This post by Matt Moore was timely in the wake of Kim Burrell’s statements earlier this week. Matt shares his thoughts on feeling that homosexuality was somehow different than any other sin, and how that mindset can undermine the potential for growth in one’s relationship to Jesus:
The title of this post is a bit misleading – it actually should read more along the lines of “This is why we cannot have meaningful relationships and conversations.”
Earlier this week, singer Kim Burrell in a video, predicted that homosexuality and those “who play with it in God’s house will die in 2017.” She also spoke about “the perverted homosexual spirit” in her sermon. (She has since stated that her comments were taken out of the context of her message, and that she holds no hatred for gays or lesbians.) The comments made in her original video came to the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who cancelled Kim Burrell’s upcoming scheduled appearance on her show.
And I don’t blame her (DeGeneres) for taking that step.
Once again, someone who is a follower of Christ was found to take homosexuality out of the greater context of Scripture and twist it into a something unrecognizable. Predicting the death of anyone in this or any other year is beyond the pay grade of any disciple of Jesus.
I believe that there are several reasons behind this type of thinking:
- Bad teaching.
- A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church
Let’s take a closer look at these…
1. Bad Teaching
At this point in the history of the church, there really is no excuse for this. There are more resources available than there have ever been. (You can find a list of some of them under the “Resources” tab of this blog.) For Kim Burrell to have said these things, it seems that she has spent little time in understanding how homosexuality is addressed in Scripture, and how God works in the lives of those who have experienced same-sex attractions, or any other sin for that matter.
Singer and songwriter Keith Green once said, “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!” We have a responsibility to learn about the issues our culture is concerned with today in order to reach the souls of those around us with the Gospel.
Sometimes it seems as though Christians speak out recklessly in regards to homosexuality in particular because of a resentment of the wider cultural acceptance of those who identify as gay or lesbian. It is as if lashing out with words you would never hear applied to any other sin is done in a terribly misguided effort to take back ground in some way.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I’m thankful that people are able to be more open about their same-sex attractions in our culture – I don’t want to go back to where we were. It is good for people to be able to walk down the street without being afraid of getting beat up. It’s good for people to be able to go about their days at work or running errands on eating meals with friends without harassment. It was not a good thing to treat homosexuality as a cultural taboo.
Christians always walk in two worlds – we live here on earth as citizens of another Kingdom. It makes no sense to waste time railing against our status as expatriates. This world is not our home, and we have the privilege of showing those around us what it is like to live a life of freedom and love in Christ. When others see His love in us, they will want to join in the call to know and glorify God.
3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6
Kim Burrell lost her opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, to appear on her show, and to have any kind of conversation or build any kind of relationship with her because she chose to pick out homosexuality as a sin deserving some kind of special punishment from God. Her theology was wrong, and it will take some time and effort to ever have that kind of opportunity come her way again (if ever.)
Without discussions about sexuality – whether about homosexuality or heterosexuality – within the church, room is created for bad teaching and resentment to build, instead of wisdom and contentment in Christ. Too often people are afraid to bring up the subject in a Sunday School class or Bible study, and their conversations end up being seasoned with flamethrowers instead of salt.
Salt is known to be one of the basic human tastes. (The others are sweet, bitter, sour and savory.) According to Wikipedia:
“As taste senses both harmful and beneficial things, all basic tastes are classified as either aversive or appetitive, depending upon the effect the things they sense have on our bodies. Sweetness helps to identify energy-rich foods, while bitterness serves as a warning sign of poisons.
According to Lindemann, both salt and sour taste mechanisms detect, in different ways, the presence of sodium chloride (salt) in the mouth, however, acids are also detected and perceived as sour.
The detection of salt is important to many organisms, but specifically mammals, as it serves a critical role in ion and water homeostasis in the body. Because of this, salt elicits a pleasant taste in most humans.
Sour and salt tastes can be pleasant in small quantities, but in larger quantities become more and more unpleasant to taste.”*
I’ve made the mistake of adding too much salt in recipes, and the results were inedible. When we fail to use wisdom and discernment in our conversations, we make relationships with people who don’t know Jesus unpalatable. (Now, of course, we know that some people may find the message of the Gospel hard to digest – but that is not what is happening in this example with Kim Burrell.) We need to spend time learning within our fellowship groups how to address questions surrounding sexuality in a Biblically sound and compassionate way. I believe that Kim’s words would have been different if she had spoken to other mature Christians first.
Here are some suggestions:
Invest some time in learning more about what the Lord has to say about our sexuality in general, as well as about homosexuality. (Again some excellent resources are listed on the Resources tab of this blog.)
Spend some time listening to those who have experienced same-sex attractions. Ask questions just to gain insight into the perspective of other people.
Find other Christians who are interested in learning more about how to reach out to people around them who are involved in the LGBT community, and talk about your concerns and questions. Invite someone to come speak to your small group on the topic, and ask your church staff for more teaching to be made available so you can ask your questions within the Body of Christ.
There are ways to speak about sexuality without alienating people – and those conversations are best when they are earned. We need to be involved in serving everyone around us, and being ready to give thoughtful (not bland), graceful answers when opportunities do arise. Here is one example that I thought was very good – you may recall that there was an article raising a controversy about Chip and Joanna Gaines late last year, where it was noted that they attend a church in which the pastor has addressed homosexuality as a sin. Just this week, Chip has posted the following response on his blog…it is well worth taking your time to read:
Instead of decrying the state of being attacked and misunderstood, Chip Gaines has asked us all to raise the level of the conversation. He asks us to be considerate of one another and give one another breathing room. It is possible to lovingly disagree and work alongside each other in a community. Let us look for opportunities to do that in this new year.
We all know that just about anything spoken in English sounds better when spoken with a British accent. Especially when it’s a good word from a brother in Christ. Actually quite a few good words.
Living Out is an outreach listed on the resources tab, and I’ve appreciated the work that they are doing across the sea. Here is a talk worth listening to:
A friend sent me this link to a talk given by Rosaria Butterfield. If you’ve heard her speak before, several things she says here may seem familiar, but there are always new aspects and insights she shares that I find profound. Enjoy!
Joe Dallas in a radio series on Homosexuality and the Bible – great teaching from a man who became a Christian during the Jesus movement, then left to embrace homosexuality and teach in a pro-gay church, and returned again to repentance and a new life in Christ.
Excellent article – worth your thoughtful reading: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/02/14/you-are-whatand-howyou-read/?comments#comments#comment-119985
And I appreciate Julie Roger’s follow-up on Dr. Butterfield’s presentation at Wheaton: http://julierodgers.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/rosaria-butterfield-and-the-space-for-more-stories/comment-page-1/#comment-4751
Apologies for the language and crude humor in this clip, but I love Robin Williams and this song cracks me up. (I’m not a South Park fan, but they have their moments.) Canada – it’s not just a country, it’s the perfect scapegoat.
In our last post we looked at what Jesus did and did not say regarding homosexuality. Let’s look further into the Scriptures, at the rest of the New Testament. Once we’ve gotten through the gospels, we come to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts for short), and then the letters that make up the majority of the NT. There we find further elaboration on how to live the Christian life, and several specific mentions of homosexuality as incompatible with our faith.
But wait! How could this be? There must be some mistake! The argument goes like this…
- Paul was only writing from his own experience, and his words do not carry the weight of Scripture.
- Paul did not know any real homosexual couples in committed relationships. He was actually writing against male prostitution, or molestation or promiscuity within a homosexual relationship.
More and more often, I’m seeing people blame Paul for having a bias towards heterosexuality, and that he personally caused a misconstrued understanding of the Lord’s thoughts on the subject. So, let’s take a closer look at these arguments.
Paul’s letters were actually considered Scripture by Peter, who wrote:
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:15-16
(The “hard to understand” part always cracks me up. Especially when you read his frequent run-on sentence structure.) Anyway, Paul’s writings were taken to be Scriptural by the earliest Christians, including Peter, and if they gave his letters such weight, I’m comfortable with doing so as well.
For more information on the formation of the books included in the New Testament, please check here: http://www.tektonics.org/lp/ntcanon.html#seven
People Don’t Exist Until They Are Labeled
The term, “homosexual” was coined by Károly Mária Kertbeny, “an Austro-Hungarian man of letters, translator, and journalist”* in 1869.*,** Some have stated that since the concept of homosexuality wasn’t around until this guy came up with a word for it, what we read in Scripture on the subject is obsolete.
While the term wasn’t around back in the time the NT was written, the people who experienced same-sex attraction certainly were. An obvious example is Sappho, a Greek poet who lived on the island of Lesbos, from which we eventually got the word “lesbian.” In fact, there are examples of an acceptance of homosexuality in ancient cultures:
After a long hiatus marked by censorship of homosexual themes, modern historians picked up the thread, starting with Erich Bethe in 1907 and continuing with K. J. Dover and many others. These scholars have shown that same-sex relations were openly practiced, largely with official sanction, in many areas of life from the 7th century BC until the Roman era.***
There were occasions of same-sex marriage in ancient Rome.****
Of all the writers of the NT, Paul was the one most likely to know people like this. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. When he came to a city, he would first go to share the Good News that Jesus was the Messiah to the Jews at the local synagogue. Then he would take to the streets, as it were, and share this same message to everyone else. He traveled widely to many urban areas. These were Roman and Greek cities and colonies, not Jewish towns. Many were large areas of trade, and there were all kinds of people from around the known world and beyond traveling through.
Paul was the least sheltered or insulated from the culture at large, as opposed to many of the apostles who for the most part remained in Jerusalem.
More Thoughts to Consider
Not only was Paul quite aware of the world around him, we need to remember that what he was writing was Scripture, and therefore sacred, Holy writ, and God-breathed. The words of the New Testament letters were not dependent on the opinions of the human authors, but were and are the words of God. The Lord has never been ignorant of the existence of SSA, nor is He affected by the culture at any given time throughout history.
And That Is What Some of You Were
In this day and age, it’s rather unlikely for you to have come across a blog written by someone who has experienced a change in their sexual orientation – yet here you are. We need to keep in mind that “unlikely” is not equivalent to “impossible.”
Not everyone who experienced same-sex attraction in ancient times was a male prostitute, nor were they always considered to be. There were people who had SSA who became Christians, and who went on to seek change in their desires as part of becoming more like Christ.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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.
1 Cor. 6:9-11
For some reason, it had escaped me for a long time that this letter was read out loud to the believers gathered in Corinth – everyone could look around and know who had done what. There were former homosexuals in the early church, and Paul knew them and wrote to them in this letter.
When we come to Christ and accept Him as Lord, we become new people, with a new allegiance to a new King, in a new Kingdom. Everyone needs to make some changes when we choose to follow Jesus. But we don’t do this work alone – we are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
If you’d like to investigate further the actual words used in the NT writings referring to homosexuality, I found a surprisingly well-balanced view here: