The Whole Gospel for Gays by Andy Comiskey
Introduction ~by Stephen Black
A perfect title by Andy Comiskey with Desert Stream Ministries: “The Whole Gospel for Gays,” for God forbid that anyone would give anything less to someone, gay or otherwise, than the WHOLE Gospel. When we sincerely care about people and knowing the holiness of God, His severity and His mercy, true believers are compelled to give the WHOLE Gospel. I am incredibly grateful that I received THE WHOLE GOSPEL in 1983 that transformed my life by those who were not afraid to give me the whole counsel of God’s word. It was a message of hope (and still is) that called for my immediate repentance to surrender my life to Christ. I am sincerely grateful to men like Andy Comiskey and Robert Gagnon who are willing to tell the truth. Love is holy and transforming, not merely a human orientation that allows for people to remain in their brokenness.
Unfortunately there are those who think themselves wiser than the word of God. The Apostle Paul reminded the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians about his own revelation of Jesus Christ that compelled the Apostle by the love of God to preach the truth, knowing the severity and the mercy of God; that he would be held accountable to God for his message. (Romans 5, Romans 11:16-24, Galatians 1:6-10) I am also compel to preach the whole Gospel with the bright light of eternity break forth on the horizon. The longer I live this life, the closer I am to eternity; each of us grow closer day by day; therefore we must preach the whole Gospel to everyone! When shall we give an account to the Creator concerning our life, our very existence? It could be tomorrow.
I have become increasingly concerned and alarmed by the emergent movement of a social gospel that removes repentance from the WHOLE Gospel message. Yet repentance is absolutely necessary in a saving faith. The fruit of a sincere faith in Christ and His perfect substitutionary atonement, His death on the cross and resurrection will always produce a repentant life. Yet the “new social emergent gospel” presents the nicer, kinder, more palatable Jesus, the social club of gatherers, rather than true devoted followers, disciples, true believers in Jesus Christ. The whole Gospel requires believers to live a disciplined life of self-denial.
Unfortunately there is a “new message” of simple belief in historical facts with no repentance, however there is nothing new about it. It is simply an old lie from the very beginning. There is a reason Christians are to be called “believers”. Christians are actually mandated to believeGod, believe HIM, believe the Holy Scriptures as inspired, infallible and the inerrant Truth. It isa belief that is synonymous with obedience to Christ and HIS words. However there are those who have crept in to malign at different levels, they attack fundamental truths, especially about what God’s word teaches concerning morality and human sexuality. I am very grateful for Andy Comiskey and Robert Gagnon for addressing this issue head on, especially the “Love Is An Orientation” crowd, although they are sincere with human compassion, yet they are marching to the muddying-up of the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Presenting the Whole Gospel for Gays is biblical mercy, compassion and biblical love! Please read the following wonderful article by my friend Andy Comiskey.
The Whole Gospel for Gays ~by Andy Comiskey
Part 1 of 4
What is the good news for the homosexual in the American Church today? In our efforts to reach the lost, have we have lost the liberating power of the Gospel?
I do not mean a simple triumphalism in which saying ‘yes’ to Christ means instant reorientation. I mean the power of Christ Crucified to assume the weight of wounding, sin and shame that resides at the heart of every gay man or lesbian, and the power of Christ Resurrected to restore the integrity of His child’s image-bearing humanity. Over time. In fear and trembling. From glory to glory.
To be sure, that power can only be described as strength in weakness: God’s weakness on the cross, our weakness in surrender to His vulnerability. But it is the truest expression of power and wisdom: Paul describes the cross as the weakness of God that surpasses human strength, the foolishness of God that surpasses our wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:24, 25)
My closest friends and I who have submitted our homosexuality to Christ can attest to the simple message of the cross: die and you will live. The cross demands a death—the surrender of our identities–in order for a new life to be raised up. We have found that yielding our gay agenda has been the threshold for the boldest and most creative expressions of restoration we have yet experienced.
Strangely, the power of the cross to break the husk of the ‘gay self’ and to reclaim the treasure of one’s true humanity is rarely if ever heard in the American Church today. What we do hear is a banal message of compassion which rightly upholds the dignity of the struggler but fails to tell of their need for radical restoration. Like all people.
In an effort to repair decades of insensitivity toward those inclined to their gender, this new, cool Gospel is limited to anemic pronouncements of God’s love divorced from the truth of Scripture and the Christian tradition. In practice, God is rendered passive, unable to offer real transformation to the sexually broken.
What a gutless Gospel, a message devoid of the cross and thus of Jesus Christ altogether. In the forthcoming weeks, I will highlight examples of this ‘watering’ down of the Gospel in order to reach gays. I will include critiques of writings by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest church in Kansas City (and the largest Methodist church in the USA), Andrew Marin and his book ‘Love is an Orientation’, as well as other churchmen who represent the ‘love means never having to admit you are a sinner’ approach to homosexuals.
What matters to me is how I go about disagreeing with these colleagues in Christ. Each of them is a human being deeply loved by Christ and called according to His service. I would like to exhibit toward them what Richard Mouw defines as ‘convicted civility’—clarifying one’s convictions in a spirit of respect and humility toward those who believe differently.
That means countering one plank of Hamilton’s or Marin’s system of beliefs as expressed in their writings; it is not a character assassination (vilifying their motives or their humanity).
To me, ‘humanity’ is precisely what is at stake in this whole question of the Gospel we present to gays. Do we see them through the eyes of their Creator and Redeemer, or through the social construct they have created?
That makes all the difference. We can suffer long with homosexuals while we walk together the long road from Egypt to the Father’s house. But we must not blunt or soften Christ’s call to walk that road. We run the risk of losing precisely what Christ died for—the reclaiming of our true humanity from the grip of sin and deception.
Such a loss of vision has deeper implications. Losing sight of how God defines our humanity and its reclamation means that we have also lost our grip on the whole Gospel. That was precisely Paul’s concern for the Corinthians; in justifying sexual immorality, they ran the risk of losing Christ Crucified and Resurrected. So Paul declared to them once more the whole Gospel, and its implications for their humanity, sexual and otherwise.
We are in similar trouble today. The American Church has so perfected its ‘seeker-friendly’ rap that it has lost the language of repentance—the call and will to die—in order to live for the only One worthy of our devotion. Instead we swath our spirituality in the language of pop psychology and gauge our well-being by whether or not we feel good.
Kierkegaard said it best in regards to the Church of his day: ‘It is all love and love…because God is Love and Love—nothing at all about rigorousness must be heard; it must all be the free language and nature of love…God’s love easily becomes a fabulous and childish conception, the figure of Christ too mild and sickly sweet for it to be true that Christ was and is an offense…’
The cross is offensive. It calls us to die to what seems like ‘life’ to us, in order to call us into a life of love that is defined by Him. Maybe Christ has another agenda: not our feeling good but our genuine good, based on His eternal purposes for our humanity.
He wants to save us! Our God has the power to save lives! That is the message not being heard by gays in the Church today. What they hear is that God will help preserve one’s good ‘gay’ life. What a lie. What a cowardly church!
How grateful I am for the amazing men and women who told me the whole truth: they embraced me while they mirrored gently the truth of my sin. That hurt, but it resonated with the ‘sin-sickness’ already destroying me. Their whole Gospel broke the ground for mercy to mature in me.
My first son recently married an amazing woman, next year my second son weds an equally fine bride. I am currently reaping what God sowed in me when he called me to stop pursuing men sexually and to fall down before Himself. What I lost is nothing in contrast to the life He has given me. And through me, to an amazing wife and a host of sons and daughters.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12: 24.
Part 2 of 4
Demoralizing the Gospel: My Take on Adam Hamilton’s ‘When Christians Get it Wrong’
Morality is a bad word these days. It connotes finger-pointing fundamentalists who lurk in church corners, ready to skewer the disobedient. After all, morality involves ascribing good or evil to particular actions.
That can be a bitter pill for sexual sinners to swallow. The New Testament regards sexual activity outside of marriage as grounds for jeopardizing one’s entrance into God’s Kingdom.
Christian morality does not stop there; it understands that the way of life and action of Jesus Christ is the highest expression of morality. Jesus Himself said in the Sermon on the Mount that He came to fulfill the moral law, that unless His followers were more righteous than the most scrupulous moralists, they would not make it to heaven. (Matt. 5:17-20)
But wasn’t Jesus’ morality summed up in one word: love? Aren’t moral judgments at odds with the God-man who took up the case of the immoral, who claimed that the prostitutes would enter heaven before the Pharisees? (Matt. 21:31)
The answer is simple. Holy love is transformational; God inspires the sinner to fulfill the moral law by persuading him/her that His love is better than one’s old life. Jesus manifested that love in the vast amounts of energy He spent drawing the immoral to Himself. He offered Himself as the target for their turning; in His very being, He fulfilled the Law and the deep longing of wayward hearts.
Robert Gagnon says it best in his masterpiece The Bible and Homosexual Practice: ‘Jesus balanced the Father’s ethical demands with God’s self-sacrificing outreach to transform sinners… His ministry proves that the Church can practice radical love without sacrificing God’s demand for righteous conduct.’
Why then do powerful, decent and otherwise loving men like Adam Hamilton demoralize the Gospel, as he does in his book When Christians Get It Wrong? The pastor of the largest evangelical church in Kansas City, and the largest Methodist Church in the USA, guts the Gospel of its truth by insisting that Jesus simply loves ‘His gay children’; He requires of themno repentance, and thus no transformation unto righteousness.
Hamilton preaches a love designed for a generation that is particularly allergic to any notion that homosexuality is sin. He dedicated his book to ‘John’, a twenty-something heterosexual so influenced by a gay-affirming culture that he defines himself significantly by his defense of homosexual practice. Hamilton quotes John as saying: ‘I fully support those who chose [homosexuality] as their lifestyle…it has become something that is accepted…I don’t see anything wrong with it.’
Neither does Hamilton, if his chapter on homosexuality is an accurate indication. To support his demoralized love, Hamilton mimics the rationale employed by mainline Protestant denominations of the last 40 years to support homosexual practice. Love conquers all, including the Bible’s sexual morality.
(To be fair, Hamilton stops short of blessing same-sex unions. To be true, however, he lays the groundwork for doing just that by removing any biblical objection to homosexual practice. He rightfully prophesies that in 10 years the evangelical world will be as divided as the Protestant denominations in regards to homosexuality, a divide widened by Hamilton’s own demoralized Gospel.)
More specifically, Hamilton claims that Jesus puts people over rules and that Scripture offers us many examples of ‘progressive revelation’. Citing outdated dietary and ceremonial laws, as well as changing ethical ones, like women’s ordination and outlawing slavery, Hamilton challenges the notion that the Scripture has anything binding to say about homosexuality.
Agreed, many Old Testament laws concerning ritual and diet lose force in the New, and God’s image in both women and the enslaved has been progressively liberated from cultural ties that have bound them, ties that the Apostle Paul was slow to disrupt in lieu of other priorities.
But Scripture from start to finish upholds God’s image in humanity as the duality of male and female, a fullness manifest from Genesis One’s Adam and Eve to Christ the Bridegroom returning for His bride at the end of Revelation.
The truth of Scripture and Church tradition points only to marital union as blessed; any other sexual configuration is a violation of God’s will for humanity. Gagnon again: ‘The scriptural witness for heterosexual monogamy and against same-sex practice is strong, pervasive, absolute, and counter-cultural.’
Where Hamilton and I agree is that Jesus’ love applies pointedly to those with same-sex attraction. Where we disagree mightily is in demoralizing that love in order to make the truth of the Gospel acceptable to them and their ‘John-like’ friends.
I want ‘John’ and his friends, whether inclined toward the same or opposite gender, to know the transformational truth of love: how Jesus sets people free from violating themselves and others through sexual immorality. I would cite John 4—Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman–as one such biblical, transformational model.
Paradoxically, that very passage from which we derived the essence of ‘Living Waters’, our main healing course, is the same one Hamilton cites as his approach to gays!
In the passage, Hamilton sees only a loving encounter between a shameful woman and Christ, who poses no challenge to her immorality whatsoever. I see the stern and splendid and altogether compassionate advance of God’s Kingdom; grace and truth converge in Christ as He extends ‘living water’ to the Samaritan then exposes the folly of her multiple partnerships. In truth, it is only after Jesus reveals her immoral state that she proclaims Him as Lord.
Holy love transforms; worldly love caters to the consumer, and allows him or her to conform spirituality to whatever (s)he wants it to be. ‘John’ may prefer Hamilton’s demoralized love, but it cannot transform him; demoralized love fails to call one to anything higher than his own self-interests.
The US Catholic Catechism for Adults says it best: “Love alone, set adrift from moral direction, can easily descend into sentimentality that puts us at the mercy of our feelings… In our permissive culture, love is sometimes so romanticized that it is separated from sacrifice. Because of this, tough moral choices cannot be faced. The absence of sacrificial love dooms the possibility of an authentic moral life.’ And I would add, an authentic Christian life.
One more agreement with Hamilton: he is absolutely right in claiming that young adults today will tend to use a negative view of homosexuality as one reason why they reject orthodox Christianity. But rather than conform the message of the Gospel to the cultural flow, let us go against the current and offer them transformation, something worth dying for.
Christine is a good friend of mine, a pre-Christian seeking the truth. We speak of Jesus often; she said to me yesterday that she would never oppose gay marriage because people should be able to do what they want.
I looked her straight in the eyes and told her the whole painful, shameful, marvelous story of how God loved me so much that He called me to repent of my homosexual identity and practice then follow Him on an adventure of healing in order to discover who He really is and who I really am as a beautiful, broken part of God’s heterosexual creation. (Whew!)
‘Surrender to His love, Christine, that’s all He asks. He accepts our weakness, our fears, and our questions, but He refuses to give us duo passports. You either follow Jesus and serve God’s Kingdom, or you are under the mastery of the Kingdom of this world.’ For the first time in one of our conversations, her eyes widened and filled with tears. She heard the whole message.
Adam Hamilton, you are a good man. Just stick to the whole Gospel. In demoralizing it in When Christians Get it Wrong, you get it wrong and sadly extend your error to a generation that deserves better.
Part 3 of 4
The Gospel Abridged: A review of Andrew Marin’s ‘Love is an Orientation’
This is the third article I have written in a four-part effort to present a whole gospel to gays, and to point out a couple of trends that distort that gospel. One such lop-sided approach is described in ‘Love is an Orientation’ by Andrew Marin.
The book interested me for several reasons. First, it is published by IVP, a solidly evangelical press that happens to be my publisher. Second, ‘Love is an Orientation’ has been very popular among progressive evangelical pastors. Some asked my opinion on it; I write this review to respond to their request.
The book’s theme corresponds with what I observe to be the lopsided approach of many churches to gays: embrace them with a broad message of ‘love’ but provide no clear track for their restoration once inside the church.
The deficit? Evangelism with no discipleship—new life without the cost, a personal resurrection requiring no crucifixion. On such uneven ground, some evangelical churches I know have begun to shift the boundary lines of truth concerning (homo)sexuality. Unwittingly, Marin’s book may encourage that shift, especially with Christians seeking to resolve the tension they feel between gay loved ones and their ‘old ideas’ of sexual morality.
Andrew Marin is a young evangelical who has sought to build a bridge between Christians and the GLBT (gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender) community. His love for that community is more apparent than his love of truth, which skews the good news he offers them. Embrace his heart for the lost while walking carefully: the bridge he builds to unite the church with the gay community is missing some significant planks.
Too bad. His heart at times shines through the pages. He is an evangelist with a background in sociology. His expressed purpose is to ‘elevate the conversation’ with the gay community by ‘humbly learning and listening’ to them.
All good. No evangelical I relate to would deny that a heavy-handed approach to a community that exists in reaction to (its perception of) the church won’t work. Marin wisely suggests that sensitive and patient relating is key to making Him known.
The question is: how do we become the new body that Jesus employs to replace the gay identity and community? Making that transition is tough for all concerned, especially for a gay person baptized and confirmed as a member of a queer nation. How do we lovingly help him or her shed the gay self for the truth?
That has been our challenge from day one at Desert Stream–providing a bridge for the men and women of West Hollywood to the Vineyard Westside. Though the church was just a few miles away, for many it seemed like a bridge too far.
Andrew Marin falters at helping the church become the new community. Instead he focuses on how to keep the conversation going with gay neighbors, yet remains cryptic about crucial points in that dialogue.
I became aware of Andrew a few years back when we were both slated to share on ministry to gays at a conference for urban youth. I wanted to find out where he was coming from, as his course description was vague. He wouldn’t tell me.
That lack of clarity pervades his book, which could be subtitled: ‘If gays ask, don’t tell.’ Marin advises Christians to stay away from pointed conversation with gays about sexuality and ethics as many will use such dialogue to write Christians off.
So Marin remains mysterious in his sexual morality; his book is confusing as to how he understands the transformation Jesus and His body bring to gays.
Gays seeking Jesus face some pretty big decisions about identity, community, etc. Marin advises that instead of sharing our views we simply ‘let it all be in the Lord’s hands and plans as He sees it to be good.’(p.113) Not helpful for the 18-year-old Bible college student about to jump ship and move in with a more ‘realized’ gay man, or the young woman bonding sexually with a fellow athlete, herself a proud member of the GLBT community. (We as a ministry have had to address both cases.)
In light of 30-years of beholding the increase of gay options for at-risk youth (never mind the intervention I have had to do with my own kids for related issues!), I asked myself: Can we do better than a Zen-like surrender of our loved ones to the apparently unknown God?
I say unknown, not because Marin does not manifest the deeply personal love Jesus imparts to His followers; he simply refuses to comment on whether or not Jesus cares about sexual immorality and/or the indignities it engenders on all involved.
How else can he say: ‘If a GLBT person has indicated that it is OK to be gay, the Christian community has to deeply trust and rely on the knowledge that we can never know the end to God’s best journey for someone else’s life.’ (pp. 110, 111)
That may involve turning from homosexuality; it may involve turning toward it. Marin’s gospel will not disclose. In his kingdom, the only solid line one dare not cross is to act as if one knows the way, sexually-speaking, and can help another to find it.
In line with his ‘who knows?’ approach to sexual decision-making, Marin shortchanges the scriptural references to homosexuality. His chapter on the topic does all a disservice. He misinterprets scripture to support his penchant for the GLBT community. He may win their hearts but seriously distorts the meaning of the texts.
Marin frames the 5 obvious references in Scripture that prohibit homosexual behavior as open doors for dialogue with the gay community. He does this by interpreting them in light of his call to build bridges, while stripping the texts of much if any ethical weight in regards to their clear prohibition of gay behavior.
The main sin he warns us of is our homophobia; clear the way, so that gays can ‘choose for God’, says Marin. He is silent as to whether these verses can or should have any authority in deterring those who have chosen Him from repenting of what Paul considers grounds for dismissal from God’s Kingdom.
Dr. Robert Gagnon said it well: ‘The Christian faith cannot be held hostage in its full proclamation of the Gospel because some interest group finds offensive part of that message.’ (For more on Gagnon’s take on Marin’s scriptural errors, click here)
The GLBT community is being held hostage by lies that only the truthful love of Jesus and His community can break. Marin genuinely cares for them; his book manifests that care.
My problem, however, is that he limits that love by so pandering to the GLBT community (in Marin’s own words: ‘I have never met a more loving community…’ Really!?) that he obscures the bridge between them and the church.
Marin the evangelist must meet Marin the pastor who actually walks out the process of integration with gays who surrender their lives to Christ there. He would have to answer the hard questions of morality and self-definition for former members of the GLBT tribe, as well as the joys of inclusion and the possibility of exclusion.
If Marin ever wants to hear real life horror stories of how difficult it is to integrate a group of politicized gay men and women into the local church, just give me a call. Docile seekers roar when they discover you have no intention to bless their same-sex unions.
Marin glorifies the gay kingdom; he romances the GLBT community by amplifying its ‘we-them’ defense—gay is glorious, compassionate and dimensional, straight is flat and provincial. Unwittingly, he perpetuates the divide between ‘gay and straight’.
That is a shame. Jesus and Paul would insist on both groups finding common ground in one body through the cross. Marin overlooks a real key in reaching the gay community: Christians reaching beneath the surface of their ‘straight’ selves, discovering the damage done then repenting unto the Crucified.
If we lived honestly (and many churches do) in this day of fractured families, multiple heterosexual partnerships, Internet porn, the ravages of abuse, and growing numbers of people with same-sex attraction, we would not throw stones at a particular community. We would make ample room next to us for whoever cries for mercy.
What Marin does is challenge us to make a bridge between the GLBT community and ours. I hear that challenge. His witness of love inspires me to take it.
Yet in a day when the world and the worldly church is only too quick to confirm young teens as gay, ordain gays as bishops, and bless homosexual ‘marriage’ as a triumph of justice, we evangelicals cannot afford to be cryptic like Marin about God’s clear message of grace and truth for same-sex strugglers. His bridge is too weak to undergird the pilgrims he invites into the community of faith. I thus cannot recommend this book.
Despite the deficiencies of Marin’s gospel, the man conveys a passionate, provocative heart for people who will perish without the love of Christ’s body. May God continue to grow him and all of us in truthful love.
‘If our Gospel be hidden, it is hid toward those who are perishing.’ (2 Cor 4:3)
Part 4 of 4
Towards a Whole Gospel for Gays: The Mercy that Disciplines
‘This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Phil. 1:9-11)
The other day, a good friend of mine attended a ministry fair at a large seeker-sensitive church in Kansas City. (He was representing an annual gathering for men seeking to overcome sexual addiction.) When one of the church elders saw that his mission statement included the words ‘biblical sexuality’, the elder asked him to pack up and exit the church on the grounds that such language would be offensive to gays.
Our challenge as churchmen is to abound in love for gays in an age only too eager to grant them what they demand, not what they need. Worldly love lacks both discernment and discipline; no-where is this more apparent than in the church’s witness to gay today.
Let us begin with what gays need. The answer transcends any cultural era and must be kept front and center. In spite of foolish reactions to those who still dare to think biblical morality is relevant to gays, we can never forget that the church has tended to smack same-sex strugglers with her truth, rather than to employ it as a guide to the holy love one needs.
We who have lived with the shame of same-sex attraction need love badly. One cannot readily grasp the accusatory power of the enemy toward us, and the self-hatred that ensues. In the darkness of the unexpressed, same-sex attraction leeches life; it sidetracks the pilgrim onto a compulsive quest for love in the mirror image of oneself.
Here the shaming power of others, especially Christians, can contribute to the ‘gay self’ and community. 33-years-ago as a just born Christian, girlish and arrogant in self-defense, I recall the scrutiny of a pastor whose eyes and words bore through my defense only to shame me further. His discernment over my sorry state was not married to mercy but judgment. I recalled in his glare the shame I endured from accusations over my queer state throughout my teen years.
I never returned to that church. It was worldly, no more an answer to my cry for help than bullies on the playground. Jesus said it best: ‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding onto the traditions of men.’ (Mark 7:8)
I was reminded of this recently when a pastor leading a men’s support group noted how uncomfortable the ‘normal’ men were when a man joined who confessed to same-sex attraction and addiction. The men shamed him with disconcerting glances at each other, and an unwillingness to look the newcomer in the eyes. These guys could give grace only according to what they knew; the ‘otherness’ of their brother tempted them to wall him off as an exotic sinner in need of a grace they did not possess in their normal idolatry.
It became a holy juncture; the pastor deftly navigated the courageous brother’s disclosure until the others recognized his need was more like theirs than not. They needed mercy, one to another, as unexpressed conflicts came into the light. Worldly judgments burned off like embankments of fog. Same-sex affection and advocacy granted every member what each needed. And it freed the same-sex struggler to need men as friends, not lovers. Love heals.
I do not trivialize the depth of same-sex attraction. I live with it. 34 years later, I am still perplexed by profound needs that can surface in me, and tempt me to worship the old gods and their demands. But I know the God of Almighty Mercy; He has persuaded me through His people that His loving kindness is better than life in Egypt. That truth is the anchor of my soul, its foundation. Neither shame nor self-hatred nor unsatisfied yearnings can separate me from the Love that abounds.
This is my boast, my hope, that the body of Christ can offer the fullness of love that dares to discipline the same-sex struggler. I needed that discipline. As a young man without restraint in his sexuality, narcissistic and impulsive, I needed discipline. I thank God for the loving friends who spoke the truth that eluded my immature conscience.
I would bristle at their challenges to my fleshly actions and attitudes but took the knocks. Why? My counselors were sinners who included me in what became our quest for purity. Jesus loved us. We loved each other in truth. We embraced the Jesus of Rev. 3:19 who said: ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.’
Such merciful discipline is the only antidote to the gay self and its demands upon the world and the church. Those demands are best summarized by the young angry man who upon returning home from University declared to his pastor: ‘The only problem with homosexuality is the one you have with it…’
In the last thirty years, gay insistence for unqualified acceptance has grown from a whisper to a howl. And the church has surrendered her truth to those demands. In essence, we have capitulated to the deception that gays make up a distinctive ethnic group. Here one is assumed to be natively ‘gay’, morally neutral, deserving all the rights and privileges due to members of an oppressed minority. The challenge of ‘biblical sexuality’ is framed as further oppression.
Instead of the love that discerns and disciplines, the church today embodies the weak love of a parent that gives the spoiled child another cookie to stop him from squalling. How else do you explain:
Evangelical pastors who refuse to declare their position on homosexuality on the ground that ‘God is not about positions but dialogue’? (I have heard this more times than I can count now…)
Evangelical pastors who refuse to allow congregants to testify of healing from homosexuality because it would be offensive to gays and their loved ones?
Evangelical pastors who refuse to take a stand on ‘gay marriage’ because they don’t want to give the impression that they are ‘anti-gay’? (Note the progression: the gay person wants something that is not even remotely his to claim; if we disagree, we are ‘anti’ his humanity. Why is upholding marriage anti-anyone? In truth, it is good for all, including the gay community, whose greed it restrains.)
Evangelical pastors who refuse to use the language of ‘biblical sexuality’ for fear of offending gays? A conservative national organization geared to justice related to sexuality recently banned such language from its mission statement in order to not offend the gay community.
Jesus said it best: ‘You have let go of the commands of God, and are holding onto the traditions of men.’ (Mark 7:8)
Paul’s warning to those deceived at Colossae should warn us as well: ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.’ (Col. 2: 8)
30 years ago, the main tradition of the church toward same-sex strugglers would have been fear and shame; today her tradition is a form of secular justice derived from the gay self and its community. Its thesis? ‘I, a gay man or lesbian, am intrinsically homosexual, and the only just thing you can do is confirm me in my gay self and its relationships. If you don’t, you contribute to my suffering …’
To accept that tradition, the church must forego her theological and anthropological traditions, which include: humans are made in God’s image as male and female, which points to virtuous heterosexual relating as the primary goal for every human being.
Barriers to such a virtuous duality abound, most involving perverse expressions of heterosexuality. Sin has skewed all of our self-offerings; those who attest to same-sex attraction bear witness of sin’s disorder in a way that can be understood alongside lust, fear of sex, or inordinate desire of any kind.
That same-sex attraction would become the basis for a self and a community which demands every right accorded to heterosexuals is an arbitrary construct that has no basis in a biblical understanding of human beings. The gay self and its community are alien to the witness of creation, to Scripture, and to historic church tradition.
From a genuinely Christian perspective, there is no such thing as a gay or lesbian person per se, only those bearers of God’s image who also bear certain wounds, needs, and longings, and who may sadly have been duped by a secular belief system that has confined them to a dead-end identity.
When that identity is conceived in same-sex unions, it gives birth to death, pure and simple.Robert Gagnon said it best: ‘Same-sex intercourse constitutes an inexcusable rebellion against the intentional design of the created order.’ His words are intended to discipline the unrestrained; they thus function as an arm of God’s severe mercy: ‘There can be no transformation while homosexuals live in a world of unreality, including false notions about Scripture’s view of homosexuality.’
We the church must resist the tradition of the gay self and its community. Otherwise we mute the truth – indeed the foundational truths that underlie the historic church – that could be their freedom. I encourage you to reclaim the reality that all are sexually broken and all are in need of the grace that abounds
It is up to us, the church, to ensure the clarity of our theological and anthropological traditions. They provide the track on which we can guide beautiful, broken ones toward a grace-filled transformation of life.
When God’s image in humanity is broken , we cry out for mercy. But when we the church concede the definition of that image to falsehood, there is no mercy. What is broken is framed as whole, perversion becomes a destiny, and redemption affronts one’s personal ‘right’. No truth that disciplines, no mercy that transforms.
We as the church can do better. Let me give you a fresh example. Last month, a team of 8 participated in our second annual Living Waters Training in Bahrain. Mid week at our host’s church service, we led 200 beautifully broken expressions of God’s image from Asia, Africa and the Arab world to the ‘living water’. The team shared their testimonies, a spectrum of sin and brokenness that included homosexual and heterosexual adultery, sexual addictions and abuse of all kinds, as well as more subtle crimes of the heart like self-hatred, rejection of one’s own gender, and religious arrogance.
The team included husband and wife, father and daughter, and father and son. Beyond the breach in our families and in our dignity, we shared the beauty of God’s grace and its transforming power in all of our lives.
When it came time to repent before the cross, most of the church came forward. The waters of mercy rose in that place like a flood. Mercy primed weary hearts that sobbed out years of shame and sorrow.
Jesus came to save sinful people like us. Let us not forsake the truth of that sin and brokenness for anyone’s agenda. The mercy is too good, its power to transform too real to squander by placating deceived ones. Extending the mercy that disciplines is our good news, the whole Gospel that Jesus has entrusted to us.
‘Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord Your God disciplines you.’ (Deut. 8:5)
‘For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.’ (Luke 19:10)