Brothers and sisters in Christ—and I use those words intentionally, because I want to be clear on who this post is for. I know many of you are troubled over the Supreme Court’s establishment of gay marriage. Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are simply grieved. But this is not a new problem for us. In the church we have long struggled with the tension between deeply loving people and the refusal to endorse sin. We’ve dealt with it as divorce rates have skyrocketed. We’ve grappled with it as we’ve watched our youth sign their True-Love-Waits pledges, graduate from high school, and move in with their boyfriends and girlfriends. We’ll continue to wrestle with it now that gay marriage is the law of the land. How should we respond? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:
1. Be at peace. Our God still reigns. We know the end of the story: the Kingdom triumphs. Jesus is Lord—no law, regime, or swing of popular opinion can change that. God’s sovereignty was sure when Daniel walked the streets of Babylon. God reigned when Paul sewed tents and preached the gospel under Rome’s long shadow. God reigned for Corrie ten Boom and William Wilberforce and Jim Elliott and Adoniram Judson and all those who have gone before us in the Lord. Do not worry; neither be afraid. God reigns, and our trust is in him.
2. Speak with compassion. Colossians tells us to let our conversation be seasoned with grace (4:6). Sadly, we as church have too often failed to speak with grace to and about the LGBTQ community. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield shares this story about her encounter with a lesbian friend shortly after Rosaria’s own conversion:
I told her that my heart breaks for her isolation and shame and asked her why she didn’t share her struggle with anyone in her church. She said: “Rosaria, if people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do” (Kindle loc 565).
Ouch. Does our conversation about the gay community reflect our belief in Christ’s sanctifying and transforming power? If the gay community thinks the church hates them, can we be honest enough to admit that at times we have spoken like we do? As we move forward in the coming weeks and months, may we season our speech with grace and reflect God’s heart for all those he loves—including the gay community.
3. Be the body. We are the body of Christ. We are meant to be hospitals for the broken, ministering Christ’s healing to a sin-sick world. We can’t shirk that responsibility when it comes to the gay community. If a man in your church struggles with pornography, he can confess it to his men’s group and find accountability and support. Where does he go if he is attracted to men but wants to be faithful to his wife? Is there a safe space for the teenager who finds himself more turned on by his teammates in the locker room than the nude centerfold they’re passing around? What about the couple who sits in worship holding back tears because their daughter came home from college and told them she thinks she may be a lesbian? Can we be the body of Christ to them?
Let’s also not pretend that celibacy is an easy road. In the past few months I’ve read the stories of several gay and lesbian believers—some with whom I agree with where they’ve landed theologically and some with whom I don’t. There is a common thread of deep loneliness that runs through many of their stories. If we are going to teach—rightly—that the only God-ordained channels for sexual intimacy are celibacy or male/female monogamous marriage, we need to be family for those who have to create their own.
4. Live at peace. Paul was no stranger to a hostile culture. He had seen Jesus crucified. He himself had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. He had seen both riots and revivals. Yet he still wrote to believers living in the heart of Rome’s power and exhorted them to respect their government and live at peace with all (Romans 12:18; 13:1). If Paul challenged citizens of imperial Rome in this way, should we do any less? As far as it is in our power, let us be at peace. Don’t pick fights; drop ridiculous rhetoric about secession and impeaching the Supreme Court; don’t give way to fearmongering and alarmism. Serve. Love. Be at peace. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
5. Be true to your convictions. It is possible to faithfully love people and faithfully follow God’s word. That doesn’t mean decisions are always easy. What will you do when a lesbian couple wants to attend your church’s marriage retreat? How will you respond when a gay couple wants to bring their adopted child for baby dedication? When a member of the gay community accepts Christ and comes for baptism? Is it different from how we respond if it’s a college student living with his girlfriend, or a senior adult couple who consider themselves married but haven’t made it official to protect their Social Security benefits? As church, we will need to wrestle with these questions in the days to come. Our actions convey our true beliefs about God and people. We believe that God is holy. We believe that God is love. One side of the path falls off to legalism and judgment; the other to universalism and compromise. We need wisdom to keep our words and deeds true to the gospel, especially as we minister to those struggling with sexual sin.
I want to be true to my faith. I also want to love people. I don’t believe those two goals are incompatible. The cross breaks the power of canceled sin–all sin. Christ redeems. Let’s live and speak like we believe it.
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