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The Gay Christian Debate

Oh to be gay! To be free from inhibitions, to come out of our closets of fear and trepidation, and light up the world! To strip ourselves naked and experience the fullness of God’s grace. Wait, you didn’t think this was a post on how to be a Christian homosexual, did you? But, while we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the “gays” (the LGBT community). There’s been a lot of commentary from the Christian left, right, and middle. What’s it all mean?

To broadly recap, the left says gays are full Christian brothers. The right says no freaking way, sinners! The Bible can be interpreted left or right, both sides say, (although the middle doesn’t agree on this). Jesus drops the bomb that we have to love everyone and that God’s kingdom has begun. I hope this gross oversimplification at least provides a high level overview of the playing field.

If I was gay, and a church didn’t want me (or rendered me a second class member until I “changed”), I would feel terrible. I’d feel judged, unwanted, less than, and a tad angry at such hypocritical behavior. Christians, and Christian leaders, and Christian pastors, and Christian counselors, and Christian husbands, and Christian wives, and Christian kids, and everyone else are full of the following, and more: anger, contempt, resentment, greed, envy, sloth, pride, arrogance, lust, jealousy, idolatry and a few others that aren’t coming to mind at present.

Why is it Christians fail to take the axe to these sins? Instead, they choose to clarify (at great lengths, and with much fervor) the correct sexual conduct and preferences of our species. Even this doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. But before I make an attempt on this, here’s what a gay Christian has to say.

David Shelton writes:

Those of us who are gay Christians have (at best) been relegated to the shadows of our churches, leaving us to contend with the “open secret” of being gay. The church ladies might talk about us as being “that way,” or “being really in touch with our feminine side.”

Look, folks. We’re gay. We are attracted to members of the same sex.

But broken? Not so much. Wounded? Absolutely. So who wounded us? Take a look in the mirror, dear Christian leader.

Why is it that the sexual vices are always called out, and the other, more damaging ones, go unchecked generation after generation? It’s the “living in sin” with your girlfriend stuff that takes center stage. It’s not, “Hey man, I can see that you’re struggling with lust, like me, and you idolize your work life over God and your family, like me.” Instead, it’s things like, “You live with your girlfriend!” “You’re gay!” “Sinner!”

To be clear, I wrestle with all this. I am working it out in real time. I’m arguing for a life lived to the fullest – where rivers of living water pour out of us. Where light radiates out of our skin. Where people can feel our presence and see and experience the grace and power of God – where they can see God’s Kingdom breaking through. The hatred of gays would not foster such ends.

Shelton notes that he’s not broken (at least not so much). I can’t agree with him on that, as we’re all broken. This is painfully obvious. But again, this is not getting to the heart of the issue. The heart, for a Christian, is exactly what needs fixing. Jesus announced God’s Kingdom – the time of God’s reign, God’s plan to fix stuff – including us.

I love how Tom Wrights extrapolates from the “divorce discussion” (Matt 19). Jesus says God never intended divorce. The Pharisees respond by asking Jesus why Moses allowed it. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” What Wright asks is (paraphrased), “Why would Jesus say this if he wasn’t planning on addressing it?” In other words, Jesus is intending to fix our hearts, among other things, as part of his Kingdom project.

There are a lot of folks suffering, stressed, and angry over the whole gay thing. I see this as a snapshot of our hearts. We can justify our rejection of LGBT folk with biblical interpretations of scripture and/or church traditions, but in doing so, we risk failing to practice the most important Christian commandment – love God and people. The stress and anxiety we feel is an opportunity to cut away the parts of our hearts that poison us, and to beg for God’s guidance.

Medieval Catholic monk, Thomas Kempis (1380-1471), reminds us of this:

We wish to see others severely reprimanded; yet we are unwilling to be corrected ourselves. We wish to restrict the liberty of others, but are not willing to be denied anything ourselves. We wish others to be bound by rules, yet we will not let ourselves be bound. It is amply evident therefore, that we seldom consider our neighbor in the same light as ourselves.

Our hearts are rarely in a right place. The gay issue reminds us all of that – straight or gay. To be a happy Christian, we must live in the kingdom amidst the spiritual mindset of God. We need to submit to King Jesus.

As Freddie reminds us:

You got mud on your face
You big disgrace
Somebody better put you back in your place

We can’t truly know or reflect God until we get rid of the mud on our faces, the logs in our eyes, and the condemnation in our hearts. As for me and my house, we have a heck of a long way to go.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson

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