Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
J. D. Greear, “Homosexuality, Christianity, and the Gospel – Part 4”: (April 23, 2012)
Greear studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He presently serves as the Lead Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. These notes come from the church’s Equip: Leadership Forum done this past March on “Homosexuality and Christianity.”
Greear addressed this issue by focusing on four questions:
I. What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality?
II. What are the major “objections” to the biblical view?
III. Politically, should the church just stay out of this issue? In other words, should homosexual marriage—even if we are personally against it—be a ‘freedom of conscience’ issue in our culture?
IV. What should the attitude of the Summit Church be toward homosexuality and homosexuals?
He responds to each of these questions on his blog. His last post, his response to the last question, is very good. I find it very helpful. I am including his ten points, along with some key (not all) statements under each of them.
1) The point is not homosexuality; the point is the Lordship of Jesus.
The point is not that homosexuality is a fundamentally worse sin than the others—it isn’t. The point is that Jesus is Lord and is our authority in all areas. We cannot pick and choose which parts of Jesus we surrender to. To follow Jesus means total surrender to His Lordship. Jesus may offend us in this area; He offended previous generations in other areas.
2) Our stance on this issue may be one of the most important tests of faithfulness in our generation.
It takes very little courage, relatively speaking, to decry the evils of racism, the exploitation of women, the greed of Wall Street, or the abuses of power in our culture today. Almost anyone would say “Amen” to that, and you would be praised in the Academy, media, and church alike. Our faithfulness to Jesus is tested by whether we maintain His decrees in things our culture finds offensive.
3) The loss of gender identity has devastating consequences for society.
God designed male and female, and society flourishes only as it lives according to His design.
4) God loves the homosexual.
Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He died to free us from sin’s penalty and power.
5) God doesn’t send people to hell for homosexuality.
Here’s how I know that: He doesn’t send people to heaven for heterosexuality. He sends people to hell for self-righteousness, for thinking that they can save themselves or that they don’t need God. This includes the homosexual who rejects God’s words for his own viewpoint, or the greedy religious person who rejects a life of discipleship to hang onto his riches and reputation (Remember, the Bible talks about greed ten times more than sexual sin!).
There are many faithful disciples of Jesus who will never escape same-sex attraction in this life. What we believe about the gospel is shown most by what we do when we fall. Our belief in the gospel is not demonstrated by the fact that we never fall, but by what we do when we fall.
6) We should avoid pat, simplistic answers for the “causes” of homosexuality.
Factors that contribute to homosexuality are numerous and complex. . . . being born with a propensity toward something does not establish its morality. . . . Homosexuality is not a “worse” sin than other sins. It is a manifestation of the fallen nature that affects us all. We are born with propensities toward different spiritual maladies and distortions due to our rejection of God. Our natural dispositions, environment, and personal choices make us into the people we become.
7) We speak as redeemed sinners, not saints.
We speak as those who have been rescued from sin’s captivity and condemnation by Jesus. When we understand this we speak with deep humility and without a drop of hostility or triumphalism. We are not waging a war against homosexuals; Jesus fought and won a war against sin and death for homosexuals, and for us, and we now testify to His victory. Jesus lived the life we all should have lived but didn’t, and died the death we were condemned to die.
Christian fellowship is, by definition, a group of redeemed sinners who still struggle with the power of sin in their lives. . . . We have lots of people in leadership in our church who are struggling with selfishness and lusts of various kinds—including me!—as well as many who are struggling with same sex attraction. Jesus receives broken sinners. He built His church upon them. The only ones He turns away are those who insist on being Lord in His place. They are turned away not because of their homosexuality, but because of their defiance of Him.
8 ) Judgmentalism, hatred, and exclusion have no place in our demeanor.
We are to speak with the humility that comes from those who have been themselves saved from God’s rightful judgment, and we are to extend the same love and inclusion toward homosexuals that Jesus has extended to us.
9) We can and should be friends with people who are homosexuals.
Jesus befriended sinners, starting with us. Thus, we welcome people to our church, and into our lives, who are homosexuals. They are made in the image of God, and they honor us by being willing to be friends with us! While we can’t stand in “Christian fellowship” with someone who openly embraces what we believe put Jesus on the cross (1 Cor 5:1-13), we can love and befriend them.
10) Sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity.
The gospel is. If our teaching on this really bothers you, let me encourage you to punt it for a while. Jesus’ central message was not instruction in sexual ethics; it was saving us from ourselves. Study Jesus. And if you conclude, as I have, that He is Lord, then you can and should surrender to Him in all things He teaches, whether you agree with Him or not. Take time to consider that first. Don’t be diverted by secondary issues.
Sexual mores were not the center of Jesus’ message, and so they are not the center of our ministry, either. The cross and crown of Jesus are the center. Start with His cross, borne for you, and then move your way out from that to the less important matters.
This serves as a good biblical, theological and pastoral model of addressing the issue of homosexuality. What do you find helpful with what Greear has spelled out? With what do you disagree? What needs greater clarity of emphasis? How are you addressing this issue with God’s people? What and how are you teaching them? What are you modeling to them of how to stand firmly on biblical truth while doing so with love? How are you welcoming but not affirming?