29 June 2015

Love Won (A long time ago)

There has been a whole lot of talk since June 26th.  Since then, the internet has felt a bit like a minefield, and I've prayerfully stayed out of it.  However, I believe that verses 4-5 of Proverbs 26 come back-to-back for a reason, and there's far too much at stake in this issue to remain silent.

I've discussed biblical sexuality and biblical marriage extensively.  I won't rehash those discussions here.  In the midst of all the recent shouting, posturing, and criticizing from both sides of the argument, one statement has come back to settle with me, and that's what I want to share.

Peter Hubbard is the author of Love into Light (a highly recommended read) and pastor of North Hills Community Church in South Carolina.  He paraphrased another Christian's purpose statement regarding SSA, a statement that I think far too many Christians are afraid to make:

I accept you as a homosexual; I do not approve you as a homosexual.

Hear me out.

Accepting someone for who they are is not necessarily the same thing as condoning their choices.  It would be absolutely hypocritical for a Bible-believing Christian to redefine the nature of sin in order to accommodate the homosexual lifestyle.  After all, if we can redefine sin -- for any reason, be it cultural, emotional, evolutional, etc -- then we can eliminate the need for a Savior at all.  That's not at all what I'm suggesting.  To the contrary, if we as Christians choose to live in understanding ways with men and women who practice the sins of lying, gossiping, lusting, anger, or [insert any other "commonplace" sin here], then the reality is that we should also be willing to live in an understanding way with an individual who self-identifies as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.

We should be willing to accept, but not approve.

So, on one hand, we need to treat homosexuality the way we treat all other sins.

On the other hand, we need to be extremely careful not to treat homosexuality the way we tend to treat all other sins -- that is, to ignore them altogether.  Nothing corrupts so completely like justified and ignored sin, no matter how "small" the offense might be.  The heart that is convinced its sin is "safe" is dangerously far from God.  That unaddressed sin has undermined the very standards of holiness and worship.

The victory chant of the homosexual community over the last few days has been "Love wins."  My heart is broken over the fact that such a powerful phrase can be so misapplied -- first by Rob Bell to eliminate God as judge, and now by the gay community to eliminate God as lawgiver.  "Love wins" is an undeniably true statement, not because a rainbow flag now flies over our country, but because Christ shed His blood for sinners and rose victorious from the grave.  Love won a long time ago.  However, biblical love is also unyieldingly stern, especially when the well-being of the beloved is at risk.

In that regard, we as Christians should feel deep sorrow over and compassion for individuals who have willingly denied the truth and chosen to celebrate instead of crucify their sins -- running "helter skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears," as songwriter Don Francisco put it.  Like stopping a child from running into traffic, we should earnestly desire to communicate the truth about love, forgiveness, and repentance -- not so we can argue and disprove opinions, but so that needy sinners can be rescued.  We should still be willing to speak boldly against sin while still reaching out to welcome the sinner.  

After all, that's the way Christ welcomed us.

We shouldn't be surprised by the ruling of SCOTUS, or alarmed at the reactions of the gay community.  After all, it was a long time ago that God released man to wallow in his sinful desires (Rom 1.24).  We shouldn't be surprised or alarmed when people who don't know Jesus live like they don't know Jesus.  For the same reason, we shouldn't insist on criticizing their moral choices without first addressing the state of their hearts.

Furthermore, we shouldn't overstep our place and stand in judgment over the homosexual community.  There is only one Judge and Lawgiver (Jas 4.12), and we who identify with Christ have no room to point out specks in other people's eyes.  We once walked in the same kind of self-deception as do homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgenders (1 Cor 6.11).  Peter Hubbard writes, "Any Christian who can mock a homosexual or speak unkindly to a drag queen is suffering from amnesia. We have forgotten what it is like to be without Jesus...  We need to remember the goodness and lovingkindness that God poured out on us.  God should have looked at us and been disgusted.  Instead, without condoning our sin, He loved us and saved us."

The key here is that God loved us and saved us without condoning our sin.  God absolutely accepts everyone as they are: broken, battle-scarred corpses overwhelmed by the devastating power of sin.  However, because God loves us, He is not content to leave us in that condition.  He breathes new life into us!  Therefore, though we each have our personalized sins and weaknesses which often feel so natural, so right, and so familiar, we are both compelled and empowered by the healing salve of Divine grace to break free of those chains -- to go forth and sin no more (John 8.11).  Love won not to free us to our own personal preference, but to free us from the things to which we were enslaved.  The bitter truth about spiritual slavery is that we don't realize how bad it is -- we like the choices we make because we make them at the whim of what we feel.  We are slaves to our own desires without even realizing it.

Love won a long time ago, awakening us to the treacherous reality of our sin and the overwhelming compassion of the Father.  

Praise God for the victory!

Praise God that He is not finished working!

Praise God that mercy is still freely available to those who deny and crucify their sinful desires in their desperation to follow Jesus.

If we as Christians are humbly willing to accept people who self-identify as homosexuals instead of treating treating them like infectious carriers of a disease, we can communicate the stern yet compassionate truth of the gospel.

Moving forward, let's do a better job of building these bridges instead of burning them.