Coming Out of the Closet…And Into the Church
So how is the church to respond to this mainstream teaching?
A Bad History
Unfortunately this is a very delicate issue, and believers have to tread carefully because the church’s past response to the LGBT community has been not only callous, but unbiblical.
In the 20th century, the church’s response could probably be summarized with this one word: judgmental. People bearing the title “Christians” acted like anything but the Christ they supposedly represent. These “Christians” would single out homosexuals, condemning them, quoting passages like this one:
The hypocrisy of this situation is glaring. If one of these Christians lived in a cul-de-sac with only eight houses, and a homosexual moved onto the street, the result was often public condemnation. Forget the fact that two unmarried couples lived on the street, and a whole neighborhood full of liars.
This happened even more so in the church, all under the guise of “rebuking.”
What does this look like today in the 21st Century? Perhaps it would look like this:
This past Tuesday morning, a young man knowingly cheated a clerk out of some change. A few hours later he lied to his co-workers about his recent low performance. As the workday came to a close, he joined a few others in the coffee room, laughing and joking about an overweight co-worker in accounting. After dinner, this same young man spent hours browsing online pornography.
Cheating, lying, gossiping and lusting. Not bad for a day’s work.
But his church will still treat him better than a homosexual.
In Thursday’s men’s accountability group, this same young man confessed everything. The group leader thanked him for his transparency. Many of the other guys in the group shared similar transgressions, then they prayed and ate breakfast together.
On Friday a different young man at the same church confesses his “same-sex tendencies.” The pastors call a special meeting. What do we do with him?
A Polarized Response
In the last decade the church has become aware of this negative stigma it bears. Many have cried out for a needed change.
Sadly, many people in the church have made a shift towards political correctness. Embarrassed by their history of condemning gays, they have changed their theology instead of their methodology. “Sorry everyone. My bad! Gay is now okay.”
It seems as if now the church doesn’t know where to stand.
The web of homosexuality is a quite a tangled one. But with homosexuality’s strong foothold in political, social, and faith-based sectors, the church no longer has the luxury of ignoring the issue. The church must deal with it.
“It Is What It Is”
When it comes to homosexuality, too many in the church want to throw up their hands and exclaim, “It is what it is.” The ironic thing is, they don’t actually know what it is!
Before I share what homosexuality “is” I need to give you two disclaimers: First, I will limit my reasoning to the issue of homosexuality only, as opposed to the closely-related (and politically-charged) topic of same-sex marriage. Secondly, I’m writing to fellow leaders in the church; I’m only trying to convince fellow faith leaders – not the world – of homosexuality’s reality.
With that said, we can now call homosexuality what it is: a sexual relationship between people of the same gender – whom Jesus loves unconditionally – that’s conscious and sinful and undermines God’s purpose for creation and expression of love.
The best way to explain that conclusion is to dispel some of the most frequently repeated (and routinely believed) false claims about homosexuality. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but one that addresses the most-discussed claims of homosexuality in relationship to faith and life.
On the surface, this seems to be a strange argument; after all, almost every major translation of the Bible has the word “homosexual” (or variations such as “homosexuals” and/or “homosexuality”) in it. While the Bible’s mention of homosexuality seems completely straightforward, many argue that when the Bible uses the word “homosexual” it really means something else, though that’s never the case in any other issue addressed in the Bible.
So, what is this “something else” that the Bible supposedly means when it uses the word “homosexual?”
Some argue that when the Apostle Paul discusses homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 or 1 Timothy 1:10, what he was really denouncing was pederasty, the sexual abuse of boys by men, which was sometimes practiced by Roman and Greek citizens.
I have just one question: Then why didn’t Paul just say that? You see, the Apostle Paul was a man of profound specifics, who at times would even “invent” words to get his point across, like the concept of “justification” (Romans 4 and 5). Am I to believe that he simply began to use terms that were generic or vague or even wrong when talking about such important issues?
If Paul wanted to address adult-to-child sin, he would have done that. The reason he didn’t speak of pederasty was because he was referring to homosexuality.
But this isn’t the only place the Bible talks about homosexual activity…
Understandably, this is a very convenient follow-up to the first myth of homosexuality’s relationship to the Bible, for if the Bible doesn’t even mention homosexuality, then it certainly can’t denounce it. We’ve seen that first claim to be false, now let’s look at this one.
Starting with the passage of Leviticus 18, we see in verse 6 that God bans sex between close relatives, including mothers (v7), sisters or half-sisters (v9), granddaughters (v10), and even aunts (v14). In the same chapter, God goes on to forbid a person from having sex with a neighbor’s wife (v20) and with animals (v23).
Located right in the midst of these prohibitions about sex is the command, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22).
The overarching context of this entire chapter couldn’t be any more obvious: “Don’t do these things!”
No rational person among us today argues that sex with a child or with an animal or with a close relative is a healthy practice. So, then why is it that some lift the act of homosexuality out of the list and treat it independently, as though it were permissible by God? This may be one of the most heinous assaults to the notion of biblical context in the history of theological interpretation!
But let’s be honest-some of these Leviticus passages can be confusing. After all, even though this passage above seems to be clear about things morally unacceptable, if we turn a few pages we’ll find instructions about not planting two types of seeds or wearing two types of cloth (Lev. 19:19). These arguments are abundant all over the internet. One of the most powerful scenes is from the Emmy award winning show West Wing where President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) uses this kind of bad scripture interpretation to humiliate a (and I quote) “tight ass” Christian who refers to homosexuality as an abomination. The Christian was silent. Apparently both her and Bartlet didn’t know the scriptures.
In order to defend these sort of onslaughts, it would help if we understood the difference between moral and ceremonial law. Moral law is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Ceremonial law was for a given people at a given time. When God told his people to not sleep with animals or kids or people of the same gender, he was obviously talking to them about moral code. When he talked to them about crops and clothing, he was talking about a ceremonial principle of uniting two things together that don’t belong together. This was more of a teaching tool.
Ceremonial laws change. We saw an example of this when God spoke to Peter in Acts Chapter 11 and told him he could eat reptiles, birds and other “unclean” animals. Peter was resistant at first. But God said, “Kill and eat.” (Oh well, we just lost all the PETA Christians!)
Moral law, however, is unchanging. If you are ever confused about which of these laws are moral law, take a peek at which laws are repeated in the New Testament. You’ll find that the New Testament continues to teach against sexual sin, including both fornication and homosexuality.
In the New Testament, we see that Paul’s mention of homosexuality also occurs in rather definitive situations. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, we read:
In this passage, Paul is unmistakably condemning certain lifestyles, with homosexuality being one of them – right along with “the greedy” and “drunkards” – lest we think that one sinful lifestyle is worse (or better) than another. These practices were something Christians shouldn’t be doing. Robert Hughes makes that point clear in his NT Commentary.
While some may want to see this passage as just another “clobber verse,” it is best viewed as a passage of supreme hope! Instead of remaining in their sin, the Corinthians were “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified in the Name of Jesus and by the power of God’s Spirit!” That’s because God loves idolaters, adulterers, drunkards, thieves, slanderers, swindlers, and yes, homosexuals!
In Paul’s other reference to homosexuality, in 1 Timothy 1:10, he says:
Here Paul lists those who “practice homosexuality” among the “lawless and rebellious.” It is point blank doctrine: homosexuality is a lifestyle that’s contradictory to the Gospel. But, look what else Paul is doing. He’s also clearly saying that God has reached out to the “lawless and rebellious” with His perfect law. Rather than condemn them, God desires to redeem them!
That blaring truth cannot escape the church if it’s to reach homosexuals – or any other sinner – today.
Let’s not be confused on this issue any longer. In seminary, we are trained to “plainly teach what the Bible plainly teaches.” It’s a pretty good practice! With regards to homosexuality, it’s much easier to just believe what the Bible clearly says than to concoct a false justification of homosexuality’s acceptableness. It requires a lot of imagination (that I can’t muster) to think God finds homosexuality to be an acceptable and alternative lifestyle for His creation. Politically correct? Yes. True? No.
Well, not exactly. First, homosexuality can’t promote procreation. Simply put, if homosexuality were to be embraced by all people, then the logical extrapolation is that humanity would cease to exist, for children cannot be conceived through homosexual acts.
Let’s not ignore some of the more graphic dangers of homosexuality. The movie Brokeback Mountain was claimed to be a wonderful love story between two men. In that movie we saw a sex scene between the two lead males where sodomy was implied. Most health care professionals and doctors warn against the potential unwanted effects of anal sex, which is a staple of male homosexuals’ sex lives. And even if the highly debated theory of “shortened life span” – which proposes that gay people live shorter lives than do their heterosexual counterparts – is dropped because of all the differing research on the topic, it’s still a known fact that the homosexual community continues to reel from the lethal effects of the HIV/AIDS virus.
Dare I mention a spiritual danger? All throughout the New Testament we see a very dangerous sin penetrating the hearts of the people: pride. On a macro level, pride is what tells us we don’t need God, we can do it ourselves. Very dangerous. But on a micro level, pride creeps in and tells us that we should preach ourselves, not Christ. Pride tells us that our “human” identity and accomplishments are important.
Paul made it clear in numerous passages that our self esteem should be based on who we are in Christ as a new creation (II Cor 5:17). He even goes as far as to say, “We don’t preach ourselves, we preach Christ the Lord.” (II Cor 4:5, NIV)
One of the huge problems with the LGBT movement is the focus on “me.” All too often their whole identity is wrapped up with being “gay.” Rarely do you meet a homosexual who identifies themselves as a “follower of Christ.” “I’m Michael, I’m gay, and I’m proud of it.”
If only they had that zeal for Christ.
Imagine if I introduced myself as Jonathan, the heterosexual!
This is spiritually unhealthy, however you try to frame it.
For these reasons alone, it’s inaccurate to claim homosexuality doesn’t harm anyone. (But anyone familiar with sin knows the negative effects it can have on sinners and those in relationship with them. Sin is no respecter of persons.)
There are a number of problems with this claim, beginning with the fact that, to date, it’s absolutely unproven. It’s one thing for an unchurched person to cite this belief, but it’s especially disconcerting to hear a Christian make this claim because of all the intrinsic problems that accompany this stance.
Genetics-driven homosexuality creates quite a theological problem for those who wish to wed biblical values with a gay lifestyle. If God considers homosexuality a sin – and we’ve already seen that He does based on scriptural observations outlined earlier – then why would He intentionally create a person to be in opposition to His will? That hardly sounds loving, and the God of the Bible is defined as love (1 John 4:8).
But the most disturbing point about this argument is the double standard it creates as a by-product. Let’s just say for a moment that homosexuality is caused by certain genes, or is somehow inflicted upon people through nature. Why are we so willing to label homosexuality as “alternative” but not other lifestyles that claim to be based on biology or heredity?
Bob may claim to be born an alcoholic because his father and grandfather were both alcoholics, but Bob’s friends – if they truly love him – are still going to help him fight that weakness. Nobody in their right mind will say to Bob, “Oh, since you were born that way, I guess we just have to let you continue destroying yourself and your family through your ‘alternative’ lifestyle.”
Sandra would love to blame her cruel temper on her mom…or on the pressures of life…or even the abuse she received from her step-father as a child, but again, no one who loves Sandra will allow her to continue down a road paved with broken relationships and regret. Instead of labeling her temper as “acceptable,” those who love Sandra will challenge her to overcome her anger.
And just to be fair, let’s talk about Lance. Lance has a big sex drive…I mean a big sex drive! To satisfy it, he has a different girl every weekend…in spite of the commitment he made to his wife and friends and God at his wedding 9 years ago. Lance justifies his urges by pointing to his masculinity, his “need,” and his embedded desires. So he cheats.
Tell me: are you willing to dismiss his sin by labeling it “alternative”? I can’t imagine saying, “Hey, Lance. Don’t worry about the rejection you’re causing your wife, or the example you’re setting for your kids. What you’re doing is fine, because, well, you were born that way.”
The point has been made. All the other hang-ups in life people say they’re born with are still not labeled “acceptable.” So, why do we single out homosexuality in this way?
It’s a bit comical to me when I hear this “scientific” argument coming from the homosexual community, mainly because the words “natural” and “normal” are used in ways the scientific community never intended. For instance, advocates for the acceptance of the gay lifestyle point to the incidental occurrences of homosexual activity within the animal kingdom and label it “normal.” Homosexual activity within animals isn’t considered any more “normal” by scientists than rare asexual activity which can also occur within certain animal species. A fractional percentage of anything hardly constitutes “normal.”
And besides, just because an animal does it, doesn’t make it OK for me. After all, my dog eats his own poop.
On the discussion of “natural” – which tends to be a more religious term than a scientific one – it’s important to note that when the Bible speaks of “natural” it may very well be describing the negative/sinful aspects of people’s lives. For instance, Jude 1:19 contrasts those who act on their “natural instincts” with those who “have God’s Spirit.”
That being said, Romans 1:26-27 actually uses the words “natural” and “unnatural” to describe sexual acts that please God and displease God, respectively:
Paul makes it clear that homosexual activity was unnatural and outside of God’s perfect plan. Those of us who suppress the truth often convince ourselves that these kind of activities are okay. J. Vernon McGee comments about this reality in his Thru the Bible Commentary.
These are passions of dishonor and disgrace and depravity — regardless of what public opinion is today. Perversion entered into Greek life, and it brought Greece down to the dust. Go over there and look at Greece today. The glory has passed away.
Anybody who tells me that he can be a child of God and live in perversion, live in the thick mire of our contemporary permissiveness, is not kidding anyone but himself. If he will come to Christ, he can have deliverance. (McGee)
When we try to do things our own way, perverting his creating, we are turning away from God and giving into a life of sin. J.B. Green talks about this human condition in his article, The Death of Christ, in The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.
Homosexual acts are just expressions of sin, expressions of turning away from God.
Regardless of the appeal made by advocates of homosexuality, whether to the realm of science or to the realm of theology, same-gender sex can’t be defined as natural or normal. In fact, homosexuality is a reversal of the created order.
The Church’s Response: Loathing or Loving?
As difficult as the church’s task is in properly defining homosexuality, it still has the most daunting task ahead of it: actually responding to homosexuality. (All that stuff above was the easy part!)
While some might argue there are many possible ways the church can react to homosexuals, all ideas essentially boil down to three different responses.
We can act like Pharisees, condemning the act of homosexuality, and the homosexual, as well. In biblical times, Pharisees were religious men who zealously proclaimed and enforced the law given to Moses by God. Almost everything they did, from how they dressed to how they prayed, showed others their concern for God’s decrees. Unfortunately, their private lifestyles often clashed with their public proclamations, and Jesus reserved His strongest indictments for this impious religiosity (Matthew 23).
A perfect example of their tendencies can be found in their dealings with a woman caught in the sexual sin of adultery (John 8:1-11). As the story goes, some Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. They espoused the Law which called for her death (by stoning), but were interested in what Jesus had to say. Of course, they weren’t even honest about their motives; they were only using this woman to try and trap Jesus.
A good day for the Pharisees would have ended with a stoning; a better day would have had two…one killing the woman, and the second killing Jesus.
They got neither.
Reacting like a Pharisee may be the easiest and most natural of the three options. We see it all the time, and if we’re honest, sometimes do it ourselves. One of the clearest examples of this tendency is the hateful group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (unaffiliated with any mainline Baptist denomination) who regularly and despitefully campaign against homosexuals. Their message is usually so vile towards homosexuals it’s not even worth repeating.
But if we’re not careful, we’ll repeat their mistake. People in the church, from the pastor to the pew sitter, can easily look down a self-righteous nose and damn the sinner right along with the sin, forgetting that they were once living in sin themselves – or worse, still living in sin!
In the research for his book unChristian, David Kinnaman found that the church has a reputation among unbelievers for being “anti-gay.” No, not “anti-lust” or “anti-fornication” or “anti-immoral.” Just “anti-gay.” All of these are examples of sexual sin, but only one carries the full force of the church’s vengeance.
This doesn’t help the church’s reputation with the homosexual community. Kinnaman says it well. “Many people in the gay community don’t seem to have issues with Jesus, but rather with those claiming to represent him today.” (91, Kinnaman)
To be sure, the church should condemn all sin – while also avoiding all sin! – but we must make sure to steer clear of empty self-righteousness.
Thus, we can’t respond to homosexuals like a Pharisee would.
We can also respond like a Chameleon, changing our doctrine and theology to “blend in” with the world around us. Instead of calling homosexuality “sin,” we could just back down and label homosexuality something nicer like “alternative” or “misunderstood” or “innate.”
There are several denominations in America that are sliding toward this mistake. Most of them aren’t content with simply redefining homosexuality as “acceptable,” but are also intent on ordaining homosexual pastors and priests to lead the church, as well.
But if the church does either, it ceases to function biblically. God’s intention for the church has always been that it would be a particular people, so particular in fact, that they would appear to be “called out” from among the rest of humanity (which is the literal definition of the Greek word ecclesia, translated as “church” in the New Testament).
Imagine how the story from John 8 (about the adulterous woman) would sound if Jesus acted like a chameleon.
Pharisees: “Hey Jesus, some of our guys found this woman having sex with a man who wasn’t her husband. Mosaic Law considers this a sin deserving of death. What do you have to say?”
Jesus: “Yeah, about that. Let’s not get caught up on rules, or right and wrong. Besides, that law is centuries old, anyhow; it need not apply anymore. Who are we to think our labels or standards are best? The main thing is that this woman feels good about herself. To each, his own, you know? It is what it is!”
If Jesus had meant for His church to behave like a chameleon, maybe He would have acted like a Chameleon. But He didn’t, so we mustn’t, either.
The only godly reaction we can have toward homosexuality, or any sin for that matter, is to respond like Christ. Responding like Christ always means calling sin, sin, while loving the sinner caught in it.
Granted, we don’t have a known encounter between Jesus and a homosexual recorded in Scripture, but again, the story of the adulterous woman helps us understand Jesus’ practice. (Hey, sexual sin is sexual sin.) So in case you don’t know how the story in John 8 ends, let me tell you.
After Jesus shamed the Pharisees into dismissing themselves, He turned to the woman and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Her response is simple: “No one, sir.”
His final words were life-changing and life-saving: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)
What a brilliant and loving response to someone caught red-handed in sexual sin! He calls sin what it is, but then invites her to live a wholly different life.
Following Christ’s Example What a flawless standard Christ has put before us. For those courageous enough to respond to homosexuals as Christ would, a few points need to be kept in mind:
- Know what the Bible says…and what the Bible means. The only thing that’s worse than a well-intentioned Christian who’s marring the true biblical message is an ill-intentioned Christian who’s marring the true biblical message. Don’t be either! Know what the Bible has to say about homosexuality…and what the Bible doesn’t have to say about it. Pay very careful attention to what the actual verse says, as well as the greater context of the entire passage (and for that matter, the whole book). Otherwise, you might fall victim to someone who uses a dizzying – but distorted – interpretation of the Bible. (West Wing’s President Bartlet perhaps?)
- Be conscious of the church’s current reputation for dealing with homosexuals. We have a really bad reputation, but in most cases, we’ve earned it. I’m not saying we should walk on eggshells, beat around the bush, or cower away from calling sin, “sin.” But just know, we are walking through a mind field; one irresponsible step, or comment, and everything can blow up in our face.
- Stop singling out homosexuality. The quickest way to forfeit your credibility and influence is to treat certain sins with partiality and some with absolute scorn. God is as broken up over the heterosexual mom who continually gossips at the end of the cul-de-sac, as He is the entrenched homosexual. A gay person is no more distant from God than a liar or a porn addict or a thief. Sin is sin and sinners are sinners. And by the way, it should probably be said that heterosexual sin has caused far more damage to the church than homosexual sin ever has!
- Pray for homosexuals you know…and show them the loving kindness of Jesus Christ. How do you view homosexuals? No, really. Do you see them and begin to organize a mental argument? Are they less of a human in your eyes because of their lifestyle? Does God really hate them? Or, does He love them unconditionally, just like you? Has He given the life of His Son for them, as well? Of course God loves homosexuals! Our God-given mission is to share the love of Jesus with everybody: drug dealers, terrorists, homosexuals, and people with really rude kids. So, pray that God will use you to reach a homosexual in your life. As you pray that prayer, carefully look for ways God can use you to reach them. Their sin is no more daunting than yours or mine. Let’s offer them the love they are searching for in life.
In the last decade, homosexuals have been “coming out of the closet” in droves. As followers of Christ, we have two options: we can show them the door, or we can show them the life-transforming love of Jesus.
Let’s make sure we get this one right.
Green, J.B. “Death of Christ.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letter. Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.
Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990.
Kinnaman, David. Unchristian. Michigan: Baker Books, 2007
Lockman Foundation, The. New American Standard Bible. 1963.
McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary- WORDSEARCH Database. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1983
Tyndale. Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Illinois: Tyndale House Publisher, Inc., 1996.
Zondervan. Holy Bible, New International Version. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973.
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
OrdieJanuary 21, 2019 at 7:59 pm
This was extremely helpful to me as I have a gay son whom I love deeply. After I told him him how much God loved him And all of us have sinned but Jesus did not come to condemn but to set us free. He will have nothing to do with me or his father. I will not give up on him! How can I get a hard copy of this article? Thanks!!
LIZ SANDOVALApril 1, 2019 at 4:34 pm
I love this article….. My granddaughter who just turned 15 said she THINKS she has interest in other girls.
What would you recommend for her to read? (she loves to read)
She is into sports and in here school, there are a few of her friends that are into girls. She is a girly girl and I didn’t see that coming. I know she loves God and She goes to church with me from time to time. PLEASE HELP!
Jonathan McKeeApril 1, 2019 at 6:16 pm
Thanks Liz… Jackie Hill Perry wrote a book titled, “Gay Girl, Good God” where she talks about this struggle, shares her story and how God helped her through it. Really good book.
Magali RuizJune 23, 2019 at 8:32 am
Fantastic article! Thank you so much. If I could recommend a couple of resources that has helped my teenage daughters on the topic, Lies Girls Believe (tween) and Lies Young Women Believe (teen/college age). Check out Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy who is helpful in getting a biblical theology of sexuality and Jackie Hill Perry mentioned above by Jonathan McKee.
Jonathan KempJuly 17, 2019 at 9:19 am
Hi Jonathan, I really enjoy your website and have used and passed on the resources frequently. Your article here caught my eye, and I guess I was a little surprised at some of your comments, e.g. references to “the homosexual lifestyle” – what exactly is that? What’s a “heterosexual lifestyle”? I could go through paragraph by paragraph but let’s stick with the Biblical evidence you raise.
The word “homosexual” is not Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic so doesn’t appear in any biblical manuscripts, has only existed as a word in English for about 100 years and has only appeared in English translations of the Bible since the 1940s.
I could go through all the ‘clobber verses’ in detail but let’s focus on Gen 18/19 which you’ve raised. How do you account for the fact that Gen 19:4 actually says “the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house” (NRSV). Is it really likely that the entire male population was homosexual? If they were, why did Lot then offer them his daughters? Isn’t it more likely that the story is about violence and power over the visitors, not homosexuality? A youth group might like to look up Ezekiel 16:49-50 to see how a major prophet understood the sin of Sodom – why doesn’t Ezekiel mention any homosexuality? (See http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/sodom_and_gomorrah.html for more on this.)
The Bible describes homosexual acts which are either likely to be fertility acts carried out in foreign temples (Lev 18 and 20); male (and possibly underage) prostitution (1 Tim); straight men participating in gay orgies (Rom 1); or where it’s not actually clear exactly what the context is (1 Cor 6 – look at how the key words are translated by a range of Bibles). If Paul means “all homosexuals at all times” in 1 Cor 6, why doesn’t he use common Greek words for homosexuals instead of making up one which may or may not mean that?
In all likelihood, the Bible does not make any reference to what we know modern day homosexual unions can be: equal, loving, life-long, monogamous, and committed relationships which can indeed be Christ-centred and thereby bring glory to God. Homosexuality does not mean an immoral free for all – this is a common misunderstanding. I’m probably as conservative as you on 99% of moral issues, but I am genuinely convinced we have been in error on this one.
Jonathan, you addressed your article to “fellow faith leaders” like me, so I’m responding in the same manner. David Kinnaman’s findings about young people today seeing “being anti-gay” as a core Christian doctrine (falsely) ring very true here in Australia. The good news is that we don’t need to change our theology to accommodate culture – we just need to acknowledge that our understanding of these matters is naturally better today than those of the Bible writers, the same as we know more about the solar system, for example. It’s not the Bible writers’ fault that we are simply better equipped to be able to talk about these things and come to know that gay people have rarely chosen to be gay (why would people choose to be gay?), now that gay people don’t have to worry about being executed or imprisoned (in most countries anyway).
I think a better approach in covering this topic next time would be to put up both sets of arguments for and against the topic, as fairly as possible. This has been a helpful approach in my ministries.
Thanks again for all your great resources,
Peace in Christ,
Jonathan McKeeAugust 27, 2019 at 5:16 pm
Jonathan, thanks for the kind and thoughtful response. I think it’s sad that so many people in the history of the church have actually been “anti-gay” (which is why so many young people probably think Christians are anti-gay and “hypocrites”) I think the key is that even if we have different theologies (which you and I do), we need to treat each other with love and grace. In the same way, I think when we meet people who identify as LGBTQ+ we need to always lead with grace and not act as if we have some superior theological view, and certainly we don’t need to lead with, “I love you even though you are a sinner.” (sigh) More on that here: https://thesource4ym.com/oh-and-im-bisexual/ As for your verse by verse arguments, I have looked at each of them countless times, and rather than bantering with you back and forth, I’ll just link a friendly debate that my friend Sean McDowell engaged in with Matthew Vines… I think Sean verbalizes my belief better than I could possibly articulate. See here: https://youtu.be/yFY4VtCWgyI I hope that helps. Thanks again for your encouragement and keep up the good work, my friend!
President, The Source for Youth Ministry
AshleyAugust 27, 2019 at 2:57 pm
As a woman who works in ministry, I am deeply distraught by this article. It’s slanderous and it is harassing our homosexual neighbors. None of your arguments make sense and I just come away from reading this angry because you say one thing (that Christians should love everyone) and basically do the complete opposite (write hate about a group of people who already face enough prejudice as it is). I’m crying for my homosexual friends who want to be loved by the church and have people put out things like this. I suggest you read “Shameless” by Nadia Bolz-Weber and “Dear Church” by Lenny Duncan, and get some insight from people who face this hate.
Jonathan McKeeAugust 27, 2019 at 5:07 pm
Ashley… so sorry you were distraught by the article. It’s a tough issue for everyone today. My heartfelt belief is to always respond in compassion (in the way the Jesus showed compassion to all- even sinners like me), and here’s where I differ from most conservatives… I actually don’t think we need to “lead” with our theology. In other words, I DON’T think when I meet someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ that I need to tell them that they are a sinner (sounds like a no brainer, right?) 🙂 But sadly, I think a lot of people who believe that the LGBTQ+ lifestyle is a sin feel they need to confront others in that sin. I think we should just look for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus. More on that here: https://thesource4ym.com/oh-and-im-bisexual/
Personally, my theology is that I think God’s design for intimacy was for one man and one woman in the context of marriage. We might have to agree to just disagree on that point. My theology is not “hateful.” In the same way, I think premarital sex and prostitution is wrong, but yet worked with ministries that reach out to people in the midst of that all the time.
I hope that a world that believes in tolerance can allow freedom of belief. That belief is not hateful at all… it’s what people do with their beliefs that are hateful.
I hope that helps.
Thanks again for your comment Ashley, I applaud your compassion.
In His Love,
SteveMarch 10, 2020 at 11:30 am
Thanks for the thoughtful and succinct words on the issue of homosexuality and for pointing out how easily we as the church pick and choose which sins we will focus on and ignore the rest that are on lists that more than likely include everyone! Certainly myself. As I read your response to Ashley I was thinking how our culture today tends to view unconditional love as unconditional agreement and affirmation of beliefs. Had Jesus thought this way he would not have said to the woman caught in adultery “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”. Could have left out the last part in the minds of many today.
I want to applaud you for holding to an increasingly unpopular view but for making a case about it biblically. What is interesting to me is that each person with which I have discussed homosexuality and has disagreed, also has a different view of the Scriptures. Inspiration to me is different for them as they are unable to use the bible in the discussion without changing the traditional view of how it is to be read. I recently discussed this with a young man who stated “homosexuality doesn’t harm anyone like other sins do, so it is not really a sin”. Tough to have a discussion biblically.
I have tried to live in love to murderers, slanderers, gossips, drunks, homosexuals and others, yet I cannot agree that their behavior or my own in various ways is pleasing to God. Yet I help them and serve them as I am able. But I will not agree with them and what I observe is that I am the one who ends up being rejected. Not just my views but me. That saddens me.
There is plenty of behavior and attitude on both sides of the homosexuality issue that is despicable and so all I can do is continue to point out what the scripture says to the best of my ability about all sin and righteousness. And also point out all the scripture says about the triune God as best as I can. And speak and act in love. If this means to others that I must agree with their views, well I will answer to the Lord rather than shut up, for I could speak nothing if this were to be the manner we approach our words.
So keep up the good work of speaking the truth in love and seasoning your speech with salt as it might be used by the Lord to draw people to Jesus. The only person that could have read hate into your words is someone who has no desire to hear truth or discuss it any further. May the Lord continue to use you to lead young people in particular to the Lord of Love and truth.