans (Herod and Herodias) to God’s standards concerning marriage. And I have to say that I, for one, find in that plenty of scriptural support for the idea that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight against same-sex unions.