thoughts on homosexuality, tolerance & christianity

A while back I sat and had coffee with an 18-year-old boy who had huge questions about gay_marriage-wedding_cake11life.  He had been thrown out of his house, his mother had died and he had been neglected and abused by his father.  With tearful eyes he told me that his treatment by his father caused many questions in his sexual orientation and that he now considered himself gay and was dating a man.

That same year I was working with a single mother who was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder because she grew up homeless.  She routinely had little sleep, feared for her life and was robbed and beaten.  When she found herself pregnant and eventually with a toddler, she found herself zoning out as a result of her posttraumatic stress disorder.  Her child was placed in foster care for the safety of the child.

I dedicated a lot of time to helping the young mother.

While this woman eventually got her son back, I am now faced with a dreadful question of my own morality.  Why did I rally more around this single traumatized mother than the 18-year-old kid who was hurting just as bad?  Neither of these people chose the state of which they were living, rather, admittedly it was from their experience in life.   Both were abused.  However, some would feel compassion for one and judgment for the other.

It is both bad science and bad theology to say that people are born gay.  It is bad science because science relies so much on proof and bad theology because we place a limiting factor on God when we assert this.  I believe that having posttraumatic stress disorder and being sexually confused are both distortions of God’s intention for us.  Both are a result of a fallen world.

Being a pastor at a church I get asked all the time what my position is on gay marriage, and more in general, homosexuality.  My position is that first I have some repenting to do for treating this young man any differently than the young woman.   While I never ditched him, my fear of dealing with the issue paralyzed me.  PTSD just seemed so much easier to deal with.

I will always handle anyone with the dignity that their humanity demands.  Regardless of the cultural labels people pick up along the way, people deserve to be loved.  This is a truth that I believe to be self-evident.  Gay or straight, your humanity means that you have dignity and deserve love.   I cannot tolerate the poor treatment of the homosexual community by anyone in the church.  It seems unthinkable to me that someone who had their mind centered on Jesus would offer hurtful and judgmental words to someone who doesn’t think like them. Unfortunately the organization that I am a part of has made mistakes over the years.  However I believe in the beauty and redemptive potential of this organization because ultimately Jesus is the head of this group.

Just as much as I feel sex outside of marriage is not God’s design for marriage, I also believe that homosexual unions are not God’s design for marriage.  As I have studied the entire narrative of the Bible I think it is exponentially clear that God’s design for marriage is between a man and a woman.  Not only does the original marriage highlight God’s love for us but also a biblical marriage will put the gospel on display.  While traditional marriage is failing at an alarming rate I have also seen the statistics that show that marriages between very committed evangelical persons who report a personal relationship with Jesus have about a 75% success rate.  Traditional marriage is still failing at an alarming rate and will fail for the same reasons why gay marriages will fail.  Because, love is not all that you need (Sorry, Paul, John, Ringo & George).  You need trust, commitment, consistent belief, a growing selflessness and a host of other things.  Either way you slice it, people are flawed in their humanity and when two selfish people get married, they are going to have problems.

I believe that what the gay community wants me to say as a pastor is that homosexuality is not sinful.  I can’t say that.  Because I think that homosexuality is not God’s design for human relationships, I know what is in store for me, I will be branded as a bigot and as someone who hates. I think that many have bought into a cultural lie that says if you don’t fully accept everything about me then you’re hateful.  This is simply a juvenile way of thinking.   There is no logic or reason attached to this argument. I love and want to include anyone.  Jesus himself did not tolerate sin, he ate with sinners, met with them, healed them and loved them, but when it came down to business, he had an agenda, he said go and sin no more.    An encounter with Jesus changed everything about who these people were.

I reject the notion that supporting traditional marriage is somehow hateful or discriminatory.   This kind of thinking is the opposite of tolerance.  Tolerance is the ability to listen to another person’s beliefs, respectfully disagree and still love someone.  I think that in order for any healing to be done between the church and the homosexual community, there needs to be more real tolerance and repenting on both sides.  Being called a hateful person because of what I believe to be true is just as intolerant as being called a slur because of one’s sexual orientation.

My aim in this post is not to start a fight or to alienate people.  I simply want to respond to all of those who have candidly asked me what I think on the issue.  Know that if you are reading this post and cooking up a firestorm of a comment, I probably won’t respond.  I don’t want a fight and I don’t need the last word.  I hope you can tolerate my beliefs.  However if you would like to have a civilized conversation, please leave a comment and I will be happy to reply.

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“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

-Matthew 6:1

The Christian Pastoral world is strange.  Much like any other profession, pastors work on building reputations.  In our digital age, pastors build reputations globally, using blogs, podcasts, facebook and an array of social networking.  In a certain sense, if we can have an influence around the world then more people can come to know God through us.  And hey, if Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 10.24.52 PMsomeone sees your writing or if you build a larger than life reputation, then speaking opportunities, jobs or book deals could come your way.  I think many pastors (including myself at times) fall into the trap of religious respectability.

In our world today the temptation and ability to create a larger than life reputation is huge.  If you promote you own work because it points to Jesus, then that is one thing, but so many times that well meaning promotion creeps its way into promoting self.  I have been guilty of this with my blog, and honestly its one of the reasons I’ve slowed down with publishing what I write.  The question arises, whose glory is this for?

One of the most powerful and convicting things that I have read lately is from Dallas Willard.  He says, “Our intent is determined by what we want and expect from our action.  When we do good deeds, to be seen by human beings, that is because we are looking for something that comes from human beings.  God responds to our expectations accordingly.  When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him.”

I would submit to you that working on your reputation as a Christian leader actually harms your relationship with God.  I doubt that God intrudes where he is not invited.   Often times we mask so much of our own bragging in Jesus’ words that it looks really admirable, but in reality it is doing even more damage when we teach the world that stroking our own ego’s through Jesus’ words is a good thing.  Jesus himself teaches that when our egos have died is when we really experience a full life with him.

Do we fall into the trap of disobeying Jesus, through shameless self-promotion because we have convinced ourselves that our ministry impact could be larger? I know of twelve men who would argue the counter point.  When we promote ourselves, is it to point to our own accomplishments or knowledge or is it to point in a far greater way to the knowledge of God?

I have been blogging for a few years now.  Every so often I have to stop, because I ask myself, “Whose glory is this for?”  Why do I always need to be the protagonist in my own story?    What are my motives in writing what I write? So if you are a Christian leader, the question of motive comes to mind.  What do you want and expect from your action?  Is it recognition, a job, sounding smart or having the power of authority, or is it truly to see people come to a fuller understanding in their life with God?

Donald Miller wrote a great post on this and I think he outlines some of the correct motives for self promotion: click here

 

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