GRACE IN THE STRUGGLE

As Christians we know that we cannot earn our salvation. Resisting sin does not, in and of itself, make you righteous. But I think we are called to resist sin and deny ourselves because in the process of doing so (even when we fail) we truly learn and receive the grace and forgiveness and joy that God offers us in Jesus Christ. There is wonderful grace in admitting that we are sinful and broken.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Homosexuality & the Bible Part 4

 

Homosexuality & the Bible #4.

Matthew 9:10-13; 1 John 1:7-10; Matthew 16:24-25; 1 Corinthians 10:13

I want to take a look at the bigger picture here: Christian living and the struggle against personal sin.

I think there are two big errors in Christianity right now concerning homosexuality, and they reflect the larger issue concerning how we approach sin in the life of a Christian. The first error, widely reported by the news media, is that many Christians single out homosexual acts as the most terrible of sins, and they focus on this, while ignoring “lesser” sins like greed, lying or gossiping. Such Christians make anyone in church who struggles with homosexual temptations feel condemned and unwelcome and beyond redemption. Some Christians in this category say hurtful, even evil things, like “God hates gay people.” People who do this come across as hateful, legalistic and hypocritical. I will not defend such behavior.

There is a second error that many other Christians commit. People in this group either ignore what the bible says about homosexual behavior, or they try to justify it in ways that undermine the bible entirely. The result is that what the bible calls sin, they call “not sin,” and by doing so, they deny gay folks the opportunity to be forgiven and redeemed in their particular struggle. It’s like coming up to a child with a fever and saying, “Don’t worry, some people just feel lightheaded and strange and cold. You don’t need a doctor or medicine. Enjoy it – you are fine just as you are!”

Jesus said something that should be considered one of the scariest statements he ever made:

10 While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ” 12 But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)

These words cut to the heart of both errors. We get caught up in the fact that the Pharisees were religious and the tax collectors were not. But that isn’t the point at all. The point is that the Pharisees believed that they were well, not sick; they believed that they did not need the grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ.

If you are not gay, or if you believe homosexual behavior is sinful, you still personally need the forgiveness and grace found only in Jesus Christ. Your sins separate you from God just as much as any sin committed by a gay person. Don’t be a Pharisee: understand that you are among those who are sick, and who need the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. You must admit your need to receive it.

If you are gay, you must understand exactly the same thing. Your particular struggle with temptation is no more or less than that of other Jesus followers. You need the forgiveness and grace found only in Jesus Christ, and it is totally available to you if you will only admit your need and receive it.

One of the chief dangers on both sides of the issue is to suggest that sin of a homosexual nature are somehow different than others. On the one hand are people who say they are especially bad; on the other we have people saying they are not sins at all. According to the bible, both are wrong.

I will say once more: being gay is not a sin. Having those desires and temptations is not the same thing as indulging them and acting on them either through fantasy or reality. Now, according to the bible, acting on those impulses is a sin, but it is not an unforgiveable sin, and there is grace and redemption in Jesus Christ for anyone who will receive it.

However, if someone says, “I will not call this a sin. I will not seek forgiveness for this,” he is declaring his own actions righteous, in spite of what the bible says. Such people are acting like the Pharisees, saying, “We don’t need Jesus here. We aren’t sick, we are righteous.”

This is one of the main reasons I am preaching on this subject. Think of the same scenario only with a different sin. Imagine a movement of alcoholics saying: “Stop calling drunkenness a sin. We are alcoholics by disposition and we can’t help it. We promise we don’t drink and drive, so we aren’t hurting anyone. Stop judging us. We don’t want to stop drinking and we don’t want anyone to tell us it is wrong. We struggle enough with shame as it is, and so we want our public drunkenness to be welcomed and accepted by the church.”

There are several places where drunkenness is clearly listed as a sin (among other sins). If we endorsed drunkenness, no matter what the rest of society thought about it, we would be giving alcoholics the idea that they did not need to be forgiven by God when they get drunk. Also, if there was a movement of Christians who wanted to declare drunkenness righteous according to the bible, it would be natural to expect a counter-reaction of Christians explaining why it should still be considered sinful.

All Christians must struggle against sin. To deny this is to deny a large portion of both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle John writes this:

7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

I don’t know how to be more clear about the problem than that. The one who says “homosexual behavior is not a sin,” is calling God a liar. So is the one who says, “drunkenness is not a big deal,” or the one who says “it isn’t wrong for a Christian to pursue wealth,” or “it’s OK to be dishonest if it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

However, when we accept what the bible says about our own sins, we are in a position to receive grace and forgiveness and wholeness through Jesus Christ. Sometimes it may help to hear a real life example. I don’t want to share things that have been told me in confidence, so I will give you a window into my own struggle with sin. I am not eager to do this, but perhaps it may help someone.

For many, many years, I have had a great struggle with (heterosexual) lust. I don’t believe it is wrong for me to be attracted to women. I don’t believe I have a choice when it comes to that “first look” – noticing women who are attractive to me. But the problem comes in after that. My particular sin is to look again, even after I have a conscious choice to not do so. Then I indulge my imagination and fantasize about what it would be like to be with that person. That is what the bible calls lust, and it is a sin.

For years, no, decades, I felt almost helpless to resist the temptation to lust. If I encountered temptation, I knew I was going to fail, nine times out of ten. In fact, I felt like that was simply who I was – a lustful man. I don’t know for sure, but for years I have believed that I might have a higher “sex drive” than many people. It felt almost impossible to separate Tom from lust. I was very deeply ashamed about this (and even now, I am tempted to feel ashamed as I share this), but no matter how guilty I felt, I did not regularly overcome the temptations.

I certainly did not choose to be this way. I never wanted the temptation and struggle I endured. I tried to change, but even with the help of Jesus, for decades, I could not. Change did not appear to be an option for me. Failure was an option, and I took that option all the time. But two other things were not optional. I never believed I had the right to disagree with what the bible says about lust and sexual immorality. And also, I never believed I had the option to give up on my struggle against sin.

I knew I was forgiven, of course. But at times, it felt kind of shallow. I felt like maybe God was looking at me with disapproval saying, “All right, I’ll let you off the hook one more time, but watch yourself, Buddy. You are not my star pupil. You are skating along on very thin ice; you are barely making it.”

However, at last, two things began to happen. First, I admitted that I was broken. For reasons I still do not understand completely, there was something deep inside me that wasn’t right, and led me back to this sin over and over again. I began to admit my brokenness not only to God, but to a few trusted Christian friends also. It was humbling and difficult for me.

Second, the Lord was finally able to show me how completely and truly he loved me, and how thoroughly he had saved me through the cross. I began to believe that there was nothing I could do that would prevent him from loving and forgiving me – not just “giving me a pass,” but really delighting in me. I knew at last that Jesus had truly and thoroughly already made me holy in my spirit, the place where it mattered most. Because of Jesus, I really am “OK,” even right now. I finally understood that the power and extent of the holiness that Jesus imparted to me through the cross was infinitely greater than my deepest, most depraved sin, imagination or temptation. The Holy Spirit made it clear through the scriptures that the part of me that he has made holy is greater and more enduring than my sinful flesh.

When I finally began to believe and receive all this, I found that temptation began to lose its power. I was still tempted. Even today, I still experience temptation. Sometimes I still fail, but not nearly like I used to. The love of Jesus, and what he has done for me, is much more powerful in my life than those temptations.

Let me make this clear: I struggled for decades with a sin that felt like it was so deeply entrenched it was simply part of who I was. But because I continued to accept that it was a sin, the Lord was able to use that struggle to show me His love and grace in much deeper and more wonderful ways than I had ever known, and eventually, that love and grace began to overcome the sin in my life.

Suppose someone had come to me in the middle in my struggles, and said, “Tom, you were born this way,” (and for all I know, I really was). “God doesn’t want you to be unhappy. You aren’t broken, this is just who you are. It’s time you stopped calling this a sin, and stopped tormenting yourself about it, and just express who you really are.” If I had been given such advice, and taken it, I would never know the grace and joy and love of Jesus the way I do today. God’s word, calling my sin “sin,” is the same word that overcame sin in me. The only way for me to experience grace in my struggle was to first agree with God that I was sinning.

Now, you might argue that I have not struggled as deeply as a gay person. I personally have no way of knowing one way or the other, and frankly, neither do you, nor does anyone else on earth. But I do know this: it never did me any good at all to think that my own struggle was worse or harder than that of others. I don’t know why it would help anyone, gay or straight, to think so.

The fact is, ALL Christians are called to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

Denying ourselves the permission to do whatever we want, and certainly denying sin, are part of what that means. I don’t know what it feels like to be gay and a follower of Jesus. But I do know that Jesus asks all of his followers to be willing even to die for His sake. Truthfully, I think all Christians, if they are really Jesus-followers, eventually find that following Him involves real, deep self-denial. I think it is pointless and even counter-productive to dwell upon whether your self-denial is harder than someone else’s, and I believe it arrogant to think you can even know. I understand any given person may feel their struggle is different, but it is not worse (or better). 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. Clear enough for you?

One aspect of the self-denial that the Lord asks of gay people particularly, is lifelong celibacy. But he does not ask that of only gay people. In fact, millions upon millions of Christians throughout the ages, both men and women, have been led by Jesus to make the commitment to lifelong singleness with lifelong celibacy, including some of the greatest Christian writers and thinkers in history. Some of them may have been gay, but undoubtedly a great number of them were heterosexual. Singleness and celibacy are not the worst possible fate a person could have. The apostle Paul himself was led to that lifestyle by Jesus, and though at times he was undoubtedly lonely, he also considered it a great gift. He said that he wished all people could have the gift of singleness/celibacy as he did (1 Corinthians 7:1 & 7:7).

As Christians we know that we cannot earn our salvation. Resisting sin does not, in and of itself, make you righteous. But I think we are called to resist sin and deny ourselves because in the process of doing so (even when we fail) we truly learn and receive the grace and forgiveness and joy that God offers us in Jesus Christ. There is wonderful grace in admitting that we are sinful and broken. There is wonderful grace even in the struggle of trying to avoid sin, and yet failing.

Let’s not deny another person that grace by telling them that they should not have to struggle or say “no” to some of their desires or temptations. Instead, let us receive that grace in our struggles, together with all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thanks again for making use of Clear Bible.

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Please pray that this ministry will continue to be a blessing to those who hear it. Ask God, if it is his will, to touch even more lives with these messages. Ask him to use this ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

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THE HOMOSEXUAL MOVEMENT & BIBLE INTERPRETATION

Romans 3:23 says all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I don’t care what your sexual orientation is, you are a sinner. It also says, all who receive it are justified freely through the grace given to us in Jesus Christ. I don’t care what your sexual orientation is, if you repent of your sins and trust him, you are redeemed and made whole and holy in Jesus.

 

 

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Homosexuality & the Bible Part 3

 

The Bible & Homosexuality Part 3

Once more, if you have not read the first or second sermons on this subject, please go back and do that now. I guarantee, you will not understand what I am saying or where I am coming from if you do not. I really mean it.

I want to reiterate why I am preaching on the subject of homosexuality at this point. It is not because homosexuality is particularly worse than any other sin. It is not because I want people to go around condemning gay folks. I don’t even think it’s a good idea for Christians to be focused on one particular sin. The reason I have been preaching about it is because, plain and simple, the issue of homosexuality is being used these days to undermine the bible. The problem is not homosexuality, or homosexuals. The main problem is that Christians don’t seem to know how to properly understand the bible, and this issue is merely the most prominent example of it today.

So, some people say things like this: “But aren’t there many parts of the bible that we ignore today? Don’t we sort of pick and choose what we want to obey?”

This is one of the great dangers for Christians concerning this issue; this is, in fact, one reason I am preaching about it. There is great confusion about all this in the church today.

Let me put the problem to you this way. Say we agree that we will simply pick and choose parts of the bible, more or less as we please.

You say: I’m going to ignore the parts where it says homosexual behavior is sinful.

I say: I hate you. (I don’t, I’m just using this as an example).

You: But Tom, Jesus told us to love one another. In fact, you just shared a lot of scripture two weeks ago that told us we ought to love and forgive each other.

Me: I’m ignoring those parts of the bible, just as you’re ignoring the parts about homosexual behavior.

Here’s another one:

You: I’m ignoring the parts of the bible where it says homosexual behavior is sinful.

Me: I’m ignoring the parts of the bible where it says murder is sinful.

We could do this all day. But let’s cut to the bottom-line with one more example.

You: I’m ignoring the parts of the bible where it says homosexual behavior is sinful.

Me: I’m ignoring the parts of the bible where it says Jesus is the Messiah and that through him we have forgiveness, grace and salvation.

You see, if this is what we really think about the bible, we have no basis for faith in Jesus Christ, and no reason to be Christians at all. If you really think we can just pick and choose according to our whims, then who is to say that Jesus really died to forgive your sins? Who is to say God really created the world? Who is to say that Jesus really is the Messiah? Can’t we pick and choose whether or not those things are true? If we simply pick and choose what we want to from the bible, we are not Christians in any meaningful sense.

In fact, to decide for ourselves what we will consider right and wrong is to nominate ourselves for the position of God. Listen carefully here, because this has been seriously twisted the other way. You may have heard someone say: “Who are you to say that homosexual acts are sinful? Aren’t you playing God?”

My answer is, “I am nobody. I have no right to say such a thing. In fact, I don’t say such a thing. I am only submitting to what the bible says.” We might properly ask “Who are you to say it is not sinful?”

When I say, “According to the bible homosexual acts are sins,” I am not speaking on my own authority. I am not setting myself in the place of God. I am merely repeating what the bible says. In fact, I am only humbly agreeing that what God said through the bible is correct.

But when someone else says “I don’t believe it is a sin, as long as it is done in love,” that person is actually setting up herself in the place of God. She is saying, “I am going to determine what is right and wrong. The bible says X, but I disagree. I am saying Y.” Now, she may protest, “I am not the only one who thinks that way. Others agree with me.” OK then, she is setting up polytheism – many gods. She and the others who think like her are saying that they have the authority of determining right and wrong; an authority that is held only by God himself.

There is another option, taken by many. You may prefer to just throw your hands up and say, “Man, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s my place to decide these things.” But actually, such a person is making a decision. He is basically saying, “I know what the bible says, but I’m not going to say for sure that I agree with it. I’m not willing to let the bible determine right or wrong in this situation.” In other words, he has the authority to ignore the bible. He is saying, in essence, “the bible doesn’t have the authority to say that.”

Now, when it comes to picking and choosing, let’s be fair, and consider all the angles. It does seem like there are things in the Bible that Christians no longer pay attention to, doesn’t it? The bible says we shouldn’t eat pork, and yet Christians today don’t worry about that. You might say, “Tom, if you eat bacon, aren’t you picking and choosing, and putting yourself in the place of God?”

Actually, no. I’m not the one who decided it was OK to eat pork. In fact, it was Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7:18-23. The freedom to eat whatever we want is affirmed in Acts 10:9-16 and also Acts 15:28-29, and 1Corinthians 8:8 and Romans 14:1-3 and other places. In other words, I didn’t pick and choose for myself – I was guided by the New Testament in interpreting the Old Testament. In eating pork, I am still submitted to the bible.

Some people might say, “But isn’t that just your interpretation of the bible, not the bible itself?”

Christians have been studying the bible for two thousand years. Over that time, several simple rules have developed for how to interpret and understand the bible properly. Mostly, they were developed to keep people from twisting the bible to say whatever they would like. I refer you to my sermon series “Understanding the Bible,” where I explain these rules and how to use them. These rules of interpretation are not complicated, but it does take some time and mental effort to apply them consistently and thoroughly. A lot of people simply can’t be bothered to do it.

My interpretation of what the bible says about homosexual behavior was carefully and thoroughly developed in harmony with those basic, well-recognized Christian rules. My interpretation is also in harmony with that of virtually every Christian thinker in history until about the year 2000. Come on, now, let’s be honest: most of the culture, including President Barack Obama, claimed to agree with this straightforward reading of the bible as recently as 2008. In other words, it is not simply my personal opinion about what the bible says. I got there through careful bible study and interpretation, and found that virtually all Christians in history had arrived at the same conclusions before me. I am not just picking and choosing. I am going through a careful, well-established, scholarly process of consistent interpretation.

Frankly, I do not see this from those who disagree with me. For instance, one the arguments against the verses in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) goes like this. “Those verses are in the section of the bible known as the holiness codes. It includes things like not eating shellfish, or wearing cloth made of two different kinds of fibers. Christians don’t pay attention to that stuff anymore.”

Actually, the verse about shellfish is in Leviticus chapter 11, nowhere near 18:22 or 20:13. The verse about the blended cloth is Leviticus 19:19, twenty seven verses apart from 18:22 and thirty verses apart from 20:13. You cannot seriously argue the same textual context for blended cloth and homosexual sex.

But let’s slow down a minute and consider: what else is in this section of scripture?

A lot of Leviticus chapter eighteen is spend on forbidding various kinds of incest. 18:20 forbids adultery, 18:21 forbids the burning of children alive, 18:22 forbids homosexual sex and 18:23 forbids sex with animals.

If you argue that homosexual acts should not be considered sinful because these verses are found in the “holiness codes,” you must also argue that it should not be a sin to commit adultery, burn your baby alive, rape your children or mate with animals. I’m sorry for the graphic nature of these words – they are right there in the bible, and I think if you cringe at the thought of making these activities legitimate and “moral” among Christians, you should do the same for the activity in 18:22.

Now, let’s look more carefully at the verse for blended cloth.

15 “You must not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You must not go about spreading slander among your people; you must not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am Yahweh.

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

19 “You are to keep My statutes. You must not crossbreed two different kinds of your livestock, sow your fields with two kinds of seed, or put on a garment made of two kinds of material.

Remember, the argument about homosexual sex is: “It’s in the same section as the part about blended cloth, so we don’t have to listen to it.” But these (above) are the verses right next to the part about blended cloth. By that logic, we shouldn’t have to love our neighbor, or be just to the poor. If you do away with the part about homosexual acts, you must surely do away with “love your neighbor,” and “do not hate.”

Now, there are reasons that we wear polyester blends today, and yet still maintain that we must love our neighbor. But we don’t just say, “That thing about blended cloth is outdated.” There is a careful process of interpretation involved in determining why the ancient Israelites were not to blend different types of fibers, and what the principle is behind that verse, and how that principle still applies, even today, though it applies differently to us than to the ancient Israelites. After that careful process, we find something encouraging and instructive from the verse about blended cloth, but also we find that it is now OK to mix cloths. We go through the same process with the verses about not hating, and loving our neighbor, but in those cases, once we have done the work, we find that the underlying principles apply to us in exactly the same way they applied to the ancient Israelites.

Once more, I refer you to my series “Understanding the Bible.” Virtually anyone can do this work of responsible bible interpretation, but it does take time and effort. I want to say, as kindly as possible, if you are not willing to go through the effort of first learning how to do, and then engaging in, careful, consistent bible interpretation, you ought not to go around throwing out scraps of verses and poorly-thought theological-sounding arguments.

Of course, the verses from the New Testament which I shared last time are just as clear. If we wanted to eliminate homosexual activity from those lists of sins, we would have no choice but to also eliminate adultery, murder, slave-trading, lying, stealing, greed, drunkenness and more.

It is true, some Christians focus on homosexual behavior, and ignore some of the other things, like greed, for instance. I say, “shame on those Christians!” Neither one is worse than the other, but according to the bible, both are sins in the eyes of God, and it is wrong to give one a “pass” while condemning the other.  This is not a legitimate approach to the bible either. However, the fact that some people do this does not change what the bible actually says.

Once again I want to close with a reminder of God’s incredible grace to all sinners. Romans 3:23 says all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I don’t care what your sexual orientation is, you are a sinner. It also says, all who receive it are justified freely through the grace given to us in Jesus Christ. I don’t care what your sexual orientation is, if you repent of your sins and trust him, you are redeemed and made whole and holy in Jesus.

Next time, we will close this subject with some final thoughts about grace particularly for gay Christians.

Thanks again for making use of Clear Bible.

I want to remind you again that we are a listener-supported ministry, and that means, first and foremost, that we are supported by your prayers. We need and value your prayers for us.

Please pray that this ministry will continue to be a blessing to those who hear it. Ask God, if it is his will, to touch even more lives with these messages. Ask him to use this ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please also pray for our finances. Pray for us to receive what we need. Please pray for us in this way before you give anything. And then, as you pray, if the Lord leads you to give us a gift, please go ahead and do that. But if he doesn’t want you to give to us, that is absolutely fine. We don’t want you to feel bad about it. We want you to follow Jesus in this matter. But do continue to pray for our finances.

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Thank for your prayers, and your support!

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?

 To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Homosexuality & the Bible Part 2

Homosexuality and the Bible #2: What does the Bible say?

Even if you normally read these notes, you may want to listen to the podcast. Particularly with a sensitive issue, it may help if you can hear tone of voice and expression.

~

Last time we considered some ground rules for our topic. I want to reiterate: there is no room for hate, violence, slander or anything like that in this Christian discussion. It is also worth remembering that not everything that hurts was necessarily said with hateful intent; and the fact that someone disagrees with you does not mean they hate you. In addition, a person can love you without endorsing every activity you engage in. I have many friends and family who feel differently than me about homosexual behavior, and I truly do love them, and wish for the best for them. I have no desire to see them come to harm in any way, and though I wish they might choose differently, I have no desire to take away their right to choose the life they want.

If you are reading this, and you have not yet read the first message in this series, I plead with you to go back and read it. I do not think you can fully understand all that I am saying on this subject until you have read this entire series. We are not operating in “sound-bytes” or catchy phrases here.

I apologize to parents, but there will be some “plain talk” in this message. If you aren’t ready to talk with your children about sexuality, you might not want them to listen to this sermon. On the other hand, I think kids need to learn about this subject sometime. They will hear it from their friends, probably sooner than you might think. In many places, they’ll even hear about it in school. I think the ideal way for children to learn about sexuality, and God’s plan for it, is by talking with their parents and considering what the bible says. Obviously, however, you as the parent need to make the call as to where and when that might happen.

This week I want to look at what the Bible actually says about homosexual behavior. My goal is to treat the relevant verses same way I treat the rest of the bible, and to use the common sense approach to biblical interpretation that I have been using for years in my teaching. In other words, this subject is no different than other subject I have taught about – it just happens to be politically charged at the moment, but I will not let politics change the way I teach on the bible.

I want to make one more note before I start. I am the messenger, not the message. The verses I am going to quote are really in the bible. We will find that the bible has no ambiguity about the subject of homosexual sex. The message is easy to see, and it is clear. In addition, where I share interpretations or add comments, those interpretations and comments are consistent with what Christians have taught for two-thousand years. They are not unusual or different. They are not popular at the moment, but this isn’t my message – it is the testimony of the bible and the church has affirmed it for millennia. It was not even controversial until the past few years.

Again, I share all this because it is my responsibility before God to teach sound biblical doctrine, and because for me, the true teaching of the bible is an act of love. It brings people closer to the truth, love and forgiveness that are found in Jesus Christ.

The bible always distinguishes between sins, and the people who commit them. God hates sin. But he loves sinners. Also, having homosexual feelings is different than having homosexual sex. No one is condemned for how they feel, or the temptations they struggle with. What the bible condemns is not homosexual people, but homosexual behavior. We can, and we should, accept and love people who identify themselves as homosexuals. In the church, this should be exactly like loving and accepting alcoholics, or convicts or single mothers, or me, a “normal sinner,” for that matter.

But acceptance and love are not the same as endorsement. Jesus and accepted and loved at least one prostitute. He accepted and loved a woman caught in adultery. Does that mean he endorsed prostitution and adultery? Of course not. He accepted and loved the people. But he told the woman who was caught in adultery, “Go, and sin no more.” He gave the prostitute a new life that did not involve prostitution any more. He said very clearly, in several places that “sexual immorality” is sinful – and that includes adultery and prostitution.

There is a distinction between the behavior, and the person. This is true, even though homosexuals themselves often refuse to make this distinction. “Being gay,” is not a behavior. Most gay people feel it is integral to who they are as people. We need to be clear that this – being gay, identifying yourself as homosexual – is not a sin. We do not reject people for who they are.

Now, let’s get to what the bible says.

Genesis chapter 19 tells about a city named Sodom. The male residents of Sodom wanted to have sex with some male travelers who had come into town. Shortly after this, the city was destroyed in judgment. Other bible passages tell us that the people of the town were guilty of many sins, but among them was sexual perversion – meaning, in this case, homosexual behavior. (Jude 7).

In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7, HCSB)

The only type of sexual immorality that we know for sure was in Sodom, was homosexual sex.

Leviticus chapter 18:22 says:

You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable.”

Leviticus 20:13 says,

“If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death; their blood is on their own hands.”

These verses are pretty clear, but pause here for a moment. Why do Christians think today that homosexual behavior is wrong, but we don’t think people should be put to death for it?

The punishments listed in the first part of the Old Testament were specifically given for life in ancient Israel. They were, in effect, the civil and criminal laws of the land. We don’t live in ancient Israel anymore. The moral law (the act that is called sinful) remains in effect, but we don’t live under the same civil or criminal laws.

The same section of scripture (the latter part of Leviticus) also says that adultery is wrong, and those who do it should be put to death. In Jesus’ day, under the Roman law, Jews were not allowed to execute someone for committing adultery, and in fact, the practice had fallen into disuse even before that. However, in spite of a change in the punishment, there continued to be a clear understanding that adultery was wrong. In fact, in John chapter eight, Jesus condemned adulterous behavior, but refused to let people kill the adulterer. Likewise today, any serious Biblical ethicist must condemn the act of adultery as morally wrong – even Jesus did! (Matthew 5:27-30). Most people, in fact, still believe adultery is wrong. But virtually no one thinks we should have a law by which adulterers are punished by death. In the same way, we may certainly maintain a Biblical morality, while adapting the legal consequences to the society we live in today.

The New Testament also talks about homosexual behavior. Romans 1:29:

24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. 26 This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error. (Rom 1:24-27, HCSB)

This is pretty clear. Homosexual behavior is called sexual impurity and a perversion. In other words, it is regarded as a sin.

I have already mentioned the Jude passage in the explanation of Genesis 19:

In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7, HCSB)

I mention it again here because the verse is in the New Testament, and also because it tells us something very important about a particular Greek word. The root word is “porneia” and is used in various forms dozens of times throughout the New Testament. Most often it is translated as “sexual immorality.” Jude (who, incidentally, was the half-brother of Jesus) is using this word to refer specifically to homosexual sex (the only sexual sin recorded in Sodom was homosexual in nature). In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus uses a form of the word when he is clearly talking about adultery. So, although there are specific terms for adultery, homosexual sex and other sexual sins, “sexual immorality” includes them all. In other words, “sexual immorality” means: “any sexual activity except that between a married man and woman.” Therefore, whenever the New Testament says “sexual immorality,” homosexual sex is included in that phrase, along with any other sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The New Testament is relentlessly consistent in calling sexual immorality of any sort a sin. Verses which do that include (but are not limited to): Ephesians 5:1-5; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.

But just so we are absolutely sure, let’s consider a few more verses:

We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching (1Tim 1:9-10, HCSB)

I want us to note two things: first that homosexual behavior is specifically mentioned, and second, that it is not singled out as any worse or better than thirteen other sins. All these things are “contrary to sound teaching.”

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul breaks mentions several types of sins, specifically naming homosexual sex among them.

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Cor 6:9-11, HCSB)

Many English translations don’t show it, but Paul actually lists homosexual behavior twice in this list. He uses a Greek slang word which should be literally translated as “soft” (malakoi). This is probably equivalent to our English use of “gay.” Paul also uses a more specific technical word that means “homosexual.” I think most translators simply use one word to avoid redundancy, but a properly nuanced translation of this might read: “…neither gay, nor any kind practicing homosexual…”

We’ve already seen several clear passages. It’s hard to be more clear than right here in 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 6:9 homosexual behavior is called sinful along with eight other behaviors: sex between unmarried people, adultery, idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander and swindling. Let’s get this straight. Greed is as sinful as homosexual behavior. So is petty theft (the Greek word for “thieves” is the same root where we get “kleptomaniac”). Habitual drunkenness is as sinful as homosexual behavior, and so is adultery, and promiscuity and telling lies about others. So it would be wrong to suggest that homosexual behavior is particularly singled out as something more evil than other sins. But it would also be wrong to suggest that the Bible approves of “committed homosexual relationships.” It is a sin. There is no ambiguity. But it is not a special sin.

I have talked with gay people who told me that they’ve heard Christians say that homosexuals automatically go to hell. I’ve never actually heard a real Christian say that, though I’m sure that some people, somewhere, do. However, that would be a misunderstanding of this passage. If that were true, then it would also be true of alcoholics, petty thieves, any greedy person, and all those who have had a sexual relationship at any time in their lives with anyone other than their spouse. The real and main point of this passage is what Paul says in verse 11:

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In other words, whatever our particular sinful struggle, Jesus can put an end to it, and he has done so for billions of people around the world throughout history. So obviously, people who struggle with homosexual feelings can be saved and go to heaven – some of the Corinthians had those very struggles before they came to Jesus. People who struggle with drunkenness can be saved. So can thieves and those who are greedy. It all comes back to putting our faith in Jesus. Usually people who struggle with sins like homosexual behavior and addictions need help, support and understanding from fellow Christians as they open their lives to the Holy Spirit, but the Lord can change them. I have personally known several people who used to call themselves homosexuals, who even lived the gay lifestyle, who are now happily married (to the opposite gender) and call themselves heterosexual. Their testimony was that the Power of the Holy Spirit changed them. One them is the wife of a seminary classmate of mine. It can happen. It does happen.

In the interest of honesty, I will say that another one of my gay friends is completely committed to Jesus, and to healing and wholeness, but he has not lost his attraction to men, and at this point, he believes he never will. Even so, he is committed to a life of celibacy, and is trusting Jesus for all of emotional needs.

We need to remember: Jesus is a game-changer.

Speaking of that, what about Jesus? What did he say about gay sex? If you have spent any time on social media sites, you have probably seen claims that Jesus said nothing at all about it. In a narrow, technical sense, that is true. But we should also note that in a narrow technical sense, Jesus said nothing about incest, child-abuse, the oppression of women, slavery, or drugs. In a narrow, technical sense, Jesus never condemned war or racism or human trafficking.

Let us remember that all that we know about Jesus was handed down to us by the apostles, who are also the writers of the New Testament. In other words, we only know what Jesus taught because the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote it down. These apostles, and others, also expounded upon the teachings of Jesus in the other books of the New Testament. If you believe that the apostles correctly preserved the words of Jesus, you must also believe that their other teachings reflected the true teachings of Jesus. There is simply no reason to believe one and not the other.

In other words, if you think that apostles were correct to recall Jesus saying that we should love our neighbor, you should also think that they were correct to say that following Jesus means we should forsake our sins, including the sins of homosexual sex. If they were wrong about the latter they were also wrong about the former.

In addition, Jesus did frequently talk about marriage and sex in general. He clearly taught that sex is good when shared in heterosexual marriage, and sinful in any form outside of that. He very specifically said that sexual immorality (which we know includes homosexual sex, among other things) is evil (Mark 7:21 Matthew 15:19).

Homosexuals are not the worst sinners imaginable. In fact, I don’t see any evidence that simply being homosexual (that is, having homosexual feelings or attractions) is a sin at all. However, the bible does call it a sin to act on those feelings, in the same way that it is a sin to act on heterosexual feelings outside of marriage.

Sin does not disqualify you from the kingdom of heaven, because Jesus died to forgive us and free us from all sins. ALL sins. A gay person has never done any worse sin than I myself have done. In terms of biblical morality and righteousness, there is no room for any person to think of himself or herself as better than any other person. I think the failure of the church to make this crystal-clear is part of the reason that today there is so much confusion about homosexuality.

The message of Christianity has always been that the only answer to sin is Jesus. People who engage in sex outside of marriage are forgiven the same way as people who engage in homosexual sex: by admitting their sin, admitting their need for Jesus, and putting their trust in Him to forgive them and change them.

There is much more to discuss. Next time we will look at some common objections to the verses and interpretations I have shared here.

Thanks again for making use of Clear Bible.

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Homosexuality and the Bible I: Introduction & Ground Rules

The real issue (for me, and I think most conservative Christians) is not homosexuality, but rather, the bible. It wouldn’t make any difference to me if the specific topic was something entirely different – in fact, I would greatly prefer that it was. What is at stake here is the way we view and interpret the Bible.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Homosexuality & the Bible Part 1

Homosexuality and the Bible I: Introduction & Ground Rules

Greetings, dear friends. This week I will be embarking on a short series about homosexuality and the bible. This is a “hot topic” right now, and it has important implications for how we view and interpret the bible. I admit, I am fearful as I begin this. I have been marginalized by my family over this issue. I would not be surprised to find that in the future, it will be illegal to say some of things I will say in this sermon series.

For this reason, I invite you to pray with me for the ministry of Clear Bible.

Please pray that the Lord will give me the wisdom and courage to teach everything He wants me to, and nothing He does not. Ask Him to provide every need, and keeping making this ministry what He wants it to be. Pray it will continue to be a blessing to those who hear it. Ask God, if it is His will, to touch even more lives with these messages. Ask Him to use this ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please also pray for our finances. As I write this, our family has encountered an astonishing array of unexpected expenses. Pray for us to receive what we need. God really is our true provider, so please do pray for us in this way before you give anything. And then, as you pray, if the Lord leads you to give us a gift, please go ahead and do that. But if he doesn’t want you to give to us, that is absolutely fine. We don’t want you to feel bad about it. We want you to follow Jesus in this matter.

If the Lord does lead you to give, just use the Paypal Donate button on the right hand side of the page. You don’t have to have a Paypal account – you can use a credit card, if you prefer. You can also set up a recurring donation through Paypal. We can make this tax-deductible if you just mention that it want it to be so in the “note” part of the transaction.

You could also send a check to:

New Joy Fellowship

917 Canyon Creek Road

Lebanon, TN 37087

(this is a new address by the way. It is merely an administrative change).

Just put “Clear Bible” in the memo. Your check will be tax-deductible.

Thank for your prayers, and your support!

~

I am going to take a short pause in our series on the book of Matthew in order to do a short (3-4 messages) series about homosexuality and the bible. Believe me when I say, I am not eager to do this. This topic generates a lot of emotion, most of it apparently anger. Also, I want to say up front that homosexuality, as a single issue by itself, is not a major doctrine of the bible – there are only a handful of verses specifically about it.

So why am I taking the time for three or four messages about it? First and foremost, because I believe that is what the Holy Spirit wants me to do. I think he is prompting me to do it because at this point in time, in Western culture, homosexuality is a hot topic. It is very relevant to the news and social media, to what people are thinking and talking about right now. In addition, though homosexuality is not a major point in the bible, it is being used by some people in such a way that the truth and integrity of the entire bible will be called into question. To put it bluntly, every verse in the bible that talks about homosexual behavior labels it as a sin. This is not my opinion – I’m simply stating a fact. Yet many Christians are now saying, “No, it is not a sin. The Bible was mistaken about that.” If we say the bible is wrong about this, what is to prevent another person from saying, “Well then, the bible is also mistaken about Jesus saving us from sin”?

In other words, the real issue (for me, and I think most conservative Christians) is not homosexuality, but rather, the bible. It wouldn’t make any difference to me if the specific issue was something entirely different – in fact, I would greatly prefer that it was. What is at stake here is the way we view and interpret the Bible. Trust me, I will explain further, but this an important and profound subject, which is why I will take three or four messages to do so.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I usually like to preach directly from scripture, and sequentially through a book of the bible. Here, I will be teaching directly from the bible, of course, but obviously these messages will be topical, rather than from one book. In this first message I want to lay some ground-rules, and set up a framework for our discussion, so it may be a little more “light” on scripture than usual. However, I think what I say can be supported by the bible. And honestly, I think Christians on all sides of the issue should be able to agree with what I write in this first installment.

Also, this, and the messages about this issue that follow it, are written specifically for Christians. I am writing to Jesus-followers and for Jesus-followers. If you are not a Jesus-follower, you are absolutely welcome to read what I have written here, but I do not expect you to agree with me, nor do I expect you to abide by the standards of Jesus-followers. If you are not sure you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are sitting in on someone else’s family discussion. Again, you are welcome to be here, but please do not accuse me of trying to impose Christian standards on non-Christian people.

For those of you who are Christians, I think it’s a good idea to take the same approach. Many non-Christians feel that the moral code of Christianity has no relationship to them. I am sad that they aren’t followers of Jesus, but their position on morality makes sense to me. They aren’t Christians, so why should they live like Christians? When Christians try to get such people to obey the Christian moral code, it comes off as silly at best, but possibly even offensive. The point: I think it is usually pointless and often offensive to argue about homosexuality with people who do not follow Jesus. We Christians would do well to remember this, and let it shape the way we engage socially and politically. Jesus said:

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.” (John 18:36, HCSB)

We are not called to make the governments of our countries into one big church. We are not called to “make everyone behave.” Nowhere in the bible does it suggest that the main mission of disciples of Jesus is to “build a Christian society.” We are called to make disciples. If we make enough disciples, that will result in society becoming more Christian, but the goal is not to have a country with more Christian laws, but rather, to have more disciples. We should consider this before ranting about the actions of the Supreme Court. In fact, I suspect that if conservative Christians had taken all the energy we put into politics and social reform, and instead put them into disciple-making, our culture would be at a different point right now.

I want to add another caveat. I expect that by the time I am done I will have angered and offended a large number of people on all sides of this issue. I am truly sorry if I cause anyone hurt or pain through these messages. I do ask that you read my words and consider them carefully before making judgment on me. I also ask that you do not quickly go through these messages and cherry-pick either the things you like or dislike. This is a complex issue with profound implications for a lot of things; a tweet, or a meme or a comment on Facebook are entirely inadequate to express the things we will discuss here. I will absolutely delete comments that are not thoughtful or respectful, or which reveal that you have not read and understood what I’m saying.

Please do me a favor, and give me the benefit of the doubt wherever you think I am not speaking in love. I may express myself poorly, but my intentions are honestly loving and sincere. Everything I’m about to write proceeds from love. I write because I love God, because I love the church, and because I love my gay friends and family. By love, I mean “a commitment to honor and value.” Love is not a feeling, it is a commitment to the very best for another. True love has never meant total agreement with the beloved or endorsement of every action of the beloved. If you think that you cannot love without totally agreeing with another, you do not understand love. If you think that you cannot love without endorsing every action of another, you do not understand love. Popular author Rick Warren puts it very well:

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense”

That’s actually a great place to begin with this subject: the first and most appropriate Christian response to those with whom we disagree is love. It does not mean we agree, and it does not mean we endorse. But it does mean that no Christian should be guilty of hating gay people. In fact, no Christian should be guilty of hating at all. There is no room in Christianity for hateful, spiteful words or violence against people simply because we disagree with them or don’t like them, or are afraid of them. To the extent that we act in unloving ways, we are not acting as true Christians. John writes:

The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1John 2:9-11, HCSB)

He is speaking specifically about Christians loving other Christians, (which Jesus also did in John 13:34), and many people don’t realize that. It isn’t “general love for all mankind” but love among Jesus followers. We should keep this particularly in mind, since many Christians disagree about the subject of homosexuality. However, let’s remember that we are called to love our enemies also:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? (Matt 5:44-47, HCSB)

Jesus came to redeem us from many things, including hate.

I know that there are many Christian people who endorse the gay lifestyle. I intend to address that in the second message, but for now, let me speak especially to you: if you call yourself a Christian, there is no room for hate on your part either. Just because conservatives feel that homosexual behavior is a sin does not give you the right to hate them, or speak spitefully to them or about them. The same verses about loving other Christians, and loving your enemies apply equally to you. In my observation so far, there is much more hateful speech coming from those who support gay marriage than from those who do not. My experience may be different from yours, and perhaps it is unusual, but that has truly been my experience.

If you consider yourself a Christian, no matter where you stand on this issue you must turn away from hate and obey the command of Jesus to love and forgive. He said to expect persecution and unfair treatment. He said that our response to it should be to forgive and turn the other cheek. This is true for all Christians, no matter where we stand on issues concerning homosexuality.

For those of you who feel pressure and even a kind of “persecution” about this issue, let me remind you once more of the words of Jesus:

“You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. (Matt 5:11-13, HCSB)

You are being mocked, or accused falsely precisely because you are “salty.” The world tastes the difference in you, and doesn’t like it. If you find yourself at odds with the world, it may be that you aren’t “on the wrong side of history” but rather, you are the salt of the earth. Jesus said we should expect to be at odds with the larger culture on many issues. We can take comfort in that. But we must also remember, forgiveness and love are the only appropriate responses to those who persecute you.

Sometimes an action that proceeds from love is not understood by others as truly loving. However, not everything that is called “hate” is truly hate. Our culture at large understands that hate is still a sin, so it often happens that people label whatever they don’t like as “hate,” even when it isn’t. I reiterate: disagreement does not have to be hate. Not even painful words are always hateful. When a surgeon cuts a patient open, it doesn’t always feel like love – in fact, it hurts. The surgeon may or may not be successful, but her goal is always to heal, and sometimes causing pain is part of the healing process.

In the same way, sometimes words spoken in love can cause pain. This does not necessarily mean they are hateful. Sometimes the path to healing leads first through pain. Like a surgeon, sometimes love causes short-term pain in the hope of long term health. Here’s another quote, this time from Adrian Rogers:

It is better to tell the truth that hurts and then heals, than to speak a lie that comforts and then kills.

Do not be too quick to attribute hate to another person – it may be that they are doing or saying what they believe is best for you. This could be true, even if they are mistaken. Even if their words or actions hurt, they may be given with the most loving of intentions, while others may make you feel good, not because they love you, but only because they don’t want the hassle of a conflict, or because affirming you affirms their own point of view as well.

Let me make something else clear. According to Christianity, God does not hate gay people. Any Christian who says “God hates gays” does not have the authority of the Bible to do so. There is no verse in scripture that says “God hates homosexuals.” I know some people calling themselves Christians have said such things. But they have no biblical basis for saying them.

I want to plead for some common sense here. I have seen a video clip or two on the internet where some “Christian” wacko says that God hates gays, or some other terrible, hateful untrue thing about gay people. However, I firmly believe that the media pays far more attention to these things than to the millions and millions of Christians who consistently live and speak in a loving manner toward those with whom they disagree.

Think of it like this. If you watch American police/crime dramas on Television very often, you might be led to the conclusion that American policemen are constantly shooting at criminals. In actual fact, the vast majority of police officers go through their entire careers without even drawing their weapons in the line of duty, let alone actually firing them. Now, obviously, some police officers do fire their weapons in the line of duty. I have even met one. It does happen, but it is extremely unusual. However, if you rely on either TV news or TV police dramas for your information, you will be grossly mistaken about how often policemen fire guns in the line of service.

In the same way, obviously there are some idiots who call themselves Christians who say hateful things about gay people. But the vast majority of Christians do not say such things, and are not hateful, even when they have an opinion that differs from that of others. If you rely on social media or even mass news media, you will probably not have an accurate sense of how conservative Christians really respond to homosexual people. I have been involved in conservative, evangelical Christian communities all of my life, and I have never, not once, heard anyone say, live and in person, “God hates gays,” or “I hate gays.” I know it happens, but I doubt it happens as often as many people believe.

These are the ground rules we need to have a rational, calm, loving discussion about the bible and homosexuality:

· The debate about homosexuality and bible should be between Christians – in other words, preaching morality without Jesus is pointless.

· We are not called to make “Christian laws,” but followers of Jesus.

· God does not hate gays, and neither should any kind of Christian

· everything must be said and done in love;

· we must we willing to forgive one another,

· we must willing to believe that even things that hurt might be said in love,

· and we must be patient and forgiving when we are mocked, falsely accused and persecuted.

This is true for all Christians, no matter where you stand on the issues surrounding homosexuality.

Next week: what does the Bible say about homosexual behavior?