• 9 things that Inform the way Christians Interact with the Gay Community

    Whether or not Gay people should be allowed to be married keeps getting splashed all over the media. It is a confusing time for all people especially Christians. Christians should love all gay people because God loves gay people and we are called to imitate God in his love. We also need to acknowledge that there are gay people in our churches. Some people are struggling with their orientation in silence, others are figuring out where they are at with Jesus while living as a practicing gay person and while others are open about their struggle and are seeking to conform to the image of Christ. The following are 9 things that I think Christians need to keep at the forefront of their mind when thinking about the current sexual climate. If you are reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian the following is a summary of what (I think) Christians should believe about Gay people and being gay. My hope is that this belief that we Christians should have is worked out in love for the Gay community.
    1. All people are created in the image of God. Just because a person’s sexual orientation changes, it doesn’t change that they are made in the image of God. Therefore, Christians should treat homosexual people with love and respect knowing that, just like them, gay people are created in the image of God.
    2. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, are loved by God. When the Bible talks about the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom 5:6-8; etc.) we see that the love of God is open and knows no boundaries. Therefore, Christians need to biblically affirm that gay people are loved by God, and we, as Christians, should be known for our scandalous love for the Gay Community.
    3. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, can change. The Bible calls Christians ‘new creations’, which infers that people can be made new. This shows that through the power of the gospel all people, including gay people, can change. This does not mean gay people will automatically change their sexual orientation. That may change but just like a person who is arrogant will struggle with pride for the rest of their life we must not think that all gay people will change their orientation. This may change, but all people (married,single, gay, straight) are called to faithfulness to God. This is a tough pill to swallow but we all need to acknowledge that our humanity and identity is tied up with God and who he is and not our job, money, sexual orientation, etc.
    4. Biblical sexual ethics starts with Genesis 2:18-25 and this text is never superseded, but always remains foundational for biblical sexual ethics. This text affirms that the right context for sex is between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.
    5. Although Jesus did not talk about homosexuality specifically, he understood marriage as being between a man and a woman. In his conversation about divorce in Mark 10:1-12, Jesus uses Genesis 2:18-25 as foundational when he speaks of marriage. In using Genesis, Jesus is affirming biblical sexuality as being between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.  Also, in his teaching on divorce (Matt 5:31-32, 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:1-12) Jesus shows he is conservative on divorce, thus deconstructing the myth of the sexually-tolerant Jesus.
    6. People in the Roman world around the time of the New Testament had similar views on homosexuality, including long-term homosexual union, as the general population in the Western world has today. In Greco-roman literature[1] as well as art[2], homosexual activity was normal and sometimes was held up above heterosexual sex![3]
    7. We need to do careful word studies on the words the New Testament uses when speaking of Homosexual acts. We need to look at the Greek words ἀρσενοκοῖται and μαλακοὶ in their contexts in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Some scholars seek to show these words to have an extremely wide range of meaning and therefore render the words unusable because they lack specificity. But the overwhelming support from New Testament scholars is that ἀρσενοκοῖται should be translated something like ‘males who take other males to bed’[4] and μαλακοὶ should be translated something like ‘effeminate males who play the sexual role of females.’[5]
    8. The Bible is univocal in its condemnation of homosexual practice. Wink, a theologian who argues that Christians should fully accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation,[6] says this: ‘I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behaviour, and there is no getting around it. The issue is precisely what weight that judgment should have in the ethics of Christian life.’[7] Wink is saying that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behaviour but he asks what place the Bible has in speaking to Christian ethics. So, even a theologian who is agreeable to homosexual relationships recognises that the Bible clearly condemns all homosexual acts.
    9. Gay people, like straight people, need to hear the gospel first and foremost. Christians have a tendency to be moral warriors. But what the world needs to hear is the gospel. The world needs to hear the fact that God is there and he created them. The world needs to hear that we have all rejected God as our king. The world needs to hear that God, in his great love, sent Jesus to die and take the penalty for our rebellion. The world needs to hear  that Jesus has risen from the grave guaranteeing our Resurrection. The world needs to hear that God is inviting us all to know him and one day to be with him where  there is no more evil, pain or suffering. The world needs to know the gospel. Christians sometimes act like as if we get gay people to be straight we have won. But you don’t go to hell for being gay and you don’t go to heaven for being straight. You go to hell because you have rejected Jesus as the lord and saviour of your life. The world needs to hear the gospel from the lips of Christians who have their heart broken by the love of God for the world.
    What do you think?
    What would you add?
    What would you take away from this list?

    [1] See the discussion in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 350-360 as well as Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: a Sourcebook of Basic Documents (University of California Press; 2003); and Marylin Skinner, Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (Wiley-Blackwell 2005).

    [2] See John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 B.C. – A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 2001)

    [3] See Plutarch Dial, Love 750B-751B, 752B-C

    [4] This is how Gagnon takes ἀρσενοκοῖται. Some alternative translations from other scholars include ‘Men who take the female role in sex.’ Victor Furnish, The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues (Abingdon Press; April 2009); ‘Men who assume a passive sexual role with other men.’ Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University Of Chicago Press; 1998).

    [5] This is how Gagnon translates μαλακοὶ.

    [6] Walter Wink, ‘Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality’, Christian Century, November 7, 1979, 1082

    [7] Walter Wink, ‘To Hell with Homosexuals: Sex and the Bible’,  The Christian Century, June 5-12, 2002, 32-34

  • The Clergification of the church

    “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” – Ed Stetzer

    As I said in my last blog I had the privilege of sitting down and asking Tim Sims and Ed Stetzer a bunch of questions about church growth and leadership. They both said is that most churches have an underutilized laity. If there is something important in our churches to be done we get a paid member of the clergy to do it. This is why Ed thinks that “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” because we have an unbiblical clergy/laity divide where we only trust those with a theological degree and they have to have attended the right theological college!

    The issue here is that we have not only been unbiblical because we, as evangelicals, believe that every Christian is has gifts to bring to the church (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12:1-8). But keeping important ministry to the paid clergy disempowers the laity. It is says that you aren’t good/smart/godly enough to do these things but please be on the supper roster!

    While I was on holidays I had the revelation that we at Resolved have been bad at asking people who aren’t elders to be joining in discipling each other and leading ministries. Since then we have started to be on the front foot with asking people to be involved in ministries and discipling each other.

    What has been the result?

    I have seen people more enthusiastic about Resolved, people getting together to read the bible and pray together, people encouraging each other to tell their friends and family about Jesus and invite them to church. I have heard people say how they feel more valued now and how they feel like Resolved is more their church than ever before!

    I was arrogant. I thought if I preached well and we had a good service in a cool location people would be enthusiastic about church and they would invite their friends to church.

    I was wrong.

    Let’s not have our people spectate let’s have them participate!

    Not only is it biblical but it will empower them and they be more enthusiastic about Jesus, our churches and reaching the lost!

     

  • How to forgive your Pastor

    Pastors can be the most disappointing people in the world. I know because I am one. We disappoint ourselves; we let down people in our congregation sometimes by forgetting something and sometimes by a hasty word or action.

    We all can recount times when we have been hurt or at least frustrated by a pastor. This hurt or frustration if left unchecked can fester and destroy our respect and love for our pastors and can even destroy our faith

    What is the solution?

    The Gospel is our solution. Nothing more nothing less.

    Sorry to disappoint you that I didn’t come up with something new and hip but the Gospel is the solution for the following three reasons:

    1. The Gospel teaches us that all people are sinful. Pastors are called to a different standard of Character (e.g. 1 Timothy 3). But we pastors are still sinners, we do make mistakes and we will do in the future. The gospel teaches us to expect this and not to subscribe to some wrongheaded notion of “Pastor Perfect”. Now this can’t be an excuse for pastors and if there is sin your pastor’s life he, just like you, needs to be made aware of it and helped with it in loving and helpful ways. If we recognise that our pastors, just like us, are sinful then we would be more able to forgive them. It also gives us pause to think about what sin I have brought into the relationship that I have with my pastor.

    2. The Gospel teaches us that we have been forgiven. You have been forgiven for everything, how amazing is that? Have you ever thought about how much your God loves you and how much he has forgiven you? When we compare what we have been forgiven to what we need to forgive the two are incomparable. We have been forgiven infinitely more than anything we should forgive. When you pastor sins, upsets you, disappoints you remember forgiveness and how much you have been forgiven and see your pastors sin in this light.

    3. The Gospel teaches us that God is in control. God wasn’t surprised by what happened between you and your pastor. God is not in heaven thinking “I didn’t see that one coming!!” No, God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and so God is working what just happened for your good and his glory. If you knew this would it be easier to forgive your pastor?

    The answer is always the gospel nothing more nothing less.

     

  • Baptism: The Epistles

    We could look at a number of Pauline texts about baptism (e.g. Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13; 15:29, Galatians 3:27 etc.)

    But I want to focus on two texts in particular which I think capture the heart of what is happening in baptism:

    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

    “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12

    If we take these two texts as paradigmatic for what baptism is we see that baptism is a symbol showing that a Christian undergoing baptism has died and risen with Christ and now has new life. We know that a person has only truly died and been risen with Christ when they have faith in Jesus and so if baptism is a reflection of this fact why then would we baptise someone who has not yet come to faith in Jesus.

    These texts in particular should cause a person who baptises infants to rethink their position. So as we have seen in the Gospels and Acts, baptism is to be conferred on those who have made a profession of faith and therefore the Bible supports believers baptism and not infant baptism.