Last week, I wrote two responses to an article posted on Patheos about the Church failing gay teens. You can read part one here, and you can read part two here. I want to finish my response by highlighting the last paragraph of the article:
One of the biggest hurdles we face in achieving full inclusion of LGBT youth is making the church a safe place not only for students, but also for study. Our scripture is not simple and cannot be read simply. If we’re going to claim that the church and its ministers are qualified to say what God does and does not approve of, then ministers must be given the freedom and training to study the scripture responsibility. They must be encouraged to think critically about the issues that affect their people. Walking humbly with our God sometimes means walking contrary to culture . . . sometimes even church culture.
I love God’s Word
I may struggle at times in applying the Bible to my life, but I am a man who loves God’s Word. I love teaching it, studying it, reading it, and applying it. I am also one who strives to stand upon all of Truth and not just the parts that make my life “more comfortable.” When I say I preach Truth, I really mean I preach Truth – first to myself, then to others. No matter how hard it is to swallow the frog, the Word of God needs to be digested and lived out by every person who claims the name of Christ.
I agree with Brian Kirk (the writer of the Patheos article), that the Church needs to foster a safe place for studying scripture, and that “ministers must be given the freedom and training to study the scripture responsibility.” Each week, pastors should be teaching the whole truth of God’s Word, although they should do this only after spending time diving deep into it themselves first. Ministers shouldn’t give their congregations opinions or half-truths, rather they should be giving the fullness of scripture. This means going against what feels good and against what culture is trying to define as being “the truth.” (Read 1 and 2 Timothy)
Our experiences in life should not dictate God’s Word, instead His Word should dictate our life. We are called to align ourselves with Christ and His teachings, not the other way around. Is this difficult to do? Yes, in some cases it is; but then again, Christ never said following Him would be easy.
The Church should be a place of study and growth, a place where people ask questions and find answers. The Church should be a place where people are stretched and challenged in their relationship with Christ and each other. The Church should be a place where Christians are equipped to live the life they are called to live. However, I also believe that the Church should not side step truth for the sake of appeasing cultural standards and opinions (i.e. homosexuality).
As Kirk rightly admits, “walking humbly with our God sometimes means walking contrary to culture . . . sometimes even church culture.” Though we differ on our conclusions about homosexuality and scripture, Kirk and I seemingly agree that we need to be people of influence within society and the Church body at large.
Same truth, new conclusion
A traditional view of homosexuality needs to be held within the Church. I will never back down from this belief. However, nor will I back down from the belief that the Church needs a new conclusion about gay men and women. We have talked a lot about these “new conclusions” already on this blog, but some bear repeating. These apply to teens and adults alike.
Conclusion 1: Some times people with same-sex attractions never “get-over” their attractions, so stop forcing them to. Just because a person is attracted to the same sex doesn’t make them any less of a human than a person who is attracted to the opposite sex. Likewise, these people are no less of a Christian than straight persons.
Conclusion 2: It’s about a person’s commitment to Christ and not their sexuality. The Church needs to stop categorizing people according to their sexuality (who they are attracted to) and instead by their commitment to Christ (how are they living in light of God’s truth). God is after heart transplants, and not just behavior modification – so should the Church. (Of course this begs the question, is there such thing as a gay Christian. For my response, read this.)
Conclusion 3: Check your stereotypes at the door. When teaching about homosexuality, remember you’re talking about people. Imitating mannerisms, using gay jokes or slurs, need not apply. Seriously, think before you speak.
Conclusion 4: The Church is a safe haven for people to embrace Christ and His community. Make sure your this can be said of your congregation.
These are just some new conclusions the Church needs to undertake concerning homosexuality. As we uphold the truth of scripture, so we also uphold the heart and mission of Christ. The Father loves the gay community – so should His body. The Father seeks to bring His truth into the gay community – so should His body.
For further discussion, I highly recommend this sermon series by Matt Chandler.