I spent part of my work day multi-tasking between working and listening to Tim Keller speak at The Gospel Coalition conference. During his message today, he mentioned that Americans have completely forgotten what it’s like to have a king. Now, when it comes to a man-to-man relationship that’s probably a good thing. When it comes to a Jesus-to-man relationship, it’s a tragedy.
We treat the lordship of Christ like more of an over-spiritualized slogan than a fact. When a king, especially a good king, says “Don’t do this,” you just don’t do it. It’s not up for discussion or debate. It’s not up for questioning whether he really meant for us not to do it. When he says “Do this,” you do it. You obey the king because he has that authority.
I’ve written all this before, so I won’t be redundant anymore. But I feel that this is a pressing issue regarding the conversation about homosexuality and the Church. Overall, the Church is either doing a poor job standing for truth in the name of equality and American “rights,” or it’s doing a very poor job loving homosexuals as human beings who need a savior because they’re so intent on combating the aforementioned part of the Church.
Ok, I’m really not trying to be sarcastic or condescending at all when I address this part. So, please forgive me if I come across that way.
When I’ve talked with people who either don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, or who believe that committed homosexual couples isn’t a sin (compared to promiscuous homosexuality, I guess), the issue seems to always be questioning the interpretation of Romans 1:26-27. Now, let’s be fair here. Even Peter says that Paul is difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). So, let’s table that one for a minute.
What does the rest of the Bible say about this?
Leviticus 18:22-23 ESV
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Ok, Leviticus tells us that for a man to lie with a man as he would a woman is an abomination. Now, before we go on, we have to ask a question: What was the only Biblical way for a man to lie with a woman? In marriage. Adultery is already marked out as sin, as is fornication. So, if heterosexual sex outside of marriage was declared by God to be sin, then we know that homosexual sex outside of marriage must also be sin. Now, the Holy Spirit inspired writer of Leviticus tells us that for a person to lie with a man lies with a man, even inside a committed relationship someone might call “marriage,” it is still an abomination in the eyes of God.
Leviticus 20:13 ESV
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Just two chapters later, we see the punishment: they shall be put to death. And it’s their own fault. The blood of those who engage in homosexual activity is upon their own heads. The God-given command to punish them by death is not unjust.
Now, we’ll get to New Testament implications in a minute, so I don’t want you to think that I’m advocating that we round up all the homosexuals and stone them. Not at all. But I want you to see how seriously God takes this. I mean, He created us in His image and yet He commands us in the case of ANY kind of sexual immorality – that means any form of sex outside of a heterosexual relationship – that the two people involved should be put to death. God even says to kill the animal in the event of beastiality (Lev. 20:15). That’s how seriously God takes sexual sin.
So, here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t know any Christian who argues against the Ten Commandments. No one says “God didn’t really mean don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery.” I mean, I may be wrong (and please correct me if I am), but I don’t remember seeing any “you shall put them to death” clauses in the Ten Commandments, except for sexual immorality. So, I would think that when God places a clause like that next to another command, that weight should hit us and tell us He considers our obeying these commands is really important. Yet Christians question and challenge the commands regarding homosexuality like no other, or they completely ignore them in hopes of getting caught up in an “interpretation war” that no one ever really wins. I also haven’t seen anyone address how homosexuality is ok in light of the implications of marriage between man and a woman being a physical symbol of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:31-32)
not because it overtly causes people harm.
A Loveless Church?
Yesterday, Joy, a blogger I follow, wrote about why Christians need to stop fearing other Christians. Joy’s compassion on this issue has challenged me, and partly served as a catalyst for this portion of this post, as well as others I’ve written.
Church, we need to take our sin seriously. We need to take our own, personal sin seriously. Once we’ve realized that we are each a complete and total wreck in need of a Savior, we need to remember grace. We need to remember the gospel. The gospel isn’t “repent and stop sinning.” The gospel is “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Repenting and waging war on sin in our lives is the response to Christ’s love. Now, we have been commanded to be a conduit, a physical display of the love Christ has for the lost – the love Christ has for His enemies. Yes, only the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction in a person’s heart. Yes, only a work of God can truly break through the hardness in the heart of man. Yet, God in His sovereignty has chosen to use people to spread the gospel. He’s chosen to use people to advance His kingdom and show His love to the world. Is this the only way He does it? No. But it is a way He has chosen.
In a sense, all sin is sin in that it separates us from God. Yet, there is a sense in which there are degrees of sin because not all sin came with an earthly punishment of death. Apart from Christ, we would all spend eternity in spiritual death, but not all sins bore a consequence of capital punishment. That said, it isn’t unreasonable that certain sins shock us more than others. It may be sad, but not unreasonable. However, we MUST remember that Christ has paid the price for ALL sins. The reason we don’t pick up stones anymore is because Christ took our capital punishment for us. The reason He commands us to walk in the light and love and imitate God is because He paid the price for our sins, so we should be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:31-32).
I won’t pretend that I’m an expert in showing love to people. I’m preaching this to myself, too. While there is a difference between someone who is trying to repent of homosexuality and a person who is unrepentant, that doesn’t excuse us from loving them. How we love may look different, but we must love. Christians struggling, honestly fighting against homosexual urges, should NOT have to be afraid to confess those urges any more than the person struggling with heterosexual fornication should be afraid to confess those urges. I mean, they’re being Biblical by confessing and bringing the issue into the light! Who are we to push them back into darkness?
This makes me wonder whether we really have a culture of confession in our local churches. It makes me wonder whether people with other sins are being shoved back into darkness just because we don’t want to do the hard work of bearing their burdens and walking with them through repentance (Gal. 6:2). And, Church, when we bear these burdens, we “fulfill the law of Christ.” When we bear these burdens, we truly love God and love people.
Christ is King. He is Lord. We must do what He commands. We must acknowledge what He declares to be sin. We must do this because, as King, He has that authority. We also love because He commands us to love. He has that right, and we have a responsibility to obey. Yet, in all this, He doesn’t lord His authority over us like a cruel king. He walked with humility and took our suffering upon Himself. He became the servant, showing love and grace to His enemies. He has called us to do the same.
True, He sits on the throne, ruling and reigning over all that is. Yes, there will come a day when Christ will return in a literal blaze of glory and cause the “already” to collide with the “not yet,” bringing an end to all of the groaning and birth pangs.
as He lived, and love as He loved.
I am really sorry about the length of this post. I thought about splitting it up, but I felt that it was so sensitive that I needed to communicate all my thoughts in one post. If you’ve read this far, thank you.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
— Mark Twain