Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think about gay marriage? I’d like your take on the issue.
~The Many Who Have Asked Me About Gay Marriage
Dear The Many Who Have Asked Me About Gay Marriage,
First, let me say that my wife Julie and I disagree about some of the things that I intend to share. That’s okay. There are many ways to look at this issue. She thinks one way; I think another way; and we both think we’re right.
These are the eight perspectives from which I look at this important, charged topic.
1. JESUS NEVER WAVERED FROM HIS TOP PRIORITY
“I came to seek and to save those who were lost.”
“The good shepherd loves his sheep and gives up his life for them.”
“The good shepherd leaves behind his 99 lambs in order to search for one that was lost.”
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We must remember that winning gay couples to Christ is more important to Jesus than whether or not the law of any land allows them to marry.
2. JESUS NEVER ALLOWED CURRENT-DAY POLITICAL ISSUES TO DISTRACT HIM FROM HIS MAIN MISSION
You would think that with one-third of the people in Jesus's day enslaved, he would have something to say about slavery. But he never mentioned it.
This in no way means that we should avoid the political arena. It does mean that when we enter the political arena nothing may take precedence over saving lost souls. Why? Because Jesus told us so.
In fact, he told the people to “give to Caesar what was Caesar’s, and to God what was God’s.” Instead of encouraging his followers to overcome the evil government, he encouraged them to pay taxes to it.
It does mean that when we do enter the political arena, we must be careful.
Circumstances may demand that we enter the political arena and fight for those in danger.
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).
So we battle against abortion in every arena possible to stop the murder factories killing children in America.
We fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.
Pedophiles need to be in prison. They are never cured. Once out of prison, statistics show that most return to their pedophilia within weeks, or months. Laws are needed to deal with issues like these.
Who could ever have imagined that Boy Scouts would allow gay male Scout leaders?
Some battles are worth fighting in the public arena. Some battles are just distractions. May Christians have wisdom to know the difference.
3. JESUS CONDEMNED THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS FOR JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDES WHILE MANIFESTING LOVE AND COMPASSION TO THOSE IN SIN
Jesus spoke harshly to the legalistic, judgmental Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.... You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell... You blind men!... You shut the kingdom of heaven against man; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew Chapter 23).
If we are not careful, we pastors and church leaders can become “ministers of condemnation."
The trend is downhill. George Barna’s research reveals that 78% of Americans surveyed think that the evangelical Christian church is the most judgmental segment of American society.
There's nothing wrong with preaching about the reality of judgment as long as we’re doing it with broken hearts.
How often I hear Christians speak strongly against folks who are gay with words somewhat like these: "I hate the sin, but I love the sinner."
I don't believe you. That doesn’t fool anybody. It’s hard to love someone you don’t even know.
I love and admire Jeff Jones's instructions to his staff at Chase Oaks Church: "You may not enter into the gay marriage discussion until you know at least one homosexual as a friend."
I was speaking on homosexuality to an adult Bible study. At one point several people got on their high horses, and began to express their intolerance for gay people. As they saw it, homosexuality was a choice and those involved could choose to unchoose it if they wanted.
I glanced at a woman who was crying quietly near the back of the room.
"You're hurting, aren't you?"
"My youngest son is gay."
No one said a word. To criticize in the theoretical abstract is easy. It is quite different when it's your own son or daughter or a person you know, or the child of someone you know.
I recall sitting in a staff meeting when one of our pastors' wives began talking about homosexuality. She made it quite clear that "those people" needed to be judged, condemned, and obliterated by the wrath of God as described in Romans chapter six.
Her husband sat quietly, not looking at his wife. She finally finished. He said, "My college roommate was gay." She quickly changed her tune... but it was too late.
4. IT’S TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SOME MEDICAL DATA - GENETICS, RESEARCH, AND ANATOMY - SUGGEST THE NATURAL VULNERABILITY OF SOME TO HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR
Scientific research is producing more evidence that the gay attraction may very well be hard wired into both the anatomical and chemical makeup of some brains.
The anatomy of the homosexual brain is slightly different from heterosexual brain. For example, the hypothalamus of the homosexual brain is about 2/3 the size of a heterosexual one.
The thickness of the Corpus Callosum, a web of neurological bundles that send interacting signals between the left and right sides of the brain, for homosexuals is midway in size between heterosexual male and female sizes.
The tendency to be homosexual or heterosexual is influenced by the amount of testosterone produced in mother's womb during pregnancy. With each succeeding male child, mom produces less and less testosterone. This means that the third-born male with a genetic disposition to homosexuality has a slightly increased chance of becoming a homosexual—3% to 4%.
As a general rule, each successive son born to mom statistically has less birth weight than the brothers born earlier. There is a direct correlation between low-birth weight and the propensity toward homosexuality.
By the way, males can get an approximate value of the amount of testosterone present in mother’s womb during their prenatal days by measuring the proportionate size between their ring and index fingers. The shorter the index finger is in proportion to the ring finger, the less testosterone was mother's womb—and the more tendency to be effeminate.
Don't get me wrong. Homosexual behavior is a sin at any level.
To those with homosexual leanings, God says, “Control yourself!” No one can close the spiritual gap from where they are to an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ while acting out homosexual behavior. Neither can heterosexuals who are involved in sexual behaviors outside of marriage. God says to them as well, “Control yourself!” We will never close the spiritual gap from where we are, to an intimate relationship with Christ while involved in heterosexual or homosexual behaviors outside of marriage.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul discussed the positive aspects of singleness.
It is not a sin to have gay or lesbian feelings. It is a sin, according to Paul, to act upon them (the celibate lifestyle is not impossible. Many singles and church leaders have practiced it well for the glory of God).
5. FIGHTING AMONGST OURSELVES CERTAINLY DOESN’T HELP
Paul: “But I brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as babes in Christ.... For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not behaving like children?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have one love for one another” (John 3:34-35).
When I was a young pastor, my wife and I attended the Southern Baptist denomination annual meeting in Houston. There was a lot of controversy that year between the Conservatives and the Liberals. During the program time shouting and pushing broke out. Julie and I swore that we'd never go back again. The sight of Christians pushing and shoving was ugly. It's always ugly and unattractive when Christians fight.
Why in the world would anyone want to spend time with people who often fight with each other?
6. LOVE ATTRACTS
I often ask two questions when I'm teaching a group. “How many of you came to Christ because you were afraid of going to hell (God’s judgment)?” A few hands raise. Then I ask, "How many of you were loved into the kingdom by someone’s compassion, care and attention?" The rest of the hands go up.
Please note that there is no yelling or condemnation recommended by Jesus. The only critical yelling he did was announcing "ten woes" to the Pharisees.
Our marching orders are to love our neighbors including the Lost, which includes the sinners, gays, drunkards, adulterers and thieves.
7. STILL, NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE TALK ABOUT LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE, GOD'S WRATH COMES STRONGLY INTO PLAY
Compassion and wrath intertwine at the cross.
John 3:18 is the judgment: “He who believes in Jesus is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already: because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God.”
John 3:16-17 is the love: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."
Romans chapter one gives a graphic picture of a society caught up in every known act of sin and debauchery. Those who practice homosexuality appear to top the list. In a downward spiral of the wrath of God, Paul tells us how God gave them over to sexual impurity, shameful lusts and depraved minds. Those involved in these despicable actions are under the wrath of God.
There can be little doubt that our United States is now experiencing the wrath of God.
We don't need to wait for bombs and war to experience his wrath. There is a time when God finally removes Himself from a society and abandons it to its own degradation and sin. We are experiencing his wrath in the devolution of the values, morals and activities of our present culture.
Paul observed in Romans 1:24-27:
"Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. …Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
"Sinful desires" is the Greek word, Epithumia, which described a "reaching out after pleasure that defies all reason." It's like Paul was saying, "What in the world are they doing?"
Paul also avoided using the normal word for “women” and chooses to use the word for a female animal (thelus). He also avoided using the normal word for male (anthropos or aner) and chooses to use the word for a male animal (arosen). Paul pictured a society which turned their backs on God, who turned them loose to act like animals.
What do we do for the individuals now living in the throes of God's wrath? We remember that our top priority is to love them into the kingdom where their sins are forgiven and their hearts are turned toward God.
8. "WHO LEFT THE BARN DOOR OPEN?"
Regarding gay marriage as law, the horse is out of the barn. We lost. Oh, there will still be some skirmishes here and there across the country, but for all practical purposes the struggle is over and we came in second.
Instead of standing in judgment and waiting for people to burn, we'd best do our best to help those under God's wrath come into the kingdom. We do it with love, not by yelling and calling them names.
The best we can do is to pray earnestly and once again become the people who love God and love each other in hopes of reaching lost hearts.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: September 24, 2015