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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.