I don’t enjoy writing on this topic, but I’ve heard recurring questions from Christians that seem important to address. Here are four questions, and what I think is a helpful response. I’ll answer two today and two more next week.
1. Why must the church make homosexuality an issue?
It hasn’t. The culture has made this an issue. I’m sure you can find a pastor somewhere who loves to preach damnation on homosexuals, but every church I know that is speaking publicly about homosexuality is simply responding to the culture’s increasingly aggressive assertions. No pastor I know was looking for this fight. All wish it would go away. They don’t wish any person would go away, just the sin.
Why doesn’t the church speak equally about the sins of gluttony or materialism? Well, we can always do better, but we do preach against these sins, especially materialism. In fact, in our fight against materialism we often overcorrect and leave Christians wondering how many earthly things they are allowed to possess (For an antidote to such false guilt that doesn’t fall off the other extreme into materialism, see Becoming Worldly Saints).
Why don’t we hear more about gluttony? Probably because there isn’t a national movement that condones the sin of gluttony, passes laws and declares judicial edicts that enshrine gluttony as an unassailable good, and requires us to applaud gluttony in all of its forms.
If the culture tried to force gluttony upon us, we would say more about it. As it is, our culture is waking up to the problem of gluttony—at least when it comes to food. When the First Lady encourages exercise and healthy eating, when the news includes recurring segments on healthy living, there is less need for the church to take a stand. We simply encourage our people to do what even their non-Christian neighbors are doing.
2. Why must conservative Christians be so divisive?
They’re not. Schism is a tragedy that must break all of our hearts. The church of Jesus Christ should not be divided. But as Trevin Wax wrote last week, it’s important to ask, Where is the division coming from?
Christians who support homosexual practice are not merely opposing conservative churches. They are opposing nearly every Christian who has ever lived, up until five minutes ago. No Christian church, East or West, Roman Catholic or Protestant, ever thought that Scripture might be okay with homosexual activity (a new book, Unchanging Witness, documents this fact).
It’s disingenuous to start a fight and then blame the other side for standing its ground. At least have the self-awareness to admit that while something has changed, it’s neither the Bible nor the Christians who follow it. You may think they are wrong to do so, but you can hardly blame them for the division.
The homosexual issue is tragically dividing the church. Christians who disagree about sex and marriage must inevitably disagree about the authority of Scripture, the nature of God, humanity, the church, and salvation. It is impossible for both sides to stay together. Each side may bear some responsibility for the division, but only one of them started it.
Photo by spatz_2011. Via Flickr. Used by permission.