Don’t be on the wrong side of history. That’s the battle cry for many young, progressive Evangelicals. Looking back, they see the Church universal as, more often than not, hindering God’s work to bring peace and reconciliation. With the Crusades, many Christians killed in the name of Christ; with slavery, whole denominations justified oppression and abuse by misquoting Scripture; with race, Christians sliced up the Bible to promote segregation and inequality.
And now the church is doing the same with homosexuals by abusing God’s Word to “bully” gays—at least, that’s the claim of bloggers such as Rachel Held Evans. Recently, Evans explained how she and her husband would respond if her child came out:
If God blesses Dan and me with a child who is gay, I would want that child to know without a doubt that he or she is loved unconditionally. I would want her to know nothing could separate her from the love of God in Christ. I would want her to know that she isn’t broken, she isn’t an embarrassment, she isn’t a disappointment.
Pastor and professor David Murray responded to Evans with his take on the issue. First, he points out what all Christians can learn from progressives about love:
I believe Rachel’s motivation is to create a more welcoming and loving environment in the church for those who identify themselves as homosexuals, or who struggle with homosexual desire. I admire and agree with her motive, and must say that I’ve learned from her in this area of being much more careful in how I speak and write about homosexuality.
However, love demands that we tell the truth, even if the truth isn’t popular or easy:
Like Rachel, I too have winced and cringed as preachers have condemned homosexuality as if it is an unforgiveable abomination that only weird and wicked people outside of church struggled with. Is it somehow inconceivable that there are some in our churches who have struggled with homosexual desire and have fallen into sin in this area? What hope do we offer them? If our message is only guilt, without a hint of grace, then yes, we may well be causing little ones to stumble into depression, despair, and even suicide.
Where I do disagree with Rachel, is her refusal to accept that hell and judgment are any part of the Christian message about sin, including homosexual sin. As Jesus makes clear, we also risk making little ones stumble if we tell them that they don’t need to cut sin out of their lives (Mark 8: 24-28; Matt. 5:19). God often uses the Bible’s message about sin, death, and hell to draw sinners to His love.
For many progressives, sexuality is an identity, as fundamental to our humanity as skin color. They believe that we are born with our urges, and that those urges cannot be sinful because they’re essential to who we are. To deny that and claim only heterosexual marriages are proper means forcing gays, lesbians, and transgendered people to live a life of loneliness.
But what this view often overlooks or downplays is that humanity is fallen. All of us bend toward selfishness and sinfulness because our sin nature is a part of our identity as children of Adam. Following Jesus means that we must lay down this fallen identity, take up our crosses, and trudge on (Matthew 16:24). Many of us had “natural” desires before following Jesus, but we made ourselves living sacrifices to His use, which meant giving up the things that used to identify us, used to be fundamental to who we were (Mark 8:35). Is that fair? No, but it’s not because we lose something; it’s because we get far more than we deserve (Revelation 21).
When we as Christians put stock in how history will judge us, we fear the opinions of human beings more than God (Proverbs 29:25). Yes, Christians have made their share of mistakes that still haunt us, but reading Scripture plainly is not one of them (in fact, we’ve failed when we don’t read it plainly). Those who want to read the acceptance of homosexuality into the Bible have become the Sadducees of our generation. They prefer to reduce the importance of passages they don’t like or reinterpret them. But Jesus didn’t give the Sadducees that option then, and He doesn’t now (cf. Matthew 22:23-33).
Alex Crain, editor of Christianity.com, gives us a closer look at how some would bend Scripture in this way:
The bad news for those who engage in homosexuality does not go away simply by the spurious claim that somehow the Church has "misunderstood" these texts for centuries, only to be corrected by later revisionist scholars in recent decades. These New Testament Scriptures prohibiting any sexual sin outside the sacred bonds of male-female marriage are clear. They claim binding authority over all people in all time periods, whether or not people acknowledge it in the here and now (see Philippians 2:10-11).…
People who try to use the Bible to argue that accepting homosexuality is how we are to 'love our neighbor,' wrongly omit the first half of what Jesus said in that context. Jesus actually said, "The great and first commandment is 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'" (Matthew 22:34-40). In other words, love for one's neighbor is bounded by one's primary allegiance to God. How can one claim to love God, yet hate what His Word says about homosexuality, or disregard His design for marriage?
To be sure, we must love our children unconditionally—but we must also tell them the truth that God has revealed to us. Otherwise, we’re letting them wander down a broad path that ends in destruction.
John UpChurch is the senior editor of BibleStudyTools.com.