The lead story (above the fold) in this morning’s Grand Rapids Press is about a small protest yesterday outside First Baptist Church of Zeeland. Two weeks ago the pastor was explaining that the practice of homosexual was a sinful choice and said this:
“For instance on another, a completely other playing field, if tomorrow I woke up because I have this internal compass that’s telling me what truth is. Tomorrow, if I wake up and say, well, I think I’m an axe murderer, now I’m an axe murderer, would you be happy with that? Would you agree? Would you want me to follow that internal compass?”
A man who used to go to the church and now lives near Detroit heard the sermon online and contacted the Grand Rapids Press, who wrote about the coming protest on Friday (some might say even promoted it) and then wrote a follow up piece this morning.
Here are my initial thoughts:
- Preachers cannot be too careful when talking about this subject. We will always be misunderstood when we compare homosexual practice to any other sin. I have brainstormed this myself, and every sin I come up with I say, “Nope, too inflammatory. Someone’s going to be offended by that and miss my point.” And I wasn’t anywhere near axe murderer.
- Preach as if anyone will listen to your sermon, because they can. If your church is putting your sermons online, and your church has “Baptist,” “Bible,” or some other conservative marker in its moniker, know that people living far away might be listening for something they can protest. This demonstration happened in Zeeland, the most conservative hamlet in the most conservative county on earth. It can happen in your backyard.
- Briefer is better. The offending remark occurred at the 41-minute mark of a sermon on the church’s relation to homosexual practice. Talk this long about it, and there is bound to be something that someone will take the wrong way. The sermon was about the church’s proposed addition to its doctrinal statement, which is eight paragraphs long. I wonder if even Jesus received this much attention in the church’s doctrinal statement. It’s difficult to stay winsome, and say you’re not picking on one specific sin, when you propose eight paragraphs on it.
Our culture highlights homosexuality and then picks on the church when we respond. Why are you so consumed with this one sin? We can avoid falling into their trap when we keep our statements short and positive. Our doctrinal statements can stand against the sin of homosexual practice without even bringing it up. Consider the one sentence that Cornerstone University included in our confession. Regarding Adam and Eve, we said “Their union as man and woman models God’s design for marriage and perpetually stands as God’s loving and righteous will for all sexual intimacy.” Enough said.
- The church released a solid statement explaining their position, but they should also apologize for the misunderstanding and clearly say that they do not mean to equate homosexuals with axe murderers. They are not sacrificing any of their convictions in doing so, and the humility required is just the sort of thing we should see in Christians. It might even disarm the opposition.
- This pastor may have been clumsy, but I believe he meant well. He is attempting to love sinners, which means not condoning any sin. His other statements carefully parse this, but the protesters aren’t listening because of his one comparison to murder. We need to pray for him as a brother, and the church as fellow members of the body of Christ. The culture is coming for us just as surely as it came for them. Let’s not make it easier by comparing homosexual practice to any other sin.
Picture by Hugh Carey, for MLive.com.