I’ve been avoiding this topic for quite some time. 4+ years of blogging about sex, and I’ve barely mentioned the issue of homosexuality. Why have I been avoiding it? Well, to be honest, I wanted to flesh out my own beliefs. My own denomination has just barely started talking about the issue. We’re quite a few years behind. In my parents denomination, I believe in the next 5 years, each local church will be taking a stand on whether or not to allow members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Queer) to also be members of their church. A decision that will likely split each and every church.
This is a huge, monumental discussion, that, well, I think is too important for me to stand on the sidelines about.
So, I’m going to stand up and say my piece, knowing it might split our community as well.
Let me come right and say it. I believe the Bible speaks clearly on this subject: that the practice of homosexuality is wrong. By extension, this means so is practicing bisexuality.
I’m not going to point to the verses, because everyone knows them. This isn’t a new topic. I’ve heard the arguments for and against, from laymen and theologians, biblical scholars, from people with doctorates in this field, from those who literally translate the Bible from our oldest copies of the texts, like the dead sea scrolls.
And the simple fact is that I can read the Bible, and it overwhelmingly tells me that this is wrong, and there’s a logical consistency to that stance that I don’t see in the argument against the plain text.
But, that’s not the point of this post. In this post, I want to talk about how we deal with it. Homosexuality is real. It’s here. How do we respond?
Orientation vs Behaviour
Firstly, I think we need to recognize a distinction between orientation and practice, or behaviour. While I will stand firm in my belief that practicing homosexuality is a sin, I cannot say that having a homosexual orientation is a sin, nor is being tempted by it. The Bible is clear, that temptation is not a sin. Jesus himself was tempted (I’m not saying Jesus was tempted to be homosexual, I’m just saying He was tempted in general). Since Jesus never sinned, temptation is not a sin. But, Jesus also didn’t entertain that temptation. He rebuked it, He fought it, He used scripture to protect Himself from it.
So, having a homosexual, or bisexual orientation is not wrong. But, entertaining those orientations is.
We cannot hold people accountable without their consent
A second principle I think we need to realize is that we cannot hold anyone accountable who will not be held accountable. Accountability is an invitation extended and then accepted. Too often we as a Christian community try to enforce accountability beyond our right to do so.
While the Bible is clear that we should keep our brothers and sisters in Christ from sinning, that we should hold them accountable, it is also clear that those outside of the church, we have no right to judge.
And yet, we step into political arenas to do just that. What does it matter to us whether homosexuals marry? What does it matter to us whether it is taught in public schools? What does it matter to us whether it’s seen on TV? We share this world with non-believers. In truth, we live in it, but it is theirs, until all is remade. We have no right to say that gay marriage should not exist. We have no right to say it shouldn’t be taught in schools, where we are the minority. We have no right to say it shouldn’t be on TV.
What we have the right to say is that we won’t perform those marriages in our churches. That we will not send our children to those schools. That we will not watch what’s on TV.
Make no mistake, those each will be battles hard enough for us to win.
We should evangelize equally
The gospel is freely given to the world, and we don’t have the right to temper it, or to filter who gets it. When we preach, all should be allowed to hear. When we hold services, all should be allowed to attend. It is not our place to choose who the Holy Spirit should have the opportunity to convict. In any case, He’ll convict who He can, but let us not make it any harder.
So, we should welcome, with open arms, any into our churches as attendees. Homosexuals, bisexuals, and the rest of the LGBTQ community should have the opportunity to feel welcome into church, just as anyone else.
Some may say “but what about our children, they should not be exposed to this”, but they’re already exposed. Every time they walk down the street, every time they turn on the TV, every time they watch a movie. Let us not shield them from reality, but rather teach them about it. Model for them how to respond, what is right and what is wrong. Show them what God’s love is like, that it is given, universally and unconditionally.
We should be clear about our beliefs, but not target people
Now, if we are accepting those in the LGBTQ community into our churches as attendees, let us not suddenly start preaching about homosexuality as a sin. We don’t suddenly start preaching about smoking when we get a new attendee that smokes. We don’t start preaching health reform when we get an overweight attendee. As the Bible says, we give milk to young Christians. Show them love first. Meet their needs. Then, when they’re ready, they can hear the truth. In fact, they’ll probably ask eventually. Then, be clear, but loving. Firm, but compassionate. Uncompromising both in law and grace. Just as Jesus was.
Can you be Christian and a practicing homosexual?
Yes. I think you can. But that doesn’t mean you’re right. I’m a Christian and I’m overweight. That’s not right either. There are Christians who are thieves. Christians who are adulterers. Christians who are liars. Christians who are idolaters. Whatever sin is out there, I can almost guarantee there is a Christian doing it somewhere.
Christianity is not about being perfect. I’ve heard is said that the only different between those inside the church and those outside of it, is that we are aware that we are sinners. Following Christ is about knowing that we’re wrong, and working to be better, knowing we can never be perfect, that we need Christ to save us, and then living as close to that perfection we can, out of gratitude for His sacrifice, His love, His grace.
So, yes, I think there are Christians who are homosexual. I think some realize they’re in the wrong. I think some haven’t been convicted yet, and may never be. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t genuinely seeking Christ and following Him. It just means they’re theology is incorrect. I dare say we all have at least one piece of incorrect theology in our beliefs.
It’s like a man trying to get to a far away city, but with the wrong map. Does he want to get to the city? Yes. Is he going in the wrong direction? Probably. It is possible to be a sincere Christian, but go in the wrong direction. Ultimately, I think God cares more about your heart than your behaviors, which is not to say He doesn’t care about your behaviours. At some point, what you do affects what you believe. Eventually you’ll realize, or be told, that you’re heading in the wrong direction. Let us hope we all listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in those cases, rather than insisting that the city is still further along the same road and that we know where we’re going.
We have the right to withhold church membership
One of the most difficult topics is that of membership within the church. Membership in a church comes with an acceptance of church doctrine, and a commitment to uphold it. This is separate from being a Christian. In my denomination, baptism comes with membership, and I’ll be honest, I’m not in favor of that practice, for a variety of reasons, but ultimately because they are two very different things.
One is an acceptance of Christ, and a vow to follow Him. The other is an acceptance of man-made doctrine (faithfully trying to follow the Bible, but still man-made), and a vow to follow it. Too often we confuse the two because we blur the lines between being a Christian and being a church member.
So then, if church membership is a vow to follow church doctrine, and your church doctrine says that practicing homosexuality is wrong…then practicing homosexuals (and bisexuals) should not be granted membership. Simple as that. Because membership comes with a responsibility, that you will uphold the denominational beliefs, that you will teach them to the young, that you will model them in your life.
Of course, then we have the cases of church will errant doctrine that believes practicing homosexuality is right, and thus will grant membership. But, if these churches aren’t in our denomination, then our ability and right to hold them accountable is diminished.
And then comes the really unfortunately practice of letting each church in a denomination decide for themselves. Because now you have two churches in the same denomination with opposing ideas of who can be a member and who cannot. One may even become an elder or deacon (and possibly pastor) in one local congregation, but then be refused membership if they move to another area. This causes some serious practical problems as well as a very confused doctrine.
How do we deal with homosexual Christians?
So, we will need to learn to exist in this panorama of Christian stances towards homosexuality. And there are some simple ground rules I think we can follow to do so:
- Recognize that we are all trying our best to follow Christ, and so treat them, not only with respect, but with love and compassion.
- Understand that it is not our job to change someone’s convictions, that is the Holy Spirit’s job. You can actually do more damage than good trying to confront someone with the truth before they are ready.
- Be honest and transparent, when asked, about your stance, but don’t attack them. There is a time and a place for this discussion, but in day-to-day life, it doesn’t need to be brought up. If you are talking about an evangelistic campaign, it’s not applicable. If you are discussing transferring a homosexual couple into your membership, then it definitely is. And if you are asked point blank about what you think, you better be prepared to share your thoughts, even if your answer is “I don’t know yet”.
And really, these are no different than dealing with any other sin in our midst. Love the sinner, hate the sin. A difficult balance to strike, but one that is possible. We do it all the time. With our friends who smoke, or go out and get drunk. With our spouse that is gatekeeping, or who fights dirty in arguments. With our unbelieving loved ones. We show them compassion while lamenting their choices, wishing they would be convicted to change, but extending love for them, regardless or their choices.
So, there’s my stance for any who are wondering where I sit on this issue. Feel free to comment below, for or against. I’ll accept any comment that is respectful, as is my standing policy on any post.