My question is why doesn’t the church talk about it? Why is it so hush hush? Do people really think that it’s not an issue that needs to be talked about? That there’s no way a gay person could be in a church of Christ because that kind of thing just can’t happen? The only time I’ve heard it preached on from the pulpit was when I was a member at Oak Hills in San Antonio and one Sunday Max preached a sermon condemning gay marriage, about 3 years ago or so.
This is an important question. I agree with you that there are many single men and women in the Churches of Christ chastely living as Christians while keeping their homosexual natures a closely guarded secret.
And I agree that having to keep this a secret places an unfair burden on them. On the other hand, I think we do a lousy job of supporting heterosexuals in living chastely, too. And I agree that we need to talk more openly and frankly about sex. Pretending it’s not a problem only means the problem isn’t being dealt with.
Let me offer a suggestion or two for the preachers and elders who may be reading —
* If the topic is inappropriate for children, have them leave the auditorium for the sermon. We’ve done that at my home church, and it went very well. Just plan some program for them for that last part of the worship hour and have some volunteers lead them out.
* Our children live in an MTV world, where sex is a product to be sold and homosexual sex is frequently talked about and even presented as commendable. Lesbian sex has become particularly faddish in television. The kids are ready for the lesson! Don’t delude yourself that they won’t know what “oral sex” means. They know.
* Sex is a creation of God that the Bible discusses with frankness and clarity. Don’t bother with the euphemisms. Don’t talk about “sleeping with” your boyfriend when you mean “having sex with.” Many of the kids will not have even heard the euphemisms!
* We are not Victorians, and the Victorian age didn’t define Christian morality. On the other hand, neither are we supposed to be like the world in which we live. It’s quite OK to expect our adults and children to adhere to Biblical standards of sexual behavior. But if you’re unwilling to talk about it, you become guilty with them when they sin.
* The gospel touches everything, including sex. God forgives sins, and you can’t be a legalist on the Sunday your preach about sex and grace-centered on the Sunday your preach about money. Grace applies to sexual conduct, as Jesus plainly taught. Don’t preach less than a complete gospel. Don’t try to be smarter than God.
* Be practical. Teach your members how to cope in the real world. Encourage the formation of accountability groups. Teach the dangers of pornography. Teach the dangers of dressing immodestly. Demand that mothers teach their daughters that they have a responsibility for how they are perceived by boys.
* Remember that we’re all committed to being different from the world. If this means being a bit out of fashion or perceived as old fashioned or whatever, it’s a very small price to pay. Many of our spiritual ancestors were killed for being out of touch with the world. They were well rewarded. We really need to start thinking of ourselves as an alternative society and stop even trying to be like the corrupt society in which we live.
* We need to give each other permission to support us in our walk with Jesus. If we’re immodest, if we’re misbehaving with our boyfriend or girlfriend, if we’re hateful to gay men and women … we need to realize that we’ve given permission to our brothers and sisters to call us to account. We need to pray that they will! There’s no room for American radical individualism. Yes, how I live my life is my brother’s business. He is his brother’s keeper.
* We need small groups that are small enough, private enough, and intimate enough to support each other in our chastity and the rest of our Christian walk. The leadership should encourage these, and if they don’t, the members should form them anyway. We all need friends that we can be truly, deeply, totally honest with.
* We need to insist that our members give up worldly prejudices and have the heart of Jesus. This means being willing to associate and even socialize with sinners. It means not demeaning people for their natures. It means that gay members should be able to frankly admit their natures and expect love and encouragement.
Finally, I’ve heard some excellent sermons on homosexuality. The best ones don’t talk about homosexual marriage. They talk about how the gospel interacts with the fact that some of us have to fight this temptation. They talk about how the rest of us should respond to the gays within the church — and the gays who desperately need the gospel. And how homosexuality presents the same challenges to us the prostitution and adultery presented to First Century Judaism — and how Jesus teaches us to respond to such things. It’ll preach! I’ve heard it done very well.