Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Facing the Storm: A Discussion on Homosexuality - Where do we go from Here?

Last week I wrote about the arguments facing Christians on the subject of homosexuality. In that ginormous post I dealt mainly with philosophical and general Scripture arguments while staying away from the so-called "clobber-passages" (I still highly dislike that name) that so many argue over. The overall point was this: that all sexual conduct outside of God's design, whether hetero- or homosexual, is sin, and those who claim to follow Christ must follow His Will in all things, including this. There are no loopholes. There are no back doors. There is, however, grace that far surpasses all our failures, and when we turn our lives over to He Who Saves, we can rest assured that He will cleanse us as we do our best to follow.

All that being said, the question now arises: where do we as the church go from here? There is no denying that the directional flow of culture, especially on this issue, is against us, and that Christians will be put to the test in how they choose to react and serve a world that is dedicated to bending the church to its will not only on this issue, but many (e.g. all) others as well. These are not questions that can be ignored or put aside for later. The path needs to be chosen now, or we will find ourselves in the middle of a war with no strategy, no plan, and much despair.

So let us consider together, as Christ's body and His church under whose Lordship we are under, how we should, need and must respond to the storm that is to come and that is already here.

Christians in Business (the current crisis)
I will keep this (relatively) short, because so, so much has been written about it already. I am going to say this in the nicest way possible, but I know it will offend somebody. Please read through it first.

My Christian family, if a fellow Christian chooses to cater to a "gay wedding," or something similar, you have no right to go and destroy them over it. Shame on you.

My Christian family, if you are not willing to stand up for your brothers and sisters who are being destroyed and wrecked by the world for not catering to an event, you are a coward. Shame on you.

We are called to encourage, exhort and correct in love. We are told that the family of faith is a family bound by the blood of Christ. Do you truly think this is not something that person struggled with? And if they came to a different conclusion than you through honest study and prayer, who are you to come between them and their Lord? Paul states it like this in Romans 14:3-4:
"Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand."
Now here Paul is talking about food sacrificed to idols, but the principle remains the same. There are going to be things that are difficult for people to decide what is right and what is wrong. They will stand in their integrity (or lack thereof) before the Master. We are not the Master, and therefore should leave it to Him whether His servants are acting with integrity and a clean conscience or not.

I will give a warning here, however: do not simply succumb to the pressure of the world and defy your conscience before God. That will be sin, and we are to follow Christ regardless of the consequences. You may lose your business, your home and everything you have worked for. If that is the price you pay, understand that there is a far greater reward for those who give up all in the service of their King. Do not take the easy way out and deny your Lord. Do what you truly believe is right, and follow Him no matter what.

Ministers (the coming crisis)
There will come a time, probably within the next 5 years, where a minister is going to be sued for refusing to service a "gay wedding." This is something that hits me personally, since I am a preacher. This is also something that will affect churches nationwide and is an area where decisions must be made now in order to avoid confusion and despair later. I am also going to be a bit harder in this section, because those in ministry should be able to understand the heart I am coming from with this.

Ministers, preachers and those employed by the church: you have no business being involved in the ceremony for a "gay marriage" ceremony. Biblically speaking, marriage is not just a promise of love. It is a covenant between a man, a woman and God. To invoke His Name to bind something that He has nowhere claimed bind-able is to 1) speak lies in His Name and 2) make yourself the decider of what God "really wants." You have no right nor authority to do either of these things.

Make no mistake, if you refuse, you will almost certainly come under fire of the most withering kind. You will be called horrible things (as I was privately a couple weeks ago), said you hate people, and possibly even threatened or arrested (depending on the country). Welcome to the history of saints who have given that and so much more. Regardless of what happens, though, you must stand firm. Remember, you are not to speak on your own nor of yourself, but that which comes from God.

All this being said, please, please always remember to preach, teach and speak in love. You can do more damage (and do it quicker) than nearly anyone else out there. It you speak out of bigotry or disgust, you will likely turn away souls from God for good. We are here to be salt and light. Now salt may hurt when put on a cut, but if put on gently in love it only burns for a little while and the recipient sees the point of it. If you grind it into the wound you are bringing unnecessary pain and causing that person to see God as a painful, harmful Master. In the same way Light, when given at the proper dosage, is good and helpful and healthy. But if you force someone to stare at the sun for too long you are going to damage their eyes so that light can no longer get in. You will have done such damage that they can no longer see the great gifts and joys that the Father does have in store for them.

Do not be someone who harms. Stand firm. Stand fast. And stand in the love of Christ for others above all else.

Personal Life (the aroma of death & life)
2 Cor. 2:15-16a
"For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life."
Understand, Christian, that you must stand for the truth in love above all else. You may have those dear to you who come out to you to tell you they are gay. Do not deny and reject them the care you held for them at the first. Chances are they are coming to you with the most vulnerable and scary thing they have ever told you. You are to continue to be the fragrance of Christ to them and help them see His will, for their lives, whatever it may be. That may be choosing to fight it, accept it along with God's regulations for sexual conduct, or struggling to find definition and purpose in God's family. The choices you make could very well determine whether they continue seeking Christ or turn away from Him once and for all.

Colossians 3:12 gives us a very good idea of how to handle those around you (regardless of the circumstance you find yourself in), where Paul writes,
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,"
Furthermore, if someone comes to you saying that they have sinned in this way, do not recoil and cast them out. They, like you, need Christ's love and mercy. They need strength and encouragement not to fall again. Everyone has their own struggles and temptations. You would not cast out a kleptomaniac for messing up and stealing, nor someone who has difficulty not lying when they slip up. Most would not even throw out an alcoholic for their failure or gambler for theirs. Homosexuality is no different. It is a fight and struggle to deal with and it is far beyond time we understand that. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they cry out for help in following His Will. Let us be those who say "we are here, we are love, and we will help bring you to the One Who Redeems and Saves.

The Church (reactions and necessities)
The Church is facing a crossroads. There will come a time where you will have to decide what to do when someone who is gay, or a gay couple, decides to come into the building. I would strongly suggest that the decision be made as a church before that happens. Again, it will save much confusion and strife if done beforehand. I humbly suggest the following:

1) Do not ostracize, ignore, or lead with the questions about their sexuality. This is of no use. Get to know them as people first. If you are going to lead with judgment, they will leave immediately. Confronting someone's sin without knowing anything about them or building any sort of trust with them will get you nowhere.

2) Do invite them to study the Bible (and not just about sexuality) and church events. Chances are, you would not lead into a Bible study calling out all of a person's sins. In most cases we lead with the fact that all have sinned and fallen short, and that all are in need of God's mercy and grace. If the study goes long enough, they will bring it up. By the time they get to the point they are ready to give up everything to follow Christ in baptism, the choice will have been made whether they are really ready to follow or not. But let it flow naturally, like any other person you would study with.

3) Do not try and make someone change right there on the spot when you first meet and talk to them. Everyone has weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Give time and grace, just as Christ gave you.

4) Do hold a Christian struggling with this issue accountable for their actions, in love. There is nothing loving about giving sin leeway in someone's life. Recognize that, just like every other person struggling with sin (aka: every person on the planet), they too need to be held to Christ's standard in everything. Just like you.

I know I have not answered every question, but neither was it my intent. Indeed it is my goal to have given a basic, Biblical framework so that individuals can figure out how to handle the various situations they can and will find themselves in. Above all, however, remember that we are held to one standard, Christ's, and nothing else matters. If we give up all then so be it. But let the reward we seek be the one from our Father in Heaven, and not the passing things of this existence.

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