Our latest session unintentionally turned into a conversation about homosexuality in our society and in the church and what to do about it (if anything). Various aspects and issues were brought up and discussed. Because it was a rapidly-flowing conversation I’ll attempt to describe it as well as I can recall, though not necessarily in chronological order. If anyone who was there notices any errors or omissions, please let me know and I’ll correct it accordingly. Please note that this was a conversation, and the views here do not necessarily represent any official position of Wascana Fellowship regarding this complex and very difficult subject.
This conversation began with an observation that there seems to be a movement to legitimize homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. Accompanying this movement seems to be a stigmatizing of any person or group who believes it to be wrong for religious reasons. This would not be much of a problem except that the stigmatizing tendency seems to be increasingly shared by Canada’s courts and legislators. For instance, a recent Supreme Court ruling makes it illegal for Marriage Commissioners to recuse themselves from marrying homosexuals, even if it violates their religious conviction that marriage is a an exclusively heterosexual institution. They are not even allowed to refer them to a fellow Marriage Commissioner who is willing to do so. The end result seems to be a restriction of religious freedom in a nation that theoretically values religious freedom. There must be a better way to protect both the rights of homosexuals and religious freedom.
A second theme in society seems to be a multi-pronged recruitment strategy to enlist young people into a homosexual lifestyle. Stories were shared in which high school guidance counsellors (not necessarily in our community, and not necessarily first-hand accounts) seem to have been encouraging students to clarify, identify or experiment with their sexual orientation. Other stories involve high school and university athletic coaches who actively recruit young students into homosexual activities. While technically the high school students are of legal consent age, it is doubtful that most parents would approve of that degree of sexual experimentation at that age and in that context.
Other stories were shared in which children in the early grades are introduced to a curriculum that introduces children to “families” in which children may have one parent, two parents of different genders or two parents of the same gender. All of these are presented as normal kinds of families. It seems that the main purpose of this curricular change is to remove the stigma that previous generations of children faced because they were the children of what were then referred to as “unwed mothers.” Overall, this is probably a good change. Children should not have to bear the stigma of having the “wrong” kind of parent. Many Christian parents, however, are disturbed that their children are being taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle in schools that they support with their taxes.
These stories bring up the issue of how much influence Christians should have in society. Are the only acceptable values in a democratic society “Christian values?” Is there room for non-Christian or even “anti-Christian” values in a democratic society? How much room is there in a democracy for competing value-systems?
What role does tradition have in a democracy? Most of the principles of fair play and democratic freedom were established within the framework of a nominally Christian polity. Would democratic institutions remain free and open without a strong presence by Christians? Or are Christians just an obsolete throwback to a darker time of irrationality in the world? Would Canada be a better place if Christians just got out of the way and let everyone be whatever they wanted to be?
The way our legal, legislative and educational systems are going now, we may find out whether we want to or not….
So far our conversation revolved around issues of homosexuality and Christians in the larger society around us. What about within the church? Is it acceptable to be a homosexual within the community of followers of Jesus Christ? Is it acceptable to be a practising homosexual?
It is hard to get away from the conclusion that homosexual practice is unacceptable in a follower of Jesus Christ due to the three following New Testament passages:
1 Cor 6:9-11
1 Tim 1:10
The three passages contain “sin lists” of things that can keep people from inheriting the Kingdom, and they seem to include homosexual activity. Therefore, homosexual activity is not a great way to ensure entrance into the Kingdom of God.
This doesn’t mean that Christians have the right to throw stones at homosexuals or discriminate against them in the general community.
The Bible considers many kinds of “heterosexual” activity also to be sin. It also considers stealing, murder, and coveting to be sins, too. Where is the Christian hate movement for any of these crimes against God? One of the reasons Christianity is losing ground in the Western world is that both believers and non-believers are getting sick and tired of hypocrisy in Christian leadership circles.
It seems that homosexuals have replaced unwed mothers as the target of public ridicule and discrimination for the supposedly Christian community. The more things change, the more they stay the same. For the record, Jesus considers hypocrisy a sin. He also reserves His most scathing criticisms for those who try to justify themselves by pointing out how much worse the sins of others are.
Homosexual activity is no worse a sin than any other. Jesus’ approach to the woman caught in adultery should be a lesson for us here. Who among us is without sin? Why, then, are we throwing stones? I don’t think Jesus would hold up anti-gay banners any more than He would condone open sin of any kind among His people.
Jesus also told her, “Go, and sin no more.” It behooves Christians to avoid sinning. Sin is not a part of the “new person” He has created in us by His Spirit. Resisting sin is part of the job description of a follower of Jesus Christ. Orientation is no excuse. Genetic predispositions are no excuse. Human beings are not exclusively bound by their genes. Jesus makes it pretty clear that your heart and your deeds are what you are judged by. Faith without works is dead.
We seemed to agree that if you become a follower of Jesus Christ, you enter a covenant in which you agree to live by His will and His words. You may be tempted to believe that later followers misrepresented Him by later claiming homosexual activity to be a sin. Unfortunately, both Old and New Testament writers agree about its sinfulness, as they do about the sins of adultery, stealing, covetousness and idolatry.
If you wilfully engage in homosexual activity or any other sin while claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you risk being told the same thing as the false prophets who worked wonders in His name, “Depart from me, you who work iniquity. I do not know you.” This is a far worse fate than having some regular church-going Joe or Jane telling you to stop sinning and get right with Christ. You are in covenant with none-other than God Himself. Read Deuteronomy 28 for an example of what He is capable of doing to someone who does not keep faithful to a covenant with Him. That would not be a great position to knowingly put oneself into.
This applies to any of the sins in the sin-lists mentioned above. Anyone who reads the Bible notices sooner or later that God does discriminate against people who don’t obey Him. Sin is what He declares sin to be. Why? Because He made the world and everything in it. He knows why He made it all and He knows how He wants it to function.
His game, His rules.
Jesus Christ makes Christians responsible to watch out for each other so that all may make it over the finish line together. That means being confronted by a brother or sister when they catch you sinning. Get used to it. It’s part of the play-book. If you repent, God won’t have to confront you personally. Don’t make Him come down here to deal with you.
If you notice someone else’s sin, check your own heart and your own conscience first. Make sure you have the other person’s best interests at heart or Jesus may have to deal with your hypocrisy, too. Above all, we need to be gentle with each other, since we all answer to the same Master.