*There’s a lot to say on this whole subject, and it will take many posts. Whatever question you have, we’ll probably get to and if not, feel free to email me at FreedHearts@gmail.com.
Our family friend Nathanael (name used with permission) messaged me yesterday this summation of where we stand right now.
“The anticipation is pretty thick. I don’t know how easy either resolution can be. It seems to me that you have three options but only one can be true… 1. it’s sin, 2. it’s not sin, or 3. become a relativist. The last of these has far greater repercussions than the former two. Wherever you land, I’m sure God will use it for His glory, and I’m sure your love will come through.”
Great summation, Nathanael, and you got the options almost right. Let me just tweak it: 1. It’s a sin, 2. It’s not a sin, 3. It depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Now, this is not just wordplay but a serious distinction – and you’re right that option 3 has huge repercussions. Much of the church would also have stated option 3 as relativism, to do what is right in our own eyes. This is certainly scary – scary like someone saying, “To me, God is a tree” – and we like to think we must hold tight to black and white to prevent that kind of relativism, and unless we teach rules first and foremost, we are just asking for sin upon sin. But I’m not talking about doing what’s right in our own eyes (the very definition of sin); I’m talking about following the Holy Spirit. Completely different. For instance:
Worshipping false gods in the Bible is very serious. One of the Big Ten. Naturally, eating meat that has been sacrificed and dedicated in worship to idols is a serious breakage of that rule. Yet, Paul says, “If your conscience is not pricked about eating that meat, don’t worry about it.” What?? This is huge! Sounds like relativism, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul says the Holy Spirit will convict you or not, and he talks about these things in the context of disputable issues. That means that these issues are being disputed – not clearcut right or wrong. The issue of homosexuality is being disputed too – by sincere, God-honoring people on both sides. To people who are sure the Bible condemns homosexuality, to even look at it anew seems heretical. But we are talking about a very few verses in the Bible – 6 or 7 depending on the interpretation — which have a context around them of promiscuity, sex with children, and temple prostitution. Those are different from longterm committed same-sex relationships, which are not really listed as a concept in the Bible. On that distinctive the Bible is, in essence, silent.
Idol worship is mentioned more than 100 times in the bible, compared to the 6 or 7 that mention any type of homosexuality. That is a radical difference. Radical. Yet, few people today stand around with signs saying, “God hates idol worshippers” and “Idol worshippers are going to hell.” You see what I mean?
This attention to hearing God’s leading instead of seeking clearcut rules is throughout the Bible. (More in another post.) Relativism means, “To me God is a tree.” Or, “To me, it’s okay to have an affair on my wife because I really want to.” The leading of the Holy Spirit means, “In this case, Moses, you should hit the rock to get water from it; in this case it’s a sin to hit the rock because I (God) told you only to speak to the rock.” Same God, same Moses, same action – one’s a sin and one’s not. The bible is all about the leading of the Holy Spirit We can hardly fathom the implications of Paul’s words: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.” Titus 1:15. He is vehement about rules being the completely wrong way to go about godliness. “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2:23.
Let’s look again at our three options: 1. It’s a sin. Many gay Christians feel convicted that homosexual behavior is a sin. They’ve read the verses, they’ve prayed, they’ve sought counsel – and they believe that to engage in homosexual activity is wrong. The options they see open to them are celibacy or for God to change their attractions. (Change in attraction is a topic for another post.) For Christians who are convicted that homosexuality is a sin, to them it is a sin. (NOTE: This is individual conviction, not license to “convict” others.) [To try to convince them it is not a sin would be to stumble a brother.]
2. It’s NOT a sin. Many gay Christians believe homosexual behavior is not a sin. After careful study of relevant verses and prayer, they do not feel convicted about homosexual behavior. For Christians who are convicted that homosexuality is not a sin, to them it is not a sin. (How can we accept the Spirit’s leading on the 100-plus references to idol worship, but not the 6-7 references to homosexuality? In any authentic inquiry, you must go where the evidence leads.) [To tell them it is a sin is to judge another man’s servant.]
3. It depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit. I realize to some Christians this feels like throwing acid in their face. I didn’t make it up; the Bible is replete with this teaching. Also, I don’t apologize, because Jesus’ words felt like acid in the face too. We’ll talk about this more because it’s absolutely huge, but Paul clearly tells us that if our conscience is not pricked, then we are good to do what we believe is right. (Particularly in disputable issues.) “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” Romans 14:14.