Faithlife Sermons

A Culture in Chaos: A Bibical Response to Gender & Sexuality-Session 2

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Why Pick on This Issue?

The moment we jump into and start to discuss the issue of homosexuality, one of the pushbacks that we get is, why are Christians always hammering on this issue? Why pick on this issue? Why don’t Christians focus on, say, divorce? Why don’t they talk about racial issues? Why don’t we talk about economic injustice? Why always hammering on this issue? In fact, there was a Newsweek article, and one of the things that it said related to this article was—referring to Christians—“they wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals.”

What bad impressions do Christians leave?

“Stop slandering atheists.”
AP371 A Biblical Response to Homosexuality (Slandering Atheists, Non-Christians)
One atheist said he would go sit in the back of the churches very often, and he will just listen. And he says they don’t know who he is, they don’t know why he’s there, but one thing that he will frequently hear is some kind of joke or a rude, just kind of derogatory comment against atheists or some other non-Christian group.
AP371 A Biblical Response to Homosexuality (Hypocrisy)
Another atheist said “You Christians focus on homosexuality so much and you ignore other sins.” When asked, “Well, tell me what you mean by this? Give me an example, because I need to see some evidence?” He said, “Look, I have a friend who is a Christian. He is a college student. He is always railing about why homosexuality is wrong while he’s drunk.” And you know what? I think some of our critics have a point. We haven’t always been consistent on this issue, and this is a call to be consistent.

How do you think they view us?

“The Enemy”
AP371 A Biblical Response to Homosexuality (The Enemy)
One gentleman who’s been an advocate for the LGBT movement for six decades. He’s a retired Episcopal priest, he became an atheist, and he is gay. He was giving a presentation to students about, “How to engage with someone with a very different worldview, and do this respectfully?” Great conversation. But when he was asked question “I am curious. How do people in your community view Christians?” And he looked , without any hesitation he said two words: “The enemy.”

Perceived Hatred of Gays

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Research Group, he wrote in his book unChristian, which was based on some significant research about how nonbelievers, outsiders, view Christianity. Here is what he wrote, and it’s very sobering:

“Outsiders say our hostility towards gays—not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors, but distain for gay individuals—has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.”

Questions for Christians

Love Your Enemies

Christians have been considered the enemy? Something’s broken down here. I remember hearing Professor Darrell Bock speak about this at a conference, and he made a powerful point that we need to keep in mind as we look at this issue of homosexuality. He said the only way we can counter this stereotype about Christians being hateful, bigoted, and homophobic is when people hear this charge and their first thought is, “I know Christians. That doesn’t strike me as true.”
I think he’s right. It’s only when each one of us, myself and each one of you that are watching this, go out and build relationships and show the love of Christ that we could begin to counter this narrative that Christians are hateful and bigoted.

Offense of the Gospel

Now, on the flipside, some people often say, “Wait a minute. Maybe the church needs to change its position, because it’s the church position driving people out of the church. So if we would just soften our position on homosexuality, we could have more people in the church.” Well, look, the same reasoning could apply to bunch of other difficult issues. We have heard this line before, haven’t we? Well, maybe we need to soften the church’s position on hell, maybe we need to soften the church’s position on the exclusivity of Christ or on divorce or on a host of issues.
Greg Koukl said this:
“We shouldn’t add any offense to the gospel, but we certainly shouldn’t take any away. It’s already offensive enough! If people hate us, just be sure it’s for genuinely following the teachings of Jesus rather than for an unbiblical attitude.” We must speak with this issue with tremendous compassion and with gentleness. But we must also speak with clarity and with truth.

Fear God More Than Men

The Apostles were willing to suffer and even die for their deepest claims that Christianity was true and for proclaiming Jesus.
In fact, at the beginning of Acts we see the apostles threatened, we see them beaten, we see them thrown in jail, we see some killed. In Acts 5:29 Peter stands up and speaks on behalf of the apostles. He says, “We must obey God rather than men,” and that’s exactly what we must do today. We need to be compassionate. We can’t compromise truth, but we need to fear God more than we fear men.[1]

Aren’t All Sins Equal?

A question that comes up very quickly when we broach the subject of homosexuality, or any other issue related to sexuality … the claim is, “Isn’t all sin equal? Aren’t all sins the same? What right do we have to judge between sins as being higher and lower than others?”
Jeff Chu, the author of an interesting book, Does Jesus Really Love Me: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, he says,
“We have this hierarchy of sin in our churches, as if one sin is worse than another, but that’s not the case. The Bible doesn’t discriminate.”
Now, I mention that not to pick on Jeff—I think his book is very interesting, and I also hear people on the conservative side saying that as well. But is that true? Does the Bible teach that all sins are the same?
Inequality of Sins

Are all sins the same?

I asked my son when he was ten, we were driving the car to school, I said, “Son, do you think all sins are the same?” He paused, he looked at me, and he said, “No, I am pretty sure that lying to my friend is not the same as killing my friend.” And I think maybe he was on to something when he said this.
Lets look at John 19:11. Jesus said to Pilate that, “The one who delivered me to you has committed the greater sin.” In Matthew 23:23, Jesus said, “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law.” In fact, degrees of punishment in hell and awards in heaven show that sins and righteous acts are not all equal.
Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, and He said the first and greatest commandment is to love God and then to love other people. We also learn in 1 Cor 13:13, the three greatest virtues are faith, hope, and love. And again, in Prov 6, it says that there are seven deadly sins: pride, lying, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises evil plans, feet swift to run to evil, a witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discords among brethren.

Unity of the Law

Look, my point is not to say sins are not equal and homosexuality is the worst of all sins—of course that’s not my point. The Bible doesn’t teach that, that’s for sure. But we don’t help anybody if we pretend that all sins are equal, because the Bible doesn’t actually teach that. Now, this is kind of a trick question, because there is a sense in which all sins are equal, and maybe we need to clarify what we mean by “equal.”
James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” You see, James shows the unity of the law by pointing that all sins involve breaking the law, right? Any one sin, whether you murder or whether you break the speed limit, you are a law breaker and guilty before the law. But this doesn’t mean that those actions themselves are necessarily equal, and it does not mean that they are all equally grave as sins.

Universality of Sin

In fact, Romans 3:23 makes it very clear that everybody has sinned. It says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And when you look in Greek at the word “all,” you know what it means? Yeah, it means “all.” Trick question. “All” means everybody, past, present, and future. And I think when we stop and we realize that, maybe we will have a little bit more grace towards people.
You see, I think one of the reasons Christians can become so harsh and judgmental to gays is because we have not come to grips with the sin in our own life. I mean, when we really understand our own fallenness and our own brokenness and our own need for savior I think we are going to show a little bit more grace and compassion on this issue and on all issues towards sinners, which again, includes you and certainly includes me.

Homosexuality Not the Greatest Sin

At a press conference, Billy Graham was asked about the issue of homosexuality—this is in 1997—and here is what he said:
I am going to quote the Bible now, not myself, that it [homosexuality] is wrong, it’s a sin. But there are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin as though it’s the greatest sin. The greatest sin in the Bible is idolatry.… Jealousy is a sin. Pride is a sin. All of these things are sins. But homosexuality is also a sin and needs to be dealt with and needs to be forgiven, and that’s why Christ came and died on the cross.
Friends, homosexuality is not the one abominable sin. The Bible certainly doesn’t teach that. But the Bible also doesn’t teach that all sins are equal. As the Scripture says, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God; all of us need that saving grace that comes from Jesus, and when we experience that in our own lives then we are going to be a lot more gracious towards people for the sin in their lives.
So maybe at this point in the class it would be a good time to just kind of stop and reflect and maybe pray and maybe ask God to reveal sin to you. Maybe ask God to break your heart, maybe ask God specifically to give you compassion so you can learn this material and ultimately be more loving towards people and be the kind of ambassador that Jesus wants you to be.[2]

Tactics of the Revisionist Movement

Making the Issue Debatable

There is a concerted effort to make homosexuality a debatable issue. In other words, so many on the revisionists side don’t feel like they need to win the arguments. They don’t necessarily need to persuade everybody that the Bible is okay with a certain kind of same-sex relationship, they just need to persuade us that it’s an area of genuine debate.
Christians can debate about how old the earth is; it’s not a gospel issue. We can debate about the role of women in the church, as important as it is, but not a gospel issue. We can debate a whole host of issues within the church, and the goal is simply to make it a debatable issue.
So Jay Michaelson, who is an LGBT advocate, he says,
I am not pretending that my readings of the biblical text are the only possible ones. Leviticus 18:22 can be read as forbidding all same-sex behavior on the part of men or women. However, only the narrow reading is in accord with our shared fundamental values. As I mentioned in the introduction, these readings don’t need to “win”—they just need to tie.

Biblical Prohibitions Not Applicable to Contemporary Homosexuality

Another tactic is to show that the biblical prohibitions do not apply to contemporary homosexual relationships. This is one of the key points that’s often made, and the idea is that when the Bible condemned same-sex relationships, they were usually of a master and a slave, they were abusive relationships, they were power based, and they don’t have anything to do with the loving, committed same-sex relationships that it’s claimed that we see today.
So Daniel Helminiak in his book What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, he says,
“Taken on its own terms and in its own time, the Bible nowhere condemns homosexuality as we know it today.”
That’s a very powerful claim to make.

Does Logic Extend to Other Sexual Prohibitions?

And here’s a simple question that I would ask: Besides homosexuality, for what other sexual acts, assuming that we are referring to homosexuality as behavior—I realize there [are] different ways we can talk about the subject, but insofar as we are talking about it as behavior—what other sexual act would the existence of orientation make it permissible? What other sexually prohibited behavior would become acceptable if experienced within a loving, committed, monogamous union? Would incest? Would bestiality?

Is this a fair claim? Why or why not?

Now, I know you are thinking, “I can’t believe you are talking about homosexuality and bring in incest and bestiality! It’s so insensitive!” Look, first off, realize the Bible puts all sorts of sexual sins together in Lev 18 and in other areas, so it’s not me just doing this. And I am not saying that these are equivalent morally. We already talked about how all sins are not equal. I am making a logical point, because the argument is made that in the biblical times they didn’t understand sexual orientation; had they understood it, it would have made this behavior acceptable.
So I am just simply asking, are there any other moral issues or sexual issues that, if we find that somebody has that orientation, would it trump the teachers of Scripture and make that okay? I am simply asking the logical question, not necessarily making a moral equivalent between the two.

First Corinthians 5:1–13

We actually see this issue kind of come up in 1 Cor 5. You see, in this chapter, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for accepting an illicit relationship. A man is having sex with his stepmother, which is clearly forbidden in Lev 18. He’s having sex with his stepmom. Now, Paul doesn’t inquire and say, “Gosh, do they love each other? Does he have this orientation? Do they care about each other?” He doesn’t say that. It was the relationship in itself that was forbidden. Paul says they should mourn and remove the one who has done this. That means that wrong things can be done with good intention.[6]

Is This a Gospel Issue?

Is the topic of homosexuality a gospel issue? Is this an issue Christians should divide over? Is this a subject that gets to the heart of what Scripture teaches about the character of God and the nature of sin?

What are we really asking when we ask this question?

Can You Be Gay and Christian?

How would you go about answering this question?
As people often ask me, “Well, can you be gay and can you be Christian?” And of course when you ask, “Can you be gay and Christian?” it depends on what you mean by “gay,” and it really depends on what you mean by “Christian.”
If by “gay” you mean, “Can you have same-sex attraction and be a Christian?” Of course. I don’t know anybody who would debate or doubt that. If you mean by “gay” sexual orientation, which is typically understood not just as an attraction but kind of an ongoing, seemingly more permanent sense of attraction to the same-sex—“Can you have same-sex sexual orientation and be Christian?” Of course you can.
But if you mean by “gay” being involved in certain same-sex sexual behaviors and be a Christian, that’s where I’d say we need to take a close look at what the Scripture teaches.

Desire for Christian Unity

Justin Lee, who I’ve mentioned earlier, is the head of the Gay Christian Network. He wrote a very interesting book called Torn, and he describes how he grew up as a gay Christian, became okay with his same-sex attraction, and embraces the revisionist view of homosexuality. He started the Gay Christian Network to bring Christians together from around the world to worship and to hear messages together and to kind of show that there’s unity within the body of Christ even though they differ on this issue. So he said,
“I wanted to model for the church and the world that it is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements.”
Now, when you first look at that, of course we should try to live together in Christian unity and we should show love and respect for each other on theological differences, and I respect him and admire him for trying to do that.

How should we then understand the concept of Christian Unity?

Some Disagreements Permissible

Now, the Bible does allow for disagreement in freedom on certain issues. Paul says nothing is unclean in itself in the context of dietary restrictions and the Sabbath. Read Romans 14:1–15, (where Paul addresses both side of the feast and dietary laws and welcoming those who differ) and it clearly shows that Paul permitted people to continue practicing certain aspects of the Mosaic law, as long as it wasn’t required and didn’t drive a wedge between believers.

Some Issues Non-Negotiable

Paul also reminds his readers of certain issues that are nonnegotiable. So Paul’s kind of saying, “Here’s some issues that are negotiable.” Christians can disagree about exactly how they practice certain things related to the law. Christians can disagree about the Sabbath. But then there’s some issues that are not negotiable, where Paul seems to say the gospel itself is at stake. Paul discusses homosexual practice in the context of those who will not enter the kingdom of God. Now, of course, he mentions a bunch of other sins here as well, but he places homosexuality within this context.
First Corinthians 6:9–11
In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul says,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [porneia], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [And then he says,] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
So Paul seemed to say there’s negotiable issues, but then there’s nonnegotiable issues that separate somebody from the kingdom of God, and he puts homosexuality, in terms of practicing it, in that context.
As a believer who reads Paul trying to understand what he is saying, I don’t feel the comfort to say, “Well, this is a secondary issue. Well, this is not very important.” Paul felt it was an issue that separated people from the kingdom of God.

Unity for the sake of unity should never be at the expense of the Truth. This is heresy of the highest degree!!

Warnings against False Teaching

In fact, the Scripture has some strong warnings for those who change the nature of Scripture. For example, Isaiah 5:20, says,
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”
In Revelation 2:20–21, Jesus rebukes the church of Thyatira for being permissive of a false teacher. Listen to what he says. He says,
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.”
Friends, ultimately God will judge people’s hearts. Fortunately we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to judge people’s eternal destiny. That’s in God’s hands. But I think we do a disservice to people if they ask us honestly, “Is homosexuality an issue that can separate somebody from the kingdom of God, in terms of practicing it?” Paul seems to say very clearly in 1 Cor 6 that if that is a behavior, it’s one that needs to clearly be repented of.[7]
[1]McDowell, S. (2017). AP371 A Biblical Response to Homosexuality. Lexham Press.
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