Kinnamon and Lyons statistics (quoted in “Untamed” by Alan & Debra Hirsch) claim that 91% of those outside the church aged between 16-29 say that their primary perception of the church is anti-homosexual (87% judgemental and 85% hypocritical). I find these statistics very difficult to get my head around. Where did we as the church go so wrong as to turn this issue into one upon which are very reputation as Christians seems to be tied up with? Our aims over these two weeks have been to help us make sense of this whole issue and see that the gospel is good news for all.
Last week we were studying some of the passages where homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible. We looked at the most notable passages in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:18-2:1 & 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and considered some of the big questions of interpreting these passages. We did this amidst the backdrop of the study last time about Sex and Marriage. We noted last time that Genesis 2:24-25 is quoted by both Paul and Jesus in the New Testament and it is this passage in particular where we see God’s design for sex with the context of marriage, marriage between one man and one woman that is for life. Marriage is an institution designed and instituted by God.
The Bible often uses the words “sexual immorality”; we are told to avoid it. It is translated from a variant of the Greek word porneia (where we get our English word pornography). Porneia in the Greek carries with it the meaning of any sex outside of heterosexual marriage. It would include adultery, incest, prostitution, lust, same sex practice. You see the critical issue as far as the Bible is concerned is not actually whether something is homosexual or heterosexual but the place of sex within heterosexual marriage according to the plans and purposes of God. For God all sex outside of His design for heterosexual marriage is a misuse of our sexuality. God loves everyone regardless of gender, class, background, age and sexuality. While they church has not always responded to the issue of homosexuality in the best way (which I think is partly why those statistics were so high), the reality is that God is not anti-gay.
God loves each of us and longs that each of us would follow Him. While the Bible is consistently negative about homosexual practice the Bible is also negative about lots of other things. The lists in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy actually mention a whole range of things that Paul describes as sinful and things that separate us from God. We should not elevate homosexual practice to the level of “sin-of-all-sins” because it isn’t. There are many things that we struggle with and Jesus’ command to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him applies in each. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Mark 8:34-37.
We are all sinners desperately in need of God’s grace. Gospel does however bring much hope not just for homosexuals but for all of us. Jesus taught that those who lost out relationally or materially because of their commitment to him and the gospel could not only look forward to eternal life in the future, but would also receive ‘a hundred times as much’ as they had lost ‘in this present age’: ‘homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions’ (Mark 10.29-30). The choice is clear, marriage or celibacy. We can be sure however that no sacrifice we make for Jesus and the gospel will go unrewarded both in the present age and the age to come. My challenge to us all is will we follow Jesus; that call to follow involves Jesus being not only our Saviour but our Lord. We are all sexual sinners and God calls all of us to submit to His Lordship and live His way; not out of duty but because of His grace which should be our motivator in all areas of our lives.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
I am really looking forward to hearing Laurence Koo tomorrow evening and hope you are too.
If you want to explore further some of the key issues and debate that is raging take a look at the following articles.
Articles by Steve Chalke and Greg Downes: http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/sexuality.aspx
Response to Steve Chalke article by Steve Clifford: http://www.eauk.org/church/stories/not-radical-enough.cfm
Interview between Julian Hardyman and Vaughan Roberts: http://www.e-n.org.uk/6028-A-battle-I-face.htm
Evangelical Alliance Statement on Biblical and Pastoral responses to homosexuality:http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/theological-articles/resources-for-church-leaders-biblical-and-pastoral-responses-to-homosexuality.cfm