More On Homosexuality And So-Called “Same-Sex Marriage”

This past Sunday I promised I would write at least three additional articles on these issues, continuing to think them through. Wednesday’s Between Sundays was the first of those articles.

Unfortunately, due to other pressing concerns this week, I have run out of time to commit to writing the other two articles well. So, rather than provide second-rate writing (and thinking), I am going to point you to five articles I read as I prepared for the sermon, to keep your thinking and conversating going.

Jonathan Parnell writes about the shifting definition of tolerance, which fundamentally alters the way these issues are discussed in the public square. In part:

Old tolerance — that is, before the onslaught of postmodernism — defines the concept as to “accept the existence of different views.” New tolerance, however, defines tolerance as to “accept different views.” More than just accepting a view’s existence, new tolerance adds that you’d better not say it’s wrong either. New tolerance demands that we consider every opinion to be equally valid. The only wrong is to say that everything’s not right. Just wait, it gets more complicated…..Continue Reading

I argued Sunday that we must move into conversations about these issues in love. But that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice truth, firmness, and boldness. For the end-game in our culture is not merely a re-definition of marriage, it is that all people must approve of the re-definition, or suffer the consequences. Pastor John Piper writes that “There Is No Demilitarized Zone In The Issue Of Homosexuality.”

I am sure many of us have read, with great interest, the storm surrounding the comments of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy. Trevin Wax winsomely explains “Why the Chick-fil-A Boycott is Really about Jesus”:

Though I’m weary of our culture’s tendency to politicize everything, I believe this Chick-fil-A boycott has revealed some fault lines in our culture that will lead to increasing pressure upon Christians who uphold the sexual ethic described in the New Testament. Furthermore, in listening to the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, it’s clear to me that – political posturing aside – this discussion may not be about the alleged homophobia of Chick-fil-A’s president but the actual Christophobia of the leaders of the cultural elite….Continue Reading..

One of the temptations in fighting, winsomely and lovingly, for truth is to give up and give in; to opt out, because such labors make us weary. In an excellent essay from Denny Burke, he exhorts us: Don’t opt out and hide in the basement during the debate!…Continue Reading..

And finally, what of the freedoms promised in the Bill of Rights? Remember that one the authors called “the free exercise” of religion? Ross Douthat, a writer for The New York Times, writes:

…there seems to be a great deal of confusion about this point in the Western leadership class today.

You can see this confusion at work in the Obama White House’s own Department of Health and Human Services, which created a religious exemption to its mandate requiring employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and the days-after pill that covers only churches, and treats religious hospitals, schools and charities as purely secular operations. The defenders of the H.H.S. mandate note that it protects freedom of worship, which indeed it does. But a genuine free exercise of religion, not so much….

Now we have the great Chick-fil-A imbroglio, in which mayors and an alderman in several American cities threatened to prevent the delicious chicken chain from opening new outlets because its Christian president told an interviewer that he supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Their conceit seemed to be that the religious liberties afforded to congregations (no official, to my knowledge, has threatened to close down any Chicago churches) do not extend to religious businessmen. Or alternatively, it was that while a businessman may have the right to his private beliefs, the local zoning committee has veto power over how those beliefs are exercised and expressed…..Continue Reading..

I invite you to continue the discussion this Sunday after our worship service at Calvary Community Church. And, lunch will be on us.

Between Sundays

“Between Sundays” is a weekly e-letter written mainly for the people of Calvary Community Church, but that I hope will be a blessing to the wider readership of this little blog.

This past Sunday we looked to God’s Word to answer the question, “How Do We Help Those Suffering From A Homosexual Orientation?” You can watch or listen to the sermon, and download the manuscript (see the “Notes” icon).

It was (and continues to be) my hope that this sermon will get our church family thinking and talking about how to love, disciple, encourage, and serve people suffering from this particular sin. I have been encouraged already to hear of the conversations that are happening, applying the Biblical texts to this sin, and, as we discussed Sunday, to the various sins that we all struggle with. And it has been good to hear from many of you who have talked with me personally, called, texted, and emailed. Thank you.

One of those interactions was a gentle, very thoughtful email from someone with a sibling who has suffered with same-sex attraction. It raised a concern with my point that there is a difference between homosexual desires and homosexual practice.

It was one of my aims in the sermon to undo what I think is an error in the church on understanding homosexual desires. Namely, there are many in our church (and the wider evangelical church) who equate same-sex desire and sin, rather than seeing same-sex desire as another evidence of The Fall disordering humanity in a way that can lead to sin. But I believe we need to have a category for a person who can be a celibate, Christian man or woman, suffering from a homosexual orientation. (see points #2 and #3, pages 5-7, of the sermon manuscript)

The email’s author was concerned, I believe out of love for the listener, that I made an “incomplete dichotomy in not addressing how desire/temptation can lead to sin that itself is not the actual practice of homosexual acts.”

The main point of the author had to do with the issue of lust (citing Matthew 5:27-28). The author agreed, it is those who practice who are condemned; but, there is still a way to give into the desire and sin without physical, homosexual activities.

Therefore, the author states, “I believe it is a great disservice to those struggling with same-sex attraction to leave them with the idea that so long as they don’t practice homosexual activities they are in the clear.” (emphasis mine)

This is an excellent point. So, let me clarify and respond.

I agree with the use of Jesus’ warning “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28) as a way to warn someone with same-sex desires against lust. Certainly lust is a sin – for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. This is why I argued in the sermon that we must “show [those with same-sex desires] love in such a way that they feel accepted even while their behavior (sinful acts) may be rejected.” (sermon manuscript, page 9)

Therefore, as it appears I may not have been clear enough, let me be clear here: lust, in Jesus words and elsewhere, is sin, and thus falls under the category of behavior (sinful acts) which must be rejected.

But I also want re-iterate: In our fight for holiness and battle to mortify our sin, we need to understand the difference between desire and act, temptation and sin. If we do not understand that distinction, I believe we ourselves will wrongly despair, and then wrongly counsel others. Let me explain with an example.

I am walking down the sidewalk and note someone walking toward me. I then notice it is an attractive woman, and I may feel rising within me the desire to hold my gaze upon her, and I realize this desire is up to no good. So, I look away.

I believe that at that moment I have not yet sinned; but temptation to sin – to lust – is now present. And I have two choices.

I may look back at her – the classic, despicable, male double-take – and sin.

Or, I may look away, and fight. I preach to myself that “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) I place before my vision the promise of Jesus, and that it is in him I shall be satisfied. I remind myself that I am to “rejoice in the wife of my youth” (Prov. 5:18) and that I must guard myself in my spirit, and that I must not be faithless to the wife of my youth (Mal. 2:15). I bring up into my mind the beauty of my bride, the joys she brings me, and the vows I made to her 22 years ago.

And I keep walking down the sidewalk, tempted, tried, holy, victorious in Jesus. I do this only because he is the one who struggled against sin to the point of shedding blood (Heb. 12:4). He fought temptation, defeated desires, struggled against sin (Heb. 2:18) all the way to the cross, and bled out so that I could be clean.

And that verse is so important for us strugglers – homosexual and heterosexual alike. It lets me know that there is a struggle. That there will be desires that are not yet sin, and that I can fight. I can fight like he did. That I can turn to the Spirit and ask for his help. That I can look at others and encourage them in the struggle, to cheer them on toward holiness as their fleshly desires, in league with the world and the devil, seek to drag them down into sin. And I can point them to Jesus.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

If you are in the area, I invite you to join me to continue the conversation ::

 

How Can We Help Those Suffering From A Homosexual Orientation?

The sermon from Sunday, August 26, at Calvary Community Church:

Sermon Summary:

“We are facing one of the largest cultural shifts in the history of civilization, effecting nearly every aspect of our culture. Which raises a critical question: What is the biblical response to those suffering from a homosexual orientation?”

Click For Sermon Manuscript

Evolution’s End?

Once again, Albert Mohler delivers insightful cultural commentary, this time on the tragic statements from our President yesterday. He begins:

Is President Obama’s “evolution” on same sex marriage finally complete? His call for the legalization of same-sex marriage yesterday is an historic and tragic milestone. An incumbent President of the United States has now called for a transformation of civilization’s central institution. And yet, no observer of this President could be surprised. The arrival of this announcement was only a matter of time.

He then reflects on the timing, and the President’s waffling position as a matter of character:

Why now? The Washington Post reports that he was under intense pressure from many Democrats, including his major campaign fundraisers. According to the paper’s report, one in six of the President’s major “bundlers,” or fundraisers, is a self-identified homosexual.

The immediate pressure came after Vice President Joe Biden said last Sunday that he was “completely comfortable” with same-sex marriage. The Vice President’s statement on the issue delivered full support for same-sex marriage. On Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan followed Biden’s lead.

The President was under intense pressure within his party, but the issue quickly turned into an issue of presidential character. No one made this point more directly than Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, in a column that ran yesterday morning. “Same-sex marriage is turning into a test of character and leadership for President Obama,” she wrote. “Does he favor it, or doesn’t he? In the wake of Vice President Biden’s remarks supportive of marriage equality, the continued presidential equivocation makes Obama look weak and evasive”

She wasn’t finished. “The longer Obama waits, the worse he looks. The President’s first stall tactic, that he is ‘evolving’ on the issue, doesn’t cut it anymore. Even Darwin would have lost patience by now. His second approach, the not-gonna-make-news-for-you-today cop-out, has also worn thin. If you wonder whether the President actually opposes same-sex marriage, doesn’t evolution imply change? And if you think perhaps he’s still conflicted — well, that’s hardly an advertisement to be leader of the free world. At this point, Obama’s reticence is looking cowardly.”

And he concludes…

He made his statement the day after voters in North Carolina voted overwhelmingly in support of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman — the 30th state to have taken such action.

Honesty is the best policy, and the President has now made his position clear. He is again for what he was until today against, but that was only after he was for it before. The American people will have to unravel that as an issue of character. He is hardly the first politician to find himself holding to an “evolving” position on an issue of fundamental importance. Most politicians, however, do their best to avoid the kind of situation in which the President found himself on this issue.

In any event, the fact remains that the President of the United States has now put himself publicly on the line for the radical redefinition of marriage, subverting society’s most central institution.

Mr. Mohler is right, it is, indeed, a sad day for marriage.

(Read the whole article)