The Elders of the church where I serve as pastor met, as usual. Part of our discussion, however, was anything but usual. While it is not uncommon for this group to discuss subjects to help us more effectively minister, even setting aside occasional Saturday mornings to delve into variant viewpoints of issues that affect peoples’ lives, this is the first time our discussions involved anything that approached the edges of civil laws. In the end, what was requested at this point was a a handful of resources for our mutual consideration, some things that might prove helpful as we seek to remain faithful – in all respects – in this new cultural “reality” concerning marriage.
It seems to me that there are two aspects we – and other churches like ours – need to navigate: first, how to defend the biblical design for marriage with wisdom and in truth; second, how to wisely, sensitively, and effectively minister to individuals struggling with same-sex-attractions, as well as to individuals and families for whom this is a real and personal issue, and not just a theoretic and/or political hot potato.
What we do not want to do:
- We do not want to over-react to the new legal definition of marriage, which we believe to be at odds with the biblical definition that directs us.
- We do not want to act and speak in ways that are insensitive, and/or unnecessarily offensive to those who struggle with, or who are impacted with, issues related to same-sex attraction.
- We do not want to alienate people we are called to love – some of whom we already love, and who number among our friends.
- At the same time we do not want to – we cannot – capitulate to the culture, forsake God’s Word as our only ultimate authority, or compromise the gospel in any way.
While it is somewhat cliche, I have long asserted that our goal should be to live and minister in such a way that the gospel be our only offense. Of course this is not possible, since my sin, and the sin of every other person associated with our church, is real, and our sin is often offensive to those around us. But I think the phrase nevertheless has merit, as an aspiration, perhaps especially now, as we seek to navigate these new waters.
The resources I am providing here probably help more with the first issue, how to defend and teach our position; offering less help concerning the second, how to effectively love and minister to those with same-sex attractions, and how to effectively love and encourage those who love someone struggling with same-sex attractions and who may be in a same-sex relationship. This is new ground for pretty much everyone, so I will be exploring to find all I can find, as I expect we will see an increase of people impacted – or at least more people coming forward with both questions and concerns.
Here is an annotated list of resources I have found helpful:
Making Sense of Scriptures “Inconsistencies” by Tim Keller
This is a very good, relatively short, and easily understandable response to those who suggest that by opposing or by not supporting homosexuality Christians are picking and choosing from the Bible. Keller offers a short primer course on the relationship between the OT & NT, and why that matters in our current climate.
40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags by Kevin DeYoung
DeYoung poses some thoughtful questions for those sitting on the fence on this issue, or who while being Christians are adopting the cultural narrative over the biblical narrative. These questions could be misused, and become tools for confrontation; or they can be used thoughtfully to encourage honest reflection in a process to renew our minds toward biblical conformity.
This is a fairly extensive resource list, with links to articles related to a variety of questions many Christians are asking.
The Bible and Same Sex Relationships by Tim Keller
A thorough and practical review of two of the primary books supporting same-sex marriage. In this review Keller outlines six categories that virtually all arguments favoring same-sex relationships fall into, and then Keller addresses each argument. While this might seem merely academic, my experience is that any dialogue with proponents of same-sex marriage will inevitably involve one or more of these argument categories. Therefore, Keller’s reflections prove to be highly practical.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
This is a short book, comprehensive, yet readable. It is essentially a Readers’ Digest version of a more technical academic book that is on the market. DeYoung explores the issue from a number of angles, mining the Bible for its authoritative guidance.
Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
Written by an Evangelical who struggles with SSA, this is an absolutely helpful little book for those of us who do not struggle with this particular issue. Hill helps the reader understand the heart & mind of those who experience SSA. He is clear about homosexuality being sin, yet he also exposes some of the hurtful, insensitive, and unhelpful things that those of us in the church have done – and are prone to do – toward those who do have this inclination. This is a tool that can help us minister to those struggling homosexuality.
Harvest USA is a ministry that works with people struggling with all forms of sexual brokenness. On their site they have a variety of articles, many of which could be of help and interest. What Harvest USA’s resources also can do is remind us that homosexualiuty is but one issue, and that there is a wide range of sexual brokenness that the people in our pews experience. Homosexuality and SSA is but one expression of brokenness, no worse, and no better than any other expression. What sets it apart now is that it is the only government sanctioned and culturally acceptable expression. We must be careful to not over-react to this, nor to under-react.
This is a lot of stuff, but it is also not enough stuff. I hope those who are concerned about the faithfulness of the church – both to purity and to our mission – will find at least some of these helpful. But please keep in mind that while this issue has new status in our culture, that our mission and purity have always been held in tension. We are called and sent into a broken world, a world which has been broken and corrupt in various ways for millenia. We ourselves are no better than the broken world, but rather redeemed from it by God’s grace, through the sacrificial death of Jesus. When we were called, we were as corrupt and broken as whoever we may be tempted to see as the worst of humanity. But in Christ we have found mercy and hope. (1 Corinthians 1.26-31; Romans 5.6-8; Matthew 9.13; 1 Timothy 1.15)