From the Pastors' Desks

Postlude to Holy Sexuality

On Sunday morning, Pastor Dale preached a sermon on Leviticus 18 entitled "Holy Sexuality". In modern Western culture, there are all kinds of questions that this text provokes. Among the topics that this text addresses, and the one that probably elicits the strongest reactions, is how we should think about homosexuality.

What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality? Is the Bible still authoritative for us today? Can Christians agree to disagree on the topic of homosexuality? Is it possible for someone to be a Christian but be mistaken on the topic of homosexuality? And, of great importance, how do we positively offer a message of love and hope to those image-bearers who experience same-sex attraction?

Earlier this year, I had correspondence with a thoughtful person who was asking questions like the ones above. Perhaps you have had questions along these lines too! Or you have family members or friends who are wrestling with these questions and you want to be of help to them in arriving at biblical conclusions on homosexuality. I want to share an edited version of part of my letter since it may be of help to some of you as well.

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Dear Friend,

Thank you for your questions! As you know, homosexuality or same-sex attraction is a big topic. It’s one that is often highly charged and deeply personal. I’ll do my best to give brief answers and to point you to some resources that will help you do some homework yourself. If you’re struggling with anything that I’ve written, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Before I get to your specific questions, however, I want to be clear about an assumption that I’m making based upon our conversation. We both agree that the Bible is the Word of God. It is reliable, trustworthy, and without error. It is authoritative as an account of who God is, what he commands, and what he has done. If we didn’t share this assumption, we would need to spend time here first.

If we grant that assumption, then we can proceed to the question: What does God in the Bible say about homosexuality? We need to open our Bibles and go to the texts that speak to this issue. I would also direct you to the resources below. Kevin DeYoung’s book or presentation are a good place to start. I would then consider moving on to the Childers’ podcast. 

 Resources: 

Can Christians agree to disagree about homosexuality? This was a point that you and I discussed when we met. Could this be the case where Christians can agree to disagree? Could it be the case that homosexuality—like baptism or views on the end times—is an area where good Christians can end up with different, legitimate interpretations? 

Now you know enough logic to know that two contradictory statements cannot be true. Either homosexuality is sinful or not. But could it be that being mistaken on homosexuality is not a big enough deal to divide over? 

To think through that issue I would encourage you to listen to this podcast with Alan Shlemon; or, if you would prefer to read a short article by Sam Allberry—a same-sex attracted man— who gives the case for why we should see homosexuality as a first order doctrine in the church (note that both Shlemon and Childers are a bit more precise but Allberry’s points are worth noting). 

Resources: 


Can an individual be a Christian and be mistaken on homosexuality?
 In other words, could it be that a member of a church believes that homosexuality is not sinful, in contradiction to the Bible, and that they’re still a Christian? The Alisa Childers podcast above is helpful in speaking to this, but I would say that an individual Christian church member could be mistaken on their views of homosexuality and still be saved because salvation is found in Christ by faith alone. So, someone can be mistaken about the permissibility of homosexuality, abortion, taking advantage of the poor, etc. and still be a Christian. However, we must also say that saving faith—faith that unites us to Jesus the Savior—is always accompanied by true repentance. 

This is significant because if someone was practicing homosexuality, despite what Scripture says, they lack repentance that is a necessary evidence of salvation. It is also significant because a teacher in the church (pastor, elder, and other teachers) who promotes sin is cutting people off from the way of salvation and they show themselves to be a false teacher. The Scripture says that false teachers will be condemned; thus, for a church’s leadership to promote homosexuality as sin would be an indicator not only of mistaken teaching, but false teaching that runs contrary to the explicit teachings of Scripture. 
 
How can we offer a message of hope to those who are experiencing same-sex attraction? In a desire to maintain the Bible’s exhortation to speak the truth in love, I want to speak a brief word here about how we can appropriately honor the dignity of those who experience same-sex attraction while maintaining biblical convictions (there is certainly more that can be said – check out the resources if you want more). 

  1. We recognize that the message of the Bible is that we are all sinners in need of grace. Our sin radically corrupts us in all areas of life: our thinking, our acting, and our desires. Our sexuality is not excluded. This means that all of us, in some sense, have distorted sexuality and all of us need to encounter the healing and forgiveness of Christ in our sexuality. We can engage humbly and compassionately with those who are genuinely struggling with disordered sexual desires, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual. This is why I’m glad that we have a counseling ministry and support groups at Harvest that come alongside people to assist them in their battle with sin. Pastor Greg would be a good person to talk to if you wanted more information on these.
  2. We should do more to establish meaningful community and friendships with single people in the church. By offering real community, we can make the path of obedience—if that would entail singleness—more plausible to those who experience same-sex attraction and who will not marry someone of the opposite sex. We need to be clear that marriage, while good, is not the picture of perfection or fulfillment (just look at Jesus or Paul). 
  3. We should speak of stories of hope. Rosaria Butterfield, Beckett Cook, and Sam Allberry are Christians who have struggled with same-sex attraction. They’ve done this in different ways. Butterfield and Cook were converted out of homosexual lifestyles (Butterfield has since married a man). Allberry remains a single man. But they testify to the power of God to help us resist temptation and obey him. 

Resources: 

Let’s continue talking about this as together we look to Jesus, seeking to have our thinking and our actions conformed to His Word.


Yours in Grace,

Pastor Wayne

 

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