Homosexuality and Our Christian Response
(Leviticus 18:22, 24 - 28; Romans 1:26 - 2:4)

During the past several weeks there has been a significant increase in attention given to the issue of homosexuality. We've read in the newspapers and watched on TV related topics being discussed and debated regarding same sex unions, gay rights, and so on. Many of these discussions aren't new; they're just receiving more attention right now. But because of the heightened attention to this issue I feel led to address the topic of homosexuality, and as Christians how we should respond.

But first, let us pray. Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life a new, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. Lord I pray what I feel in my heart, was placed there by you for all to hear. I ask that you touch all those present this day, and that your Word may fall upon open hearts and open minds. Amen.

The issue of homosexuality has been around for centuries and will continue to be an issue for generations to come. But the past couple of weeks this issue has laid heavy on my heart, and as a result I have been with the Lord to wrestle with this issue more than once. In my wrestling matches I've tried to understand both sides of the issue, pro and con from a human perspective.

What I discovered in my wrestling with God over this issue, was that my tipping point, the point I went beyond disturbed to very concerned, was when an openly gay Episcopal priest was elected bishop. I have nothing against this person, he seems like a nice guy, and in my minimum exposure to his speeches he seems to love the Lord. And I can say I love him as my brother in Christ. But I don't agree with the Episcopal Church's decision.

I have friends who are gay, and I have a member of my extended family who is gay. So this issue for me is not void of personal exposure, concern, or compassion. I love all of these folks gay or not, and they do understand my position on their lifestyle. But still my concern has reached a disturbing level. And I really couldn't figure out at first why all of a sudden this issue was bothering me so. I finally concluded, after much prayer, that my struggle wasn't just with the issue of homosexuality it's with the Church's response to this issue.

It's one thing for the "world" to respond to homosexuality in a tolerating manner, like the world has about many other matters involving inappropriate heterosexual sex, but it's a different matter when the church affirms a sinful lifestyle as an appropriate lifestyle.

By consecrating an openly gay priest to bishop, one of the highest offices of the church, this says to me the church is saying homosexuality is ok. To me this is quite disturbing, because it goes directly against scripture.

Now please understand, I would feel the same way if the church consecrated a practicing adulterer, cheater, liar, thief, or any other person continually and purposely sinning against God, although they no it's counter to scripture. So I'm not simply picking on homosexuality. Leaders of the church are supposed to be striving to be an example for others to follow, understanding of course we're not perfect and will make mistakes. But a leader of the Church, clergy or laity, should feel a responsibility to live according to God's will and not purposefully sin and proclaim it's ok.

So the issue isn't just homosexuality, it's the idea that the church would affirm someone who is purposely living a sinful life. It disturbs me not because I think the church will crumble, because it won't. Christ is much bigger than that. The church didn't fall apart as Christians used war to spread the Holy Word in times such as the Crusades. The church didn't fall apart when it allowed slavery. The church didn't come apart at the seams as it justified discrimination, or ignored it. The church hasn't fallen apart because of the recent sex scandals. And it won't fall apart now.

But the election of this person to bishop is bothersome, because by affirming homosexuality and violating the teachings of the Bible, the church loses credibility. Current Christians may lose confidence in the church and just say the heck with it, why should I believe what the church says, or what the Bible says, when church leadership doesn't believe it themselves.

Those folks on the fence regarding Christianity will say I'm not interested, what a bunch of hypocrites. And the Moslems will say, see Christianity is not the true religion, they promote sin. The issue we are addressing has huge implications, because the potential for losing souls is so great.

With some issues we face in today's culture the Bible is a little vague on an absolute position. But on the issue of sexual relations, including homosexuality, the Bible states a position and is very clear about it. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. I looked at 10 translations or versions of the Bible of both our scripture readings today, and without exception the answer is still the same, homosexuality is strictly forbidden in scripture and is a sin against God. (Amplified, Good News, NIV, NRSV, KJ, TEV, New Living, RSV, The Message, NASB)

The Bible is the Word of God, and rewriting it based on our current politics or social trends is wrong. By consecrating an openly gay bishop, the Episcopal Church is rewriting the Bible, omitting any critical stance against this lifestyle.

Now honestly, most in our culture understand that homosexuality is not the norm and is wrong. Not because of some social trend from the past, but because the creator God says it is.

So I keep asking myself, why if the majority of people know that homosexuality is not the prescribed relationship desired by God, or at a minimum is morally wrong, why is it so widely supported, or at least seem to be.

Well I think there are several reasons: First, people like to ignore, or turn away from situations that don't specifically pertain to them, so it's not that they support the homosexual lifestyle, they just don't speak up, because it has no direct impact on their lives. They prefer not to ruffle feathers. Second, the media is now finding that as they say, "gays can make them money." The following is a quote taken from an article entitled "Gay Hollywood: Television Trend or Take Over?" printed in the Frederick Post on August 6th. "The media gatekeepers and the network executives have finally realized gays can make them money. At the end of the day, it's always all about money." Many of the Hollywood executives aren't concerned about what's of God or what's morally right; they're looking for what will bring them the almighty dollar.

Third, many churches won't speak out against the issue of homosexuality, and other tough issues from the pulpit. I dare say in my many interactions with clergy this past week the topic never came up. I asked a colleague why she thought folks won't address the issue, and she said that churches are afraid of the controversy it may lead to. They don't want to make waves.

But I believe the church has a responsibility to help folks deal with the tough issues, controversial or not. And I do believe difficult issues can be raised if done thoughtfully, truthfully, and in a Christ-like way.

I've been called by God to preach God's word, and to speak and live the truth as best I can. I am both humbled and honored to have this privilege, and I do take my role very seriously and will not avoid preaching on controversial issues, no matter what they are. Church leaders need to offer a biblical and/or theological position on critical issues that shape our culture so that people can make more informed decisions on where they stand on a given issue. Ignoring controversary does not make an issue go away, it just postpones an inevitable confrontation.

I understand the reasons some folks may not want to address the topic, but at the same time if we are followers of Christ we have an obligation to speak up for Christian values, not in a judging way, but in a loving way. Make no mistake about it these are challenging times for us. Anytime an issue cuts to the core of those values we hold dear, emotions surface and we feel threatened. It's times like these that we need to discuss and seek God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit for guidance.

The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, calls homosexuality "inconsistent with Christian teaching," a position I support. However, this does not mean that those who practice this lifestyle are not of sacred worth. Quit the contrary, all people are children of God and are of sacred worth. As Christians we are called to love all people and to be in ministry with all people.

With this said let's explore in a little more detail why the practice of homosexuality is not in keeping with the Word of God, in an effort to better understand. Rev. Adam Hamilton in Confronting the Controversies did some research on this issue several years ago, and I draw upon some of his thoughts for this brief discussion.

First, as I mentioned a minute ago the Bible explicitly teaches that homosexual sex is not God's intention for us. And this is affirmed in both the Old Testament and New Testament readings we heard this morning. In Leviticus we read, "Do not lie with another man as one lies with a woman." The text doesn't say, "should not," or "consider not doing," it says, "Do Not." This is found in the context of a whole list of "Do Not's" with regards to sexual relations.

The New Testament specifically mentions words usually associated with homosexuality three times, and whispers to the issue in Jude. In First Timothy there is a list of categories of sinners, which includes homosexuality. All of the practices listed in this passage are contrary to sound Christian teaching.

In First Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul shares another list of those folks living lives contrary to God's purpose for us including male prostitutes and homosexual offenders.

And finally in Romans Chapter 1, in what was read just a few minutes ago, we hear in a straightforward manner Paul including homosexual practice as an expression of our sinful nature.

The significance of these passages becomes even more noteworthy for us when we consider that the culture of the time, when the New Testament was written, generally accepted homosexual practice. Therefore, the very fact Paul says this is not appropriate behavior is a big deal. Paul was not simply writing down a cultural norm and saying it was God's will. Nor were the other New Testament writers.

Now this can't be said on other issues where Paul is clearly influenced by his culture, especially with issues regarding women's rights and roles, and slavery. In these cases he didn't totally confront the cultural norm, he side-stepped it. But with homosexuality he does develop, and present, a critical stance to its practice.

So why does God say that homosexual relations are wrong? For those who hold the Scriptures to be God's Word, homosexuality is seen as the type of relationship that brings harm to the people involved, both emotionally and physically. The Bible is clear on this. This viewpoint suggests that God prohibits certain things, wants us to abstain from certain acts, because God loves us and does not want us hurt in anyway.

Also, God designed the human body for heterosexual relationships, and using our bodies in any other way, or changing our God-given sex, is contrary to God's ordered purpose.

Now all of what you just heard is good solid teaching with a strong biblical foundation to support it, but an equally important issue for us to address is, as Christians what should our response be to those who practice homosexuality or promote it?

First we need to acknowledge it's a sin, no less and no greater than any other sin, like adultery, pre-marital sex, stealing, lying, coveting, and so on, but it's a sin, and therefore separates us from God. Second, we need to acknowledge that we are all sinners and are in need of the transforming love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. If we look hard at ourselves, we will see that we are oozing with sin, like an infected sore. We are grossly infected and in need of healing.

Third, we need to recognize that God did not place us on earth to judge, but rather to love. God is the judge and God doesn't need our help.

Fourth, we need to pray for one another, and pray that God's transforming grace will change the ways of all who sin, regardless of the sin.

And fifth, our role as Christians is to speak the truth, and live the truth as best we can, in a loving way in order to advance the kingdom of God. We have an obligation to speak, teach, and live the truth so that we can be faithful witnesses to the way God wants us all to live.

If someone were trying to get you to change the way you're doing something and all they do is criticize you, would you listen to them? Probably not.

Now if someone were to approach you in a loving way to encourage you and help you change, wouldn't you be more apt to listen and receive help? Sure you would, you may decide not to change, but you certainly would be more receptive to someone speaking with a voice of love and not judgment. As Christians we need to confront and help others in a loving way, not in a self-righteous way.

I've heard some say this past week that if those who purposely sin love the Lord, then just ignore the sin, loving the Lord is more important. But I don't believe you can justify purposeful sinning by simply saying, "you love the Lord." If you truly love the Lord you will strive, in Wesleyan terms, to move on to perfection, you will have a strong desire not to sin.

Make no mistake about it, we are all broken and struggling with our human condition. The fact is we are all born with a predisposition to sin, because of the fall of humanity. And we all need help to be restored to the image of God, alone we cannot stop sinning. So if we are condemning and judgmental how will people come to know Jesus so that they can receive the help they need?

How many of us here have found it difficult to stop one sin or another when we've tried it by ourselves? It's hard, if not impossible. Often it's only when we seek God's help and are encouraged by our fellow Christians that we are able to change our ways. So we ought to be encouraging one another.

Gay, lesbian, straight, liar, cheater, adulterer, coveter or whatever, we are all called to be a community of love. So I would like to lift up three scriptural principles that I encourage all of us to practice as we grapple with sin. I've included these in your sermon notes. The first is that we are to "bear one another's burdens" to help one another with our struggles, and to encourage one another in Christ. (Colossians 3:12-13) It helps when we feel we're not in the fight alone. We need to stand with one another, lifting one another up, so that God's glory shines through. Paul suggests we approach every situation with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

The second is that we are to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves," the second great commandment. Paul calls love, the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9)

Third, we are to detest sin, and love the sinner. (Revelations 2:6) However, love does not mean tolerating sin, it means to be understanding, and to be accepting of the person, not for what they do, but for who they are.

We must be willing to take these principles to heart, to live them and to respond to one another in a way that's pleasing to God, and this includes the Church's response to homosexuality. In addition, we ought to view everyone through the eyes of Jesus. Note that as you read the Gospels about Jesus he only uses words of condemnation against self-righteous, religious people, who are so focused on themselves they can't see the pain and hurt all around them.

He doesn't condemn those who wrestle with the everyday issues and lifestyles that were not in keeping with his teachings. He looked with compassion upon these folks, teaching, nurturing and loving them.

And Jesus also worked hard to teach them the ways of God and to help them change their way of life, he didn't simply ignore their sins. If Jesus did this for us, how much more can and should we do this for others.

Our challenge as a church is to create a community where all people - gays and lesbians included - can find Jesus, and know that Jesus loves them, that God does want them, and that all are valued in God's sight.

When we struggle with sin, when we feel alone, when we are seeking to find meaning in our lives, and to know right from wrong, we need a community of believers who will help us, lift us up, and encourage us along the path to righteousness. I hope we are such a place.

So I stand before you today not as a judge but as a sinner, a person seeking to be a loving witness to Jesus Christ and his Holy Word. I stand firm on the truth of the scripture and will proclaim the word of God. I know God will judge, and that we all will have to stand before him one day. I know God will heal us from our sins if we confess, repent, and seek his will. And I know God will be victorious, and the day will come when all people with Christ in their hearts will live sin-free, in peace and joy.

I pray God will continue to bless his church and all of us, as we go through this time of controversy and discovery.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade