June 20, 2013
I am so glad you have advanced the conversation with this piece, Kory. Disagreements with fellow believers should never get in the way of acknowledging one another's citizenship in the kingdom of Christ.
P.S. Here's how I see my own gay relationships: http://wp.me/p2EmLc-Uz
Thanks, Tim, for the feedback and thanks for your post as well.
This will certainly spark many conversations, some of which will turn south quite fast. I hope people are able to focus on the benefit of redirection and see that focusing on love our neighbor is out foremost responsibility, regardless of how we feel about them personally.
I'm pretty liberal; I support my LGBTQ friends and family and appreciate this reminder about respectful dialogue. Just as I appreciate understanding from my more conservative acquaintances, I need to remember to be understanding of their perspective. Itâ€™s a two way street.
There is a lot of â€˜us vs. themâ€™ within the family of Christ and it is important for those of us on both sides of the fence to remember that the love of God is more than our differences.
"I have LGBTQ friends who seek to honor God through lifelong, committed relationships"
I'm not sure which "god" is being referenced here, but the True God, through Jesus, asks: â€œHavenâ€™t you read...that at the beginning the Creator â€˜made them male and female,â€™ and said, â€˜For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one fleshâ€™?" Matthew 19:4-5
Here The Lord Jesus identifies the one God-honoring sexual relationship in all Creation: monogamous heterosexual marriage - husband and wife.
The only way LGBTQ people in "lifelong, committed relationships" can honor God is repent of their sin, leave those relationships, come to Jesus Christ by faith for forgiveness, and by the power of His Holy Spirit living in them break the chains of that God-dishonoring lifestyle.
This would no doubt be hard - a "cross" to bear - but with God all things are possible.
Every person on earth has an orientation toward sin - we're ALL "born this way". The remedy is Jesus Christ. Through Paul He says to sinners of all stripes - including homosexuals: "And that is what some of you were. 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." 1 Corinthians 6:11 Jesus saves us and delivers us from the bondage of wickedness - He does NOT leave us sinking in the mire.
Each one of us is dead in sin until God makes us alive in Christ. It is the solemn responsibility of those in Christian leadership to speak the Truth of the Word of God, in love, to those who are spiritual corpses, in hope that they will be brought to eternal life by that "imperishable seed" (1 Peter 1:23), just as Lazarus rose at the Word of Christ (John 11). But if leaders rebel against Christ and "suppress the truth in wickedness" (Romans 1), those walking in darkness will continue without realizing their need of the Savior. May God be merciful to those leaders, for they will "incur a stricter judgement" (James 3:1)
This "conversation" (at least among Christians) must be guided by the Word of God, just as Christ prayed:
Sanctify them by the truth; your WORD is truth. John 17:17
I have a difficult time deciding whether or not someone is worshiping the true God - it is not my place to judge the heart of my brothers and sisters.
What I do believe is that Christ calls all of us into a walk of discipleship and that he calls each and every one of us, regardless of our past and regardless of what we have done, to follow him. As we walk along that journey of discipleship, I trust that the Holy Spirit works on our hearts, convicts us of sin, and helps us to look more and more like Jesus. Is that sometimes a process that takes place through the body of believers? Absolutely. But when it does, it takes place WITHIN the love and acceptance of the Christ-following community. You could say that it's making the order 'belong, believe, behave' rather than 'behave, believe, belong'.
The point is this - whether one believes that homosexual acts are a sin or not, we need to do our best to ensure that all people can experience the love of Christ. Is there a transformation process that (we hope) comes after that? Absolutely - but this is true regardless of our past and regardless of what we bring with us before we know Christ.
I'm not sure, however, that calling into question whether or not someone is truly trying (and note the emphasis on the attempt here) to serve God will help cultivate someone's heart so that they can experience a flourishing life in Christ.
"Even if we disagree with one another, my hope is that we can listen to each other and give each other a place at the table." ~ Kory Plockmeyer
Kory, I share in that same hope. We MUST show a significantly enormous increase in the amount of love and gentleness for folks who are same sex attracted in and outside the Church. We/I have done a terrible job of this and continue to fall very short.
However, how should we handle fellow Christians in our congregations that believe that homosexual practices are NOT sinful and, therefore, they continue to engage in them openly and insist we not show disapproval of their behavior? Or, even in some cases, they and their supporters demand approval and endorsement of their behavior?
I presume these might be the kind of people you refer to when you wrote, "I have LGBTQ friends who seek to honor God through lifelong, committed relationships..."?
Do these folks endlessly keep their place "at the table" while holding firm to their views and especially their practices? Because, this is exactly what the radical gay rights movement is advancing in the world. If the Church embraces it too, then we have become "of the world".
I'm look for opportunities to respectfully and gently dialogue with anyone who professes to be a Christian and holds erroneous moral views. However, at some point if they continued in flagrant, unrepented-of sexual sin, we'd have to cease calling them a brother or sister in Christ. They would no longer be allowed "at the table".
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral peopleâ€” not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindlerâ€”not even to eat with such a one." 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
Just so I am clear here: Homosexuality is a condition of disordered sexuality that is a result of our fallen world. Celibate people with same-sex attraction should not be denied Church community acceptance solely because of their sexual orientation (that is not a sin) and should be wholeheartedly received by the Church and given loving support and encouragement (again, we/I desperately need to do this better). Christian homosexuals, like all Christians, are called to discipleship, holy obedience, and the use of their gifts in the cause of the kingdom. Opportunities to serve within the offices and the life of the congregation should be afforded to them, same as heterosexual Christians.
Open and explicit homosexual practice, however, is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture. The Church should exercise the same compassion for homosexuals in their sins as it exercises for ALL of us other sinners. The Church should do everything in its power to help persons with homosexual orientation and give them support toward healing and wholeness.
I would say the order is Believe (as in believe in Jesus as your Savior), Belong (as in become a participating member of the Church), and Behave (as in being transformed by the Holy Spirit to more and more holiness by having the morally right ideas and behavior).
Of course I agree we can only judge words, actions, and attitudes - God alone knows the heart. And I concur with Alex that "believe, belong, behave" is the biblical model of salvation.
It remains that God saves (2 Thess 2:10) and sanctifies (John 17:17) us by His grace, through faith, which comes by hearing His Word - and we are called to speak it in love (Eph 4:15, 1 Cor 13:6). In fact if we withhold the truth, we are actually despising our potential brother or sister in Christ.
I understand the desire not to be unnecessarily condemning, welcoming people to experience the love of Christ. However, with Christ as our model, we should never seek to gloss over sin so as not to offend (see John 4:18). Jesus warned potential followers to count the cost and expect to carry their cross (Luke 14:27-28) For a homosexual man, for example, (since, personal opinions aside, homosexual acts are sinful according to God) this will mean breaking up with his male sex partner. If the man is truly born-again, God's Holy Spirit in him will not put up with that sin (Gal 5:17).
And yes, the Body of Christ, to which the man now belongs, is called to surround him with love, support, and wise biblical counsel as God leads him "out of darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Pet 2:9)
But first we who know God must agree with Him and call sin "sin", proclaiming to the lost - whom Jesus "came to seek and to save" (Luke 19:10) - the whole counsel of God - His perfect Law and the Gospel of His grace (Rom 3:20-25). This is our privilege and duty as followers of Christ - we who "have this treasure in jars of clay" (2 Cor 4:7).
<i> "believe, belong, behave" is the biblical model of salvation.</i>
I thought the biblical model of salvation is Jesus and his finished work on the cross. My salvation i snot dependent on my behavior.
You are correct... I should have said "salvation and subsequent sanctification". The "behave" part is our sanctification, as God transforms us "by the renewing of [our] minds". Salvation is evidenced by a transformed life.
If we continue in willful unrepentant sin, without remorse, while simultaneously claiming Christ, it is probably evidence that we are honoring Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him. And homosexual behavior (NOT orientation) is sin. Those whose lives are characterized by it provide evidence that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) The opposite of an eternal inheritance is eternal torment and estrangement from God. This should be of utmost concern to we who would see people reconciled to God.
It is not hatred or bigotry to speak this truth - it is love, for "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6)
Thanks, Alex and 2cortenfour for your comments. I appreciate the spirit with which you engage this conversation.
To answer some of your questions, Alex, a couple of things come to mind.
I would argue that belonging really does happen before believing, particularly among younger generations. Millennials are, above all, looking for a place to belong (to paint with far too broad of a brush stroke). One of my seminary professors phrased it this way: "Guilt is an achievement." He would go on to talk about how a recognition of guilt can only happen in the context of belonging to a community. I would also add that this aligns with what neurology and psychology are pointing to - transformation happens best in the context of committed, covenantal small group relationships. Plus, if you're a Heidelberg Catechism fan (and I realize that not everyone is), I think it's telling that it begins from the very beginning with our only comfort being that we "belong, body and soul, to [our] faithful Savior Jesus Christ."
The point is this - belonging gives us space in which to believe and then to experience transformation.
To address some of your other questions - if someone persists in sin, we enter into a process of dialogue and careful correction, yes indeed. This is a process into which we enter prayerfully and carefully, done in the context of loving, caring Christian relationships (think what I said about small groups above).
I think that one of the challenges we need to take very seriously is this: there are more and more folks who desire strongly to take the Bible seriously who have begun to reexamine our understanding of the Biblical passages in question. Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James Brownson (full disclosure: I have NOT read the book and so cannot comment on the merits of Brownson's arguments) is one example in a growing field of theologians seeking to understand this issue.
I'm not saying that a traditional understanding is wrong. My point is that there are voices coming to the table that I believe we need to take seriously in this conversation. To simply say "It's wrong" without listening to the arguments of those who disagree doesn't get us anywhere. And, more importantly, our brothers and sisters in the church are looking for answers on this question and are hearing one side. This goes back to what I said in the original article - the manner in which we have the conversation is almost as important as the conclusions at which we arrive.
I think that in all of this we need to trust the Holy Spirit. All too often I feel that folks on both sides of this question focus more on us and our role without leaving room for the Holy Spirit.
I find it interesting that particularly in some of the comments here, LGBTQ people are being characterized as "other"â€”as in, what are "we" going to do about "them"?
As a straight person who chose the Episcopal Church largely *because* LGBTQ people are included at all levels of the church, including leadership, I find that attitude a bit off-putting... because as other members of Christ's family, LGBTQ people are "us." We have LGBTQ members of *our* family.
So, the real question is how we handle it if one member of our family (conservatives) insists on telling another member of our family (LGBTQs) that they won't be *real* members of the family until they entirely deny one of the most basic aspects of human identity, their desire to find a lifelong romantic and sexual partner, and become celibate.
(I'll note here that conservatives, who are so eager to tell LGBTQ people that they must live lives of celibacy, seem almost never to consider that God might be calling them to voluntarily take on celibacy as an act of loving solidarity with the LGBTQ people upon whom they want to impose celibacy. Also, oddly enough, they never seem to apply a similarly stringent demand of celibacy on those who have divorced and remarried, despite Jesus explicitly calling that a continual act of adultery.)
I don't know about anyone else, but if I had a family member who continually abused, belittled, tried to exclude, and intentionally persecuted another member of my family, I don't think I'd be too happy sitting at the table with the family member who was doing the abusing. That would be an act of profound disrespect to the other member of my family that they were abusing, a sign that I stand with the abuser rather than the abused.
So as someone for whom LGBTQ people are my brothers and sisters, beloved members of my family, I find it difficult to accept that I can just "disagree" with the conservative family members who are abusing, excluding, and persecuting my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and then go on as if nothing's really wrong.
Dr. King once said that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice. Until justice is present in the church, and until my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are no longer being abused, excluded, and persecuted, I don't see how sitting peacefully with those who are abusing, excluding, and persecuting my brothers and sisters isn't an insult to them.
"Those who disagree" (eg Brownson, the creators of the "Queen James Bible," etc.) are not simply disagreeing with someone's opinion on homosexual practice. They are going against the crystal clear teaching of Scripture. In multiple places, OT and NT, homosexual practice is condemned as sin.
Yet when Christians take a biblical stand on this, THEY are accused of causing division and strife. However, the same letter in which Paul condemns homosexual practice in clearest terms (Romans 1) contains this warning: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." (Romans 16:17)
It is clear Paul is referring to false teachers. They who "deceive the minds of naive people" (v. 18) are responsible for divisions and strife. Unity around unbiblical falsehood is not pleasing to God. That is why Jesus said He came to bring "not peace but a sword".
The same Book that reveals Jesus Christ and His salvation condemns homosexual practice based on its deviation from God's standard - monogamous heterosexual marriage. We can't say "I believe in Christ" while simultaneously rejecting His Word. It's hypocrisy.
I really agree with what you're saying here. It is imperative to stand up for justice and to love and support all of our brothers and sisters.
But I do think that there is a place for respectful dialogue. If I fight fire with fire, so to speak, I don't think that understanding is going to be the final outcome. It hasn't been yet.
If I instead form a relationship with people who are more conservative than I, they are more likely to listen to what I have to say. If they hear me out, they are more likely to think on it and pray on it.
It may not be pleasant to sit at the table with an abuser but I look to Jesus who sat with many unpleasant people including all those keepers of the law who sought to keep 'the other' out. Had he left the table, no one would have learned anything.
Here is my, probably over simplistic take, on it:
I don't really care how it goes down and all the nuiances of how, what, why, when, etc. (well I do I guess in that I don't want any sinner who does not know Christ to be beat over the head) as long as at some point any sinner homosexual, liar, adulterer, or otherwise is rebuked and told the truth about their sin. How that happens is dealers choice, as long as it happens.
Thats what I personally love about community, the ability for my brothers and sisters to tell what the deal is and where Im sinning so that I may repent and refocus.
By my own admission, I am a pretty bold person and enjoy that boldness in return, regardless of my initial reaction, I always love straight up raw truth and believe all other people deserve/need it. However sometimes it needs to be delivered with a better touch and Im all for that as long as in the end the TRUTH is given.
One final note: I do agree with James Gilmore.
He says I'll note here that conservatives, who are so eager to tell LGBTQ people that they must live lives of celibacy, seem almost never to consider that God might be calling them to voluntarily take on celibacy as an act of loving solidarity with the LGBTQ people upon whom they want to impose celibacy. Also, oddly enough, they never seem to apply a similarly stringent demand of celibacy on those who have divorced and remarried, despite Jesus explicitly calling that a continual act of adultery."
While I would swap out the word conservative with any christian because truth be told, all christians are still sinners and what side of the spectrum you sit on has no bearing on your ability or inability to treat people, I agree with the premise of his argument. All sin by anybody needs to be dealt with and viewed in the right context. So if a brother is committing any kind of a sin but to draw a parallel, a sexual sin, he too must be rebuked, not just the guy or gal who is committing a sin of homosexuality.
The comments herein are, for the most part; expressions of conditional acceptance as deserving human beings. The most fervently religious argue from an academic viewpoint. Believe me, there is only one commonality amongst homosexual persons , & that is falling deeply & genuinely; in love. I cannot tell you how often over past decades I've heard or read, the perspectives using the same term which has almost always flown in the face of reality. That word is "should". As regards homosexual persons, devoted Christians all have a similar ; albeit judgmental; description on how a 'real Christian' "should" treat them. Believe me, in real life it almost never happens. Rather , the emphasis is on the negative , which too often has appalling consequences throughout society, with violence, bloodshed, loss of life, & discrimination. In a secular republic/democracy; with tremendous diversity; freedom of religion is an essential component. But religious liberty gives no one the right to deny, diminish; or eliminate; the rights of others. That's religious tyranny.
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