Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Presbyterian Church and Homosexaulity

Maybe you saw in the news recently about how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became the latest in a string of Protestant denominations to vote to accept homosexuals into its clergy. They join Episcopals, Lutherans, and the United Church of Christ. Methodists, Disciples of Christ, and other mainline denominations are receiving both external and internal pressure to follow suit.

I read one article online about their decision which identified a few of the reasons for this new policy. One of the reasons was "the change in broader American society toward accepting same-sex relationships." In other words, they changed to accommodate and please the culture.

What this means, of course, is that the god they are really serving is the world. No matter how much people insist that they are worshiping and serving the God of the Bible, when they shape their values by the world's moral standards rather than the Word of God, they are worshiping and serving the world. For those who seek to serve God, He tells them, "do not be conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2). I like how JB Philips translates this verse: "don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold." And that is precisely what is happening in denominations like the Presbyterian Church USA—they are letting the world squeeze them into its mold.

Now, from the beginning, God made it clear about sexual relations and intimate companionship. He made a woman for the man (Gen. 2:18-23). He did not make another man for Adam. He also said the man is to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, not his husband (Gen. 2:24).

Jesus addressed this issue when he brought the standards of marriage and sexuality back to the Creation (Matt. 19:4, 5). At creation, Jesus claimed that God made “male and female.” And that because of this creation of human beings “a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife.” By limiting the marriage relationship to men and women, Jesus did speak against homosexual practice (and much of our common divorce and remarriage practices as well).

Jesus also uses in Matthew 19:9 the Greek word “porneia” which condemns “unlawful sexual relationships.” God intends sex to be between a man and woman are married to each other. Any sex outside of marriage is sinful and wrong. Period. This would include homosexuality. In fact, it was commonly understood that “porneia” in first century Jewish circles represented a sort of short-hand reference to all of the sexual behaviors forbidden in Leviticus 18, including once again, homosexual behavior (Leviticus 18:22).

The apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit deals with sexual immorality when he writes: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Romans 1:18-32; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7) Now it is not that homosexuality is the only sin condemned, but it is a sin and must be forsaken.

So clearly in the realm of human sexuality–heterosexual immorality and homosexual activity–both are impulses and activities which must be brought under control. Once again, all sexual expression outside heterosexual monogamous marriage falls under the wrath of God. The Hebrew writer says: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Heb. 13:4)

The good news is that Paul says some who engaged in sexual sex were changed and forgiven. “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11) Adulterers, fornicators, and homosexuals can be forgiven of their sins, just like an idolaters, thieves and drunkards can A person who has lived these kinds of lives, but has repented and stopped living in them, can be saved.

Please observe that this passage makes no distinction of the degree that each of the listed behaviors is abhorrent to God. It lumps alcoholism with fornication, and homosexuality with covetousness. If God didn’t bother separating one sin out from that list, why do we? Especially when it comes to homosexuality??

One possible reason that believers call this one sin out of the list for special derision is that many of us, at least in 21st-Century America, can identify with most of the items on that list. We can understand how easy it is to fall into the sins of drunkenness or fornication, because we remember ourselves how it was when we were young. But most of us can’t say the same for homosexuality, so we make a distinction.

However, in this passage, God makes no such distinction. The listed sins seem to be all the same to Him. I believe this is what Paul means when he says “such were some of you.” He’s reminding the Christians in Corinth (as well as you and me) that we all have a past consisting of things displeasing to God. The fact that the Holy Spirit pulled some of us out of the mire means our role is to help others come out of similar (if not the same) sin, so that we all may enjoy a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. It goes without saying that being hateful toward any person does not help them come out of anything.

Let me give you a practical application of this. Do you have a co-worker or neighbor who is living with someone to whom they are not married? Are you friendly with them? Would you be as friendly if their live-in lover were of the same sex? This is really what it boils down to. Both types of sexual sin in this example are equally displeasing to God.

If it is commonly known at your workplace that you are a Christian, the fact that you are nicer to the straight co-worker who is living in sin than the gay one will be perceived by the gay person as typical of Christians, further driving them away from believers, and reducing the chance of their ever being receptive to the good news of the Gospel

Friends, we cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth. Homosexuality is a sin and like any other sin, it needs to be dealt with in the only way possible. It needs to be laid at the cross and repented of. As Christians, we should pray for the salvation of the homosexual the same they would any other person in sin. We should treat homosexuals with the same dignity as they would anyone else because, they are made in the image of God.

We need to also keep in mind that many homosexuals have some serious hurts based on events in their past. When I say "many," I mean a much higher percentage than in the general population.These hurts have come as a result of events that happened to them that they did not bring upon themselves. They need healing as much as any cancer patient, as much as any of the lame or blind people that Jesus took the time to heal. How can we have any attitude toward them but compassion? This is why God says to speak with wisdom, grace and love. (Col. 4:5-6)

Friends, we reject the sin, but we love the sinner, because we are all sinners. We teach and preach the Word of God, the Bible, without compromising it. We teach and preach the Word of God whether it is popular or not, whether it is politically correct or not, even when it doesn’t conform to the latest moral trends. And when we teach and preach the Word of God, we always do so in love. We don’t belittle and call people names. We aren’t arrogant and self-righteous. We always remember that we are all sinners saved by the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 1:15)

God bless,

Robert Prater