What We Say (And Don’t Say) About Homosexual Practice

May 21, 2012 at 5:15 am 4 comments


When President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News on May 9,[1] I knew I would get a lot of questions.  And sure enough, I did.  This is why the pastors of Concordia have prepared a Christian response to same-sex marriage specifically and homosexual practice generally.  You can find the response here.  This response will also be published this week in a booklet along with an appendix which will answer some of the questions we have received in response to the document.

I have found this whole brouhaha (to use a technical, theological term) to be fascinating – not so much because of the common, perennial questions I have received concerning same-sex marriage, but because of the way many prominent Christians have responded to this now top-of-mind topic.

It saddens me that when questions are asked, so many Christian people have responded in a breathtakingly nebulous way.  Take, for instance, popular Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans.  In her blog, “How To Win A Culture War And Lose A Generation,” she decries the way in which the Church has responded to homosexuality:

Every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.

Most have close gay and lesbian friends.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

Most are highly suspicious of “ex-gay” ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.[2]

Here, Evans has no problem being sharply specific.  Evans places her finger squarely on the pulse of something profoundly tragic:  Those who are not Christian feel belittled and berated by the way traditional, orthodox Christians have often responded to homosexuality.  They have come across as judgmental, self-righteous, bigoted, and they have even contributed, at least in a complicit way, to the heart-wrenching stories of anti-gay bullying we read in the news.  Tragic.

So what is Evans’ way forward?  Her last sentence, “Stop waging war and start washing feet,” seems to present itself as her proposed solution, but I am still left puzzled.  Though I know there are some bigoted, self-righteous, mean-spirited Christians who delight in waging culture wars, brandishing about the word “sinner” like a weapon of mass destruction while refusing to serve and love according to Jesus’ call and command, I know many other Christians who make it their life’s work to humbly call sinners to repentance while serving them in love.  I see the service part of a Christian’s vocation in her statement, “Start washing feet,” but what about the calling to repentance part?  Are we not supposed to do both?

Interestingly, Evans wrote a follow-up post where she proposes yet another solution:  “We need to listen to one another’s stories.”[3]  People’s stories do matter.  And listening is terrific, yes.  But to what end?  Do we have nothing other than our own stories to share?  Isn’t the glory of Christianity that it is extra nos, that is, “outside of us” – that we have a righteousness not our own to save us from sin all too tragically our own (cf. Philippians 3:9)?  We need to come to grips with the fact that what Jesus says about us is far more important than what we say about ourselves.  His story matters more than ours because His story redeems ours.

There’s an old country song by Aaron Tippin where he sings, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”[4]  I fear that, when it comes to homosexual practice and same-sex marriage, we have abdicated our duty of standing – not charging, not belittling, not berating, not politicking – but just standing – standing in the truth and speaking that truth with grace.

The apostle Paul writes, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).  Notice the definite article in front of the word “faith.”  We are to stand firm not just in any faith, but in the faith.  This means that we say what the faith says:  Homosexual practice is a sin.  It is one of a million ways that humans have invented for themselves to break God’s law, just like I invent for myself a million ways to break God’s law too.  But God loves sinners.  God loves you.  That’s why He sent Jesus to die and be raised for you.  So repent of your sin and trust in Him.  And please allow me to walk with you and love you as do so, or even if you do not.

There.  Was that so hard?


[1]Obama Affirms Support For Same Sex Marriage,” ABC News (5.9.12).

[2] Rachel Held Evans, “How To Win A Culture And Lose A Generation” (5.9.12).

[3] Rachel Held Evans, “From Waging War To Washing Feet: How Do We Move Forward?” (5.11.12).

[4] Aaron Tippin, “You’ve Got To Stand For Something,” RCA Records (1991).

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  May 21, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Hi, Zach! I read the same Evans article a few days ago and also found it somewhat amiss in its counsel to Christianity.

    Perhaps the problem is not homosexual marriage, or even homosexuality in general. Perhaps the problem runs deeper and is much more sinister. You hit on it in your post.

    If we examine the trends of this thread through the history of the last fifty or sixty years, I think we’ll see the toll theological liberalism has taken on orthodox Christianity. By claiming that all Scripture is not authentically God-breathed and therefore useful for reproof, rebuking, and instruction, various threads, like homosexuality, are not the sin they have been in centuries past. This has necessarily conditioned the proclamation of the Church.

    How many times I see sermon series that don’t have Jesus as the center from local megachurches/fellowships/insert-your-favorite-colloquialism-for-church. Instead of Christ crucified, it’s more important to preach about balancing your checkbook, having a good job, enjoying a good marriage, or even having a good sex life. But, by neglecting Christ and Him crucified, this preaching necessarily misses the proclamation of sin.

    This is what I believe has fallen by the wayside of much of what passes for preaching in the Church in the last twenty year – the proclamation of sin. Several years ago, and I can’t even remember where or when I read it, except that it was either USA Today or Newsweek, the conclusion was that society no longer has an understanding of sin because the Church no longer proclaims it.

    I think the lesson comes from Jesus’ first sermon in Mark 1: Repent and believe the Good News. In fact, this is the primary outline for all preaching: repentance and faith. In this outline, sin, even the sin of homosexuality, is proclaimed by the Law in all its severity. As you so rightly say in your post, this is not what I as Kevin say, or what anyone else as an individual says. What really matters, and what must be proclaimed and taught unequivocally, is what God in His Word says. Only this has authority.

    God bless!
    Kevin

    Reply
  • 2. pastorbobnordlie  |  May 21, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Good job, Zach!

    Reply
  • 3. vdear  |  May 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I am fascinated by how much publicity the topic gets each and every year and proudly thrilled that I belong to a community of believers that stands for what our Lord and Savior stood for and clearly states in His Word. Zach, I appreciate your blog and comments immensely and pass your words along to my fellow Christians that do not have the pleasure of hearing you at Concordia! I just have to agree with Rev Kevin Jennings for his comments above – “that society no longer has an understanding of sin because the Church no longer proclaims it” — so true. I’ve visited other so called Christian churches that do just that very thing and it deeply concerns me. I’m just glad I do know a God that is bigger than all the sin in our world and can fully trust that He will forgive my many sins and also those of the homosexual, drug addict, bank robber, and host of many other sins we humans concoct to feel good. While I, too, have friends that are homosexual and drug addicts, I have God’s grace and He fills me with mercy and compassion to pray, to love and forgive those who sin against His Law, even when it troubles me.
    Thanks for all you say and do! I love listening to you and reading your blog!
    To God be the Glory!
    Vickie

    Reply
  • 4. It’s Time For A Change | Pastor Zach's Blog  |  September 22, 2014 at 5:15 am

    […] with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14). Indeed, I have written about the importance taking a stand elsewhere. On the other hand, if all we’re doing is standing against sin in our world, we are falling […]

    Reply

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