Live Sent: Gospel Contextualization

A friend of mine who is the Women’s Director of Living Hope recently gave a presentation on the Roots of Male and Female Homosexuality to some of my friends from The Village. In this talk, she said something that really started me down a path of much contemplation and self-evaluation: Homosexuality and gender issues is THE issue of our generation.

Since that talk last week, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to confront this issue in a Christ-like manner, without being seen as someone who is an ignorant, intolerant, oppressive fool. A couple days after that, I saw a friend of mine share this on Facebook: Protest Gov. Rick Perry’s Inappropriate and Hateful Prayer Rally.

A prayer rally, hateful? Really? I don’t even know that this prayer rally is supposed to be to pray against anything related to homosexuality, but apparently because Governor Perry is partnering with the AFA on this, some of the homosexual community (sorry if that’s offensive, I don’t know a better term) plan to picket this event because Bryan Fischer, host of AFA show Focal Point said that “Gays are Nazis“. Whether this makes any sense or not is beside the point, it illustrates a problem that is deep within the conservative culture, even in the church.

As I was thinking about this earlier, I couldn’t understand how someone could consider prayer hateful (as if they can discern the intent behind a person’s prayer). Or how someone could see a message about homosexuality being unfulfilling and destructive as hateful. I mean, from a Christian context, it’s similar to a parent telling their child they can’t stick a fork in the electrical outlet. The child may think it’s going to be a great thrill, but the parent knows that it will hurt the child, and stops the child out of love. How is it that such communication is interpreted as hate?

The difference is that there is a closeness between the child and the parent which tells the child that even though the inability to stick a fork in the outlet is disappointing, the parent still loves the child. It seems that overall, the conservative culture and the church have so far removed themselves from the lives of homosexual people that the gospel changes from a message of love and goodwill toward man to be expressed within personal community, and becomes a grenade that we lob at people who are “sinners” until they get their act together. All the while unwilling to be the means which God uses to express His love for them. In other words, we really stop proclaiming the gospel and start telling them to stop doing that which offends or disgusts us. Or maybe we’re just afraid of what we don’t understand? Perfect love drives out fear.

I love the way that Jason Dukes defines contextualization in his book, Live Sent.

Contextualization is, however, living right in the middle of the culture around us, walking daily in friendship with the people of our particular context, loving them just like they are, living right before them in a way that brings out the flavors of God around them and highlights the colors of God around them. It is being a letter they read and say, “Wow. There is a God. He made me and loves me. I want to know Him.” Please reread that and then read Matthew 5:13-16. Very similar.

Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Even well intentioned grenades cause damage. They are uncontrollable. Even when thrown with as much accuracy as possible, a slight shift in the wind can cause disastrous effects for the people nearby when it goes off. That is why the gospel was never intended to be a message delivered from afar. That is why Jesus became our ultimate example of contextualization. He left His home in heaven, became a man, walked among those He was trying to reach, and with careful skill proclaimed the power of the gospel to those He’d lived among for 30 years. Paul does the same thing in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). He doesn’t condemn the men of Athens for their idolatry. He recognizes that they are searching for something, and tells them that the “unknown god” they worship is in fact Jesus. He relates to them on their level to communicate the gospel effectively.

So, how do we contextualize the gospel for the homosexual community? There are obviously MANY people more qualified to answer this question than I am, but I will offer my suggestions, for better or worse.

1) Obviously stop calling them Nazis! Fischer was way out of line with that entire speech, and completely inaccurate.
2) Educate yourself on whether or not homosexuality is genetic, or if it’s caused by the environment they grew up in. There’s less need to be aggressive and defensive when you can talk intelligently about a subject.
3) More importantly than either of those, get to know them. Pray that God would allow you to see them as He sees them, and love them how He loves them.
4) Pray that God would allows us to see yourself as He sees us, as people who to this day are in desperate need of Jesus. The playing field is level, there’s no room or reason for spiritual arrogance.
5) Realize that while the politics of our nation, what it will and won’t allow, are very important; they are far, far LESS important than taking the time necessary to contextually communicate the gospel in the hope that some might come to Christ.

The comments are open for your thoughts, but keep them civil.

EDIT: I am not condoning homosexuality. I am saying that communicating the gospel and the need for Jesus as Lord and Savior comes before any attempt to change a person’s actions, regardless of what those actions are.

18 responses to “Live Sent: Gospel Contextualization

  1. Some really good points. I’m shocked about the Nazi comment. That needs to be disavowed immediately! I can’t imagine how someone could think that is okay.

    However, that doesn’t mean that Rick Perry is the devil or that his prayer is evil or that prayer in an of itself is evil.

    I am continually blown away that just as often as Christians throw homosexuals into a box, so too homosexuals throw Christians into a box.

    Great post, Don.

    • Yeah, I’m seriously considering writing the AFA about that…I have no idea how long it goes, but I hate the fact that I’m typically lumped into the same group as he is simply because I’m “conservative”. Makes me wanna see the end of all this insanity called the “already, not yet” all the more.

      EDIT: To heck with considering. I just did.

  2. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the AFA as a hate group on par with Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations,” said the Texas Freedom Network.

    “Instead of uniting people of faith in prayer for our nation, this event will actually sharpen divisions among Americans along religious and political lines.”

    Rick Perry supporting the American Family Association is going to hurt him if he’s even considering running for President; the AFA is anti-gay. Moreover, why does he commemorate Jesus by wrongfully executing other humans? Which is it: Is your faith Christ-like and peaceful OR is it inhumane and hateful? You can’t have both.

    He is blurring the line between church and state. His prayer rally is an exclusive-Christian prayer event. I don’t care if he hangs out with the KKK as a private citizen. However, he’s fraternizing with hate groups as our Governor. That’s quite unacceptable. His job is to represent ALL Texans.

    • Hi, Jessica, thanks for stopping by, and for posting such important comments. Before I get started addressing them, if you get an email saying that your first comment was edited (not sure if you will), I didn’t change the content, just made the links open in a new window. I’ve found that’s easier than people having to go back and forth all the time. No worries though.

      Political concerns:
      Yes, the separation between church and state does pose a concern for me as well. One could contend that it was the original colonizer’s and founding father’s intent to separate church and state not to give people freedom from religion, but freedom of religion. Meaning that they founded this nation in a time when people didn’t really question the existence of God, or His authority. True, they may not have been “Christians” as one would define the term theologically, but they still submitted to a Christian moral standard and worshiped the Christian God. So, the point of separation of church and state was not as much to enable people to choose IF they worshiped God, but rather HOW they worshiped Him and not be punished for worshiping Jesus in a manner that political officials or the majority of religious leaders disagreed with.

      That said, that isn’t the case today. Regardless of what the original intent was (and I may be wrong), separation of church and state has become the freedom from religion. So, yes, Governor Perry’s rallying of the Christian troops does indeed give me pause in that sense. However, it would be the same amount of pause if he was Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist, etc. I wouldn’t feel threatened in any way if it was any of those, not because Christianity is the religious majority (which I’m sure isn’t the case), nor because those religions are somehow less oppressive or exclusive than Christianity, but because my security in both who I am and what I believe comes from God, who is far beyond any of those concerns. I am who I am, and believe what I believe, solely because of the work that God has done in me, and would continue doing exactly what I’m doing even if I lived in an area where any other religion had political control and was actually oppressive. So, in short, none of this threatens my freedom either way it goes down because it’s Christ who makes me free, not just lawmakers and political officials.

      Religious concerns:
      You’ve already seen my statement on Fischer’s video, so I won’t go into that again. I’d say the other clips thrown in were as equally shameful. Jesus had some very sharp words toward the religious leaders of His day.

      Jesus formed a whip and turned over the tables because the Pharisees had turned the God ordained “house of prayer for all people” (Isa. 56:7) into something only the Jews could access. He called them a “brood of vipers” which is not merely an insult. It’s identifying those who should lead people to life as people who lead them to death, and like the viper, their movement are so subtle you don’t even see in coming. While admitting I don’t know them personally, much of what I’ve seen in these videos reminds me of the Pharisees in the New Testament, and I believe Jesus would have the same words for them.

      This doesn’t mean that I believe Jesus condones homosexuality, or any other sin, but rather that instead of saying things that would push people away from the love of Christ, we should realize that we really aren’t any better than those who aren’t Christians (as both continually require the mercy and grace of God, and if it wasn’t for His working in our lives, we wouldn’t be following Him), and treat those who do not follow Christ with love and compassion, not pity, and pray that by our words and actions they would want to come to know Him.

      Biblical Stance on Homosexuality:
      Leviticus 18:22 ESV

      22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

      Leviticus 20:13-16 ESV

      13 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. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

      Alright, now I know this text contains some VERY strong language. Before I address it, I’m not saying we should kill homosexuals; we’ll get to why in a moment. This text communicates the seriousness, and to a degree, the uniqueness, of this type of sexual sin. Biblically, God created man and woman for marriage to each other as a picture of Christ and the church. The first thing I want to point out is that the text says “it” is an abomination, not “you are” an abomination. You (and I) are someone created in the image of God, who He loves. I’m not as much of an Old Testament scholar as I should be, but I notice that the writer of Leviticus does something interesting here: he points out that ALL sexual deviancy other than sex between a husband and wife deserves the same punishment. The Old Testament also tells us in Deuteronomy 22:22-24 that even heterosexual intimacy outside of marriage is punishable by death as well. The point is that, Biblically, there is a right way to have intimacy between genders, and a wrong way.

      Even when we get to the New Testament, in Romans 1:18-32, Paul echos the Wisdom of Solomon chapters 12-14 (part of the Apocrypha), which is effectively a Jewish polemic against the Gentiles for their way of life. BUT, then in Romans 2 and 3 we see that Paul says that is how we ALL behave, Jewish and Gentile alike, which culminates in one of the more popular verses in the Bible, Romans 3:23 — “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

      The interesting thing about Romans 1:18-32 is that Paul doesn’t just say that only those who practice homosexuality deserve death. Look at the list there: envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossip…I can stop there an we can clearly see that’s any person who ever lived, except Jesus. Then we see in Romans 1:32 that those who practice these things deserve to die, again the more popular verse would be Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death…” So, we have ALL sinned and deserve death. Thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there. Because Romans 3:24 says picking up the “all” from v23 “…are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and Romans 6:23b “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

      Scripture is clear in a host of other places that we are all born with a disposition that is against God. We are His enemies, by own our choosing and actions, we violently rage against the God who created us. But even while we were in that state, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-9). See, God Himself paid the price to rescue us from His wrath which we so justly deserved. Sin isn’t merely missing the mark, it’s outright treason against the King of all things, and even in our “enlightened” society today, treason merits death. So, in the interest of being open-minded, which other religion tells us that the very God whom we have deeply offended through our will and by our actions has made it possible for us to be right with Him again? Which other religion tells us that the God we are enemies with has paid the price to make us ABLE to be friends with Him? Which other religion says “it’s not about what you can do, it’s about what I’ve already done for you”?

      So, we are ALL guilty and deserve death, and it’s by God’s grace that each of us takes our next breath. Yet we don’t kill homosexuals anymore to remove depravity from among us, we invite them to Jesus, because only He can make them and us truly clean. I, as a “right-wing, conservative evangelical” am as desperately dependent on the grace of God to live as anyone else. This shouldn’t produce arrogance, but humility. I would also contend that those who do express condemnation toward people for what they do and the lifestyle they lead, while possibly accurate in condemning the action, do not fully understand the gospel and their position as it relates to needing God’s grace here and now, as they are.

      In Conclusion:
      I know, I’m long winded, but I didn’t think I could address a fraction of the concerns you voiced in fewer words. So, let me attempt to summarize:

      1) The political side concerns me, but doesn’t challenge security in my faith.
      2) While the Bible does indeed condemn much of what the AFA condemns, the AFA also falls under the same condemnation. It’s a level playing field.
      3) The redemption, reconciliation, and rescue from our condemnation is found in Jesus, not anything we can do. This should produce within us humility and a desire to express the affection God has for us to those around us.
      4) I know I’m being exclusive, all religions are exclusive. Islam, Buddhism, and even Bahai (which tries to be really inclusive) are all exclusive. My exclusivity leads toward love and compassion, and it leads to being loving enough to be direct with people at times and tell them they need Jesus, because He is the only solution to the problem.
      5) Love doesn’t equal tolerance, but if it’s not lived out daily among people we want to show love, it will always be misunderstood.
      6) I realize that you may not hold the Bible as authoritative, but Christians do, so my referencing Scripture was to clarify the misrepresentation of Christianity I feel you’ve been exposed to.
      7) Biblically, I believe the only hope ANYONE has of not wasting this life, of reaching Heaven after death, and of spending eternity with God lies in Jesus. Outside of Jesus, any attempt to redeem oneself will be lacking, and that person is indeed condemned by their own choices and actions. This is not specific to homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals. This is universal, for all people. The hope that is in Christ is for anyone who would believe, just as the condemnation is for anyone who would reject Christ.

      Now, for breakfast…

  3. P.S. I orchestrated the protest you mentioned. You are all welcome to stop by, if not to support us, to have dialogue and to hear us out in person. I have more Christian (heterosexual) friends attending this protest than any other group of friends or people I know. Feel free to e-mail me @ jschong@smu.edu or find me on Facebook.

  4. The AFA & other sponsors of the prayer rally:

    “We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing and leading a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.” – Houston clergy (http://tfninsider.org/2011/06/14/houston-clergy-respond-to-gov-perry/)

    The Dallas Morning News is reporting about some of the other sponsors:

    C. Peter Wagner, a Colorado evangelist, has advocated burning the statues of Catholic saints and other non-Protestant religious objects, including those of Mormons and American Indians. He also supports putting business, government and the media under Christian control.

    San Antonio megapastor John Hagee, who is scheduled to speak, has said Hitler was part of God’s plan to create a Jewish state and describes the Catholic Church as the “Whore of Babylon.” He preaches an end-times theology that advocates bombing Iran.

    Another pastor on the event’s website, Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., has claimed that Oprah Winfrey will be a “pastor” of a “Harlot Babylon preparing the nations to receive the Antichrist.”

    http://tfninsider.org/2011/07/09/the-more-we-learn-the-worse-it-gets/

  5. That doesn’t make it okay for our Governor to join hands with a hate group, whose own agenda rubs me the wrong way. Anti-gay rhetoric is what turned me away from the church to begin with. There’s no part of me that accepts homosexuality as a sin. None whatsoever.

    “Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told no matter what is right.” — H.L. Menken

    • Jessica, I’m not saying it’s okay for ANYONE to join hands with a hate group. I don’t know much about the AFA other than seeing Fischer’s video, and I already wrote them, as a Christian, expressing my absolute abhorrence to such talk. The entire point of this post was to express my deep concern that people like Fischer might be seen as the voice for Christians, when what he said completely contradicts Scripture.

      As far as the Menken quote: 1)Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with God as a loving Father and as a Savior, and though we may not always understand why He commands certain things, we follow them (or do our best) because He is wiser than we are, and paid the price for when we fail to follow them. 2) Morality…what defines what is and isn’t moral if not some sort of “religious” code? My preferences? Your preferences? If there isn’t an over-arching absolute that defines what is and isn’t acceptable, then we have no morality. We are merely putting one person’s beliefs against another person’s and trying to decide which is best.

      I would love to continue this conversation, but I don’t feel that posting comments back and forth is the best way to go about it. If you’re in the Dallas area, I’d love to discuss this in greater depth in person, if you’d like. If not, that’s fine. But I’ve come to experience that back and forth on a blog or facebook doesn’t communicate the love behind the words, and eventually turns into a free-for-all with 10 people arguing about something not even related to the original post, lol.

  6. I would love to meet.

    “4) I know I’m being exclusive, all religions are exclusive. Islam, Buddhism, and even Bahai (which tries to be really inclusive) are all exclusive. My exclusivity leads toward love and compassion, and it leads to being loving enough to be direct with people at times and tell them they need Jesus, because He is the only solution to the problem.” < Implies that you acknowledge your faith to be a religion, so to speak.

    You should stop by our protest, since some of the MOST wonderful and loving Christians I know will be in attendance. Here's a link the the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=124352777658817

    • Haha, I know that’s why you’re protesting. My only reason for mentioning the protest in the blog is because the title defined prayer as hateful, which completely contradicts what prayer as always been.

      Not sure about being able to stop by, since I live in Dallas and all…will let you know.

  7. “Jessica, I’m not saying it’s okay for ANYONE to join hands with a hate group.” < Reason why we are protesting.

  8. The protest is in Dallas 😛 Right in front of Dallas City Hall… Prayer can be hateful.

  9. Pingback: Live Sent: Moved To Action | TransformingWords

  10. I was initially going to the protest in Houston, but my Dallas friends thought it was too far, which it is, so I orchestrated one for Dallas. Also, someone else started one in Austin, so this is one big satellite protest.

    And, what’s less annoying?

  11. Pingback: “Gays Are Nazis”: A Response From Bryan Fischer | TransformingWords

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