During last week’s service we had a bunch of questions texted to us on our topic. Here are answers to each question. Weston has answered all of them, I’ve (Mike) thrown a few responses in as well.
Do you think the church is making a huge mistake by making gay Marriage a big issue? You can’t legislate morality Share the gospel instead of worrying about politics
WESTON: Gay marriage is already a big cultural issue, both politically and moral. Our culture is dealing with the issue and therefore Christians leaders must inform those whom God has entrusted to their care about the Bible’s stance on such massive cultural issues.
Concerning legislation, I (Weston) agree that the church should focus more on sharing the Gospel with people and less time worrying about politics, though we shouldn’t think of these categories as mutually exclusive. It is possible for a Christian to do both. Also, all legislation is moral. Laws against stealing, murder, etc. are all attempts to legislate morality and deter society away from immoral and destructive actions. The question becomes, should Christians attempt to legislate a moral issue that the culture believes is acceptable. This has been a debate throughout Christian history and it is one that certainly will not be solved in this blog post. However, I believe it is a mistake to worry about politics if it is at the expense of sharing the Gospel.
MIKE: The relationship between the Christian and government in a democratic society is a difficult issue. We have freedoms, that if we believe in the sovereignty of God, is a trust that we must steward. But we should never look to politics to give us the answer and true hope. So a couple thoughts, specifically about the wording of the question.
1. Gay marriage right now is an issue whether the church engages it or not. As I mentioned, I don’t think the church necessarily picked this battle, although they have been involved in it.
2. The statement that “you can’t legislate morality” is a catchy slogan in our culture, but the truth is that every law is legislating morality on some level. Laws against murder are making a moral value judgement that murder will not be tolerated. A speed limit restricts freedom, which for the person who would prefer to drive 100 mph is a legislation on their morality. On one hand, Christians can see politics as their hope. The other extreme is to abandon the political process, which, I believe is a misuse of a stewardship we as Christians have been given. So, I think we should hold these two issues in tension. Don’t leave the process, but don’t put our faith in politics for our hope.
3. I do think Christians need to logically consider the outcome of arguments and direction. Right now we are in a discussion about the meaning of marriage. God defines marriage, and it was His idea. As our culture moves toward a re-definition of marriage, we need to be prepared that there are other dominoes that will fall in the near future. Those pushing for polygamy are already using the same political arguments being discussed in the current debate. Some want to redefine marriage, but there are others in the culture who want to so erode any meaning in marriage so that there is no government endorsement of marriage. The implications of these issues run deep, and will affect the world in which we live significantly.
How do we approach friends who’s only frame of reference for Christianity is Westboro and Pat Robertson?
WESTON: We must labor with love to distinguish ourselves from those speaking and acting hatefully towards any group. This is a difficult task as many will label anyone who believes homosexuality violates God’s law as homophobic or a hate monger. Since most people will assume hate accompanies this stance, we should strive to show love to them and prove that our message is not one of pure condemnation, but is a message of compassion that seeks their restored relationship with God.
MIKE: I also think there are times when we need to join the chorus of voices who expose negatively voiced Christian ideas. Jesus used ridicule and humor in exposing religious nuts, and Paul did the same.
What is the response to someone who says that homosexuality in the bible can be “re-interpreted much like the text that says don’t shave your beard or let women speak in church?
The laws of the Old Testament contained a wide variety of function for the nation of Israel. Most importantly, they were used to distinguish themselves from the surrounding nations, as the only nation with the creator living in their midst. Some of these distinctions were moral (i.e. adultery (Leviticus 20:10), stealing (Leviticus 19:11) and murder (Leviticus 24:17)), while others were cultural (e.g. not shaving (Leviticus 19:27)). A moral law would be one that should be applied to all cultures because it violates God’s moral character. A cultural law is one that should be applied to the specific culture it was written to distinguish the appearance of the Israelites from the appearance of neighboring countries. One way to determine if an Old Testament law is moral or cultural is to survey the rest of the Bible for related content.Concerning homosexuality, the Bible contains a number of passages that mention the subject (Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Judges 19:16-24; 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Jude 7). Notice that these passages were written by multiple authors, in different countries, over the course of 1,500 years. Yet there is a consensus that homosexuality violates God’s morality. So, because the Biblical authors (God’s propheets in the Old Testament and Jesus’ closets friends and family in the New Testament) found this to be a transcultural issue, Christians should apply this morality to their lives regardless of their cultural context.
Why are Christians so adamant about protecting the sanctity of marriage, when their divorce rate is 50%?
WESTON:Unfortunately, the sanctity of marriage is no longer in need of protecting, it is in need of reclaiming. I (Weston) believe that because the divorce rate amongst Christians is so high that it is imperative for Christians to reclaim the sanctity of marriage by doing the follow:
1. Focusing on making their marriage healthy in light of God’s design
2. Helping others do the same
Failure in this area should not lead to silence in this area. Instead it should strengthen a resolve for healthy, godly marriages.
MIKE: I hope that our message about marriage and family at Genesis is clear on this issue. We are intentional about preaching the Gospel into families often. Of course, there are times when the Fall leads to broken relationships that cannot be mended. Failure in one are of Gospel application within the church should not keep us from speaking clearly to those issues or others that are connected to it.
In Leviticus talking back to parents also required the youth be put to death. Please explain the context including all the weird laws
Leviticus was written to the Israelites at a time when God’s special presence was with them. They were to live as though God was their neighbor. Because God is holy, and He wanted the surrounding nations to see His holiness represented in Israel, sin was swiftly and directly punished. Today, we do not live in the same context, nor is there a Christian nation with an equivalent mission. So, the punishment for such sin will look different for Christians in the 21st century AD America than it did for Israelites in the 15th century BC in Canaan.
If I am invited to a gay wedding of a close friend or family member, how should I respond?
In the sermon, I (Weston) warned against acting in a way that doesn’t balanced light and love, or grace and truth. We do not want to respond simply by condemning their homosexuality. Nor do we want to celebrate their homosexuality. Instead, we must show compassion by loving/gracing them into the light/truth of God.
My personal recommendation is to invite them to dinner. Inform them of your belief about the Bible and homosexuality. Buy them house warming gifts. Show them as much love as you can without celebrating their sin. For me this means that I would not be able to join them in celebrating their love at their wedding. But I would continue to pursue a relationship with them.
MIKE: I think this is an issue of liberty and conscience. In other words, I think good arguments based on Gospel application can be made on either side of this argument. So seek counsel, pray, study the Scriptures, and then do what God is calling you to do.
How do we determine if a 1 Corinthians 5 separation is necessary yet still show love and compassion to that person?
WESTON:This passage needs to be held in tension with Galatians 6:1, which teaches about restoring a “brother” (church member) with gentleness (quite the opposite of have nothing to do with him). I believe the answer lies in what part of the church discipline process has taken place. Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a process where a person’s sin is confronted by one person, then two to three, and finally the church. If the person who is sinning refuses to repent from their sin through this process of gentle restoration, then 1 Corinthians 5 should be applied.
Concerning homosexuality, if a church member struggles with their same-sex attraction, commits a homosexual act, and is repentant , then there is no need for the latter steps of church discipline. Rather, in love and compassion those who are close to him or her should encourage them in their struggle. However, if a church member refuses to repent and will not follow the advice of his friends, family, elders and the church, then the last step of the process is used in an attempt to give this person a rock-bottom experience that will hopefully bring the person running back to Christ and his church body.
MIKE: I mentioned that we need to make sure we apply this passage correctly, and 1 Cor. 5 is clear that it is speaking only to a person who is a professed believer who has been active in the community of faith, and then engages in rebellious sinful behavior. Not only does the passage NOT apply to non-believers, but the text actually tells us we are to have relationships with those who are not Christians and engage in sinful lifestyles.
Why does the church act like this sin is worse than lust, false witness, lack of self control, etc.?
WESTON:Everyone thinks that other people’s faults are worse than their own. Humans do this in an attempt to convince themselves that they are good people or at least not as bad as the next guy. The truth is homosexuality is no worse than any other sin or brokenness. All sin leaves us apart from God. The Elders at Genesis are intent on preventing the creation of categories of better or worse sins.
MIKE; In terms of guilt before God, sin is sin. But the Bible does not say that there is no difference in sin. Some sin has much deeper personal, familial, and societal implications and consequences.
How can we explain “denying yourself” to those who find their full identity in homosexuality and can’t imagine pushing back against that
Christianity is denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Christ (Matthew 16:24). This means that we put our “self” to death (the cross was a Roman tool used for capital punishment of the death penalty). Once our “self” is put to death, then we are able to follow Christ and make him our identity.
How does the Church justify its focus on opposing homosexual marriage and civil rights for homosexuals, yet ignores other marital issues in our culture also addressed in scripture, like divorce and remarriage?
WESTON: See the answers to questions 1, 4 and 8.
MIKE: I actually don’t believe the gay marriage issue is a civil rights issue.
As society changes and celebrates and exploits high profile people coming out, how do we respond as a Church?
I believe there is relavent information in some of the previous sections. If there are follow-up questions for this question please respond to the blog
When you invite your hypothetical gay friend to dinner, is his partner also invited? Is he allowed to show affection to his partner in front of your children?
For my (Weston’s) family this is not hypothetical but a real situation that we have discussed and prayed about. Personally, I would recommend inviting both people to dinner. My children are in pre-school, so I would not feel comfortable with any couple (heterosexual or homosexual) showing affection beyond a G-rating. If two men were to hold hands in front of my children, I would not ask them to stop. If two men, two women, or a man and a woman were making out in front of my preschool-aged kids in my home, I would ask them to stop. I think the important aspect is consistency and that there is no favoritism shown to any particular sin. Treating an unmarried heterosexual couple who is living together with less condemnation, thereby more celebration, than you would a homosexual couple would be showing favoritism.
When Christians support TV shows such as Glee and the Office (which promote homosexuality as acceptable), are we not in a way celebrating that cultural decision?
Since I (Weston) quoted the Office twice on Sunday, clearly I do not feel this tension. Certainly this is an issue where everyone must determine their own line. My wife and I have chosen to watch shows, read blogs and listen to music and talk shows that include characters or viewpoints of those living in homosexual relationships. I think there is a lot of value for Christians to listen to people who disagree with them. It can give us a better understanding of their view on religion, God, salvation, life, which hopefully will prepare Christians to have more meaningful dialogue regarding homosexuality. Ultimately it is a matter of conscience and if you feel like this action celebrates homosexuality then you should abstain.
If you are a Christian parent and your teenager is engaging these perspectives through various media, then it is your job to converse with them about the issues. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings and share yours as well.
How do I respond to a homosexual who says they were born this way? I feel like it’s an insult to God because he doesn’t make mistakes! Then there also people having gender change! What does the church on these issues? Some parents are also support their 5 years through this change?
The language used on Sunday to describe those who have always been attracted to the same sex was, “post-Fall default.” This means, after the Fall (or when Adam and Eve first sinned) there is a default tendency for every person to express their broken relationship with God through their own personal desires. There are some people who desire to sin through heterosexual means while others desire to express their brokenness through homosexual means. In both cases, people are born with predispositions, which incline them to sin in a way that is particular to that person. While it is true God doesn’t make mistakes and everything happens according to his plan, He did allow the Fall, thus allowing humanity’s nature to become fallen and broken in a variety of ways, including homosexuality. Though sex change is a different topic with many different issues, there are certain similarities with that of homosexuality. If the question is, “What does the church [believe] on these issues?” then the response to homosexuality would apply here as well. A sex change certainly is an attempt to reverse the creative order in Genesis 2.
There are other issues that could be addressed but I (Weston) will conclude with this: love the world into the light of God. The Bible’s understanding is of homosexuality as sin (and other sexual sins) is not a reason to treat the world with contempt. They are far from Christ and are living life accordingly. We should love them as Christ loved us when we were far from him.