Addressing Homosexuality: A Third Way

I think both fundamentalists and “progressives” have abused, misused, and distorted the consistent biblical message of human relationships and homosexuality. And they’re making it impossible to reach a peaceful resolve.

The fundies have singled out homosexuality as the “abominable sin” and not loved like Christ. They have neglected what the Scripture says about divorce, and the most oft-mentioned sins of greed and idolatry. It’s a sin in and of itself, and it should be repented of now.

Greg Boyd addressed this here and here.

And others who believe themselves to be more loving and tolerant (believers proudly promoting LGBT community) have created a synthetic fog over something that I think couldn’t be more clearly written in Scripture (Gen 19: 4-29; Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:26-27, etc.). They are trying to “love” their neighbor while disregarding truth.

Yes, I expect some backlash from those who think any claim to something being “clear” in Scripture is presumptuous, even wreckless. Nevertheless, I think some things are clear. I won’t apologize for that.

I suppose that those who want to claim this isn’t clear in the text would try to use that as reason to advance their cause. I think even if a person became convinced that the Scripture is unclear on this, it still doesn’t give them the go-ahead. It doesn’t make it acceptable behavior.

There is much in the Scripture that is open to interpretation, no doubt. Have you read Christian Smith’s book? We do have an issue with interpretive pluralism. There are many issues of theology that ought to be left open and discussed frequently. But I just don’t think this is one of those issues.

Honestly, there is a part of me that simply can’t believe we’re even having this discussion. Maybe it’s because the church has failed to love like Christ that it has even become what it is in our culture.

OK… OK… back to what I was saying about our dilemma.

One group singles out the sin (fundies), the other group imagines it’s not a sin (progressives). Both are wrong, and are only adding to the confusion–perpetuating the venomous cycle of hate speech toward those who disagree with them. Is this the best we can do?

The insistence that since Jesus is silent on the issue is very misleading. In the first place, this wasn’t an issue among first century Palestinian Jews. Why would Jesus speak directly to something that wasn’t even being debated? Even then there is no guarantee Jesus would enter the debate if there had been one. Instead, he would offer another way of confronting the issue. So, while Jesus doesn’t speak about it directly, he does mention it indirectly as he discusses the divine design of human relationships (Matt 19:4-6).

Secondly, Jesus also never says, “Thou shalt not smoke pot and have group sex.” So, what? You can’t build a case off of silence from Jesus. Besides, we serve a living Lord, not a book filled with arbitrary rules. Can we please stop treating the Bible like an operator’s manual?

If Christ truly resides within you, and you’re seeking to live out your faith in community, ask yourself: “Does Jesus and the universal church approve of my behavior?” That’s much different than doing what feels right or good, or even squabbling over what some feel are ambiguities in an inspired ancient text. It goes beyond the text to the living Jesus alive in a living church.

Not only does Jesus speak about the intentions of our God-given humanness, the creation testifies to the plain truth of intentional design for human relationships. But it will not stop people from exchanging the truth of God for a lie; even ignoring what is “clearly seen” in creation (Rom 1:18-32). There are some things that are not part of our God-given humanness, no matter how much we feel it, that should be forsworn.

Listen to N.T. Wright discuss this here.

So, while I think the biblical text is clear about human relationships—from Genesis to Jesus, from Paul to Revelation—I would propose that both may be assuming that divine revelation (Scripture) is enough or can by itself settle the issue. While I think the OT, as well as Jesus & Paul, are plain enough (even after doing historical-grammatical exegesis)… let’s allow for further revelation beyond the biblical text.

For me, what ought to settle the issue is a combination of divine revelation, natural revelation, historic Christian traditions, human reason and experience, and the present consensus of the church. All of these must align, in my opinion. And I see that they all (in the end) testify to a very clear expression of the divinely created order of human relationships.

Now, how should we respond as Christ followers? I think there is a way for those of us who believe in loving like Christ to do just that without affirming any sinful lifestyle that is destructive to mankind. That means we must discover a third way that looks like the love of Christ, and not some sappy sentimentality that rambles on about tolerance with no moral boundaries. Being judgmental and lax about sin (any sin) both miss the mark.

Let me be clear. There does in fact come a time to say with Jesus, “Go and sin no more.” But not before coming alongside others with a co-suffering love and seeing yourself in their own sin.

We must see sin as a misuse of our human energies. It’s a sickness… for all of us. It’s a distortion in our soul. It’s resurrection life hitting a snag. When we can see that, even in ourselves, then we can offer others a way out.

Let’s discover a third way, brothers and sisters. Lord, lead us.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

17 responses to “Addressing Homosexuality: A Third Way

  • mkathoward

    Great post David! Thanks for pulling us back to the Scripture and the love of Christ on this topic.

  • Bill Benninghoff

    I agree – great post!

  • Sara

    The best thing you said was “Lord Lead Us”.

    When are we gonna admit we don’t know what to do?

  • Cindy

    I agree with you, David, in all that you’ve said. Scripture correctly interpreted (so far as I can tell), nature, and history tell us that homosexuality isn’t in God’s design. AND, gossip, reviling, greed and many more things we not only pass over but often laud are also sin.

    In addition to the indicators you’ve listed, I think maybe I see one more. Perhaps it falls under the category of nature, though. It seems to me that creation tells us a lot about God and what He’s like. Marriage, I think, is not only for the nurture of children and one another, but also to shine a light on the relationship of Christ and the church. Homosexuality, imo, tells a lie about this relationship — like Moses when he struck the rock again instead of speaking to it as he’d been told to do. God takes these things seriously, and homosexuality and homosexual “marriage” gives the lie to marriage as an image of Jesus and His bride. So . . . just my thoughts. Thanks for a great blog!

    Cindy Skillman

    • David D. Flowers

      Thanks, Cindy. Yes, it seems that the marriage covenant is the purest image of God in relationship with creation, especially his people. It’s used over and over again throughout Scripture. And as you pointed out, it is the metaphor of choice to speak of Jesus and the church. Anything beyond the divine design for relationships and marriage is a fundamental threat to the foundations of creation itself. It undermines life and order in nature. This is why I have also written about the destructive nature of divorce as well. Both severs community and inhibits the image of God from being reflected in the earth.

  • Surit

    Great post David! I think from what I’ve learned from this is that fundos ‘over-emphasize’ God’s stand on homosexuality while the 2nd group ‘de-emphasize’ it. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we all just treat the Word of God not like a construction blueprint but more like an actual Father’s love letter? Instead of throwing Bible-verses at people like shuriken, we can actually explain to people how God wants us to be… and people have the choice!

    Surit

  • gioiamorris

    Thanks for this David – I hear your heart… and yet…:) I don’t know why but I feel the Lord has placed a deep love and compassion for the “homosexual” in my heart and maybe – just maybe it’s His love and compassion and I just can’t ignore it… christians feel like they have to have an opinion on this issue and take some sort of stand against it or for it… but where does it end? Which issue do we pick to address? There are so many… so much abuse going on in families within “natural” relationships… I’m a product myself of a very volatile marriage relationship between my father and mother. I remember begging my mother for the first time to leave my father when I was 4 years old – she told me “I am not allowed to leave” (she was a Christian and he was not) So much that goes on behind closed doors that is destructive to our children and society as a whole. Then there is the question of wether one chooses homosexuality or if it’s genetic… we don’t know each individual’s heart and the reasons for why they are the way they are.. Is a siamese twin God’s perfect design? Is a man in Ethiopia – born without legs and missing an arm – forced to crawl on his torso and beg 24/7 God’s perfect design? (I’ve met that very man last year)… there’s much wrong with this world as we see it today… sin has distorted many things but I do believe what remains is LOVE – we need to be conduits of His love!! It is Christ who says “Go and sin no more” not I. The moment I say “I am right and you are wrong” I put myself above that person – I consider myself greater! The Lord calls us to humility – to coming alongside one another. We are all individuals – we have our own stories and experiences and are products or our pasts; homosexual – glutton – thief – and those that refuse to die to self (I include myself in that category ) alike… I personally want to learn to love the individual – to be willing to listen – come alongside – and be ready to “walk a day in their shoes” – to feel the agony and pain of the individual before I could every make a decision or judgement call on why an individual is the way he/she is…
    “may he who is without sin cast the first stone” – if I’m “lax” about my own sin (which I believe most of us are) then how can I possibly point out sin in others – let’s be willing to take a good look in the mirror first.
    As always… Peace and Love to you David:) Gioia

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Gioia, thank you for sharing your heart. I think I agree with everything you have written. It seems to me that you’re restating what I have written in my post. I see a multitude of issues the church has failed to address. Divorce is much more of a destructive force right now than we ever imagined homosexuality to be against the family. How about we address that?

      I think it may be difficult right now for us (who are committed to loving like Christ) to be ready and willing to call certain practices and behaviors out as being “sin” and wrong. I think we are being hesitant to do that because of the abuses that I have mentioned. We don’t want to join in the finger-pointing. This is noble and good. But we might then be tempted to go through life not calling anything sin (I immediately think of the likes of Joel Osteen), just attempting to love people apart from truth and convictions, never saying anything about unethical behavior.

      What I’m calling for is a third way, which may be hard to imagine right now. I see that Jesus, Paul, and the writers of the NT are willing to live in both truth and love, and calling us to speak and live that truth in love. You can’t have real love without truth.

      Here’s a Timothy Keller quote I posted at facebook not long ago:

      “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”

      One only needs to read Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church’s behavior(s) to see that there comes a time to take a stand against immoral and unethical behavior in the church(e.g. 1 Cor 5). And I wouldn’t say that Paul didn’t have sin of his own. Judging others and calling them to a life of holiness are two different things. Jesus and the NT promote a love that must often confront the vile behavior of those claiming to be followers of the Way.

      I’m calling for Christians to love everyone as Christ and stop singling out certain sins as being worse than others. The two extremes I mentioned in my post (being judgmental/unloving vs. affirming/ignoring sin) do not reflect the heart of the Holy One of Israel. Again, it’s really hard to see the way of Jesus when most of what we’ve seen done in his name are detestable portraits of humans and God.

      I think there is a third way. That way is willing to love like the Jesus of the Gospels (living today in us), and if need be… say to the downtrodden and outcast, “I don’t condemn you. Your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more.” But before we can do that with power and authority, we must get down in the dirt and suffer alongside those who are in bondage to sin. For we know that by the grace of God we have been set free from our own bondage.

      Love to you as well, Gioia. You have a great heart. Press on sister!

  • askthebigot

    Love the post, the heart behind it and the discussion. Thank you!

  • gioiamorris

    Thanks for the encouragement, David!

  • Joe

    David – great post! I think the church has failed and continues to fail miserably in dealing with sexual issues. It seems that they push marriage as a solution to sexual issues (now that you are married you can have sex). However, the divorce rate among Christians doesn’t support that marriage is the solution. Ironically, divorce is generally accepted, but never being married is considered a failure.

  • kmarusak

    Hi, David,

    I just joined a Church of the Brethren congregation, which is located in Virginia, several weeks ago after attending services there for 3 years. As you know, the Brethren are part of the Anabaptists like the Mennonites. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and your comments when tackling various issues. Your articles are very interesting.

    You might reconsider your comment “affirming any sinful lifestyle that is destructive to mankind.” You seem to implying that all gay people are contributing to the destruction of life on the Earth. I do not know if you mean that homosexuality results in decreased population or will hurt the world that we now live in. All gay people do not live alike. There are as many differences between gay people as between straight people. Gay people’s lives should not defined by their sexuality; Most gay men and lesbians work, engage in fun activities, and sleep at night no differently than heterosexual people. Most of us contribute in many ways to the betterment of society through our work or how we treat others. However, there are some gay men and lesbians who make some poor choices in their personal lives and are self-destructive.

    I am a gay man who is in a relationship with another man that lives in a different Virginia county. Both of us do not smoke, drink or do drugs, are monogamous, and practice the 10 Commandments. We show up to our jobs faithfully each day. We have a belief in God and consider ourselves Christians. I contribute to my church (He does not belong to a church because he works every Sunday). Of course, I am not perfect any more than any other individual.

    Each person makes choices every day on what they feel is right or wrong or how they decide to live their lives. I do not know how many gay men or lesbians that you personally know or what exposure that you have had with gay people. I truly believe that most straight people, including those who attempt to follow the Bible, do not understand what it is like to be gay. It is not important to them. Many would have a different perspective if they woke up the next morning finding themselves attracted to their own sex.

    My sexual desires are not uncontrollable urges anymore than yours; My love for another person is far stronger than anything that I could ever control. A lifetime of celibacy may appear to be demonstrating a devotion to God. However, in practice, most people who live their lives without the touch of another human being are far more damaged as people. A person who is never allowed to love another human being is broken. A world where every gay man and lesbian engages in a lifetime of celibacy would have far more serious negative consequences upon society.

    I am not debating Biblical scripture because your interpretation may or may not be correct. But gay men and lesbians are not in bondage to sin by being themselves; We are unable to change our attractions and love anymore than heterosexual people can. Homosexual love cannot be analogized as two heterosexuals married to different spouses that have feelings for one another. Gay men and lesbians do not love others because it feels good. Sexual attraction is immutable. These are just some things that people might remember while trying to follow Christ’s teachings.

    • David D. Flowers

      KMarusak, thank you for reading the blog. I’m glad you’ve taken an interest. Would you please use your first name? It’s part of the rules here at the blog. 🙂

      I appreciate you being honest and respectful in your comment. As you have probably gathered from my posts on this subject, I personally believe the act of same-sex intercourse (including lust, like that of heterosexual attraction) is sinful. Since I don’t believe it is part of God’s original desire and design for creation, it must be repented of like greed, gossip, gluttony, etc.

      All sin is “destructive to mankind” in my understanding of theology. I’m not claiming that people that have accepted a “gay identity” are incapable of being “good” people, even rising above the morality of some of their neighbors. We’re all sinners, some more noble than others, in need of transformation by the renewing of the mind and body.

      Therefore, I believe that we all must repent of that which God has indicated is destructive to individuals, families, and society. Celibacy may very well be the calling of those who have same-sex attraction. It is just as honorable as marriage, and it doesn’t exclude a person from loving relationships. In fact, it can be a most fulfilling life, as demonstrated by Paul & Jesus.

      Blessings on your journey, bro.
      David

  • Clay McLean

    Hi David
    I came late to your blog and found the article extremely well thought out and well written. I wanted to thank you for your commitment to both love AND truth (as if they could be separated ultimately). Just one thought-I strongly believe part of the answer to the same sex struggle is for a greater freedom of godly same sex affection to be expressed culturally. The so called ‘homo phobia’ is more accurately a ‘homo affection phobia’ strongly affirmed by a hyper macho fear of sheer touch, much less David and Jonathan level intimacy. Loving like Christ should be able to include a kind of caring that might fill the longing for same sex bonding without the confused lust which tries to pass itself off as love. If it IS love, it should be able to LOVE without sex in obedience to God’s design.
    THANK YOU FOR STANDING
    Clay McLean (I went to ETBU by the way, many years ago.)

  • Joe

    I really wish we had an answer for those that are devout Christians and also gay. Celibacy is not the answer as the bible makes it clear it’s a specific gift and not for everyone…Paul affirms this by saying if you are tempted then you should absolutely be married so not to fall into sin. But what does that mean for the gay christian who doesn’t have the gift of Celibacy (which would be most) and can’t get married? It leaves them with no option…nothing we can say to help those that have prayed and prayed to be changed and yet nothing comes of it.

    We simply have no solution or answer for our gay brothers and sisters who love Christ just as deeply as we do. So what do we do?

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