“If my son came to me and looked me in the eye and told me that he was in love with another man, I do not think I could tell him that it was wrong, not anymore.”
Said our good friend, who is a Pastor. This was the comment that provoked the conversation.
He went to explain that he was not sure he could say, for sure, that God does not make or at least allow some people to experience and express same-sex attraction. He was speaking with mercy, he was very genuine, he is highly educated. Let me add at this point, that this Pastor is one of the most sincere and compassionate people that I know.
I understand what he meant. I have friends who have struggled with same-sex attractions and have not come out on the “other side”. I have a great deal of compassion for my friends. Our conversation brought up an interesting point. Can we tell people who they can love? Can love be wrong?
The conversation continued
“I understand what you’re saying” I said “ but let me ask you this. What if your son came to you and said he was in love with a married woman? Do you think you could offer him some guidance on whether that was right or wrong?”
Our friend nodded, acknowledging that we are now talking about an issue that is, without contest, mapped out, both morally and scripturally.
I took it a step further, “And what if your son came to you and told you that he was not sexually attracted to girls, or to boys, but to animals, would you feel you could encourage him that this was wrong?”
“Yes, of course.” he replied sincerely.
“Well, what is the difference?” I said softly. “All of those things are expressions of sexuality that are clearly prohibited by God, no matter how we feel. No matter what our disposition is.”
How have we become so inconsistent?
The conversation moved on. But it got me thinking. How have we become so inconsistent? If my son came to me at 9 years old and told me he felt he really wanted to look at pornography would I respect his desires? If my son came to me at 14 and told me he really felt he wanted to have sex with a classmate would I say yes, because he seemed genuine? If my son came to me at 25, as a young married man and declared he had fallen deeply in love with a married colleague would I encourage him to follow his heart? If he came to me and expressed a growing inclination towards FILL IN THE BLANK should I support his disposition because I love him?
Jesus and Sex
Jesus was largely silent on sex. This has given way to much chatter. Jesus never denounced a gay lifestyle, so neither should we. Good point. Jesus also did not denounce incest, rape, molestation, bestiality, or sexual slavery. Should we therefore lay aside all concerns about these social and moral issues?
Clearly, basing our sexual scruples on what Jesus did not say puts us on shaky ground.
So, what DID Jesus say about sex? The Gospel of Matthew records that some people gathered around Jesus in order to ask him some questions about the afterlife. As part of His response Jesus makes the following affirmation of heterosexual marriage.
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’
Please note that Jesus did not present an alternative option for the expression of sexuality in his response.
How does Jesus respond to sexual sin?
You know the story of the woman caught in adultery. You have heard the response that Jesus makes. This woman caught in adultery, perhaps naked, definitely scared out of her mind, certainly ashamed. He sees her and His eyes look upon her with love. Then, He gives His famous exhortation: “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more.”
I think this statement gives us an excellent template for the Christian response to sexual sin.
I do not condemn you.
Perhaps the church missed this. Perhaps we have engaged in too much condemning. But Jesus was clear on this. In an environment of accusation and vicious contempt for her actions Jesus reveals startling compassion and love. Somehow we need to show this kind of support to the gay community and to the individuals struggling with same sex attraction in our churches.
Jesus challenged that the person without sin should cast the first stone. Who among us has committed no sexual sin? No temptation that we have entertained for a moment too long? Who has not looked a little too much or searched a little too far? Sex outside of a life-long commitment, adultery, molestation. You name it. It is all in the church, we only need recall the recent public exposure of child abuse within the Catholic church and other such revelations. So, let us who are without sin cast the first stone. We need to let go of accusation and show some compassion. Offer some support.
But go and sin no more
And here is the other side of the coin. Go and sin no more. After showing this woman unmistakable compassion in the most counter-cultural display of support, He brings love to fulfillment. If we think that love is only compassion we do not know love. For as Paul writes:
“love does not rejoice in iniquity but it rejoices in the truth.”
Here in this moment I imagine the eyes of love, the eyes that showed her honor in her shame, did not change but stayed upon her. For now, love was calling her on in the journey.
“Go….move on from this kind of life…and sin no more….live differently…you can do it….”.
A Road Between Two Ditches
In considering this response from Jesus, I have envisioned a picture of a road with a ditch on either side. I believe that in our response to sexual sin and to homosexuality, it is possible for Christians to fall into the ditch of “I do not condemn you”.
In this ditch the outlook on sexual sin is “oh, well, we don’t want to judge, it is not my job to condemn…..its all good….God knows, I am just here to love. As long as love is there…well love wins in the end.”
On the other side, we can fall into the ditch of “Go and sin no more…..just stop it right now…the reasons do not matter, it is wrong… you are wrong and my job is to expose your sin and call it what it is….turn or burn! Oh and we do not want you in our church…..oh, and don’t talk to my kids!”
Jesus brought the whole message
Whilst we can fall into only saying half of the message, Jesus said the whole thing. He showed compassion, he offered love and support. He defended and honored, but he also clearly defined what was sin and gave a clear directive for a change of lifestyle. As Christians and in the church we must do the same.
As a Pastor, I hope to see our church as a place that welcomes people living in sexual sin. Jesus went to homes where tax collectors and prostitutes were present. We want to welcome those who are engaged in casual sex, pornography, adultery, gay sex, all of it. Everyone is welcome.
And when they come they will hear this message:
We do not condemn you.
But then, we are also committed to finishing the sentence.
Go and sin no more.
Author, Stephanie Jones.
Stephanie Jones is the co-pastor here at New Day, alongside her husband Scott. With their 4 children, they moved from Michigan to Summerville to start New Day Community Church over 4 years ago. Stephanie has been radically impacted by the Father’s love and makes it her life’s mission to impart what she has with those around her – healing of the heart, hearing God’s voice, evangelism and flowing in the prophetic. You can listen to their sermons and read more about them on our main site: http://newdaychurchsc.com