During June of 2008, a group of influential Christian leaders from the U.S. started a website called ‘JamesDobsonDoesNotSpeakForMe.com’. It was in response to some political statements that Dobson had made about Barrack Obama. Although they admired Dobson for his work with families and deeply respected him as a Christian leader, they did not believe that he spoke on behalf of all Christians. They wanted those outside the church to know that not all Christians agreed with Dobson’s comments, and they also wanted Christians to know that voting for Obama wasn’t in anyway sinful.
Many people today feel the same way about how the Church is responding to Gay Marriage. Some churches have come out and said that homosexuality is not sinful, while others have fought hard to protect what they see is the Biblical definition of marriage.
This short post aims to outline five different ways the church can respond to Gay Marriage, and hopefully present a case as to why no Christian, no Church Leader, and no Christian Organization should speak on behalf of others when talking about political issues.
#1 GOD CREATED PEOPLE TO BE GAY
People who hold to this position argue that the church has had it wrong, and that homosexuality is not actually sinful. There’s at least 3 possible reasons why they might come to this conclusion…
(a) Some don’t believe that the entire Bible is God’s word.
They take the passages about homosexuality to be the opinion of the biblical writers rather than God himself. They would also argue that Jesus didn’t directly address homosexuality in the Gospels.
(b) Some believe that the Bible only condemns homosexuality outside of a monogamous committed relationship.
Rob Bell said: “When (the Apostle) Paul was talking about this issue, for him, it’s tied up in all sorts of idolatry, it’s all sorts of rejection of God, so I would want to pull the various issues apart… I do not think he was talking about what we’re talking about in 2013 which is two committed people in a same-sex relationship… He had men and boys, he had temples… I don’t think a healthy monogamous same-sex relationship destroys or is destructive to the shalom (peace) that God intends for all things.”
(c) Some believe that Jesus placed the church on a moral trajectory.
Timothy C. Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, explains: “Let’s take slavery as an example. The Old Testament begins a long, redemptive process which ultimately overturns the institution of slavery… A similar case can be made for the role and status of women in church and society… The underlying assumption is that just as people used the Bible to resist the abolition of slavery in the 19th century or the advent of women’s rights in the 20th century, so we are on ‘the wrong side of history’ if we do not, likewise, realize the same thing is happening with respect to the way the Bible is being interpreted as relates to homosexuality.”
#2 SAVE THE PEOPLE, NOT THE NATION
During an interview with Brian Houston at the 2015 Hillsong Conference, Rick Warren said: “My job is not to save America, it’s to save Americans. If you live in Australia, your job it not to save Australia, it’s to save Australians”.
People who hold to this position argue that even though homosexual practice is clearly condemned in the Bible, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Therefore they would not seek to publicly condemn Gay Marriage, but instead they would use whatever voice they had to preach that Jesus died for sinners. There’s at least 3 possible reasons why they might hold this view…
(a) Christians should not expect non-Christians to obey a God they don’t believe in.
Non-Christians don’t have the power to obey God (since they don’t have the Holy Spirit) nor the motivation to obey God (since they haven’t yet experienced God’s grace). Added to this, Paul explicitly says that we shouldn’t judge those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12).
(b) Jesus and the Early Church gave us no reason to try and change the laws of the land.
There is not a single command found in the New Testament from Jesus or the Apostles calling Christians to change the laws of the land. Added to this, there’s not a single event recorded in the New Testament where Jesus or the Early Church sought to change the laws of the land. In fact, after the resurrection, the disciples still thought that Jesus was going to bring about a physical kingdom by overthrowing the Romans. But instead of going on the attack against the political leaders of His day, Jesus told the disciples that they were to scatter throughout all nations and bring about an invisible kingdom by being His witnesses (Acts 1:6-8).
Tim Keller said: “A lot of my own younger leaders are saying, why are we fighting about gay marriage? We are not trying to make the nation into a Christian nation… There’s a kind of conservative Christian view that is okay with gay marriage.”
(c) Christians need to preach the LAW in such a way that it leads people to the GOSPEL.
When unbelievers hear that Christians and God are against homosexuality (i.e. The Law), do they also hear that Jesus died for homosexuals (i.e. The Gospel)? Or does the gospel actually get lost in all of this? Are we preaching Christ crucified for helpless sinners? Or are we preaching the law? The law should be preached, but only to drive people to realize how much they need Jesus to save them from the consequences of their sin, and the power of their sin. The Law without Gospel is condemnation (Romans 7:7-25, Galatians 3:19-22). Martin Luther said: “This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking, one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew; of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean-cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines.”
Carl Lentz, Pastor of Hillsong New York explained how this plays out in his church: “Some media wants us to use our pulpit to have a soapbox for social issues. I don’t believe that’s our job… Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues. He was about the deeper things of the heart. Often people want to talk about behavior modification, and our church isn’t about that… We’re about soul transformation. You start talking about some of the symptomatic stuff, that’s not what we’re about… When it comes to people’s sexuality, I don’t want to use a public forum to talk about private things. Because how in the world could you have a dialogue? How in the world can I hear your story? How in the world can someone have a question? …I refuse to ostracize people any longer, I hate it. I think that there’s been so much hate, and so much bigotry and so much insensitivity, I’m done with that.”
#3 WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD
People who hold this position argue that Christians should work towards human flourishing, and therefore fight against Gay Marriage. However there’s a few important things to note…
(a) They are not trying to Christianize society, they’re trying to do what’s best for society.
They believe that in a democracy, because we are all given a voice, that we should use that voice to stand up for the voiceless. It’s not about enforcing Christian values. It’s about social justice. It’s not about doing what is good for Christians. It’s about doing what is good for all people. It’s not about building a Christian society. It’s about building a society where all people of all faiths can thrive.
(b) Their concern is for the children.
According to Tim Keller, they would argue that Gay Marriage “is bad for human flourishing, because it is not the way human beings are wired. It is not good for children… every child has the right to a father and a mother. So you shouldn’t enshrine a particular form of marriage that permanently keeps a child from having one or the other.”
(c) They don’t believe prohibiting Gay Marriage will lead homosexuals to Jesus.
They are not interested in behaviour modification. They know that everybody desperately needs Jesus to pay for the consequences of their sin, and free them from the power of sin. Jesus is the ultimate answer. Not government, not laws, not morality. The only reason they fight against Gay Marriage is because they believe it’s detrimental to human flourishing.
#4 ONE NATION UNDER GOD
People who hold this position would argue that our nation was established on Christian values and that we should fight against any kind of moral or religious movement which threatens this status. They would typically argue the following…
(a) The Bible is the foundation of society.
This is not only about enforcing laws which reflect the laws of the Bible. It is about Christianizing the nation: Prayer in parliament. Christian Education in schools. Banning food outlets from selling meat that has been prepared according to Islamic Law (Halal). In September 2014, the Australian Christian Lobby posted an article featuring Fred Nile calling for the government to enforce a $550 fine for any Muslim woman caught wearing a burqa (head covering) in public.
And because they believe the Bible is the foundation of society, they are very much on about social justice. They care for the environment, the unborn, and refugees. They care deeply about protecting women and children. They fight hard against racial discrimination. One of the reasons they would fight against Gay Marriage is because they are standing up for the rights of children.
(b) Only God has the right to define the term ‘Marriage’.
They would argue that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman, and as such the term ‘marriage’ belongs to God and needs to retain it’s original definition. Some who hold this position are quite open to the government creating ‘civil unions’ for homosexuals who want to enter into a committed relationship, but they do not believe in redefining the term ‘marriage’.
(c) Getting a Non-Christian to obey God’s Laws still won’t save them.
Although they want Non-Christians to obey God’s laws, they don’t believe that this will save them. They still believe that Non-Christians need to personally trust in Jesus to save them from the consequences of sin, and free them from the power of sin. They would boldly proclaim that Jesus died for sinners, and that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
#5 HOMOSEXUALS ARE GOING TO HELL
People who hold this position don’t just believe that homosexuality is sinful, they don’t just believe that the church should fight against Gay Marriage, they also believe that all gay people are going to hell, regardless of whether or not they have repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus to save them. Their argument is as follows…
(a) The Bible says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”.
(b) The Bible says that homosexuality is worse than other sins.
Obviously this 1 Corinthians passage includes many other sins that we all commit. But when confronted with the fact that we are all guilty of adultery, (since Jesus said “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery”), and that we are are guilty of slander (since we engage in it every time we turn on the news and hear gossip about a celebrity or a politician), they simply argue that homosexuality is worse than other sins.
They quote: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable” (Leviticus 20:13). They may also refer to how God poured out his punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah for their homosexual acts.
(c) They believe it’s impossible for a true Christian to remain gay.
When confronted with the fact that the 1 Corinthians passage goes onto say: “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), they say that Jesus’ death on the cross only applies if a person is truly repentant, and by truly repentant they mean that they would never, ever turn back to that sin again.
Note: For those wondering if the Bible actually teaches that homosexuals will go to hell, I’ve written about this here.
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