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Four things the Church should be teaching about homosexuality

July 10, 2015

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”

Matthew 5:19

What’s the most dangerous job in the world? You might be thinking… iron worker, astronaut, coal miner or maybe, professional lion tamer? As dangerous as those jobs are, they don’t top the list, at least not according to Jesus (and his little brother James).[1] It’s teaching! Teaching is the most dangerous job in the world.

The reason flows from Jesus’s mission. He saw himself as the long awaited Jewish messiah that had come to fulfill the promises that God had made to Israel and ultimately, the entire world. He had come as God’s representative to establish a New Covenant with man and to launch God’s kingdom on earth. When Jesus commissioned his Apostles to “go into all the world and make disciples”, he was entrusting them to faithfully and accurately carry his teaching.[2] This applies to us today.

And so here we see the danger. If Jesus’s message is the most important message in all of human history, then misrepresenting it, distorting it, or relaxing it, is a serious offense indeed.[3] Danger lies for those who hear and for those who teach. This should cause any teacher of Jesus’ message serious pause and reflection. Notice his warning in Mark 9:42: “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck” (NLT). Mark’s warning comes after the disciples had just observed someone casting out a demon in Jesus’ name, but since he wasn’t with the Twelve they wanted to stop him. Jesus’s stern correction warns his disciples about the importance of their position as his teachers. In effect, Jesus is saying, “Don’t represent me that way! If you do, this will cause the little ones (i.e. those under your teaching) to fall into sin and that will bring my judgment upon you!”

It’s no wonder James writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NLT). Teaching is a dangerous job!

I write about this because of the recent trend among American pastors and teachers to endorse homosexual relationships. Before I go any further, I need to say that for the past three years, God has done an amazing transformative work in my heart toward those who experience same-sex attraction. I won’t bore you with the details of my upbringing in fundamental churches that did not model Christ-like attitudes toward the gay community. I will say that I had a lot of learning and loving to do. God has given me a love not for the “gay community” but for real people who happen to be gay. I don’t know how one loves an entire community, at least in any meaningful way. For me, love has grown when God places a specific person in my life and then I am forced to make a choice—ignore or embrace. When I’ve chose to ignore, my heart has grown cold and indifferent. In those happier occasions, when I’ve chose to embrace, I’ve felt the expansive love of Jesus change me in unexpected (and glorious) ways.

Over the past few years, I’ve had to work through what to say to someone I deeply care for who confided to me his deepest insecurity and pain. It’s one thing to teach a class or preach a sermon on a topic and rehearse “what the Bible says.” It’s quite another to look at someone two feet in front of you who’s asking why they’ve always felt attracted to the same sex and what God thinks about that.

As I have read several stories of pastors and teachers whose views of gay marriage and homosexual relationships have “evolved,” this is the common theme. Usually, it’s when they finally embraced someone with same sex attraction that their theology of sex begins to shift. Essentially, compassion for the same-sex attracted begins to drive their biblical interpretation. I, too, felt this same temptation. I asked the same questions: Perhaps Paul wasn’t thinking of committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships? Maybe, the New Testament prohibitions against homosexuality have the slave/master power dynamic in mind, and since today this isn’t the case, the prohibitions no longer apply. No matter how far I went toward examining these arguments and listening to the able defenders of these positions, I could not get away from the fact that the entire corpus of scripture unanimously, unequivocally, condemns homosexual behavior.[4] The proposed modern exceptions are contrived and unconvincing (but here’s not the place for me to get into that).[5]

However, there is a fundamental mistake happening here. We believe if I love someone I must agree with them. We ask, “How can I love someone and not approve of what makes them happy?” We assume, “If someone doesn’t agree with them, they must be against them and their happiness.” We’ve lost sight of the fact that agreement is not a prerequisite for love. It seems most people think there are only two options: Either condemn homosexuality and so also the homosexual, or embrace the homosexual and so see their unions as God-blessed alternatives to heterosexual monogamy. A third option exists. We can love people and still condemn their practice. We aren’t guilty of “judging” someone when we disagree with something they’re doing.[6]

Let me wrap this up by circling back to where I started this blog—the warnings to spiritual teachers. Here are four things we should be teaching on this issue.

1.) First, we must teach faithfulness to scripture and faithful to people—to love God and others. Issues like these tests our commitment to each of these. Like Jesus so beautifully lived, we must be full of truth and grace.[7] I believe struggling through difficult issues can mature our love and understanding of God’s grace.

2.) Second, we must teach that most homosexuals did not choose their same sex attraction.[8] Perhaps some have, but none of the ones I’ve personally talked to.[9] We don’t get to choose our temptations; they are unfortunately a part of what it means to live in a broken world with broken souls. When I realized this, my heart changed; my condemnation was replaced with compassion.

It follows then that we must stop treating homosexuality differently. John Stott brings wonderful clarity about how we should think about sin. We each suffer from the same evil disease—sin.[10] However that evil infection manifests itself differently in each of us in various ways. The same disease that bends my heart toward greed, lust and pride affects someone else toward same-sex lust. We’re all infected. We have no right to judge, even if you personally detest someone else’s “infection.” The applications of this are profound and should move each of us toward love and away from condemnation.

3.) Third, we must teach that following Jesus requires everyone, to deny themselves and to carry the cross. [11] Pastor Craig Groeschel hilariously observes, “If you’re not having fun when you sin, you’re not doing it right.” But I’d like to add, “And if you’re not struggling when you follow Jesus, you’re not doing that right either.” Following Jesus is hard. This is why I chose the verse at the top of this blog. Jesus knew it was hard and so warned us against trying to make following him easier. I don’t have the right to “relax one of his commands.” In fact, there’s judgment if I do.

4.) Finally and most importantly, we must teach our churches to bear one another’s burdens. The Apostle Paul told us that when we do this we are fulfilling the law of Christ.[12] This leads me to my central thought in this blog: While we have no right to lighten anyone’s cross, we do have the responsibility to help them carry it! Crosses are heavy, even Jesus needed help carrying his! Therefore, we must embrace the homosexual and their struggle. We must help them follow Jesus. This will be messy and uncomfortable for some. Loving someone always is. For the homosexuals, following Jesus faithfully means denying themselves a sexual relationship. This is heavy, one our sex-crazed culture can hardly imagine.

As of right now, the Church is failing to truly help the homosexual follow Jesus. The capitulating church has created a culture that relaxes the demands of discipleship and so is not offering real help in the struggle to follow Jesus. On the other hand, the condemning church has created a culture that ignores the homosexual in their midst and throws stones at those outside. The carnage of this approach is evident everywhere and hardly needs comment.

We must find a better way. Our churches currently provide community and support for divorcées, struggling addicts, and people dealing with grief, while we ignore the homosexual. I think this is because we’ve not found this third approach. But if we capture the biblically faithful and healthy approach I’m advocating here, we will see the debt of love we owe the homosexual and our arms will reach out in love and support. May God grant us the grace to repent and the wisdom to help the gay community faithfully follow Jesus. It is my hope that in ten years, faithfully struggling homosexuals will be as common in our churches as recovering addicts are now.

[1] James 3:1

[2] Matthew 28:18-19

[3] Matthew 5:19 quoted above.

[4]Justin Lee

[5]A concise paper that addresses the biblical material on homosexuality and also evaluates many of the newer interpretations that attempt to find support for homosexuality is found here:

[6] I’ve written a blog on Judge Not here:

[7] see John 1:18

[8] For more please read this excellent book: Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill.

[9] Growing up, every church I attended believed that homosexuality was a willful choice of rebellion against God and so our condemnation of them was, of course, justified. I do believe Romans 1 cites homosexuality as an illustration of human rebellion and certainly there is much rebellion against God seen in the homosexual movement, but this isn’t the experience of many individuals who, during their adolescence, find themselves sexually confused and scared. It is because homosexuality is viewed as such an “abomination” these young ones were never allowed to share their struggle. (I can hear another of Jesus’ warning about causing a little one to offend ringing in my ears. Matthew 18:6)

[10] Stott, John. Basic Christianity. P. 100-101

[11] Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

[12] Galatians 6:2; James called this “the royal law.” James 2:8


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