Merciful God, you are good and righteous. You are Truth. Let your Holy Spirit guide us into all truth and protect us from arrogance as we speak with confidence and courage. God who is Love—Father, Son, and Spirit—let our words be words of love that convict, heal, and transform. Let us abide in you and your word in us that you may be glorified. Amen.
Homosexuals have been poorly served by the church—in truth they have been all but abandoned. Conservatives may point to transformation ministries like Exodus and liberals to the countless churches that embrace homosexuals complete with their lifestyle, but neither group has genuinely offered them salvation. Indeed, like the religious leaders of old we have “shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for [we] do not enter in [ourselves] nor do [we] allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). We must repent or the keys to the kingdom will be taken from us and given to people producing the fruit of it. We deserve the name hypocrites. In our conflicting versions of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has called “cheap grace” we have abandoned homosexuals to bondage in sin—all because we have no idea what it means to be a Christian.
I have less to say to liberals, so I will address them first. Liberal churchmen have abandoned the Bible. They no longer view it as the standard for life and godliness. The words and deeds of Christ and his apostles and prophets have become fodder for modernist critics. As such, they have determined that sin is a thing of the past—a primitive idea. Only the ignorant and the bigot acknowledge its reality. Science is given its “proper place” as the basis of all truth.
According to science they embrace we are stuff. Stuff is determined by its parts. Human stuff is determined by its DNA parts. Therefore there is no more sin, there is only sickness. Either a person is sick, such as the one genetically prone to alcoholism, obesity, or violence, or the society is sick and therefore rejects the one who is genetically different such as the homosexual. Oddly, religious scholars today seem more prone to embrace such materialistic determinism than the average scientists (who are starting to embrace the idea of the transcendent).
Few supporters of this idea would couch it in such language. It is painted with much broader strokes. Homosexuals are born this way. Certainly a loving God would not deny them a fulfilling relationship. It is unfair to deny them what you have simply because you were born heterosexual.
Some homosexuals try to maintain some sacred level to scripture. They play games with context and meaning. Paul obviously meant that the homosexuality of a master demanding sex of young male slave was wrong. This was oppressive and evil, but in his day there was no context for understanding two men or women in a fulfilling, monogamous homosexual relationship.
In response I simply paraphrase a Liberal minister I once sat on a panel with at a Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Strait Alliance meeting on campus. He said that Paul as a former Pharisee understood homosexual acts from an Old Testament scriptural definition—a man lying with a man as with a woman. There was no doubting or explaining away of what Paul meant by homosexual acts. This minister simply chose not to believe the Bible.
If liberal and homosexual religionists want to deny the Bible that is their prerogative. However, they should be honest a quit calling themselves Christians.
Still, to others who are uncertain, who want to hold to scripture but somehow moderate the view of homosexual sin let me offer this integral point. The greatest damage done by the liberal approach that refuses to call homosexual acts sin, the way these people, “shut off the kingdom” is in the failure to live out the apostolic authority of the church. Jesus gives us an amazing power—“the son of man has the power to forgive sin.” He told the church, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained” (John 20:23).
Liberals have retained the sins of homosexuals and stolen from them the freedom of forgiveness! One cannot forgive what one does not recognize. If there is no sin, there is no forgiveness. In their pity (that parody of true compassion) they have robbed homosexuals of the one relationship they need most—the relationship with a God who seeks to forgive them. The offer of “cheap grace” has alienated them from true grace.
As Dorothy Sayers has stated so profoundly:
The final tendency of the modern philosophies . . . has been to bind man hard and fast in the chains of an iron determinism. The influence of heredity and environment, of glandular make-up and the control exercised by the unconscious, of economic necessity and the mechanics of biological development, have all been invoked to assure man that he is not responsible for his misfortunes and therefore not to be held guilty. Evil has been represented as something imposed upon him from without, not made by him from within. The dreadful conclusion follows inevitably, that as he is not responsible for evil, he cannot alter it . . . To-day if we could really be persuaded that we are miserable sinners—that the trouble is not outside us but inside us, and that therefore, by the grace of God we can do something to put it right, we should receive that message as the most hopeful and heartening thing that can be imagined (“Creed or Chaos?” 34-35).
Instead, the category of sin has been swept away by determinism—and with it forgiveness.
Yet, in the conservative churchman there is a worse hypocrisy. The Liberal at least places the homosexual on equal footing with herself. The conservative, with the misapplication of scripture, has looked down on the homosexual as guilty of a worse sin—the unnatural sin. For the conservative the idea is that I am only human and my sin is only natural, but they are so perverted as to live in unnatural sin.
Please do not misunderstand me. Homosexual sin is unnatural. The scriptures say so plainly, “they exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural” (Romans 1:26). Our hypocrisy as conservatives lies not in our recognition of homosexual sin as unnatural, but in the labeling our own sin as natural.
Romans chapters one and two are about idolatry and faith. Herein is a contrast between those who did not honor God as God and those who live the righteousness of God “revealed from faith to faith” (1:17, 21). Paul confronts the self righteous who would judge the “unnatural” homosexual and still live in idolatry. They are turned over to “depraved minds.” The greedy, malicious, disobedient, unmerciful, unloving, untrustworthy, arrogant, boastful, slanderers, envious, and gossips are all as depraved and unnatural as the homosexual. What person does not find themselves named in this list? According to Paul we are all in that list: “in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself for you who judge practice the same things” (2:1).
Yes, we conservatives are as guilty of idolatry as our liberal counterparts, maybe more so. They have mistaken the patient mercy of God as permissiveness. They offer blanket “liberty” to all. The hypocritical attitude of the conservative is contained in the idea that we are only human. Our favorite passage is “what I want to do I do not do, and what I don’t want to do I keep on doing.” God is never too upset with us. Our sin is natural—totally understandable. We have traded a true and terrible God who it is wisdom to fear for a soft hearted old grandpa who knows that boys will be boys and girls will be gossips, but when boys act like girls it just disgusts him.
This explains the huge fight with liberals over whether or not someone is born gay. Our intensity in this fight reveals the reason behind our erroneous efforts to convert gays to straits rather than focusing on making them disciples of Jesus. If they are born that way we have lost more than the argument, we have lost our means of self justification. If ever we allow for the idea of homosexual by birth then we must throw open the gates to all forms of perversion in the church or recognize our own hypocrisy. Or, we could be forced to change.
This is the point—we must change! Let me state this as clearly as possible. All our sin is depraved. It is all unnatural. Left to ourselves we are all disgusting. We must recognize the terrifying fact that “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16)
Yes, Jesus, the absolute incarnate perfection of God, is the standard by which all our secrets will be judged. It is time we Christians worry less about who is coming out of their closet and more about what is going on inside our own closet. Is it possible that the openly gay man is not much further from Christ than I am? His sin is in the open—he now only needs to recognize the reality of how evil it is. But my sin is hidden from others, and all too often from me.
So, is that it? Do we just continue in sin and all recognize it, proudly let sin abound that grace may abound? GOD forbids it—literally. Paul chastises the Corinthian church with the statement, “You are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (I Corinthians 3:3) Mere men! That is our constant excuse in the church, “I’m only human.” That is the big lie. It is born of the anti-Christ.
Yes, anti-Christ. Christ means anointed one—anointed by the Spirit of God. The denial of the Holy Spirit is the anti-Christ spirit. We are not mere mortals! If we are Christians then we have the Spirit of God—that is what it means to be Christian, which means literally “little anointed ones.”
Notice it is not the anti-Jesus spirit that is in the world. Jesus goodness, kindness, love, generosity, and suffering are all welcome to us—conservative and liberal alike. His holy anointing that makes prophets weird, comes in fire, has people speak in tongues, kills church people that lie to God, and knocked Paul off his ass, scares us.
Satan has worked to destroy our understanding of the Holy Spirit, to make us fear Him, to doubt His existence, to shun His works. Why? Because, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).
Notice that the operative word is “Lord.” People can say all sorts of great things about Jesus without the Holy Spirit, but to declare him “Lord” is to say he is ruler and master in total control of our life. We cannot truthfully say that apart from the Holy Spirit for we cannot live it apart from his power.
If we are true Christians then Jesus is Lord. If Jesus is to be Lord we must have the Spirit of God inside us. If we have the Spirit of God within then we are not “only human.”
As my Archbishop, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, has said in the preface to his book Christ Walks Where Evil Reigned,
As a Christian and minister in the church, I feel we need to remind ourselves of the true purpose of the gospel. We are saved, yes, but it is also about change, our transformation, making us real, making us whole. It is our learning what it means to be in God’s image—to be Christlike.
We have no excuse. For in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not defeated human beings. It is the role of the Holy Spirit, as we learn to surrender to Him, to help us all in this process of change. But it is also the role of grace—no, we cannot do it alone—as Paul says, I can do it because Christ gives me strength to change. This avoids anyone saying that they can do it on their own (xv).
Still, is this not just a bunch of unattainable high ideals? Are we falling back to some legalistic gospel of works? No. This is the heart of the good news—I can be free, truly free. Christ in me is the hope of glory—not just of future resurrection but of present transformation. But it starts with a discipline.
I have titled this, “the wrong hill to die on.” The primary point of reference—the wrong hill—is the question of whether a person is born a homosexual which has been so heatedly debated between conservatives and liberals. It does not matter.
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If the very core of your being is homosexual, if you were born that way, it really doesn’t matter. To follow Jesus, you must deny your SELF. Is it unfair that you cannot be a Christian and have a fulfilling homosexual marriage? Sure. That is your cross to carry.
It is unfair that my Tutsi brothers have to walk into Rwandan prisons and forgive the Hutu men who skinned alive, raped, and murdered their family members with machetes. That is their cross to carry. (And they are doing it.) It is unfair that my Christian family in Egypt have to live as second class citizens unless they convert to Islam. That is their cross to carry. It is unfair that my brothers and sisters in China have to hide from the government to worship Jesus. That is their cross to carry.
Jesus carried his cross, we must carry ours. There is only one hill to die on, Golgotha. If we really want to follow Him then that is where the path leads. There is no more room for this American Prosperity Gospel in which no one suffers and we all have rights. The servant really is no greater than the master. But this really is good news because, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
And what about me, the conservative Christian with a happy marriage, four kids, two dogs, a house, a car, two great churches, and a job I like. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man like me to enter the kingdom of God. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, this is my cross to bear—Jesus told me that “to whom much is given much is required.” If I sit on my hands and judge the broken, if I neglect the poor and needy (physically or emotionally so), if I do not help others carry their cross, then there is hell to pay. I have to climb up Golgotha and crucify myself on the cross of my prosperity. I must embrace every broken person I can with the words of Jesus reinterpreted, come to me you heavy laden . . . because my burden is light.
Yet don’t forget that this is good news. The other side of the cross is resurrection—life beyond our ability to comprehend. It is the future glory that C.S. Lewis talks about in “The Weight of Glory.” Those like myself, those with light burdens and many blessing must understand what Lewis said:
It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.
All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal, Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or ever lasting splendours.