Where does this leave us? Well, we’ve spoken quite a lot about the sacrifices required of homosexual Christians. We need to remember that God has some demands to make on us heterosexuals, too.
I’m going to borrow from an article summarizing the position of New Directions ministries sent to me by Gary — although I’ll adapt it a hair to my own thinking. The bold text is quoted from the article.
1. We hope that the conservative Christian community will be a safer place for gay people to be honest and open about their day-to-day realities and journey of faith.
Amen. Confession of sin is tough anywhere, but we conservative Christians need to work hard to create opportunities that encourage confession, that is, situations where confession can be made without fear of being ostracized or condemned — where we remember that everyone is saved only by grace.
Confession of homosexual sins is no more damning than confession of heterosexual sins. In fact, we should be especially gracious toward those who courageously confess their failings in resisting gay temptations because it takes more courage to do that in this society.
Churches should work to create opportunities where confession of sin can be made to close friends or others with assurance of confidentiality, gentleness, and grace. Many churches accomplish this through accountability groups — groups of no more than 5 that work to become very frank in their confessional lives.
Now, the point of confession isn’t that confession is a condition to forgiveness, but that confession is a step toward defeating sin. Just as is true in AA or Celebrate Recovery, the path to healing begins with admitting the sin and with becoming a part of an encouraging, supportive community. It just helps to be and feel loved even after you’ve unburdened your soul with your transgressions. It’s when we see God’s grace reflected in the eyes of brothers and sisters who love us that we can truly comprehend the grace of God.
2. We hope, through the context of relationship with Christ-followers, that gay and lesbian people who are not believers would encounter the presence of Christ.
Amen. But for this to happen, the church has to stop confusing American politics with Christianity. Christianity is much older and very different. Christianity is not focused on how people vote or whom they elect. It’s focused on our relationships with God and each other and lost world that surrounds us.
Therefore, the church would do well to stop preaching Republicanism and instead preach Jesus — the same Jesus who ate with prostitutes and others sinners.
I’m not saying to give up your conservative economics or politics. I’m saying to get them out of the pulpit and the Bible class. Gun control and the next presidential election are not Kingdom issues.
Rather, the Kingdom calls us to love our neighbors, and some very conservative Churches of Christ have taken on ministries to the gay community in their cities, often to those men and women dying from AIDS. I’ve heard more than one Church of Christ preacher speak of how his congregation has been transformed by becoming a loving family for a dying AIDS victim.
There are other approaches. The key, of course, is that the love of Christ must be an unfeigned, genuine love — not a pretend-love acted out to convert the lost. You love first and unconditionally. Then many will be converted — but not if the love is for the purpose of conversion.
3. We hope that those who are conservative in theological perspective would focus on shared love for Christ and a mutual commitment to grow in relationship with Christ with gay [agenda] affirming believers.
Uhh … this is a tough one. As a conservative Christian (not speaking in Church of Christ language, you realize), how do I deal with believers who are convinced that committed, homosexual relationships are not sin? Well, with love and grace and gentleness. (It’s a command, you know.)
Some of us want to emulate Jesus’ chewing out the Pharisees, but we’re not Jesus, don’t have his moral standing, and are commanded —
(2Ti 2:24-25 ESV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth … .
We should nail this passage over our pulpits until we get it right.
And here’s the deal. Just as I don’t want to be considered damned by my brothers who think a kitchen in the building is sinful, I can’t damn those penitent believers who disagree with me on homosexuality. I can (and do) disagree, and I can (and do) patiently explain my thinking, but I can’t damn them.
We need to think hard about this one, because more and more Christians are being persuaded that homosexuality in a committed relationship (marriage when possible) is no sin. That position is, in my view, error — and, to me, obviously so. That does not make the person who dares to disagree with me necessarily impenitent or unfaithful. (I’m not speaking of those who act on that belief to engage in homosexual activity. In today’s post, we’re talking about a position on the issue.)
If I want to be fellowshipped by those to my right, I must fellowship those on my left — so long as they remain genuinely penitent believers in Jesus. But I don’t have to pretend I agree — but neither should I be rude and hateful to make my points.
On the other, you can’t be impenitent and try to overrule the Bible’s teachings with your feelings or opinions.
(1Jo 4:6 ESV) 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Of course, there’s a huge difference between disagreeing over what the Bible means and not caring what the Bible says. And if, like me, you’ve often been falsely accused of not caring what the Bible says just because you disagree over what it means, you should be sensitive to the distinction.
4. We hope to particularly encourage those individuals who experience same-gender attraction who embrace a conservative perspective in their walk with Christ to continue to persevere in living in a manner that is consistent with these convictions.
Amen. I would hope that we realize that their are many gay and lesbian Christians in the Churches of Christ who have surrendered their sexuality to Jesus. We should celebrate their conviction and walk beside and encourage them as best we can.
The last thing we should so is fill our pulpits with condescending gay bashing, as though they are subhuman (and you know what I’m talking about).
5. We hope that we will be part of fostering a generous spaciousness within the Christian community.
In other words, the church should be safe place to have these discussions. I should be able to express my views and should be able to tell you who I really am without fear. A gay man should leave a conversation with any Christian — no matter how conservative — feeling like the Samaritan woman after Jesus told her about her life. Her reaction wasn’t “I’ve been judged!” but “I’ve seen the Messiah!!”
To truly be a Christian is for people to see Jesus in you even when you disagree — especially when you disagree.
The reality is that there are some gay and lesbian people who are choosing, on the basis of their own convictions, to live celibate lives. … If someone is committed to living celibately, we want that to come from a place of security in God’s love and acceptance – not fear.
Amen. The choice to obey must come from a heart that obeys for the sake of obedience and love for God — not fear of condemnation by the church. This is true for all kinds of obedience.
The last thing we want to be is condescending.
At the same time, we would challenge the notion that the only person who can be loving and respectful toward gay people is the person who fully embraces and affirms all aspects of gay life.
What does this mean for a Church of Christ? Well, if the church reaches out to alcoholics, addicts, the poor, the homeless, orphans, or for that matter, the rich or middle class, it will inevitably encounter gays and lesbians. They won’t necessarily advertise their sexual preference. They’ve met “Christians” before. But every subset of humanity includes gays and lesbians.
Therefore, when a church engages in genuine outreach, it had better be ready to deal with the issues raised when it encounters gays and lesbians. The church will be tested and judged — and if the church is genuine in its love and commitment, it will have a powerfully effective outreach.
Fortunately, my experience is that the same Christians who volunteer for Celebrate Recovery and AA and other outreach programs are the very ones equipped by the Spirit to deal compassionately with homosexuals who need their help. Compassionate people are compassionate people.
But it also requires support from the elders and the ministers. That is, when the first gay person arrives at your free medical clinic, suffering with AIDS, needing help, the decision should have been already made and the staff already trained that she’ll be served with love and compassion.