Monday, March 30, 2015

Facing the Storm: A Discussion about Homosexuality - The Arguments

Yes, these posts are made with silly pictures of monkeys.
I have to have something to lighten things up a little, you know?

Just beware, this post is a bit of a beast to get through. :-)

So, here we are again. Part two of our discussion on homosexuality and the church. Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive discussion, nor is it meant to be. In order to do that I would have to write a book, and I have zero drive or desire to write one on this subject. This part of the discussion is to address, in broad terms, some of the more popular arguments I have found in my research. We will start with the cultural arguments  before moving into the Biblical.

Please take this with the spirit in which it is written. I am not writing this to be hateful, bigoted or mean, nor do I hate anyone. I write this out of a search for truth  in order to show true love to those who may disagree. To keep silent when one is in danger is far more unloving than correcting them, even when that correction causes some amount of pain. If we desire to truly be Christ-followers then we will accept all of what is said and be willing to crucify our own wants and desires on the cross of Christ. I will admit, this is very, very hard to do and many people (myself included) fail at this all the time. We are human. We make mistakes. But the failures of people do not change truth. They simply show how far we have yet to go in our journey with Christ.

One thing you may notice is that I am not answering anything about the "clobber passage" arguments that so many are fond of using and arguing against. Theses passages include:

Gen 19 [cf. Jude 7; 2 Pet 2:6-10]; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11

The reason I am not answering based around these passages is because so many people have talked about it already, and I have no desire to write what others have already written dozens or hundreds of times. If you want a good, truth-seeking, solid answer to the Biblical arguments on these passages, I strongly recommend reading this excerpt from Samuel Korateng-Pipim, Ph.D. He answers these passages far more in-depth than I could ever hope to.

These arguments will be in something of a list form so they will be easier to sort through. I am answering these as honestly and truthfully as I can. It is my prayer that it will be useful for both myself and those struggling with this issue in one way or another. If you desire clarity or more discussion on this, comments or contact is welcome, so long as we remain honest, loving and kind to one another, as we should be in all things. Now without further ado, the arguments.

Sometimes it feels like this is how we argue about most subjects,
instead of simply opening ourselves to what God's Word says about them.

Affirmation of same-sex relationships is already mostly accepted, all it will catch us up to modern society.

Indeed, affirming same-sex relationships would catch us up to modern society on this issue. But that is not the point of the church. For hundreds of years (and today in most parts of the world), the church was persecuted for being different and not giving in to the prevailing culture around it. They were often hated and despised for exactly this. They were peculiar, a kind of curiosity that people looked down upon. They were looked down on like this because of their refusal to accept what the culture at large told them they must accept. They were tortured and slaughtered for refusing the go along. This is why arguing that it will "catch us up to the culture," is a poor argument. Christians have never been called to follow the culture, but to follow Christ. He is our standard, and the only one that those who wear the name "Christian," have any right to follow.

The church must affirm and accept same-sex relationships or doom itself to irrelevance.

This argument is very similar to the preceding one. The follow-up to this is that churches will continue to shrink and lose members and status until they turn around on this issue. The answer to this argument is also similar to the last. The church should never be about numbers and status. You may have over 43,000 people at your building, but if you are not teaching the truth of the Word of God there is no point to it. Churches not sanctioned by the government in China must meet in people's homes in secret. These are small gathering where you must be careful who you bring in lest they alert the authorities and have you arrested. Even through this, however, the church is growing rapidly. Irrelevance is a non-issue for Christians. Similar to what is stated above, the only standard a Christian has the right to compare themselves to is Christ and His Word. Everything else is (or should be) irrelevant for the Christian to set a standard against, regardless of what it means or what it costs them.

The Bible says to love one another. In not affirming or accepting same-sex relationships, the church is being hateful and discriminatory.

Yes, the Bible does say to love each other and yes, some Christians are hateful and bigoted in their reactions to others. But that is not all of them, or even most of them. They are, just like militant homosexual supporters, a tiny minority that is shameful to the rest. But we will ignore them for this argument because there are people like that on both sides. I think we can agree that they do not belong in this discussion.

So yes, we must love one another and indeed every person no matter what. That is what God's love is: love for every human that has lived, is living, or will live. We must be examples of that to a broken world. But being loving does not equal affirming a lifestyle of sin. In fact that would be the opposite. If I know my brother or sister is living in sin and I say nothing, I am contributing to their downfall. If I know a man and woman who is living together in defiance of God's law, it is my duty to confront them about it. Not with hate and spiritual beatings, but in love and guidance to the truth. That being said if they refused correction and said it didn't matter because they love each other, that doesn't work. Regardless of how true and honest their love is, it does not change the fact they are living in sin. If they refuse repentance and choose to live in darkness what fellowship can I, as a child of light, have with them?

Affirming same-sex relationships does the same thing. If my brother or sister in Christ comes out to me (it wouldn't be the first time), I will always show love and offer to help however I can. But I cannot affirm as good that which God does not. It is not loving to keep the truth away from those who need it, it is fearful.

Several years ago I had a close friend who unexpectedly got pregnant and wanted to get an abortion. She called me in tears asking what I thought. I told her the truth, that to go ahead with it would be killing an innocent. It would be wrong. I even went so far as to offer to adopt the child myself, and I would have. But I could not give her what she wanted, which was an affirmation of her choice. To do so would have been to affirm something as OK that which was sinful. I did everything in my power to be there for her and comfort her, but that conversation was the last I heard from her, despite many calls and texts trying to get back in touch with her. It cost me a good friend, someone I sincerely cared about, but that was the price of truth, even truth in love.

There is one standard to follow, that of Christ and His Word. It is the only thing we can answer with, even when it costs us dearly. We need to remember that. Always.

The Old Testament has nothing to say to modern Christians about homosexual relationships.

Untrue. The Old Testament has quite a lot to teach us about many things, including homosexual relationships. It teaches by command, inference and example. We can see it in the how, why and where it speaks about people's relationships to each other. Even outside of Jewish law, we can see God's plan for humankind. It is made very clear, as long as we are willing to look at it honestly.

It starts in Genesis 2:21-25. This is important. It is God speaking His original plan and putting it into action. This is the same reason why adultery and sex outside of marriage is such a major issue. It goes against God's original plan. God is very clear; a man and woman, when it comes to sex, are bound together as one. There is no longer a divide between the two people. Now some will argue that there were polygamous situations in the Old Testament, which is true. However (and this is a big however), it is never shown to be a good thing, and no one was ever commended for it. The list of those with multiples wives are: Lamech, Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Ashur, Gideon, Elkanah, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jehoiachin, Belshazzar, and Hosea. In every instance it is mentioned, bad things happen. Abraham was forced to let his wife & child leave, Solomon was drawn away, Ahab was evil anyway, etc. The only possible exception would be Hosea, and God specifically used his marriage to a prostitute to show Israel how they were treating God. Every time a sexual relationship outside of God's plan is mentioned, it is never in a good context. This matters if we want to use every part of God's Word to learn from.

Examples in God's Word matter in the context they have. We use examples every in teaching (especially for children), in showing them the proper way to live. When I teach my children by my example to show kindness, say "please" and "thank you," and treat others with respect, I do not give them permission to act in another way. I expect them to follow my lead. We must do the same with God's Word. Genesis 2 is not an after-thought. It is a positive statement of God's plan. This did not happen under Old Testament law. This occurrence is the 2nd command in the entire Bible. It comes just after the command not to eat of the tree of good and evil. There is no other context beyond God's plan for mankind; to have fellowship with Him in sinless innocence, and for man and woman to become one under His rule. This is the example we are given, and we would be on dangerous ground to simply throw it out as old news.

The New Testament never addresses the "loving, committed," same-sex relationships we see today.

Again, not using the explicit commands against it (as stated at the beginning), we have multiple examples of what God does want and what His plan is. This is what puts as a foundation the argument for sexuality from the creation. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus uses Genesis 2 as a platform for a discussion about divorce. He states it flatly that this was God's plan from the beginning, and though God did allow Israel to deviate for a short time, that time was now over. In affirming God's plan, Christ rules out other plans. Remember, this was God's plan as stated in the beginning, before the Law came into effect. It therefore stands on its own, outside the Law, as God's plan for mankind.

Going further into the New Testament, we are given further examples of what God considers to be under His Will. In 1st Timothy 3 we have the qualifications for elders and deacons, which includes being the husband of one wife. This, along with several other items, are all things which are considered positive aspects of those in leadership. If it were not important, it would not be there.

Now some will read this and immediately say "if you're going to be that backwards, make sure your wife never braids her hair or wears gold! It says so in 2:9-10!" This, however, mistakes the grammar of the language. That is not a prohibition, but a "not this, but that" argument. Paul writes if women have godliness and good works it doesn't matter, but if they go on adorning themselves without having them it is not right. Basically it boils down to "if you have godliness and good works, what you wear won't be an issue in the first place."

As a further example, we are told in Ephesians 5:30-32 that the marriage relationship mirrors that of Christ's relationship to His church. The same universal plan that God stated in Genesis about 1 man and 1 woman being in a marriage relationship, which Christ confirmed as God's universal plan for mankind, is now extended spiritually to the greatest relationship of all; that of our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the level that God's plan reaches. It goes beyond ourselves on this physical plane to an whole new realm of importance in God's plan. This is not something to be taken lightly.

This brings us to our final section, which is about sexual immorality, and especially the gay Christian's response to their situation. Beyond that however, anyone involved in any sort of sexual immorality, including pornography, any sort of sex outside of marriage, etc, would do well to note this. These verses are for everyone.

Sexual sin is not a small thing. Outside of Christ all sin condemns, but not all sin has the same consequences for us here. In I Corinthians 6:18-20 Paul writes,
"Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
For the Christian struggling with sexuality and sexual immorality of any kind, these verses are especially important. God states that sexual immorality is not like other sins. It is something that goes against the very self. Remember, this includes all sexual sin, gay or straight. The reason given is enormous; that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price.

It does not matter what type of sexual sin it is. We are, as Christians, as Christ-followers, to glorify God in our body and our spirit, because they are both God's, having been bought at the greatest price in all the universe and beyond; that of Christ's blood on the cross. This is why, no matter the price, we must choose to follow God's will.

For some that will mean overcoming their sexual sin. For others that will mean choosing to follow Paul's example of celibacy. For most it will mean getting back up and moving forward, not matter how many times they fall. For all it will mean giving up something in this temporary realm of existence in order to gain something much greater and much higher than anything they could dream or imagine.

We were bought with a price.

We are loved beyond this existence.

And we have but one standard, Christ and His Word, by which we as those who choose to follow Him can live by.

It may be a struggle. It may be hard. And there will be times where you wonder and fear if it the weight you are called to bear is worth it.

But remember that Christ has already won the victory. And when you see Him on That Day, and come to His side, you will know that it was. You will know the reason for it all, and you will know that the price that had to be paid was not only worth it, but that it was much smaller than any person should ever have had to pay.

So fight the good fight. You are loved, you are strong, you are able. Because He has already won the ultimate victory for you.

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