Sixty percent of all Americans now live in a state in which marriage has been redefined to allow same-sex couples to “marry.” So should Christians give up, go home, and move on to another issue?
Absolutely not. While the public policy issue may be largely settled, the matter of how the church should interact with gays—especially gay Christians—is far from settled. And on that subject, one Christian leader says we have a lot of repair work to do.
Ron Sider describes this repair work in his recent Christianity Today article, titled “Tragedy, Tradition, and Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate.” First, Sider says, we need to acknowledge “the tragedy of our recent history:” The tragedy that so many Americans believe that evangelicals are hostile to homosexuals.
That perception may not be entirely accurate, but the church has not always dealt sensitively with young people struggling with same-sex attraction. We've also blamed homosexuals for destroying marriage, when the larger truth is Christians have played a big role in undermining it ourselves. And while divorce rates among conservative, church-going Christians are lower than the general public, they are still disappointingly high. Finally, all too often many evangelicals have failed to distinguish between same-sex orientation and gay sexual activity.
Christians need to do better than this. And instead of bowing out of the debates about homosexuality, Sider says we’ve got a duty to promote clear biblical teaching on this issue.
First of all, we should point out that the Bible has far more to say about homosexual practice than the half-dozen texts that are often cited. “Again and again,” Sider writes, “the Bible affirms the goodness and beauty of sexual intercourse—and everywhere, without exception, the norm is sexual intercourse between a man and a woman committed to each other for life.”
By contrast, he adds, “It's important to state just how strongly and consistently the Bible speaks to ... the immorality of sexual acts ... that do not honor that bond.” If we want to be obedient to biblical teachings, Sider says, the only choice for anyone not in a heterosexual marriage is celibacy.
But today—given that the world thinks Christians hate gays—it's not enough to simply point out these truths. Sider says we need a new form of ministry regarding homosexuality.
And we should start by addressing heterosexual divorce and doing “whatever it takes to nurture a generation of Christian men and women who keep their marriage vows and model healthy family life.”
Next, Sider writes, we must “find ways to love and listen to gay people, especially gay Christians.” And we must be the first to condemn violence against gays and develop “much better teaching on how evangelical parents should respond if children say they are gay.”
Finally, Sider notes, “we ought to develop model programs so that our congregations are known as the best place in the world for gay and questioning youth (and adults) to seek God's will.” These model programs should be offered in a context that “embraces, loves, and listens rather than shames, denounces, and excludes.”
Of course, any Christian of any orientation who violates biblical commands regarding sex needs to be held accountable by his church. But, Sider says that, “Christians who openly acknowledge a gay orientation but commit themselves to celibacy should be eligible for any role in the church that their spiritual gifts suggest.”
There's much more in Sider's article, and I encourage you to read it. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to it.
And by the way, Sider is right: The battle over gay “marriage” may be all but over, but the church must never surrender when it comes to reaching out to gays with biblical truth, compassion, and love.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: December 4, 2014