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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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