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Building Bridges, Issue 7, June 14, 2019

Sep 14, 2020 | Building Bridges, News

“Love has no exception clause. When we choose to follow God, we give up our rights to be unforgiving, to treat people poorly, or to be discriminatory.”
Caleb Kaltenbach

The month of June is recognized as Pride month. There are Pride events held nationwide in cities large and small. Pride festivals and parades are conducted mostly as a celebration of the progress the LGBTQ community has made in recent years. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide, comprising the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization. The vision of the HRC “is a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community” (https://www.hrc.org/pride).

The first graduate class I took was one dealing with ethical issues. It is no surprise that there is a swell of controversy surrounding those issues. The professor stated that one of the largest issues to confront society and the church over the next twenty-years would be the issue of gay rights and ultimately gay marriage. I, most likely due to my naivety, vehemently disagreed with that statement, but now I recognize that my professor was a prophet. The next time I even thought of the topic was prior to my commissioning as I was being interviewed by a military officer about my understanding of homosexuality. In 1989 the military’s policy stated homosexuality was incompatible with military service. If a service member revealed he or she was homosexual, a discharge was issued. A few years later the policy was changed to “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” During this period a person could remain quiet and discrete about sexual orientation and continue to serve honorably in the military.

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, making gay marriage legal in all fifty states (Obergefell v. Hodges). Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote in the Obergefell decision. In Kennedy’s decision he wrote: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

You may recall how you felt on June 26, 2015, when the Obergefell decision was handed down by the court. On that day many rejoiced because they believed a huge injustice in America was being made just. There were others who saw this decision as continuing down a slippery slope toward secularism and moral decline. Still others might have seen the decision as a proper one in regard to the constitution while disagreeing with the decision based on religious or moral beliefs.

One thing is certain: the issue is not going away. One other thing is most likely certain: the issue will not be resolved by this article. I am confident that you have strong feelings about this topic. I am also pretty confident that the majority of you reading this article have loved ones, friends, or family members, struggling with issues surrounding LGBTQ.

From a theological framework, one needs to ask what the meaning and intended purpose of sex among human beings is as God created us. There are two common extremes that seem unacceptable by biblical standards. First is the animalistic view. This puts human sexuality in the animal category and says that all sex is always good. This view is consistent with the modern naturalistic world view. After all, if human beings are nothing more than a superior (more highly evolved) animal, sex is merely a biological function. The second unacceptable extreme is that sex is of the devil and that all sexual activity, even within marriage, is evil or dirty. This view fails to embrace sexuality as a gift from God even within the context of Christian marriage.

The biblical view of sex teaches that sex is natural and good as God intended it within the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:15-20). The scriptures do prohibit a host of sexual behaviors, including fornication, adultery, and homosexuality (I Cor. 6:9).

While I cite biblical references and try to address this subject from a Christian worldview, the church is not united on this subject nor the subject of biblical authority. The following quote by Rev. Jimmy Creech is indicative of some clergy’s support of the LGBTQ viewpoint: “At the heart of the claim that the Bible is clear ‘that homosexuality is forbidden by God’ is poor biblical scholarship and a cultural bias read into the Bible. The Bible says nothing about ‘homosexuality’ as an innate dimension of personality. Sexual orientation was not understood in biblical times. There are references in the Bible to same-gender sexual behavior, and all of them are undeniably negative. But what is condemned in these passages is the violence, idolatry and exploitation related to the behavior, not the same-gender nature of the behavior. There are references in the Bible to different-gender sexual behavior that are just as condemning for the same reasons. But no one claims that the condemnation is because the behavior was between a man and a woman.” (https://www.hrc.org/resources/what-does-the-bible-say-about-homosexuality)

Thus, clergy that approve of homosexuality are lifted up to be true scholars that understand the historical and cultural context while clergy that believe scriptures forbid homosexual behavior are deemed inferior and unenlightened scholars. Biblical passages such as Genesis 19 (which references the destruction of Sodom) are interpreted to show that it was not the issue of homosexuality that caused God to destroy the city, but rather the sin of “inhospitality.” Similarly, other passages that appear to condemn the practice are explained to offer condemnation due to violence, exploitation, or idolatry, not the sexual behavior.

Some will state that homosexual behavior is acceptable because they insist that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality. While Jesus never explicitly spoke of homosexual behavior, he did hold up the standard of marriage between a man and a woman as presented in the creation account in Genesis (Matthew 19 and Mark 10).

I encourage the reader to investigate the scriptures and study this issue further. As I stated at the outset, this issue will not be resolved by this article. But perhaps we can focus on what a Christian response toward this hot cultural issue today might look like. How do we relate to real people struggling with, experimenting with, or engaging in these behaviors? I would suggest at least three things.

First, we are called to live as Christ, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Randy Alcorn writes in his new book, The Grace and Truth Paradox, “People had only to look at Jesus to see what God is like. People today should only have to look at us to see what Jesus is like. For better or worse, they’ll draw conclusions about Christ from what they see in us. If we fail the grace test, we fail to be Christlike. If we fail the truth test, we fail to be Christlike. If we pass both tests, we’re like Jesus.” Do we look like Jesus when we discuss issues like these, or do we become contentious and unkind? May we pass the test and present a picture of Christ.

Second, we must lead with love. If Christianity is anything, it is following a Savior that taught his disciples to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:39). In Romans 5:8 the Apostle Paul notes that it was “while we were yet sinners” that Christ died for us. The Bible is not a book given to believers whereby we might beat sinners about the head; it is a living and active revelation of God through which the Holy Spirit moves people to salvation and sanctification. In 1985 John Stott wrote an article in Christianity Today regarding homosexual marriage. Stott rightly condemned the response of many Christians and churches when he said, “love is just what the church has generally failed to show to homosexual people” (CT, November 22, 1985).

Too often the church has been unloving and unkind when referring to LGBTQ issues and persons. LGBTQ persons have been demeaned and referred to as “disgusting perverts” and even more horrible things. Caleb Kaltenbach, author of the book Messy Grace, recounts how he saw his mother and lesbian partner treated by Christians. He says, “I grew up seeing how my parents, especially my mom and her partner Vera, were treated by the Christian community. They were laughed at and sprayed with urine. Christians who thought they were following God’s will were instead pushing the LGBT community further away from God.” I do not believe that Jesus would yell and scream, nor throw urine at any person – and no follower of Jesus should either. Hate is not a Christian virtue.

Third, since we are standing in the tension of grace and truth and leading with the Christian virtue of love, we should let God be God and His Spirit do the work of transformation. In my 41 years of ministry I have always tried to teach and preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). It is not the role of the Christian to convict people of sin; it is the work of the Spirit and the Word. “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8 New Living Translation).

I love the way Kaltenbach ends an interview with World Magazine about his book Messy Grace. Sophia Lee asks Caleb, “How would you summarize the main points in this book?” He responds by saying, “We should love people where they’re at, just as God loved us where we were at, because God pursued us, just as He wants us to pursue people. There’s another point I wish I had made more of a point in my book: Love has no exception clause. When we choose to follow God, we give up our rights to be unforgiving, to treat people poorly, or to be discriminatory.”

Build a bridge of love.

President Maurice