One, I was born and raised in Hollywood. I grew up faster than many of my generation; from a very early age, I met people from every imaginable social station, walk of life, ethnicity, and lifestyle. Rich and poor, black and white, gay, straight, bisexual, and transvestite. I knew two girls who got pregnant in the eighth grade. One of my high school classmates died from AIDS at age 22, one of the earliest confirmed cases in Los Angeles County. All of these things seemed perfectly normal; nothing shocked me or surprised me.
Two, in a parallel manner, I was essentially born in a pew. I went to Sunday school every week, where my teachers crammed my head full of information; but those Bible lessons seemed more like theoretical ideals than actual expectations. I learned religion, not faith; conformity, not conviction; busy-ness, but not discipleship. I lived a double life, yet never quite appreciated the tension between the two worlds.
After high school, not content to settle for an inherited religion, I set out on a spiritual quest of sorts. In the course of this journey I learned many perspectives: For some, homosexuals are considered the dirtiest of all sinners, and we should have nothing to do with them. For others, it’s “anything goes;” surely nobody’s perfect, right? Only the sinless have any standing to cast stones. And so on.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I actually sought out answers in the Bible. After all, if I call myself a Christian, isn’t this a good place to start? Let’s get away from the noise of the revival meeting, and the hostility of the political campaign. What answers can we find in God’s inspired Word?
There’s no delicate way to say this, so I will just blurt it out: Homosexual behavior is sin, and punishable by death. Period. Seven passages tell us so: Gen. 19:5, Lev. 18:21-22, Lev. 20:13, Jud. 19:22, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Tim. 1:8-10. There, I’ve said it. Now, how shall we deal with the two extreme positions described above?
The haters need to be reminded that they are themselves sinners in need of divine grace. One man drinks too much, another cheats on his taxes, a third lusts after his neighbor’s wife. The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and no sin is greater or lesser than another. A church is a hospital for sinners, not a social club for the righteous. Arrogance in the name of God, is still arrogance.
No, you're not defending the honor of God; you're guarding your own social discomfort.
Similarly, the libertines need to choose between divine command and social nice-ness. Either you’re a Christian, or you’re not. Either you accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, or you don’t. You don’t have the freedom to pick-and-choose.
The gay man might protest, “God made me this way.” But seeing as the Almighty has already stated his position clearly, this is simply not a plausible position for the Bible believer. Overwhelming temptation? Certainly. But to say that God forbids something on Monday yet commands it on Tuesday, is to believe in a deity who is indecisive at best and hypocritical at worst. That’s not the God that I see in the pages of Scripture. The persistence of a temptation – or our weakness to overcome it – should never be interpreted as a sign that we should indulge it.
No, God didn’t make you this way. You made a choice, even if said choice came in the form of passive acquiescence.
Allow me to posit an alternative scenario: The Holy Writ, and even modern psychology, understand that every human has a “favorite sin.” As with the above examples, one man might struggle with drinking, but not adultery. The next man keeps a mistress, but he never drinks. We all have innate strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes these traits manifest themselves as sins and virtues. We extend compassion to those who struggle with alcoholism and adultery, and (if we love them) we help them to overcome. But we still call a spade a spade.
In the political realm, “alternative lifestyle” folk gather under a common banner called LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered). But seeing as the first two claim to uphold the divine will, while the fourth believe that God made a mistake, this seems like an odd coalition of two very different worldviews. But alas, politics and sex have a way of forging strange alliances.
Several years ago, I studied the Genesis account of creation and observed something I’d never noticed before: The plants didn’t come before the sun, which they need to enable the process of photosynthesis. The animals didn’t show up until after the plants, which they need both for oxygen and food. Certainly an almighty Creator could have achieved his ends by any means he chose, but instead he employed an orderly process to establish a self-sustaining natural order.
Similarly, we see in the Old Testament that God established a social order for Israel. Rules for kings, rules for husbands, rules for wives, rules for children, rules for masters and workers. Provisions for the care of orphans and widows. While some of those customs might seem strange to us moderns, the purpose is clear: it provided for everyone’s needs. The more I study the commands of God, the more I see that they’re not merely random or arbitrary. They serve a purpose; they protect me from my own bad choices, and keep me from hurting you.
With this in mind, could there be a practical reason why God made people (and for that matter, dogs, cats, and yaks) as male and female? Again, this answer becomes clear in the Genesis story of creation. Having made a man from the soil, and then a woman from his side, he issued their first command: “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” A sexual union between two men can’t fulfill this command, nor can two women. Even modern science has figured out that children (the fruit of such a union) benefit from being raised by a mother and a father; Mom brings one set of strengths and sensitivities to the equation, and Dad another. Is the sin of homosexuality greater than any other? Not in the Bible that I know. Still, we must recognize it for what it is.
On a certain level it doesn't really matter if you accept the moral teachings of the Bible, because when you violate the rules, consequences follow anyway. Indeed, all through human history, sins of the flesh have destroyed families and cities and nations again and again. The trend continues today: premarital sex begets children who grow up in poverty without their fathers. Which in turn begets hopelessness, truancy, crime, and yet more intimate liaisons. I witnessed these things firsthand in my neighborhood, and in my schools; boys and girls in every combination, seeking comfort in their desperate lives because they knew no other way.
When my son was a toddler, we lived in a small apartment that didn’t give him much space to play. Hence, he had to find amusement wherever he could. Often this meant that he wandered into the kitchen, to the land of boiling pots and pleasant smells. As a loving Christian parent, how do I respond? Do I allow him to reach for that pretty blue flame (and thereby preserve his self-esteem), or do I slap his hand (and thereby preserve his life)? Unlike the politically correct among us, I choose the latter. As a Christian I’m convinced that God has appointed me to teach him, to discipline him, to administer a dose of tough-love from time to time. He might experience fleeting pain and hate me for the moment, but over time I pray that he will grow to understand (and appreciate) my lessons.
In a similar way, when we gather as a fellowship of saints, we take unto ourselves an awesome responsibility. God has appointed us to teach his children, to discipline them, to administer a dose of tough-love from time to time. They might take offense and hate us for the moment, but over time we pray that they will grow to understand (and appreciate) our lessons.
So what shall we do when we meet a gay person? I say, exactly the same as you would any other sinner (and that's all of us): Reach out. Welcome them into your home, invite them to worship with you, and let them observe the love that you share with your family and fellow believers. Show them that you're not like the religious snobs they know. Break bread and share the Gospel. But make no mistake, they must called to repentance -- just like anyone else, including you and me -- before we welcome them into the family of God.
Having done so, we must be prepared for the outcome: Surely some of these petulant adolescents will run away from home and never return. If it happened to Jesus (and it did), it will happen to us. I tremble each time I observe that he never begged, or negotiated, for anyone to return.
Choose now, whose approval you seek: God or man. I made my choice, 23 years ago this month.