Homophobia and the Grace of God


This past week, the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ. During this time, the presidents of each of the SBC’s seminaries gives an annual report to the messengers present from Southern Baptist churches who chose to send representatives.

After Dr. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, gave the annual report for his institution, a question was asked from the floor by a Mr. Peter Lumpkins, who identified himself as a messenger from a church in Waco, GA. The question from Mr. Lumpkins and Dr. Mohler’s answer can be seen here, beginning at the 14 minute mark in the video clip.

Since that time, Mr. Lumpkins has continued to post articles and discuss in a heated manner Dr. Mohler’s commentary concerning how the Southern Baptist Convention has traditionally responded to homosexuals. While Mr. Lumpkins vocally and, at times, disrespectfully, disagrees with Dr. Mohler’s observations, I’m certain that in a casual poll of people across the South, people from all walks of life, would show that most would mock the idea that the phrases “Churches in the South” and “compassionate towards homosexuals” should ever be in the same sentence without “are not” being inserted between the two.

Whether we like it or not, Dr. Mohler’s commentary on the church is dead on: through both naive ignorance and outright hatred, the church has miserably failed to show the grace and love of Christ to those in the homosexual community. While few would come right out and say it, through omission, isolation, quiet condemnation and a lack of proactive ministry, the church has essentially told “those people” that they can go somewhere else til they get cleaned up and get their acts together.

Throughout the weekend, I have been involved in a series of conversations on various posts throughout the blogosphere, and I would encourage you to read them and participate in the dialogue (Peter Lumpkins post #1, Peter Lumpkins post #2, Jared Moore post #1).

Below you will find some of my thoughts on Dr. Mohler’s response to Mr. Lumpkin’s question.

As a third generation Southern Baptist who  experienced firsthand the ignorance, jokes, condemnation and “clobber verses” discussed in previous articles and blog posts while silently suffering with the shame of unwanted same-sex attraction, I am thankful for Dr. Mohler’s statements and his stance. When I finally confessed to a friend the struggle I was having with SSA, I had to seek discipleship and counseling outside of our denomination because there was nothing available at the time for people who were gay, let alone someone who was gay-identified but desiring to leave the lifestyle. The general response was “Pray more, read your Bible more, and don’t tell anyone.” That, my friends, is homophobia.

As a general rule, SBC’ers may not stand at Pride parades spewing hate, but the culture of silence and rejection is a more dangerous form of homophobia in some ways because it not only causes shame within the person struggling with SSA, it makes the church (and therefore God) an unsafe place to ever share their struggle. It also give the incorrect and unbiblical appearance that good Christian boys and girls would never struggle with a sin like that. We have “clobbered” people with verses like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God, and told people that sinners “such as these” will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. But we have failed to share the hope found in verse 11 of the same book and chapter: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I wholeheartedly believe that 1 Corinthians 6:11 is one of the most freeing verses in all of the Bible. The “lying” to which Dr. Mohler is referring is the fact that most Baptists only share with people verses 9-10. We condemn without sharing the grace that frees us from that condemnation: “And such were some of you. But you were washed…”
“But” and “were” are two of the most grace-filled words in the Bible because they always show up when God steps in and makes us new creations in Christ. Dr. Mohler is right: the Gospel message will not be complete until church pews are filled with people who were washed of the sins listed in verses 9-10. Thankfully, at least one seat at my church is filled weekly by one who can say, “Such was I, but…”

Perhaps our pews are already filled with people who “once were” but choose to keep their testimonies of redemption silent out of fear of rejection. Perhaps we as a church are robbing ourselves of useful servants who could minister to the hurting and the brokenhearted if only they felt safe sharing that the Lord has done a healing work in their own sexual brokenness. Perhaps this conversation will give those who have been washed of myriad sexual sins the courage to speak up and speak out in their churches and tell of the great and mighty things the Lord has done for and in and through them. Perhaps this simple Q&A time at a business meeting that most Baptists never even knew was taking place will spark a revolution of grace AND truth in the church. We’ve done an excellent job declaring Truth over the years; perhaps it’s time we followed in the steps of Jesus, remembering that it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, and temper that Truth with His grace.

As a side note, I’ve always found it interesting that most tend to overlook the first two sexual sins listed in those verses, sexual immorality (any sexual behavior outside of a marriage covenant) and adultery (sexual relations with someone other than your spouse), and skip right to the “really bad” sin of homosexuality. Again, a subtle form of homophobia; overlook the heterosexual sin and condemn the sin we collectively find the most disgusting. I loved that one commenter on an above mentioned post declared that it was good for the church that we didn’t treat those who engage in premarital heterosexual sex or adultery the same way we treat homosexuals because if we did, churches would be nearly empty every week.

 

Advertisements

The Rape of Christ


We are only prepared to receive and comprehend the grace of God when we have understood His infinite holiness and our incredible sinfulness. ~James MacDonald

I have been attempting for months to help someone understand just what the big deal is about our sin, and sexual sin in particular. I was struggling to bring to light just how badly our sin breaks the heart of God, and 1 Corinthians 6:5-20 is the passage I ended up returning to several times.

This passage gives us a clear explanation of the connection found in mind, body and soul specifically; each is intricately involved in the health and welfare of the other. Sins actively committed in our body impact our souls and minds; thoughts lead to actions which lead to spiritual disconnect from the Father. Spiritual brokenness can cause mental and physical side effects like depression, anger, apathy, even physical pain.

So, according to this passage, our physical actions impact us mentally and spiritually as well. We use our bodies and train our minds to respond a certain way, leading to addictive behavior. Most people today watch enough Dr. Phil to understand the mind/body connection.

But what about the spiritual aspect of sin? How does that impact us? How does our sin impact our relationship with the Triune God? According to this passage, our sin effects Christ intimately and directly. He tells us that, at the time of salvation, we become joined in one Spirit with Christ. He is a part of us, we are a part of Him. This is why the marriage relationship is a picture of our relationship with Christ; separate beings, joined together to become one while still remaining unique beings. One of the greatest mysteries of how we as spiritual beings function.

Follow this logic for a moment; as believers, we are joined to Jesus, being one in Spirit. He is with us and a part of us, present and actively involved in all that we think, say and do. That’s a pretty convicting thought.

But Paul then immediately uses an extreme illustration to make his point; he asks who in his right mind would ask Jesus to sleep with a prostitute? The answer to that rhetorical question is, “No one!” Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. Jesus doesn’t want to engage in illicit sexual activity; his one goal is to glorify His Father in Heaven in mind, body and spirit.

So, following Paul’s graphic illustration, what are we doing when, as believers, we force Jesus, with whom we are joined in one Spirit, to join us in immoral sexual behavior? We are essentially raping Jesus. We are forcing him to participate in sexual activity He wholeheartedly desires to avoid because it brings no glory to the Father in Heaven.

Some statics claim that by the end of college (or age 22) as many as 20% of all women have been at least convinced to participate in a sex act she would otherwise have avoided. Ask any woman who’s been in that situation, and she will tell you how it made her feel. Dirty. Shameful. Used. Broken. Brokenhearted.

Sometimes it’s difficult as believers to understand how our sin breaks the heart of God. In following Paul’s logic in this passage, it should be abundantly clear; to engage in immoral sexual activity is to force Jesus to engage in sexual activity against His will. Our selfish momentary pleasure is equal to the rape of Christ.

Looking at it from that point of view, how do you think our sin breaks the heart of God? How would your heart break knowing that a loved one had been raped, abused, molested? How did you feel if it’s happened to you? What steps do you take to protect yourself from being in a situation in which those things could happen? How do you teach and train the young boys and girls in your life to avoid those situations? Shouldn’t we do the same for Christ?

If we are one in Spirit with Him, shouldn’t we live our lives in such a way that we do everything within our power to keep Him from being involved in activities He desperately wants to avoid?

Sex to the Glory of God?


(This post is the first in a series of three addressing specific ideas and principles found in the following passage of Scripture.They will post on three consecutive days.)

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20

People spend hours each week engrossed in television shows whose story lines center around the illicit relationships of the main characters. Teen girls are now intentionally getting pregnant, hoping they’ll be selected as the next “star” of a teen mom reality show. More and more church members are involved in immoral sexual activity or cohabiting, all while the church has historically kept silent on the issue of sex, rarely teaching a godly, biblical theology of sex. Unbiblical sexual activity has become an acceptable sin in the body of Christ. It’s been so normalized in culture that the church has surrendered and thrown up her hands in defeat. The attitude seems to be that we can’t stop people from having sex, so we’ll just hope they use protection and we’ll be here to help them pick up the pieces when their lives explode.

The church ignores the topic of sex as if it has nothing to do with the church or the God we worship. Here’s where the problem comes occurs. Sex was God’s idea, not something he wants to limit, control, or destroy. Here is God’s view of sex. Sex is good. Very good, in fact, according to Genesis 2. But, much like a fine luxury car, sex is best when it functions within the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines.

And, whether we like it or not, God gives very specific guidelines for how sex is best enjoyed and most fully experienced in its original purpose.

God is perfect. He’s the perfect teacher. He not only tells us what not to do, he tells us what to do. He gives us the one right, best way to do things and then gives illustrations of consequences of what will happen when we don’t follow His guidelines.

One of my favorite examples of this type of teaching is the inclusion of polygamy in Scripture. Christians of a more liberal or emerging mindset think along this line of logic: polygamy is in the Bible, so God must be ok with it. Polygamy is oppressive to women, therefore, this must also mean God hates women.

OR maybe he included stories of polygamy in Scripture to show us the consequences of engaging in sexual relationships in ways other than His one, best way. One of my favorite defenses of the Bible and Christianity coming from a Being greater than humanity is that the Bible graphically displays the greatest failures of its “greatest” human characters. Humans tend to cover our faults and deify our leaders. Not the Bible. God ensures we know that it is He who does the miraculous work, not any man.

In my area of counseling, I spend a lot of time pondering relationships and gender and sex, and what God has to say about these issues in the Bible. I also ponder them because I spent so many years struggling with my own understanding of those very issues. Many people go into counseling because they’re trying to figure themselves out, and I guess I’m no exception. But during my time in seminary, I spent more time studying the nature of God than I spent talking about mankind and relationships.

And the more I learned about God, the more I learned about myself and people in general. This is the conclusion that I came to concerning sex and my stance on sex as I learned more and more about God and his purposes for creating humanity and sexuality.

1. God designed sex with a good purpose.
2. God created sex to produce good results– trust, pleasure, intimacy, connection, procreation…
3. God determined sex was so precious and powerful that it was best reserved for only one person.
4. To accurately show God’s image and nature in procreation and diverse unity, sex should be expressed only between a man and a woman.
5. To be a faithful picture of God’s covenant with His people, sex should only only take place within the confines of a covenant relationship, specifically marriage.

These are the guidelines for God’s good gift of sex. Seems pretty simple and straightforward. It gets complicated when we start making exceptions for our own “happiness”. But notice that “it makes me happy” is not included in that short list above.

As believers, we need to remember the statement my mom repeats often: quit expecting people who aren’t Christians to behave like Christians. They aren’t. Our “rules” don’t apply to unbelievers. If unbelievers follow God’s guidelines, their lives will be better, more peaceful, healthier simply because God’s way is best. But it makes sense that unbelievers are concerned foremost with their own happiness; their lives revolve around themselves and their own fulfillment.

I don’t want lost homosexuals to just stop being homosexuals; I want them to meet the only fulfilling Lover of their soul and completer of their heart.

I don’t want heterosexual sinners to just stop having sex outside of marriage, or to break their addictions to porn or self-pleasure; I want them to discover that the pleasure and fulfillment they are seeking in sex or relationships will only be found by fulfilling their souls’ deepest desires in Christ instead hopelessly trying to fulfill their bodies’ most intense urges.

I don’t want lost drug addicts to just get clean; I want them to meet the Most High.

I don’t want lost people struggling with depression to just figure out how to be happy and self-fulfilled, and I want them to discover eternal joy in Christ.
And I don’t want saved homosexuals, sex addicts, drug addicts, or those suffering from depression to just stop their behavior, either. I desire the same thing God desires for them. To stop being so easily pleased with mere happiness and and begin seeking true and lasting joy, found only in seeking after His glory.

So what happens, as believers, to our relationship with God when, through sex (or any other thing), we seek our own happiness instead of His glory? We’ll see the answer to that tomorrow in Paul’s graphic illustration in 1 Corinthians 6.

Women and Sexual Sin, Part 2


Many are unwilling to completely abandon the Freudian ideas of a sex-driven society and have attempted to explain Christian morality with a psychological bent. Secular ideas have been given Christian-sounding names and have been sold as biblical truth. According to a United Methodist clergy member and clinical psychologist, sexual sin has only occurred when “genital contact involves an imbalance of power.” This definition was followed by two examples, child molestation and abuse by clergy. Dr. McClintock writes that the church should rid itself of sexual shame not by talking through the biblical stances concerning sex, but rather by accepting the varying sexual activities taking place in the lives of church members and celebrating them all as an expression of God’s love for humanity.

This argument is an attempt to gain approval of society’s embrace of all sexual behavior as good. By saying God is love and any showing of love is from God, the attempt is made to put God’s seal of approval on activities that are blatantly against teachings in Scripture. But many in Christianity are unwilling to call sin what it is, and instead of teaching about a God who is simultaneously loving and just, they teach that God simply wants his children to be happy. Dr. Heimbach also stated that “with the rise of modernism, an opposing, permissive approach to sexual morality rose to usurp the traditional approach in American culture.” This modern approach makes the argument that “families depend on being happy, and no one is compelled to stay in a family if he or she is unhappy.” No where in Scripture will a passage be found that says that God just wants his children to be happy.God desires what is best for His creation, and the laws He gave concerning our interactions with one another are for our own good, to bring us hope and a future. Much like a father that truly loves his child will set parameters on her behavior, God’s rules are not to stymie our happiness, but to protect us and bring us joy from experiencing His gifts in the best way possible.

There are many passages, however that do say how God expects his children to behave; God expects his children to behave in a holy manner. “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (Leviticus 20:26). The Heavenly Father doesn’t necessarily expect his children to be happy, but he does expect them to be holy, and this holiness should be an integral part of every facet of the life of a believer.

Many consider “holy sex life” to be an oxymoronic phrase, but the Bible has much to say about healthy, holy sexual behavior. Scripture also includes many passages concerning unhealthy and sinful sexual behavior and how an individual can get from unhealthy to healthy, and vice versa. God’s high standard for holiness in sexuality is described well by one Christian writer:
Countless adults enter into all sorts of sexual sin through illicit conversation, off-color teasing, flirting, and inappropriate demonstrations of affection. As long as they don’t commit fornication, they rationalize that they haven’t done anything wrong.

If we’re going to be protected against sexual seduction, we must recognize a radical standard of holiness…. The Word of God uses a very strong command for times when we are tempted to sexual immorality: flee! (1 Cor. 6:18). Scripture tells us to run for our lives from sexual sin (Beth Moore, When Godly People do Ungodly Things, p.164).

Many women find themselves in serious trouble sexually because they wanted to see just how far they could go without crossing the line of appropriateness. God’s call to holiness is not one of toeing the line and seeing just how much one can get out of the world without being in the world. Holiness is a call to be as close to the Father as possible, of clinging to him wholeheartedly. Another author describes holiness in this manner:
Holiness is the image of God put in moral terms…Scripture presents holiness as something extremely positive. We could list a lot of things the Bible says are not holy, but that would tell us nothing about holiness in a positive sense… Holiness in the positive sense is nothing other than measuring up to the character of God, which qualifies us to receive wonderful benefits from an intimate relationship with God (Daniel Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, p. 142-143).

There is absolutely nothing in the character of God that allows for the attitude of finding out how far is “too far.” If Christians are commanded to flee even sexual temptation, there is certainly no indication that one would be ok spiritually to stick around and just find out what may happen next.

While there are many aspects of sexuality and relationships that are viewed as “gray areas” in Christianity, there are certain sexual behaviors that are blatantly outlined in Scripture as being sinful. In the book Women Helping Women, counselor Diane Tyson lists and defines those behaviors. Tyson lists adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and celibate marriage as sexual behaviors that are strictly forbidden. Also included in the discussion are masturbation and sexual fantasies, topics not specifically discussed in Scripture.

I will go into more detail about these issues in next week’s posts.