When It Comes To Homosexuality, We Need More Stories, But We Need Even More of the Bible

Epidemia de P?nico / Panic Epidemy

photo by eneas

In a recent blog post on the debate about homosexuality and Christianity, blogger Rachel Held Evans said:

Time and time again, I talk to Christians whose experiences, like mine, go something like this: ?I used to think that homosexuality was a sinful, promiscuous lifestyle that people chose in rebellion to God, and that Christians need to rally against the ?gay agenda? through legislative action. Then, my best friend (or brother or sister or son or daughter or high school buddy or neighbor or mentor) came out, and everything changed. Their story didn?t fit the stereotype. It didn?t fit into my previous categories. Their story made me see that things aren?t that simple, and that the ?war? between Christianity and homosexuality represents a false dichotomy that is incredibly painful and destructive to Christians with same-sex attractions. After that, I could no longer support the sort of rhetoric and actions that only serve to make this world a more hostile and hopeless place to the ones I loved. I kept thinking about all the depression, all the suicides, all the secrets. I just can?t support a culture that, perhaps inadvertently, fosters that.?

Everything changes when you are confronted with someone else?s story.

She’s right. When discussing the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity, we do need to hear people’s stories. We need to know what it’s like to experience same-sex attraction. We need to understand the feelings of pain and isolation that so many of them feel, and we need to express our love, affection, and compassion toward them. If we’re going to minister to those in the LGBT community, we need to understand them and love them and bless them.

However, we can’t let people’s stories determine our convictions. Only the Bible has the authority to do that. As a pastor I am confronted by this brutal dilemma all the time. A couple comes into the church out of a messy background. They love each other deeply. Their past marriages have been a disaster. They finally feel like they have found their soul mate, and they want to be married. But due to past circumstances, one of them may not be free to remarried.

With all my heart I want to tell them that it’s okay to be married. I want to tell them that God wants them to be happy above anything else. I want to be an encouragement and a joy to them. Their story is a wonderful story of true love, and I want them to be married. I don’t want them to be lonely for the rest of their lives. But I can’t marry them. The Bible supercedes our stories. I don’t understand all the reasons why God established marriage the way he did, but he’s God and he is the standard of truth.

The same is true when it comes to homosexuality. I have friends who are gay, and I wish I could tell them that it is totally fine in God’s site to be gay. You have no idea how much I wish I could say that. I don’t want them to be lonely. I want them to find meaningful sexual expression. I want them to have deep, meaningful relationships. But I’m confronted by the Bible, and the Bible makes it clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin.

My concern for my generation is that we tend to place more value on experience than anything else. Our experiences shape our theology and our ideology rather than God’s word shaping our theology and ideology.

It is true that everything changes when you are confronted with someone else’s story. But the Bible confronts us with an even bigger story. It tells the story of God taking a world that is a complete disaster and recreating that world. All of our stories are footnotes in the larger story. We fit into God’s story, not the other way around. We need to make sure that we let him tell his story. That really does change everything.

Comments

  1. Peter Schott says

    One of the things that we have to remember is that God isn't as concerned with our happiness as much as with our holiness. Many times in the Bible we read of people who didn't have a happy life, but were called to live through that time and be holy. Thanks for the reminder that God's story is bigger than our stories. We're a part of that bigger picture even if we don't understand how.

  2. says

    "My concern for my generation is that we tend to place more value on experience than anything else. Our experiences shape our theology and our ideology rather than God’s word shaping our theology and ideology."

    This is a very accurate but sad commentary on how we view most things in life. I battle this when talking with people about using Assisted Reproductive Technologies; there's so much emotion that there's no room to think objectively.

  3. Elaine says

    During my stint as a home health nurse, I cared for many homosexual men who were dying of AIDS. One gentleman confronted me one day about the cross I wore, wanting to know if it was "just jewelry or do you really believe that stuff?" I told him I was a Christian and quite the conversation ensured. Over the weeks I cared for him, he and I discussed the Bible, homosexuality…everything. I invited him to church; my pastor and his wife were excited to meet Michael. He passed away before he could come. I don't know if he ever repented of his sin but I am thankful for the time the Lord gave me with him. I still believe wholeheartedly that the Word of God is true but it did give me a new compassion and concern for those who pracitce homosexuality.

  4. Larry says

    Excellent Post Steven. I think you very eloquently expressed a balance of love and compassion for those who are LGBT with God's standard. Those in the LGBT community are not our enemies and God loves them every much as the believer. But God's standard is unwavering.

  5. Marshall R says

    God is far more loving than we humans can be, so telling gays to obey Him instead of their own sinful passions will actually cause them to experience a far greater love and joy!

    I speak from experience. I am a Christian man over 40 years old, who has fought homosexual temptations my whole adult life. For reasons unknown to me, I have never developed a strong enough attraction to a woman to be able to marry, but I am tempted by attraction to men on a daily basis. Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. For me that means giving up sex and instead taking joy in worshiping, following, and pleasing Him.

    Don't forget the joy! Jesus is far better than all the stuff He tells us to leave behind. He has promised us eternal, uncontaminated joy in His presence, and he gives us a joy here and now as he helps us along the narrow way. He is worth it all!

  6. says

    Oh this is such a struggle for me!! I love the people but I (and they as well) are held to a higher standard than just my own happiness. I'm grateful that the Bible is our plumb line but it's so difficult sometimes to reconcile the standard with the story. Thank you for your empathetic loving words here.

  7. Candice says

    Great post! Very refreshing to see this perspective in a world where emotion, experience, and so-called "education" so often skew truth.

  8. Laura says

    Thank you for your bold stand that exalts the truth of the God's Word over man's word. I appreciate the love and care that you show. If we love God and our neighbor as we are exhorted to in the Bible, the most loving thing we can do for others is show them their sin and then tell them of our even greater Savior.

  9. Katrina says

    I used to feel like you did. "I wish that homosexuality was okay, but the Bible says it's sin" kind of deal until I started to understand why God established relationships and sexuality the way he did. I would often ask God why is it sin? Because knowing the character of God he does not establish laws to make us unhappy. And if you do not want people to be lonely or unhappy, then how much more God does not want the same, but ultimately even if homosexuality was okay they would not find fulfillment in a same sex relationship just as heterosexuals cannot find fulfillment in relationships alone, it's all found in God. He is our satisfaction and happiness and it is best shown when we live according to his great design. Sexuality was created to Glorify God and not ourselves. It is not about being with who you perceive will make you happy, it is about glorifying Christ and telling the story of Christ to a fallen world, yes even in our sexuality. The man represents Christ in a relationship and woman represents the body of Christ in the relationship and when properly function and show forth the beauty in that relationship then we get the utmost pleasure of displaying the beauty and sacrificial love of Christ and the way the body of Christ responds to that love by our submission. If life was about us and doing what makes us feel good then go ahead be with who you want to be with and marry who you want, but it is not. We are not made for ourselves or self-glorification but we are made for more and that is to point the finger of our lives to a glorious God. When man and women began to turn inward and cave to same-sex attraction then it is leaving that God design. But as result of sin we are all broken in some way and if we can began to shed a light and began to show them the biblical design for men and women and to let them know that God ways are not to oppress but to always set free. But in today's society and in the church the women are becoming more masculine and men more feminine. God simply told me one day "you are not called to be a man." I was not gay but I surely had made up in mind that I had to take on a manly role in a relationship until I started to submit to God and his design that is where I found peace and was made whole as a woman. I want to glorify Christ more than anything! If someone gay reads this, I am not trying to be hateful or mean in anyway but I just know that we were made for him and not for ourselves. Life is so much bigger than our perceptions of happiness and fulfillment, when we function in Glorifying him there is nothing more pleasurable…Peace is never found in sin and separation from God. So I no longer wish I could say that it is "okay" because I know that is like saying I wish it were okay for life to be about me and not God or to imply that God has placed some undue hardship on homosexuals to make their lives miserable and we know that is not the case at all. So it is joy to say to someone struggling with homosexuality "Hey I understand your struggle, but Good news the Bible says something far greater about you than your present struggle and God has far better design for your sexuality. And I will help you work through it if you desire to be pleasing to Him and you won't regret it."

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Great points! Thanks for adding these. When I say that I wish homosexuality was okay, I mean I wish that I could tell my friends that it was okay. I know that it's not according to God's plan. I simply mean that I wish I could tell my friends that God approved of it. But he doesn't.

  10. KP says

    I know you all mean well but I have to say as a gay man, it is very disheartening to hear things like “homosexuality is not ok” with God and the “Bible makes it clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin.” It makes me feel worthless and abnormal. It is even more troubling when you say you wish you could tell your gay friends it is ok to be gay but you cannot. Why not? Doesn’t God preach love, understanding, and tolerance? Why would God create gay men and women if he hates them? How can you expect to reach out to gay people if you are telling them they are sinners for falling in love and living their lives? I just don’t understanding this kind of thinking and I do not believe I ever will.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Hey KP,

      Thanks so much for commenting here. You are always welcome to comment! And I appreciate your honesty. Let me try and address a few different things that you said. First, you are not worthless and abnormal. You are created in the image of God. God values you and I value you. Homosexuality does not make anyone less valuable.

      Second, we are living in a sinful, broken, messed up world in which every single person's sexuality is distorted, not just homosexuals. I am heterosexual, and yet I regularly experience feelings of lust toward women other than my wife. That is wrong. It is a distortion of God's good plan for sexuality. All sexual desire outside of marriage between a man and a woman is wrong. But the wonderful news is that Jesus wants to rescue each of us from our distorted sexuality. Jesus is the one who rescues us. He gives us power to not let our desires be the thing that rule us.

      Also, God does not hate gay people. Not one bit. He loves them.

      I would be glad to dialog more about this with you if you would like!

      Stephen

  11. L. G. says

    Stephen, your "us vs. them" mentality is grossly apparent in this post. I appreciate your zeal for tackling sexual topics on your blog, but until you get more insight and wisdom I suggest you stop posting about this. You really don't seem to understand homosexuality, and instead of extending love to those in the LGBT community, you judge. Stop judging. I've struggled with same-sex attraction a lot recently and I thank God for it. It drives me to the cross to seek love and acceptance when the world is full of confusion and hate. Don't judge the homos, love them, dude. Don't make Christianity legalistic.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Hi LG,

      Thanks for commenting! Could you tell me how I have an "us vs. them" mentality? I have friends who are gay and I had some of them in mind when I wrote this. Could you also tell me how I'm judging homosexuals? I'm not judging them, I'm simply trying to stick to what the Bible says. I love homosexuals. One of my friends who is gay was in church yesterday. I love him very much. But I do feel constrained by God's word to say that homosexuality is wrong. That's not being judgmental, it's just being biblical. Saying that something is wrong is not legalistic or judgmental. It's just the Bible.

      Please correct me where I'm wrong.

      • L. G. says

        Stephen, sorry it's been so long. Something that's missing from your post is grace. You love grace, I can tell, but this post shows none of it. Instead you just reiterate what I've heard from tons of Christian leaders, something along the lines of "we love you, but the Bible says you're living in sin." When someone says that to me, my sin becomes the biggest aspect of the gospel story, and I'm pretty sure God wants grace and love to overpower everything else in this crummy world. You may have noticed that most (if not all) of your gay friends struggle with serious pain that keeps coming back to them from the past…I've yet to meet a gay person who came out of the closet with absolutely no worry or has yet to be persecuted for their lifestyle. We've gotten plenty of the "you're sinful" message. We need grace. Also, if it's "just the Bible," try quoting it.

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