Be Not Ashamed
Over the last several weeks at Idaville First, we were looking at the letter from James and gleaning the practical wisdom from within that is meant for the Church to use as a guide for living. Doing so brought us face to face with what things we should and shouldn’t judge. Within the realm of what we should never try to judge, especially where judgment implies condemnation were the heart of a person, people’s motives, and the person’s salvation. However, we are called and encouraged to make judgment calls, based on the authority of God’s Word in the areas of behaviors, belief systems, and ideas. As Christians, we are never given permission to condemn anyone. God alone is the judge and lawgiver. God alone has already condemned the world. However, God has also provided a way for restoration for the people of the world. Jesus came to save the world, but those who choose not to accept him are already condemned.
One of the most divisive topics we can deal with in the 21st culture that we live in is the LGBTQIA+ movement. It is not a topic that the global and eternal Church can ignore. It is certainly an issue that has polarizing sides between secular society and Christ-followers, but it also has a wide range of division for those who profess to be Christian. For those of you who may not have caught on yet, June is PRIDE month. I would say nearly everyone in America knows at least one family member, friend, family of friends, or even themselves who are not directly impacted by the PRIDE movement.
One of the questions that I frequently face as a pastor is “where do you stand, or where does your church or denomination stand regarding this issue?” For me personally, I usually answer this way. I believe in the inspiration and authority of God’s Word. What the Bible calls sin is sin. That being said, it is not my job to condemn anyone. It is my job to love and accept people as they are, teach boldly and without compromise from the Word of God, and trust Holy Spirit to convict an individual leading to repentance and transformation. I want all individuals to feel welcome. I want them to hear what the Word of God says. I want them to experience the true love of Christ in Christian fellowship. I do not want them to simply go somewhere else to hear what they want to hear and to be fed lies leading people astray. Of course, there are many who would disagree or question how that stance can be put into practice. However, Paul says in Romans 1:16-17,
‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”’Romans 1:16-17
Our eldership, our church, and our denomination also stand on the inspiration and authority of the Word of God as properly interpreted and taught. We are not ashamed to stand on the Truth of the Word of God. We are not ashamed of the full counsel of the scriptures. We are not ashamed to take a biblical stand when it comes to sin. Any sin. Our denomination puts out a guidebook of where we stand on a wide range of social issues. It is called, uniquely enough, “Here We Stand.” That guide as well affirms what the Bible calls sin is sin. When it comes to human sexuality, marriage, and relationships; the Bible has a lot to say. It gives us many examples of both good and bad behaviors, decrees many laws, and makes clear, all forms of sexual immorality are sin and against the very nature of how God created mankind to be.
So, what does the Bible say? Just a few of the references are going to appear on the screen behind me if you decide to take note…
God created man and woman to be complementary to one another. (Genesis 1:27) Jesus affirms this teaching in several other places, including the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Many of the letters to the churches also affirm this biblical stance.
“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
God forbids sexual intercourse outside of marriage, whether premarital or extramarital (Proverbs 6:27-29, 1 Corinthians 6:13-18, Ephesians 5:3). Male and female homosexuality, going so far as to call it an abomination in the Old Testament, (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:24-27), plural marriage (Leviticus 20:14), bestiality (Leviticus 20:15, 16), God’s Word condemns all immoral perversions and distortions of human sexuality, including incest, orgies, swinging (Galatians 5:19-21, Leviticus 20: 11-12, 19-21), etc…
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.’(1Corinthians 6:18-20)
‘For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.’(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
The loudest, little minority of the PRIDE movement is outright hostile toward any type of Judeo-Christian belief system. In some states, even saying that these behaviors are sin is considered hate speech. Although they certainly don’t speak for all, their voices certainly carry the most weight. They influence public opinion, educational systems, media in all its forms, and more…
For a movement that prides itself on inclusion and tolerance, it is very intolerant of Christianity or anyone else who will not endorse or affirm their viewpoint. Antagonistic to the scriptures, the PRIDE movement has made the rainbow its flag. After seeing the evil of mankind and destroying most of the life on the planet in the flood. Genesis 9:16 that the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant to never to use a flood to destroy the all living things earth again. The PRIDE movement says, “love is love.” This driving division even within the Church, what does God really me in the three great commandments of love God, love your neighbor, and love one another. 1 John 4:16 says, God is love… John 3:16 says, God so loved the world… In the past we have talked the 22 different definitions of love in English, where Greek is very specific when it talks about different types of love.
At the heart of every facet of the PRIDE movement is an innate denial of who God is and the instructions that he has left behind for us. Even those who profess to be Christians must deny some portion of the inspiration and authority of God’s Word in order to justify a position the participates in, endorses, or affirms the PRIDE movement.
Target has lost over 13 billion dollars in two weeks. The silent majority was finally not so silent after Target released Pride clothing that included female-style swimsuits that have the option to “tuck” male genitalia. Other products in the line were labeled as “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions.” The swim suits were being displayed on child-sized mannequins and marketed to children which also fueled the outrage. Target’s Gay Pride collection has been linked to Erik Carnell, who is an outspoken Satanist whose other brand apparel includes occult imagery and messages like “Satan respects pronouns.”
However, this is just another example of the PRIDE movement trying to normalize and groom behavior that the Bible clearly defines as sin. The indoctrination and grooming have already begun in public elementary schools, in Illinois and other states, elementary classrooms are supposed to have a PRIDE safe space, teacher training seminars that are mandatory for employment require sensitivity and inclusion training, middle school and high school sex education classes normalize these behaviors, even affecting organizations such as the Girl Scouts of America and pressing in on the Boy Scouts.
All that being said, how can the church show the love of Christ without compromising the Word of Truth? That is the question. In the past, the church has done a terrible job. Hatred and condemnation piled on top of homophobia and intolerance leading to violence and resentment has happened in the past. Yes, in the Old Testament, God’s punishment within the law for almost all sexually immoral acts was death. But, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus in John 8, Jesus said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” We must present the whole Gospel. The Gospel is love and forgiveness, it is also mercy and grace, it is also confession, repentance, and transformation of mind and spirit, it is also correction and obedience, and cleansing from all unrighteousness. We must present the Gospel with compassion and consideration. However, I know some very judgmental Christians who are quick to condemn anyone, they would likely have been among those to be holding the stones.
I know the story of a young man struggling with same sex attraction that went to his church elders for help and counsel. To be clear for us today, attraction and temptation are not sins. Giving in to the tempation and embracing the urge is sin. This young man worked up his courage to speak with his elders and was met with hostility. He was looking for hope and godly counsel. Instead, they condemned him. Told him his lifestyle was sin (even though he had never engaged in any homosexual acts), and the people who should have held him up in prayer and given him strength to fight away the temptation drove him away in shock and tears. I would say that was the wrong approach.
At one time a couple years ago, a church in Springfield, Illinois was checking to see if I would be a fit to serve as pulpit supply and maybe more. In the midst of those talks, the elder I was in communication with told me that their church was an “open and affirming” church. They performed gay marriages and supported the PRIDE movement. Obviously, not a good fit. However, I asked if he, as an elder, could tell me how their church came to that conclusion. This was his response…
“I generally avoid theological debates, but I will tell you we do not believe one mortal sinner has the right to stand between God and another mortal sinner. We do not know anyone who takes the entire Bible literally. Everybody picks and chooses which parts of the Bible they believe as written and which they “interpret” before applying to their lives. Finally, we do not believe God needs our help in determining who is a sinner and who is not. We love and care for one another and leave the judging up to him.”
It’s concerning that a church elder would generally try to avoid discussing theology, but at face value, the statement makes sense. It is true that one mortal sinner doesn’t have a right to stand between God and another mortal sinner. Scripture says there is one intermediary between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. It is also true God doesn’t need our help determining who is a sinner. The Scripture says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The problem lies with their view of the inspiration, authority, and application of biblical Truth in the lives of individuals. In order to justify their position, they refuse the responsibility to properly teach the Word of God, call the people to repentance, and equip the saints; instead, they have chosen to enable people to keep sinning to make them feel good and not make a stand on biblical Truth. The old adage, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I would say this is not the right approach.
I know a father and fellow minister who attended his daughter’s wedding. He didn’t officiate her wedding. He sat in his row with tears streaming down his face as his daughter and her wife took their vows. They were not the tears of joy a father should have at his daughter’s wedding. They were tears of grief for the sin he knew she was committing. Not long after, another pastor chastised him for even attending his daughter’s gay wedding. Even though he certainly didn’t officiate the wedding, the other pastor claimed it gave the appearance of approval. His response was, “if as a father, I can’t show my daughter the unconditional love of God in the midst of my grief at her behavior, who is going to?” In my opinion, the other pastor was wrong to chastise him, and the father was right to continue to show his daughter his love even if he didn’t approve of the relationship.
My grandmother taught me there is a huge difference between acceptance and approval. A difference between tolerance and affirmation. A difference between condemnation and correction. A difference between freedom from sin and freedom to sin.
Years ago, I met an individual in the mail room of our mobile home park. She introduced herself as Tammy. We had many conversations over the years, she and her housemate would go for walks around the park and if I was outside, we would chat. Our conversations included all manner of things. At one time, I offered to help build her a raised planter. After a couple years, as I was in the mail room, an effeminate looking man I recognized walked in. He said, “Joe, I would like to reintroduce myself. My name is Thomas.” He said, “We never really talked about it, but you’re a Christian, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes.” Thomas said, “When we first met, I introduced myself as Tammy. As I’m sure you probably realized, I was a cross-dressing homosexual and had even looked into gender reassignment. However, I recently came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior. Under the conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, I have repented of that lifestyle. I knew you had to be a Christian. You always treated me with respect and dignity. You even offered to help me several times. You truly showed me the love of Christ while I was steeped in my sin. Thank you. If it wasn’t for people like you, I probably wouldn’t have ever become a Christian.” Thomas is the one who encouraged me to find a church home after I had become disillusioned and discouraged from mistreatment in other churches. Thomas went to Oak Tree Church with me the first time I went, to give me courage and so I wouldn’t feel out of place and alone. Oak Tree was my church home for many years before moving to Illinois. Thomas has also gone on to plant many churches throughout Africa teaching them about God’s love and righteousness.
We all are born with a genetic defect called a sin nature. How can we minister to LGBTQIA+ individuals? The CGGC Here We Stand statement says,
We must first recognize that many LGBTQIA+ individuals have been hurt by those they love, their families, and even their churches. They have felt the sting of rejection and that rejection has left scars. That acknowledgement calls us to love LGBTQIA+ individuals and show them kindness. While there is a time to confront a person with his or her sin, the person must first know that we love them. As with any other sin, however, we should lovingly call for repentance. After all, it is not love to hide the truth from someone, particularly as it relates to a destructive lifestyle. Further, we should celebrate and encourage those individuals who experience same sex attraction, yet resist the temptation to act upon those urges. Most importantly, we must never enable or encourage homosexual or transgender behavior, whether through conducting same-sex “marriages” or some other practice that could be construed to endorse sexually immoral behavior.
As for society generally, we should continue to speak the truth as to all sexually immoral behavior. In order to do this, we must ensure that our congregants, particularly young people, are trained early-on to have a well-reasoned biblical worldview. We will uphold the biblical and natural definition of marriage and encourage repentance from all sin, including all LGBTQIA+ related sin.Here We Stand, cggc.org
And this is where we stand. Unashamed.