Your Church and Homosexuals: Rethinking Our Pat Answers

By Brian Jones

On an episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart defined “the gay agenda” as . . . 

“Gay marriage, civil rights protection, Fleet Week expanded to Fleet Year, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance for when it’s raining men, Kathy Griffin to host everything, and a nationwide ban on pleated pants.”

I would add one more: to simply be treated with respect by Christians.

02_BJones_JNLast year I did a series of blog posts on the topic of homosexuality. It was the most read, discussed, and shared topic I’ve blogged about in recent memory.

What surprised me, however, wasn’t the interaction on the blog itself, but the e-mails I received from homosexuals (or dear friends of homosexuals) who have legitimate fears of Christians. The stories of name-calling and mistreatment they shared are nothing short of sad.

I discovered a central theme in these e-mails: homosexuals can tolerate Christians calling homosexuality a sin (which it clearly is), but are frustrated by the insensitive and decidedly unbiblical answers church leaders give them that directly impact their ability to seek God within our churches.

Here are four questions for which we Christians need to stop providing pat and unbiblical answers:

 

1. Should gay couples who adopted kids together get a divorce?

While I was serving as an associate pastor at a large church in Florida years ago, two people approached me after Wednesday night Bible study.

“We’d like to become Christians,” they said with smiles on their faces.

“That’s great! Congratulations!”

“But we’re not going to stop being gay,” they quickly added. “Besides, we’ve been raising our 10-year-old son together since he was born. We’re the only family he knows.”

I paused, and then gently said, “Are you familiar with what the Bible says about homosexual activity?”

“Yes. But we have a question for you. Which sin is greater: continuing with the way we choose to live our lives or having one of us move out and ripping apart the only home our son has ever known?”

How would you have responded?

Here’s how I answered them:

“Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not God. But even if I did have a strong opinion on the matter, I wouldn’t give it to you. Do you want to know why? Because my hunch is you’re not really looking for an answer as much as you are looking for a reason to leave this church and turn your back on God. Other pastors may have given you reason to do so, but I’m not going to follow suit. You’re here for a reason, and that’s to find your way back to God. Once you do that, he’ll be the one who will help you answer that question.”

Then I hugged them both.

I believe there was a more important question that lurked underneath the question they asked:

Will this pastor guy treat our sin any differently than the other searching nonbelievers in the Bible study who went home to continue to embezzle money from their employer, look at porn on their computers, or abuse prescription drugs?

The real issue for me comes down to this: how can we expect any nonbeliever to truly have a heart for the kind of life God wants us to live?

This leads to the second question.

 

2. Should openly homosexual people be baptized?

Most church leaders I know won’t baptize an openly homosexual person.

This is utter nonsense.

I believe baptism is a part of the salvation process. I understand there are varying theologies on conversion and baptism, but the one thing we all can agree on is that by the time someone has been baptized, they’ve turned their life over to Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

God in us.

Power.

Illumination.

An internal craving for the things of God.

A new mind.

A new heart.

This only happens post conversion.

How can we expect an openly homosexual person to even want to change her life without her mind and heart being born again?

That’s like a doctor telling a patient with radically spreading lymphoma to show signs of remission before he’ll administer chemo.

At CCV, we allow anyone to make a declaration of faith and get baptized. There’s no “sin litmus test.”

We don’t check to see if anyone is shacking up, or look for heroin tracks on his arms, or condoms in his back pockets. We assume that everyone is as screwed up as I was before I came to Christ.

Now, we make it clear before baptism that Jesus asks us to forsake everything that is out of line with his will as expressed in the Bible, but we don’t stand at the baptismal with an exhaustive checklist in hand.

Afterwards, however, is when the work of discipleship begins—teaching people how to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

People must be taught how to obey following baptism, not before it.

That’s when the subject of someone’s specific sin comes up. And not before.

But there’s another question for which we provide pat answers.

 

3. Could homosexuals be born that way?

I have this friend who swears that if pastors tell their flocks it is possible people could be born gay, that churches will overnight turn into Village People-style, free-for-all orgies.

He thinks people will start wearing feather boas to Bible study. Sunday school teachers will start showing clips from Glee to their first-graders.

Utter pandemonium will break out.

“Brian,” he’s told me, “it’s like admitting to people that God made a mistake. People will take that as license to practice homosexuality. You can’t do that.”

Really?

I have lots of friends who are recovering alcoholics and I would venture to say that most of them struggle in part because of genetics—they were born that way.

No alcoholic I know, however, uses that as an excuse to dive headlong into drunken stupors. Most alcoholics I know are brave, broken, and desperate to stay sober.

Will acknowledging the possibility that people could be born with homosexual tendencies change how God expects us to deal with homosexual behavior?

I don’t think so.

Do I personally think people could be born gay? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know how one could conclusively prove such a thing.

It’s pretty clear most secular psychologists and biologists are convinced homosexual orientation is imprinted genetically at birth. And they have piles of studies and journals to back up their claims.

My reaction is simple: so what? How does that change anything?

It’s still sin.

It’s still something to be avoided.

Then hasn’t God tethered those with homosexual urges to a life of constant struggle?

Yep.

That’s why I’m saying that those who come to Christ and refrain from acting out on homosexual urges could be one of the few groups of people in the body of Christ who feel daily the full brunt of the kind of suffering James 1:2-5 talks about.

And my heart goes out to them because of it.

The final question is a practical one.

 

4. Do homosexuals truly feel welcome at your church?

The answer to that question is simple: if you don’t know of any openly gay people attending your church, they don’t.

A church in our area is known to have a parking team that “sizes up visitors” as soon as they exit their car, and calls in that information to church ushers who coordinate a front-door reception.

“New family with small kids.” By the time that new family reaches the door, greeters from the children’s ministry, with small children in hand, are there to welcome them and personally escort them to their classes.

In some respects, I applaud their commitment to making people feel welcome by having a similar type of person meet them at the door.

Unfortunately, too many people have told me that when they visited this church there weren’t any black people to welcome them, or single moms, or those who had been divorced . . . 

I often wonder what would happen if two openly gay people visited their church.

Since arriving at Christ’s Church of the Valley, my prayer has been for CCV to be the kind of church anyone could attend.

Gay, straight, young, old, poor, rich, married, divorced, black or white.

Everyone for whom Christ died—and I mean everyone—is welcome to come and hear the good news that God loves them in spite of their sin, in spite of their sexual orientation, in spite of their addictions, in spite of their skin color, in spite of the size of their wallet, and in spite of anything that people judge other people by on the surface to keep them from hearing the life-changing message of Jesus.

Think about it: do homosexuals feel completely welcome in your church?

And when and if they come, what kinds of answers will you provide for their questions?

 

Brian Jones serves as senior minister with Christ’s Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His website is BrianJones.com.

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14 Comments

  1. Shelley Weiss
    February 7, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you, Brian! I wholeheartedly agree with your points!

  2. david
    February 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    “Utter nonsense” that people repent before being baptized? Why is the call to repentance seen as a negative? The Bible is filled with our loving God’s calls to repentance. How? 2 Timothy 2:24-25 instructs us to do so with kindness, gentleness, and hope that they might acknowledge the truth and “escape the trap of the devil.” A call to repentance is not a call to perfection (none of us could live up to that standard), but a humble recognition that God is worthy of my trust and obedience in every area of life. Why would a loving pastor withhold this gift from someone?

  3. David Cole
    February 8, 2015 at 7:04 am

    1. Should gay couples who adopted kids together get a divorce?

    A: Gay marriage isn’t valid. There is no marriage therefore no divorce.

    2. Should openly homosexual people be baptized?

    A: Of course not. Repentance precedes baptism.

    3. Could homosexuals be born that way?

    A: Studies of identical twins produce no better than 50% correlation of sexual orientation therefore homosexual are not born that way. Sexuality is not genetic and it’s not prenatal, it’s conditioned in early childhood.

    4. Do homosexuals truly feel welcome at your church?

    A: Homosexuals will never feel welcome before God until they leave their life of sin. It’s not the churches’ responsibility to make sinners feel comfortable about sin. We want them to feel uncomfortable and repent of their sinful ways.

  4. Loretta
    February 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I have to agree with David; there are several verses that instruct us to ‘repent and be baptized’. Isn’t baptism our ‘death, burial and resurrection’ into a NEW life? And what about Romans 6?

    I get Brian’s statement that we don’t stand by with a checklist when someone is baptized; by the same token, isn’t he comparing apples with oranges, or covert sin with overt sin? In other words, we don’t necessarily know if someone is ‘shacking up’ or has heroin tracks, and that is between them and God; whereas he is talking about two gay men who are open about their lifestyle and have no plans to change it, which also makes Brian part of that equation.

    Finally, would Brian also baptize a couple who are married–but not to each other–and are living together openly, and have no plans to change that? What about a ‘son who has his father’s wife’ (1 Cor. 5)?

  5. Jeff Busby
    February 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Brian,
    I agree with you. Because of the attitude of homosexual sin, we sometimes screen people out of the church and the kingdom of God. We limit the Holy Spirit in guiding others to make the necessary changes to get closer to Christ. Honestly, Christian leaders along with Christians don’t know how to respond to people. Being judgmental is easier to block people out so you don’t have to minister to those who are living an alternate lifestyle. Christian leaders and the flock are saying…go to Hell, instead of loving people with Christ’s love to promote salvation. I minister to drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, pimps, homosexuals, etc. These people are treated by others like lepers. From my own brokenness and abandonment from my own sin, being unfaithful to my wife and the Lord, I resigned from ministry—hardly hearing from anyone at all. Little did I know that God would use my life experience to position me in a place to exercise compassion and insight to minister too WITH My REPENTANCE AND Growth IN Christ. God has humbled me and with great honor I serve these people. I am willing to serve those who others give up on, because I think about the lady caught in adultery, where Jesus says “GO AND SIN NO MORE.” Jesus rescuedher from death and brought life to her. I believe, we need to let Jesus be the judge because He is. We all tend to forget that Jesus is both our advocate and judge. As Christians we shouldn’t forget Romans 6:1 for ourselves and others. We must promote knowing and abiding in Christ while teaching what the Bible says about sin and the importance of allowing Jesus to transform us into His likeness . Thank you for listening. God bless you in your efforts to spread the life changing gospel.
    Jeff

  6. Jerry
    February 9, 2015 at 11:44 am

    As an openly gay Christian man I have to say how refreshing it is to hear a pastor understand the message put forth for us to follow. One of a loving caring welcoming heart.
    Thank you

  7. February 9, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    We all should remember God will hold us accountable for the way we judge and treat anyone. If we keep one person from the kingdom because of legalism instead of understanding the life of Jesus, we will be judged by that same standard

  8. Libby Albers
    February 9, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Jesus died for all our sins… you walk into a church and show me all the baptized believers who are completely 100% changed and free of sin and you’d never find one. I have been struggling with explaining my view of this topic to people for years and this is SO nice to read. WE are not to judge, GOD is. we are supposed to love one another, not cast judgement and hate on others and label sims on a scale of smallest to biggest. The bible puts heterosexual immorality on an equal level with homosexuality… and our nation has no problem with people sleeping around and living out of wedlock and then going to church on Sunday. homosexuality is a sin, but it’s no worse than heterosexuals committing sexual sin. what’s disgraceful is church’s turning away sinners who need God’s love to help change them. it doesn’t happen instantly, it doesn’t happen in a day, being baptized is the first step of admitting your life is full of sin and wanting to change. And everywhere I look in any church I’ve attended, I’ve seen many baptize believers sinning and not doing what God and the Bible instruct us to do.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    The Bible makes it clear that not only is homosexuality a sin and anyone practicing this will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven, but NEITHER will the sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, drunks, and so forth. Churches are filled with all types of sinners and the bibles is clear that homosexuality is equal to any of these other sins. I know plenty of people who grace the church pews on Sunday’s that fall under this verse… and yet this hate for people who struggle with homosexuality is made SUCH a bigger deal, everyone needs to start remembering Christians are supposed to be saving everyone and bringing them to Jesus, not selecting and categorizing who they deem worthy of baptism or worthy of a seat in the church’s pews…

  9. Al Serhal
    February 10, 2015 at 10:58 am

    This is how it starts…..

  10. Mike Simpson
    February 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Read the article yesterday and read it again this afternoon. When answering questions like the ones mentioned in the article we should use the whole counsel of Scripture and not just pick and choose the answers that will make us popular with the prevailing winds of culture. Reading the answers given by Brian Jones isn’t surprising… Seeing it endorsed by the Christian Standard is disappointing.

  11. Mike
    February 12, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    While I applaud Brother Brian for not backing down on calling homosexual behavior a sin, I would say that if you know openly practicing sinners in your church (that is, those who have no intention or desire to change, not those who struggle with temptation and fail occasionally) and they are comfortable there, maybe you aren’t taking the holiness of the church seriously enough. If you are baptizing unrepentant people, maybe that isn’t baptism at all! Now you have wet unrepentant sinners. Repentance precedes baptism, regeneration is simultaneous with baptism, and sanctification follows baptism. Let us get this right within the Church. This isn’t advanced theology. The Church isn’t ours, it is Christ’s. We have to go by His policy and plan. To be fair, this isn’t just a problem concerning homosexual behavior. This is a problem concerning unrepentant sinners in the Church. We can’t filter them all out before baptism. That said, we should do our best to be sure we are baptizing repentant, believers for salvation. We should do our best to ensure that all of the Christians in our churches are living repentant lives. This is not about ceasing to evangelize the lost or about treating outsiders disrespectfully. or about isolating ourselves from the world – it is about maintaining the love, holiness, and truth that should characterize Christ’s Church (of the Valley and elsewhere).

    God’s Word tells Christ’s Church:
    Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 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 swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
    1 Corinthians 5:7-13

    Let’s do try to be welcoming to “young, old, poor, rich, married, divorced, black or white.” But maybe unrepentant homosexuals, swindlers, adulterers, alcoholics, murderers, occultists, slavers, genocidal maniacs, liars, racists, etc. shouldn’t feel “welcome” in the church until they are willing to repent. “There’s no sin litmus test” but God has asked for repentance.

  12. Gay AND Christian
    February 12, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I truly appreciate this article, Mr. Jones. I wish people could open their eyes and realize that our churches have many homosexuals who pretend to be straight but have a second secret life where they live a psychological, emotional and sexual slavery. People who deal with serious depression and rejection feelings but can’t reach help because the church pharisees would never accept them. People who live a very promiscuous life because they can’t have a healthy relationship fearing rejection. I was one of these Christians who tried to serve Christ for so many years but always kept my secret double life. One day I realized that Jesus loved me the way He created me: man, gay and honest about my nature. Today I am free of the dead “moral” rules and I feel accepted by Him – I have a family, my friends and congregation accept me and I don’t need to lie to anyone anymore. Open your eyes, church. Many of your ministers are married with kids but they also have sexual encounters with other gay men who have no idea about their real lives. I know at least a handful of them. It’s time to deal with this issue and stop pretending that homosexuality is a behavior problem or an option for rebel people. There are gays everywhere: what if one of your kids is gay but afraid of your rejection? What if your husband is gay but he lives a double life, in lies, fear and promiscuity? Isn’t the Word of God an inspiration for us to live the truth? I pray that God can teach all of us, His children, to love as He loved us and to teach us to live the truth.

  13. February 16, 2015 at 10:03 am

    This saddens me.

    This practice is pure evil, but we don’t have the courage to call it what it is.

    The reason homosexuals don’t repent of this sin, is because they LOVE IT more than the truth. It is the same for all sinful practices.

    The moral duplicity of this article is just another example of how we fail in standing for what is right. I am sure Sodom and Gomorroh saw things much the same way as the liberal Christian churches do now.

    One is NOT born gay.

    May I provide a counter point?

    http://www.johnnycox.me/blog/you-are-not-born-homosexual-thank-god

  14. Nina
    February 16, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Pastor Brian, I appreciate the tone of your article. It’s a stark contrast to some writings I’ve read by Christian pastors and leaders, whose attitudes are absolutely certain that they absolutely know the absolutely correct meaning of the Scripture verses, absolutely! My comment is for Jeff Busby who posted the “Go and sin no more” verse from John 7:53 – 8:11, that “Jesus said….” The footnote for that passage states “The earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53 – 8:11.” I heard a professor at a well-known conservative Bible college who specializes in the Hebrew Bible (and is a Messianic Jew) admit to a caller to his radio program that indeed, Jesus did not say that, it was added many years later; who did or exactly when it was added is not known.” He was quick to add “But it is definitely something that Jesus probably would have said.” It bothers me that I hear or read that quote as “Jesus said….” so very often, when in fact He did not say that. It gets my goat that it is [almost?] never corrected by pastors, teachers, and all. I’m not implying that the statement isn’t invalid because Jesus himself didn’t say it but that is attributed to Him. Bugs me a bit!

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