By Preston Sprinkle and Jeff Cook
This will be our final post in the 8 part dialogue in which we discussed the question: “Does the New Testament forbid same sex relationships?” We were originally going to post 10 blogs but we both felt like there’s been a good number of points raised that we could chew on for many weeks and months to come.
And all God’s people said…
To conclude, we wanted to circle back around and reaffirm our points of agreement with regard to same-sex relations and the church and affirm a few ways we can move forward together as the church..
1. Convicted Civility
Theologian Richard Mouw coined the phrase “convicted civility” and we feel that the Christian church needs much more of this as it discusses and debates hot topics like homosexuality. Explore your convictions. Challenge your convictions. Make sure your convictions are rooted in truth and honor Christ. And if they are, then express them in love and civility. But there’s nothing Christian about demeaning or dehumanizing those with whom you disagree. Even if your convictions are right, Paul reminds us that words spoken without love are brash, unwelcomed noise.
With regard to same-sex relations, there are few things more damaging to the gospel than for the world to look at Christians yelling at each other (or the world) about homosexuality. The gospel is not that God can make you straight; the gospel is the good news about a triumphant Lord who can make you holy. We disagree on one aspect of that holiness, but our disagreement shouldn’t snuff out the central message of the risen Christ and unity in his body through the Spirit.
Our challenge to ourselves and to all our readers is this: Before we talk about same-sex relations with others, or on our Facebook page, Twitter, blog, we should commit to asking the question—will my words reflect the gracious and triumphant message about a risen Savior or will it distract people from our Lord?
2. Charitable Understanding
We have both tried to understand where each other are coming from. We’ve listened to each other’s arguments and evaluated each piece of evidence. We still disagree on a number of points, but we now have a much better understanding of why we hold our views. This has been a great good that has made us better men, more insightful about the scriptures and closer brothers.
Unfortunately, many Christians continue to plug their ears while reciting the same old unthoughtful arguments:
“Read Romans 1, stupid! The Bible condemns homosexuality”
“Leviticus also condemns eating pork, yet you still eat bacon, you hypocrite!”
We offer this dialogue as a better way. After all, how can we oppose something that we don’t understand? And how can we understand if we don’t listen with a genuine devotion to the one speaking? Obviously, listening and understanding doesn’t mean agreement; but we can’t substantiate a valid disagreement if we haven’t first listened and understood with grace.
3. Unconditional Welcome
We both agree that the church should offer an unconditional welcome to all people regardless of race, vocation, status, sin, background, or sexual orientation. The Christian concept of an unconditional welcome, of course, means that people are being welcomed into a community of repentance and holiness.
The church is not a social club where we all look alike. The church is a hospital in which we are all being made well. This happens first and last through the power of God’s Spirit. How will anyone be healed if they are not welcomed, accepted, embraced, served, hugged, enjoyed, and championed?
Non-affirming churches need to go beyond the clichéd “love the sinner and hate the sin” message. We need to “love the sinner and hate our own sin,” and invite the world to do the same.
4. Moving Together Through the Tension
There are dozen of issues that have the power to divide the church. Surely, you will have asked why God doesn’t do more to bring clarity to controversial topics so we can be unified in truth.
We submit that one of the great goods of our disagreements is they force us to radically love those in our churches with whom we disagree most. Perhaps God thinks such love is more valuable than total uniformity of opinion, for if we can relate to one another with grace in house, just imagine what will happen when we speak to the rest of the world.
Grace and Peace.
Editors Note: This debate is also featured at Patheos Head to Head. For more debates on this and other topics visit our Patheos Head to Head main page.