Mardi Gras is upon us in Sydney. When thinking about the tension in society around the issue of same-sex attraction, it’s easy to wonder if you might actually be a bigot – because you’re a Christian.
In preparation for a seminar I presented recently, I reflected on this question as I spent time in the Bible. What I found was that the Bible absolutely does not condone hating or ostracising those who are same-sex attracted. Rather, what the Bible warns against is what we might today call ‘gay culture’, as an expression of rebellion against God. This includes things like the posturing and shouting that we see, as well as the PR campaigns and the use of public politics to not only rebel against God, but also to approve of others doing the same.
So what does the Bible teach us about how to engage with people who have such a different view? In Genesis 1, God has created all humans in his image, and this includes our sexual polarity. We are created male and female so that we procreate and fill the earth. So in Genesis 2 a man and a woman are united to become one flesh. That is the heterosexual marriage relationship.
However, the reality is that our rebellion against God and our naturally sinful nature after the Fall (Genesis 3) means that we no longer want to live God’s way. And part of God’s judgment on our world, since we all rebel against God, is that we live in a disordered world where all of us are under the judgment of God individually, and also that collectively, our suffering is often distributed unevenly. One of the ways our sinfulness is expressed is in our perversion of God’s good purpose for sex, and one expression of this is homosexual sex. Any expression of rebellion against God carries with it the death penalty as the rightful judgment of a righteous God (see Romans 6:23). We have messed up his world.
This is explained in some detail by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-32. Here the righteous anger of God at human rebellion, expressed in rejecting God’s good order, carries the three-times-repeated judgment that “God gave them up” (verses 24, 26, 28). God ‘gives us up’, as sinful people, to dishonourable passions and a debased mind. For when we rebel against God, part of God’s judgment is that he gives us over to our rebellious activities and we fall into further rebellion. In other words, we get what we’ve asked for. However, notice that this judgment of God is not exclusively brought forth for rebellion expressing itself in homosexuality. Verses 29-31 clearly show that any expression of rebellion against God’s good created order and design brings about judgment. Not every one of us is guilty of doing every one of these things on the list, but cumulatively, we most definitely are. Notice how verse 32 ends:
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
We go further than just rebelling against God – we justify and approve that same sinful behaviour in others. When we do this we are saying that God’s ways are not as good as our ways. So when gay culture portrays the Christian as a bigot and victimiser, society by extension calls God the victimiser par excellence.
Yet in this state of rebellion, living under and living out the judgment of God, we hear the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ who came into this world to save rebels like all of us. Jesus lovingly took on himself that punishment that we rightly deserve and then rose from the dead to be publicly and unequivocally crowned as God’s chosen King. Not only this, but he also poured out his Spirit on us his saved people, so that we would be ‘born again’, as it were, and have everlasting life.
This beautiful news is unpacked further in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). See how the hopeless fate of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God is juxtaposed against the work of the Lord Jesus Christ? You were dead in your rebellion, but what you now are is so much better! You are washed clean of all you have ever done in rebellion against God. You are sanctified – set aside as one of God’s especially loved people and brought into his family. You are justified and therefore treated as though you had done nothing wrong to begin with. This is great, beautiful news! It leads us to thank God who loves us so much.
So now what are we to do? Firstly, we hold out the good news of Jesus to others. We are no longer those that do not inherit the kingdom of God, but this is only because of God’s unmerited generosity and love. And since it is not by our efforts, we do not – we cannot – look down on those who are still in bondage to acts that lead to eternal death. This is because the reality is that while we await the return of the Lord Jesus, we too struggle with temptation and rebellion. Our paradigm is one of daily repentance and faith in God’s promises that he has forgiven us in Jesus. So we are to treat all of humanity with respect. We are to love and care for them by sharing the news that brings life.
What else are we to do? We read the Bible and pray. Paul’s letter to the Romans warns us multiple times not to be deceived. We must keep listening to God speaking to us and not to what the world is saying. We can only have one master. If that master is the world, in all of its rebellion against God, then we will face God’s judgment, and our rightful punishment is hell. If that master is the Lord Jesus, we have eternal life with the God who loves us and we look forward to a time when we will be with God forever, without sadness, tears or suffering. But friends, know that we who have the privilege of knowing the Lord Jesus and even more so, leading his people, must not condone what God abhors. To go on willfully condoning that which will not inherit the kingdom of God is to lead one of Jesus’ blood-bought people astray. As Jesus himself warns, you might as well tie a millstone around your neck and jump into the ocean, for that would be better for you when you face God (Luke 17:2). We must keep listening to God speaking to us and not to what the world is saying. We can only have one master.
And what else are we to do? We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1). We are to be opposed to a world that is self-centred, worried only about their own rights, seeking only comfort and temporary pleasures. We are called to be those, by God’s grace, who support each other as we are pulled back and forth by the unevenly distributed ramifications of our rebellion against God. We are to gently rebuke and lovingly encourage as we bring the Bible to bear on each other’s lives. We do this because that gentle grace is what we have been shown by our Lord Jesus, and so we seek to emulate him in an effort to adorn the good news that gave us life.
So, does the Bible produce bigots? No! It produces forgiven rebels, who are to gently show the grace that has been shown to them in Jesus Christ.