My friend Andy McQuitty, pastor of Irving (TX) Bible Church, received a letter from a gay man wanting to know if he (and his partner) would be welcome to attend the Sunday worship services. I love Andy's answer because it models the way we need to speak the truth in love to people who come to us with honest questions.
I am so pleased that you plan to check out IBC this Sunday! It's my privilege as pastor of this great church to welcome you to worship the Lord Jesus with us.
I really love the spirit of honesty in your letter, ___________. You were careful to let me know that you are in a gay relationship, and that as a result you've had a hard time finding acceptance in Texas churches. I don't want to be presumptuous, but I sensed that you were indirectly asking me a very important question in your note. I'd define that question as, "Will my partner and I be loved unconditionally at IBC through the church's affirmation of our gay lifestyle?"
___________, your honest and forthright approach is refreshing, and deserves an equally honest and forthright response. To the question I think I hear you asking, here's my answer. You and your partner will absolutely be loved unconditionally by the people of IBC, because IBC has the conviction that all people are loved unconditionally by God. How could we not extend what we have so graciously received?
On the other hand, our understanding of God's unconditional love is not that it means anything goes. The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners, and though God always loves us, He hates our sin and calls us to repentance and holiness. The Bible is clear that homosexual practices are unwelcome to God. We are a Bible church, and as the scriptures would never affirm a gay relationship as good and acceptable to God, neither would we.
So how can I say you all are welcome to come to IBC and would be loved here? Simple. All of us have our issues. Nobody is perfect. We're all just sinners saved by God's grace, seeking to live our lives more and more like Jesus. No, we don't affirm homosexual practice here. But neither do we affirm adultery, gossip, lying, gluttony, or any other of a multitude of sins many hundreds of our people walk through these doors with every week. We're not in the business of condoning what God calls sin and enabling people to feel good about violating God's standards. But neither are we in the business of scorning and rejecting wounded people who sincerely want to find and walk with God. We are in the business of declaring the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and the enablement He gives to grow and to change according to God's will.
In other words, we believe God says to all people: "I invite you to come to me just as you are, because I love you. But don't expect to stay as you are, for I want to transform you more and more to be like my Son Jesus." That's why we believe God wants our church to be a grace-giving community that accepts people where they're at while challenging them to grow in holiness.
As a result, we have lots of groups of people meeting to study the Bible and to hold each other accountable to putting sin aside and going ahead with the Lord. We also have special, discreet groups of people who meet to help each other overcome drug and alcohol addictions, pornography, post abortion syndrome, and a host of other issues which include homosexual practice as well. In short, our mission is not to condemn, but to teach God's truth and to help.
___________, thanks for letting me know where you're coming from. Now that you know where we're coming from, I hope I still get the chance to meet you this Sunday.
May God's Grace Sustain and Bless You,
Pastor Andrew McQuitty
Irving Bible Church
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at email@example.com.
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