Since my recent post in which I referred to the article in the National Post by Kelvin Browne, a homosexual, I have received some interesting feedback from various sources. I’ve talked to people who have known the pain caused by homosexual sin and its consequences. I’ve talked to people on both sides of the controversy: those who accept that the prevailing culture has the authority to redefine how we interpret the Bible on this moral issue and those who accept that the Bible has the authority to define how we respond to the immorality of homosexual sin. I’m glad to say that in my conversations, since that post, people of both camps have expressed compassion for people who struggle with homosexuality. Not one person spoke with bigotry or disrespect.
I was also heartened to see the short essay by Denny Burk in Themelios entitled, “Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render a Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality” (Vol. 35, Issue 2, July 2010, PDF source here). In this essay, Dr. Burk makes a very convincing case that the Bible is very clear in denouncing homosexuality as a sin, but that the Bible is also very clear in its call for Christians to respond to sin with evangelistic compassion—the sort of compassion I witnessed by people on both sides of the question in my recent conversations. Thus the real question facing Christians is not, “What does the Bible say about the morality of homosexual orientation?” but, “How should Christians apply the Bible’s moral teaching concerning homosexuality in a way that is compassionate and respectful?”
At the end of his essay, Dr. Burk cites a 6-point statement prepared by John Piper for his church, in which he offers a framework for biblically faithful AND compassionate ministry to homosexuals. Having listened to countless sermons by John Piper, in which his heart for sinners and love for God’s Word more than makes up for his sometimes humorous quirkiness, I’m not surprised that Piper manages once again to win my agreement for his biblical stance while also challenging me deeply with a vision for a loving and respectful ministry. It’s a good thing to be stretched by godly men to love sinners more while also being stretched to love the authority of God’s Word more than we already do. I think we face—I face!—a great obstacle if we are ever going to do a better job of living out and articulating a winsome, convicted witness of the Gospel to our lost and confused world. This obstacle is prejudice. Not that we pre-judge homosexuality as the sin it is; rather that we—I—often pre-judge how we/I ought to respond to homosexual sin in the context of our/my personal ministry/ies. It is nearly impossible, I would like to suggest, to win a sinner to the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we are treating him like an enemy in a Cultural War. Truth, not tolerance, should guide our thinking. But compassion, not PRIDE, should guide our witness.
Here is Piper’s six-point statement:
- We believe that heterosexuality is God’s revealed will for humankind and that, since God is loving, a chaste and faithful expression of this orientation (whether in singleness or in marriage) is the ideal to which God calls all people.
- We believe that a homosexual orientation is a result of the fall of humanity into a sinful condition that pervades every person. Whatever biological or familial roots of homosexuality may be discovered, we do not believe that these would sanction or excuse homosexual behavior, though they would deepen our compassion and patience for those who are struggling to be free from sexual temptations.
- We believe there is hope for the person with a homosexual orientation and that Jesus Christ offers a healing alternative in which the power of sin is broken and the person is freed to know and experience his or her true identity in Christ and in the fellowship of his Church.
- We believe that this freedom is attained through a process which includes recognizing homosexual behavior as sin, renouncing the practice of homosexual behavior, rediscovering healthy, non-erotic friendships with people of the same sex, embracing a moral sexual lifestyle, and in the age to come, rising from the dead with a new body free from every sinful impulse. This process parallels the similar process of sanctification needed in dealing with heterosexual temptations as well. We believe that this freedom comes through faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of his Spirit.
- We believe that all persons have been created in the image of God and should be accorded human dignity. We believe therefore that hateful, fearful, unconcerned harassment of persons with a homosexual orientation should be repudiated. We believe that respect for persons with a homosexual orientation involves honest, reasoned, nonviolent sharing of facts concerning the immorality and liability of homosexual behavior. On the other hand, endorsing behavior which the Bible disapproves endangers persons and dishonors God.
- We believe that Christian churches should reach out in love and truth to minister to people touched by homosexuality, and that those who contend Biblically against their own sexual temptation should be patiently assisted in their battle, not ostracized or disdained. However, the more prominent a leadership role or modeling role a person holds in a church or institution of the Conference, the higher will be the expectations for God’s ideal of sexual obedience and wholeness. We affirm that both heterosexual and homosexual persons should find help in the church to engage in the Biblical battle against all improper sexual thoughts and behaviors.