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November 13, 2012

Comments

Thank you for your post. As a brother living a very similar situation, I was grateful to learn of this couple and encouraged by their model. Their conduct reflects the lifestyle Stanley Grenz proposed in his small book, "Welcoming but not Affirming".

Thank you for this, Alan. I recently had a conversation with a former homosexual. He was abused by his father growing up, and became an active part of the gay community. After accepting Christ he turned away from that lifestyle, but he still lives in the same community and ministers to them, and as such has the "inside scoop" so to speak. When asked how we can best minister to the homosexual community, he said exactly the same thing: 1)Let them know you sincerely love and care about them and 2) Stand your scriptural ground. In general these are hurting people who want Christians to do one of two things: 1)Accept them and their lifestyle as ok and something to be proud of, or 2) Be the enemy. Using the above approach breaks through both prongs and may lead to an opportunity to share the Gospel.

I think we need to be strong in standing our ground (far too many people compromise on this!!), but from observation I think where we tend to lack more is on the compassion/love side, and this only fuels the idea that Christians are "bigots" and "full of hatrad".

I agree with Alan, this is not easy, and some people frankly will not let you do it. To many (if not most), standing your scriptural ground regardless of the love and care shown is enough for you to be considered full of hate in their eyes, but if over time we as Christians are relentless in showing love and compassion we can start to break through barriers and, by God's grace, lives will be changed.

So this is a warming example; but, my question is does this daughter and her friends understand that their lifestyle is sinful and that they need the saving power of Jesus Christ to rescue them from their sin nature? That's more than just a disagreement on her parents' stance. See, it may seem loving to do things like open your home, be welcoming, invite people over for Thanksgiving, and there is a natural human response to "open up" as a result of things like that.

But...

It is all for naught if the object isn't to communicate the Gospel to them. See, some people may want to describe the above as "love speech" or actions. While those things are nice, they are worthless if the Gospel isn't communicated in a very real, basic, and clear manner. True love speech is this; anything less (acceptance, mere civility, etc.) is really hate speech in disguise.

John MacArthur preached a sermon several weeks ago on this very topic; I encourage everyone to look it up on the GTY web site here.

To follow up my earlier post, I have a severe issue with the following from Alan's post:

This couple is also seeing the benefits of their efforts. Many of the homosexual men, recognizing the value of the love shown them, are opening up. One confessed, “I haven’t had any male influence in my life in years since my dad left when I was five.” Another man, when asked to come to church with the family, commented that he’d like to go, but thought he couldn’t because he was homosexual and HIV+. The couple told him it didn’t matter. Now he comes to church with them. In fact, many of the homosexual men and women often come to church with them.

Great. Terrific. But the implied message that Alan is broadcasting has several things terribly wrong with it;

  1. When he writes that the couple are "seeing the benefits of their efforts", that leads people to think it some form of human accomplishment that "helps" people instead of the powerful work Jesus Christ to save sinners.
  2. That "opening up" is somehow an accomplishment; it's rubbish; we're not called to open up. We're called to repent and believe on Jesus Christ.
  3. That going to church is somehow a "good" thing. Again, I say praise God that they are going to Church, but that's not what saves people. Are they being told very clearly that even though they are attending, they aren't truly a part of the Church (i.e., God's Kingdom)? And then being told how to truly be a part?

Finally, when Alan makes reference to the "priceless gift that is expressed by the commendable character of an effective Christian ambassador", it concerns me that he is substituting "loving actions" (i.e., Thanksgiving dinner, invitation to Church, etc.) for communicating the Gospel in very clear words (i.e., Repent and believe, "confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead").

This isn't the first post along these lines that Alan has made; I would like to see him address these concepts in the near future because I am confused and concerned about his position on this issue.

f, I think Alan realizes that conversion doesn't come overnight and that those three things you mentioned are progressive steps toward a relationship with Christ when it is He that is wooing them into that relationship. They are not ends in themselves.

I agree that perhaps Alan could clarify that in the future.

How do the parents in this example communicate truth? How does the 31-year-old daughter know their stance on homosexuality? Did they have a conversation once... do they talk about it frequently, infrequently... I'm totally with you, Alan, but I am wondering how and when to speak this truth effectively and lovingly.

In response to f:

"Are they being told very clearly that even though they are attending, they aren't truly a part of the Church (i.e., God's Kingdom)? And then being told how to truly be a part?"

If your implication is that going to church doesn't save you, I agree. If however, your implication is that being a homosexual denies them access to God's kingdom, then I would ask that you would please share your secret on living a life free of sin.

F brings up a very important point.

While I salute this couple for their loving approach, at some point the fact needs to be brought up that their daughter and her friends need to repent of their sin and turn to Christ. What would this look like in this setting? Unless someone's heart has been worked upon by the Holy Spirit, I cannot imagine anyone responding positively to being told their lifestyle and entire self-identity are sinful!

That John MacArthur sermon was a trip. Christians still call people Sodomites? Really? Too funny.

@ f -

Thank you for the MacArthur video. That's the sort of sermon that needs to be preached in every church. Instead, most pastors won't dare!

@ Kyle S. -

What exactly did you find funny about it?

@f

Doesn't Romans 2 say that God is kind and patient in leading us to repentance? If someone has never heard the Gospel, or if they have never been open to it before, they need to be shown that same kindness and patience. It is our job to share the Gospel clearly, yes, but it is the Holy Spirit that leads them to repentance, not us.

@f...

Great posts. I was thinking the same things. I agree Alan's post was filled with great examples, but like you said, the Gospel needs to be at the forefront. I have a good friend who is gay and is legally married to another man. He knows that I am a Christian and that I do not approve of his lifestyle, but he also knows that he is a dear friend to me. I treat him with dignity and respect just like I do with everyone else. I recently picked up the book, "Homosexuality and the Christian" by Mark Yarhouse, to help me figure out the best way to approach the Gospel with him. He isn't ignorant about Jesus (he is an ex-Catholic), but I don't think he understands the full Gospel.

I think that's what Alan's point was. A lot of Christians have knee-jerk reactions to gay people and want them to "pray the gay away" but it doesn't work like that. If we are to communicate the Gospel in love then we need to be exemplifying by our actions. I think that's what Alan was getting at.

I am wondering how this works in practical terms with a devout Christian family I know of who has raised their child in the faith, whose child accepted Christ as a young teen, who accepted and embraced the gospel for many years and was a living example of faith in Christ and attended a Christian university--and then openly embraced homosexuality? This child fully believes he is a Christian while at the same time living a life of homosexuality with a partner. He knows firsthand the gospel of Christ, the stance of his family, and knows he is loved dearly by them. He believes his parents are dead wrong and is completely unreceptive to their loving gestures. What comes next for this family or any Christian family whose child is in this situation?

@Carolyn,

I think 1 John 2:1-6 speaks directly to situations like this:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

I think the first part of the passage is very clear that as Christians, we are still susceptible to sin and temptations, and that as such we are called to confess those sins and cast our weakness upon Jesus, so that He can be strong in us.

However, I think the second part is equally as clear, that when someone who claims to be a Christian embraces a habitual, unrepentant lifestyle that is clearly contrary to Biblical commands, then that person cannot be a Christian in the first place.

I contrast this with a Christian who may be continually struggling with a particular sin or temptation, but knows that it is wrong and is desperately seeking a way to quit sinning. It sounds like in the case you mentioned, the struggle isn't even there; in fact it's the opposite: a full-fledged embracing and promoting of an un-Biblical lifestyle while trying to somehow reconcile that with being a Christian. I think that strongly indicates that the child cannot be a Christian.

So, I think the first thing is that the child and the parents you mentioned need to be made aware that the child is not a Christian, and therefore is in need of God's saving Grace to rescue him from his sinful lifestyle.

Beyond that, I would suggest that the parents commit to continuing to minister to their child and praying for God's mercy on their son and casting their cares upon Christ.

@John,

I think that's what Alan's point was. A lot of Christians have knee-jerk reactions to gay people and want them to "pray the gay away" but it doesn't work like that. If we are to communicate the Gospel in love then we need to be exemplifying by our actions. I think that's what Alan was getting at.

Yeah, I'm with you that that may have been what Alan was getting at, but my point was that the message he intended to send might not be the message that is received or carried out.

You mentioned a knee-jerk reaction, and I would argue that there is an equal and opposite knee-jerk reaction to "love them into the kingdom". My point overall is that both approaches smack of this attitude of Christians trying to do something in their own power to somehow help save someone.

In other words, along with the knee-jerk reaction you mentioned, I also see a knee-jerk reaction to relax Biblical standards and Biblical truth about sin in an effort to appease sinners so that their feelings aren't hurt, and thereby maybe they will be less ill-disposed to the Gospel. There is a balance there somewhere that neither side has figured out.

I go back to John 1, where it speaks of Jesus as being "full of grace and truth". Today, on the one hand, you have all grace and no truth, and on the other, you have all truth and no grace. Jesus lived for us the perfect example of how to do 100% of both 100% of the time, and we need to do the same as Christians.

Thank you, "r", for your insights. The family I mentioned has, indeed, come to the conclusion that their son is not a believer after all, and they continually pour out their prayers to God for his salvation. The illustration here of extending love and compassion to him and his partner falls on deaf ears with him as he sees it as disingenuous; he feels that his sitiuation is unfairly and wrongly perceived and no amount of graciousness on the part of his family will bridge that gap. Their family situation has dissolved into one of mere civility where there was once thriving, mutual love. It pains me greatly to see the disfunction this has led to and the influence it is having on other members of the family. The parents do not preach to them as they are quite aware that the son and his partner (also a proclaiming Christian) know very clearly what their position is. They wait and pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit for them both, all the while struggling to know and discern how to keep the family unit intact. What can they do when love is not enough, except to pray unceasingly?

@ Carolyn -

My heart goes out to these parents in this difficult situation. How heartbreaking.

But there's always hope. God can change the hardest of hearts!

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