In my former posts, I focused on the Biblical truth regarding homosexual behavior, and some of the pastoral responses a healthy church embodies in light of the issue. In some recent conversations, it became apparent there is still more to say in terms of the relational side of things. What does it mean to have the grace part lived out? What does it mean for our church to be a place that people who struggle with homosexuality feel safe and accepted?
That is a tough question, with a lot of nuance and subjectivity. For some, the minute we lay down doctrinal and ethical commitments, love is compromised. I wish this was not a reaction, but it exists and for understandable reasons. Also unfortunate is that many doctrinally keen churches don’t put as much thought and passion into relationally pursuing broken people. So, let me clearly and explicitly say that we need both a commitment to Biblical concepts of obedience and sexual purity AND gracious embrace of all we encounter, whether they are obeying Jesus or not.
However, if I were to take a pastoral stab at this, let me outline some thoughts:
One, we need to be a church that preaches grace, all the time. Costly grace. Biblical grace. Jesus-centered, gospel grace, but grace nonetheless. Grace must be our culture. One of the most important truths of grace is that God accepts us apart from our goodness or badness. He accepts us because of the righteousness of Christ. Even when we don’t love him, pursue him, or obey him, he still loves us.
Two, we should tie in our belief in grace to our love for and acceptance of the sexually broken, consistently and when appropriate to the text.
Three, this should begin to bear fruit, revealed in people opening up and confessing in appropriate settings and smaller communities, like Life Groups, or accountability groups, or other intimate communities, that they struggle with sexual sin, including homosexuality.
Fourth, another fruit should be that homosexuals are taken into loving community: Life Groups, other mid size groups or ministries, etc. In other words, our relationship with the sexually broken cannot be abstract. They must be a part of our community.
Fifth, homosexuality should be viewed as a subset of sexual brokeness in general, not a separate and utterly distinct form of sin and/or the effects of the curse of the fall. This is exegetically true and thus theologically important. By doing this, we make sure we view it as form of brokeness AND thus we also do not set it off as worse than other forms of brokeness. Like anything else, we ask that this propensity is fought against with the fight of faith, along with things like greed, anger, impatience, covetousness, etc.
Sixth, we are consistent in our calls for repentance and obedience to God’s Word. To be consistent and to be whole, we must ask the sexually broken to repent if they are currently living in sexual sin. If we believe sin is death, then we go after those playing with death. We save them from themselves and the snare of the devil. Again, we treat homosexual behavior as a form of sexual sin, and so we take it with utter seriousness. But, we need to take cohabitation, porn, pre-marital sex, and other sexual sins as seriously.
Sixth and a half, all of us – all of us – must own, openly confess, and constantly go to Jesus with the fact that we all are sinful, have addictions, have idols, and are not rid of sin, not for a long shot. Whether it is a nice white-collar sin, or the big, hairy, nasty ones, we are all sinners. Period. We all need grace. All is level at the foot of the cross.
Seventh, and finally, we do our best, with what we know from God’s word, with lots of prayer, lots of good thinking, and with our pursuit of Jesus above all. I don’t know, but I feel if we do this, God is going to be faithful and lead us. I feel like a loving atmosphere is going to form where people who struggle with homosexuality will be safe and know the grace of Jesus – through us, co-sinners and co-inheritors of grace. I may be naive or overly optimistic, but I sense that a passion to follow the clear teachings of Scripture, to be loyal to Jesus above all, and to humbly love the sinner will go a long way toward this kind of church.