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Gay Debate: The Church’s Dangerous Dilemma

A few months ago, Mark went to his pastor with an admission and a question. This 25-year-old man grew up in this church. He now sat with the only pastor he’s known. Haltingly, Mark told his pastor that he’s gay. He said he loved his church. And he asked if he and his male friend could continue to attend and participate in church activities. 

The pastor took a deep breath and told Mark he was living in sin. The pastor said he still loved Mark. But he said it would be inappropriate for Mark and his friend to be a part of this church.

In another state, Al, a senior pastor in a large church, faced growing pressure after the denomination began welcoming openly homosexual individuals into the clergy. His congregation, split on the issue, demanded to know where Al stood. Though he attempted to make peace with both sides, ultimately the church’s leadership council asked Al to leave. He did, along with a significant portion of the congregation.

Such scenes have become commonplace. Congregations are killing themselves over the issue of homosexuality. And they’re missing a real opportunity to shine during a time of cultural upheaval.

Unfortunately, this suicidal behavior is exhibited on both sides of the argument. Yes, it’s a difficult issue. But it needn’t tear us apart. Let me suggest some sensible ways to approach this issue of homosexuality and the church.

1. Know your ultimate goal. Let this goal and your desired ultimate outcomes drive your approach. Why are you in ministry as a congregation? Is it to win an argument? to stand your ground? to defeat the other side? to proclaim law–or justice? to render judgment against the “wrong” side? Or, is to bring more people into a close relationship with Jesus Christ?

Jesus encountered religious people who were following their dearly held convictions. But they lost focus on the bigger picture. The legalists attacked Jesus for picking grain on the sabbath. The justice lovers criticized Jesus for “wasting” resources that could be used for the poor. Jesus reminded them–and us–that a larger goal must prevail. He calls us to do what will best result in drawing people into a closer relationship with him.

2. Talk honestly and openly. Don’t hide from the issue. Get to know those with whom you disagree. Listen. Hear the perspectives of the other side. Share your perspectives–without platitudes, slogans or shibboleths (you may need to look that one up). Pray for those on all sides. This kind of discourse is not only possible, it’s desperately needed. This particular week, people across the country are gathering at Lifetree Cafes discussing openly the topic of “God and Gays.” And people on all sides of the issue are realizing the real benefits of a civil conversation that includes God.

3. Let scripture speak. Most people on all sides are open to examining what the Bible says about sexuality, and marriage, and love. The trouble comes when loud voices add their own accoutrements and leaps of logic. Look at scripture–all of it, the “letter of the law” as well as the “spirit of the law.” Let God speak through his word, without strident embellishments.

4. Accept people. In our new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church, we advocate “radical hospitality.” That means employing Jesus-style acceptance of all people–even those with whom we disagree. We need to understand that acceptance does not mean endorsement. Jesus demonstrated this kind of acceptance throughout his ministry.

5. Don’t over-inflate. Unfortunately, churches on all sides of the homosexuality debate have elevated this issue to exagerrated heights. For some inexplicable reason, they’ve portrayed homosexuality as God’s pet subject. News flash: it’s not. But churches that emphasize homosexuality as a sin tend to hoist it over adultery, character assassination, gluttony and other biblical prohibitions. And churches that tout gay rights tend to make the issue the odd centerpiece of their theology and ministry–even if it means denominational and congregational destruction.

6. Live with some uncertainty. There are legitimate questions surrounding homosexuality. What’s the cause of homosexual tendencies? Why didn’t Jesus speak specifically about homosexuality? When Christians display unfounded over-confidence and bravado in this discussion it only hurts the cause. It’s time for a good dose of humility and authenticity. We mere humans don’t have all the answers. We’re all in this together, looking to be faithful, albeit imperfect, followers of Christ.

The homosexual discussion raises difficult questions for the church. What do we do with same-sex marriages? How do we decide who can be ordained or serve in leadership positions?

How we handle this discussion has over-sized ramifications for the church. The world is watching. What will shine through? Will it be the love of Christ and his people? Or something else?

84 Responses to “Gay Debate: The Church’s Dangerous Dilemma”

  1. I appreciate that we need to be open in love to gays, but I do not agree with the comment” acceptance is endorsement.” Jesus accepted the woman caught in adultery, he didn’t endorse her or what she was doing. He told her, “Go and sin no more.” he loved her and accepted her but didn’t endorse her behaviour. The church can’t endorse homosexuality, but we can love them, so that our love will win them over to Christs’ teachings.

    • Dawn, my apologies. That was a typo. The line was supposed to read “acceptance does NOT mean endorsement.” It’s been corrected now. Thanks for pointing out the error.

      • Mary Schlichter March 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        Well…reading these posts has proved very interesting. To me it is very simple! Love God, Love Others. I now know that being gay is all about what happens before birth. If you research this, you will find that it is the mother – obviously unknowingly -may hope the unborn child will be…male or female. If that is not the sex of the child she is carrying, mom’s hormones and whatever else scientifically helps the mother determine the sex of the baby kicks in. I don’t think this is the norm…but this does happen a lot. I have spoken to many parents of gay children. In every case, that has been the story. obviously, this is not a scientific study! However, it has helped me to understand the phenomena. As others have noted, the 10 commandments are broken every day by everyone! So, until you show me a perfect person who does not sin in thoughts, words or deeds, we need to welcome EVERYONE into our church families! What would Jesus do???!!

  2. Was having a similar conversation in a Facebook group about providing contraception for teens. Some of us were not sure where we came down on that issue, but we could agree that the current posture of not talking about social issues, shaming and shunning were not working whether it’s teen pregnancy, homosexuality or some other issue. I was once part of a church in which I urged people to deal with the issue several years before it became as hot-button as it is now. I told them they needed to think it through because it was going to come to their door eventually. They stared at me like a deer in headlights. Then, fast-forward a few years and a lesbian couple did come to the church. When they approached someone about being a part of the church, they were told they would be prayed for. They left and are now part of an inclusive church that I also attend (small world, huh?). Another woman wanted to join who was not gay, but felt she could not agree with the church’s stance on homosexuality being a sin and she wasn’t even granted an interview. She felt hurt and betrayed. She jumped through the appropriate hoops–attending the new members class and filling out the paperwork, only to be denied an interview because of this one issue. There was missed an opportunity for dialogue.

    • Here’s the thing, Pat, and I’m not sure that I’m right about this, but I think shaming used to work until we started shaming the shamers. Back in the 70’s my sister became pregnant at age 16. Her boyfriend bolted. When word of this went around the school, I hung my head in shame. It was a disgrace to my family. The pastor’s wife at our church told the ladies’ group that she intended to go to the baby shower, for the pragmatic reason that the child was going to need things, and it wasn’t his fault he was conceived.

      Fast forward 35 years, my niece is posting on facebook with vile language disputing her friends who think she’s lying about being pregnant, stating that she has proof that she is. We don’t use words like bastard and illegitimate, because we don’t want to shame anyone. The number one indicator of poverty is being raised in a single parent home, but because we have become so soft on sin (I believe this is why) we’re not allowed to tell these girls that it’s not loving a child to set them up for lifelong misery. This is a little off topic, but it goes back to the shaming argument.

      Again, I’m not sure that I am right, but it seems like the explosion of bastard children is the result of acceptance of sin, and the shaming of the shamers.

      I welcome comments, because as stated, I’m not sure I’m right about it.

      • But sometimes, Carl, I think we learn from the past. Yes, I too, came out of the age of shaming. But could it be that was the wrong approach. I’m not sure a whole lot of good comes from making people feel ashamed of themselves. And sometimes that shaming has gone too far in that it gets internalized as the person themselves is not worthy. Now, none of us is worthy of God’s incredible gift of life, but that’s a whole other ball of wax than making someone feel that they should never ever show their face again in public. I think there’s a healthier middle ground that we need to find. I’m just not sure the days of shaming and shunning were all that successful. Sure, it may have worked for a few, but why not on more? Is it the masses were idolatrous rebels or could it be the message of shame and shun was counter-Jesus, so much so that even non-believers see that?

      • Pat, the age of shaming puts the current age to shame. :) I would have to say that the fear of being shunned and shamed prevented a lot of premarital pregnancies. And now that we don’t have it, look what we get. Not only fatherless children, but our girls are being used like urinals for boys to relieve themselves when the urge strikes them. There is nothing sacred about sex anymore. If you have something better than shame to fix this, bring it out. Whatever that is, it doesn’t look like tolerance.

      • You are right Carl. One of the evidences of rebellion is having no shame. It breeds an “up yours” mentality and an attitude that says I will do what I want to do regardless of the consequences.

      • God that’s offensive. Leveraging guilt and shame is the stupidest thing Christians have ever done, turning people off of Christianity based on an anti-gospel message.

      • I understand and even agree with most of what you have said, but the problem is that the shame that rightfully belongs to both mother and father spills over on the innocent child. Another issue is that the mother bears a disproportionate amount of the shame while the father is often lauded.

    • Since when has the church gotten so elite that it feels it can make someone ‘interview; to go there? I am appalled. I will pray for them, they need it. SMH. This is the reason I get ridiculed when I talk to people about GOD. Way to go church on making it harder to know who GOD really is. So shame

      • Jesper, that was the process in this particular church. What I was able to do while I served there as an elder I was able to get them to cut down the number of people who actually conducted the interview. When I joined, I walked into a room of at least 10-12 people. Talk about intimidating! We even had people who would come in and be so nervous. I managed to get them to cut it down to just a few people. It really wasn’t necessary, in my opinion, to have a room full of people questioning someone about their testimony.

      • I know the last years I was going to church they put in place rules to protect workers and children from sexual harassment, no one could be alone with children. This protects children from predators and workers from false accusations. Some churches may have had problems so this interviewing may be a way to find out who these new people are because maybe the church has had bad experiences, people with very different strong views or other issues they may want to avoid. It would pay to ask why they interview. You could turn an interview of you around to be an interview of them and you may find either the church is a good safe place to go or may have expectations for you that is more than what you want to be involved in. The interviewing thing may sound bad but I would play it out in return to get to know who these people are, their traditions, expectations and give me an idea if I would even fit with this crowd of people.

      • In this case, Ryan, it had nothing to do with child workers. All potential members had to be interviewed. A long held tradition. They basically had you tell your testimony and asked a few questions and answered any that potential members might have. Then, they would have you step out of the room while they discussed the applicant and whether or not to approve them for membership. The candidate was then invited back into the room and told whether or not they would be approved for membership. We did try to move towards changing the membership process, but it was a such a hurdle for this committee to wrap their minds around. I can only hope that since I left, or in the near future, they would be able to move away from this process, as I think it sends the wrong message. There are people in this church that have been there for years who won’t join (and would make excellent members) but they know there are areas in which they don’t agree with the church. To me, it was an environment in which conformity was really deemed important.

  3. Do you know of any good Bible study material to use in such a converstaion – that is not already overly biased to a particular view?

  4. Number 5 is the one that really bugs me. Why do we as Christians over-inflate this topic so much? My hunch is that it’s because if you’re straight, it’s not even a glimmer on your scale of temptations. So it’s a lot easier to condemn than gluttony when you’re headed to the church pot luck after service. Who wants to condemn something they themselves are guilty of? Homosexuality is over-inflated because it’s the easiest to judge. And that REALLY gets my goat.

    I mean just imagine if there was a BMI scale at the entrance to the church and we turned away anyone who was out of the “normal” range. Can you even imagine? But that’s exactly the stance we’ve taken on homosexuality.

    • Yep, we have heterosexual couples living together not even trying to hide it, but that doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. Divorce is more prevalent in the church than outside, and it’s normal. When I was teaching in children’s ministry, I had to change, “Take this to your mom and dad” to “Take this to your parents” and even the plural made it uneasy for some kids.

      I don’t think, however, that this means we soften our stand against homosexuality as a sin, but that we tighten our stand on everything else.

    • I am not saying that the typical response is the right one, but do you think it has anything to do with how “in your face” homosexuality has become? I think it’s rare to find an adulterer or glutton that demands that you observe them engaging in their particular sin – and then demands that you call it right and good and normal. That insists that scripture doesn’t actually say that what they are doing is wrong, and dares you to say differently.

      • Perhaps not with adultery or gluttony, but there are other sins that are under debate as to whether or not they’re really sins. I knew a guy who felt fiction books were sinful because we’re called to be truth-tellers, and fiction is not true. I completely disagreed, and in fact when I found out his beliefs I was a guest in his home and was reading a fictional book. Does that mean I was “in his face”? No, but I wasn’t going to change my reading habits just because he thought my actions were sinful. Sometimes the Bible can be interpreted differently and it’s not up to us to hammer our believes and interpretations over people’s heads.

        Then again, isn’t gluttony pretty in-your-face anyway?

    • Good point and might I add that I was involved in a conservative bible study organization many years ago that did just that…if you tipped the BMI scale you were not asked to be a leader of the group and if you gained weight during the year and didn’t “look” the part anymore, you were asked to take a leave. All Christians are seriously flawed so we all need the mercy of God in our lives. There is no distinction.

  5. John commented on Facebook: “I particularly liked points 4 and 5. Jesus-style acceptance and the idea that acceptance does not mean endorsement. Also, the idea that churches hoist homosexual sin over adultery, character assassination, gluttony (one that indicts me at 275 lbs) and other prohibited behavior as though it is worse. Good thoughts to be challenged with this morning. Love the Lord and love your neighbor.”

  6. Also: on the subject of requiring that gays change their ways. Let’s say (not so hypothetically) that I struggle with pride more than anything else. That is my greatest temptation and my greatest area of sin. But let’s say (this part is hypothetical so far) that by the grace of God I am able to adapt a humble attitude, to cease comments or thoughts about my own greatness. That’s wonderful! But that doesn’t mean the temptation to be prideful is gone. That will likely be a lifelong struggle for me, because in my sinful nature pride is my greatest weakness. And if I slip up and brag once in a while, should I be kicked out of church? No.

    But I think we have different expectations for homosexuality. That one, you must instantly conquer it, never struggle with the temptation, and never fall to the temptation again, even once. Or even that you must instantly recognize it as wrong! There are probably a lot of prideful things about me that I don’t even recognize as prideful. Let’s remember that we are all works in progress, show some grace, take the planks out of our own eyes, and let God work in people’s hearts.

  7. Karyn Custer-Jankowski Reply February 25, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Beautifully written. Our Pastor, in his sermon a few weeks ago put it beautfully as well – “I may not understand the behavior but God didn’t ask me to understand, God just asked me to LOVE.” If we are REALLY TRULY Christians – followers of JEsus Christ, this would be our mantle.

    • Your Pastor sounds like an amazing man, and someone that’s listening to God’s direction on this topic. If we don’t LOVE first, how will we ever be able to bear witness to ANY sinner? Do the rest of us announce our sin before step into the building? I dare say not. Maybe if we did, we’d all try to be just a little more understanding and loving, realizing each of us sins, many, many times a day. None of us go through life without some sin…but for some reason we as Christians love to “weigh” sins on a balance scale that is not God’s.

  8. Hypothetical: Let’s say I’m a gluttonous man. I come to your church, where someone reads the scripture that gluttony is a sin. I proclaim that I was born a glutton, and that God has changed His mind, and gluttony is now OK. I want to teach a children’s Sunday school class, OK? Also, so as not to offend me and my gluttonous friends, we want you to stop preaching about gluttony being a sin. Enter the prostitute, who is applying for the camp director’s position. Where do we stop if we don’t draw any lines?

  9. We are heavy on the idea of acceptance but light on repentance. Those of us who have to repent regularly understand I think. To repent means I am sorry and determined to change my ways. I don’t believe that is the prevalent attitude in the gay community. They appear to be looking for the endorsement as well as acceptance. May God forgive me for any misunderstanding or wrong attitudes I may have on this issue.(And show me the light)P.S. I agree with Carl that perhaps we need to tighten our stand on other sins. That might put restrictions on a bunch of us.

    • And you know what else, Curt? I know my brothers love me when they call me out on sin they see in my life. If I were seen treating my bride carelessly, or not being a good steward of my things or my time, or not doing my job as unto the Lord, I would want to be rebuked. Those who care about me will tell me I have dirt on my nose, everyone else will let me walk around all day with dirt on my nose.

  10. Thom, If this goes through, I am attaching a sermon I preached for the Presbytery of Prospect Hill (NW Iowa) which really got some people to thinking. You will notice I never completely state my position, but I do give people a lot to think about. John

    Dr. John Pehrson, Pastor Westminster Presbyterian Church & Administrative Presbyter/Stated Clerk Presbytery of Prospect Hill

    Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:22:05 +0000 To: johnpehrson56@hotmail.com

  11. The Rev. Fay Patterson-Willsie Reply February 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for these wise words. Amen.

  12. I have been a big fan of Group Publishing for years. Not only do you develop great products for us to use in Christian education, but you also bravely address some of the most contentious issues in Christianity today. I hope and pray that your Lifetree Cafe’ discussions go well this week, and that the attendees on both sides of the issue are kind, loving and respectful to one another.
    I wish that we all lived within walking or driving distance of a city where people have more choices about where to go to church. If you are gay and attend an inclusive Christian church here in Utah, sexual orientation is no longer the “main issue” and you can focus on the most important thing – bringing more people into a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
    As much as i would like to believe that diverse views among the members of a church help us all to learn and grow, most people do a better job showing love to each other at church when their theological views are the same as those of their pastor(s) in a particular congregation.
    If I meet someone here in Utah who is looking for the love, community and connection a wonderful group of “Christ followers” can offer, I encourage them to go to a church that shares their theological views – that way they can focus on the main thing which is loving God and loving others.

  13. Let’s keep in mind that Jesus was a perfect balance of grace and truth. He dearly loved all those who were caught in sin, or struggling with sin, or destroyed because of sin… but He always confronted/dealt with it, He didn’t let it slide or dismiss it. He may have not spoke on the matter specifically, but I think that has more to do with the fact that a gay or lesbian couple never walked up to Him and asked Him if He approved. (As far as we know.) The “sin” of homosexuality is addressed in the N.T. in the book of Romans, so let’s not try to convince ourselves that the silly argument of O.T. Law vs. N.T. Grace applies to this circumstance. According to several N.T. passages, “open sin/rebellion” from God’s righteous standard is to be dealt with… especially when it affects the body of Christ. On a personal level, we have no right to crucify these people, since “ye who are without sin” is pretty much none of us. Yes, we should love and pray, and have heartfelt conversations with those who are caught up in the sinful behavior of homosexuality, as well as those who are in agreement with it, but it’s not wrong to let those who are near and dear to us (friends and family) understand that it is sinful and shameful behavior. Just because someone should be ashamed of their sin, doesn’t mean they should be brow-beaten and cast off, but let’s not pamper them with acceptance and lick their wounds either. How is God supposed to bring them to the point of guilt, shame and repentance, especially for those who want to maintain their sexual perversion and their relationship with God, when those who mean well are comforting them and telling them that it’s ok, and it’s natural, and that nothing is wrong with them?
    Bottom line… God’s Word does condemn it, as it condemns all the other sins that have been listed above, and it’s unfair for man to decide which sins are greater than others. On the other hand, there is a warning specific to sexual sin that carries a greater judgment/punishment on the individual, as this person “sins against his own soul.” Aside from all that, let’s not overlook the fact that while we know there is no hope for any of us to attain perfection, this side of heaven, God’s Word urges us to live a life that is “above reproach” and gives us a standard of living “upright and blameless” lives in the presence of others. You might say, “Well that’s just for Pastors and leaders in the church.” but it’s a standard that is set nonetheless. Sin has to be dealt with! We shouldn’t be ready to shoot down everything that comes walking through our doors that looks queer or questionable, and we shouldn’t be so welcoming and accepting that it causes us to be silent on these difficult issues that God’s Word does address. (Or change/remove them from His Word altogether.) We should strive to be full of grace and truth, as our Lord and Savior would be, and realize that there’s an opportunity for them to be touched by the power of God and the love of His saints. And we should also not compromise our beliefs and values, that are rooted in truth… If they want to join the church, and serve in the church, they must be in agreement with the teaching of the church, regardless of whether or not they are able to perfectly live by them.

  14. Courageous, Thom. Christians have always had to walk a knife’s edge between legalism and liberalism. It’s never been easy – but it is the “narrow way” the Lord has called us to walk.

  15. Clearly I think a line needs to be defined here. I strongly feel there is a different standard between a person confessing to be Christian and those who do not.

    Jesus forgives completely. The following comments do not apply to exclusivly eternal salvation. My comments refer to Paul speaking in Romans 6.

    1) Are we talking about the lost person struggling with homosexuality? If so, yes we can love the person and invite them along, not expecting them to be held to any standard of behavior. Scripture says they do not fully understand what they are doing. We are to love them through it so that they may see the love of Jesus in us and want to know why. We are to openly share how we love them praying for an opportunity to share our faith. Conviction of sins come from the Holy Spirit NOT us. We shall not judge lest we ourselves are judged.

    2) Are we talking about someone professing to be saved yet struggling with homosexuality? Like any addiction, proper spiritual and physical treatment should be sought and provided for. Yes we should love and care for them. However, if they profess to be Christian the bible says we as the church must confront them with the attitude in James 5:16 and the guideline of Matthew 18:15-22. This is true of all sinners. I do feel that this is referring to sins that are blatantly and obvious in public. Hopefully all Christians are in fellowship and mentoring and being mentored like iron sharpening iron, Proverbs 27:17. Obviously none of us are nor ever will be perfect about everything all the time. We should all be striving to be a mentor for others and that brings us to the next step.

    3) Are we talking about a Christian seeking a leadership position while still struggling with homosexuality? Any leadership position, deacon or deaconess in any capacity within the church, must meet an even higher standard as detailed in 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and the numerous cross references dealing with leadership.

    This is obviously my interpretation of scripture as I feel the Holy Spirit has revealed it to me.

    Peace!

  16. Dave commented on Facebook: “Having experienced this topic at Lifetree Cafe in Rochester NY last night, it was an amazing example of how we can share truth in love with respect. If we’re going to be salt and light to win people far from God this is a great first step. Bravo Lifetree Cafe!”

  17. We are actually living Judges now days where everyone is living what is right in their own eyes, even me, even in the way I try to follow God. I can’t say I’m not living the way that is right in my own eyes.

    People are going to do what they want. You see it all the way through the old testament. God doesn’t come down from heaven and physically stop anyone from doing anything, even living a homosexual life style. In the here and now, God just lets us dig our own pits and fall into them. The pit of homosexuality, the self inflicted judgment is willful self extinction. Every wrong doing brings is own specific self inflicted judgment. Often others are hurt by our choices, sometimes not. But just because it doesn’t appear to hurt anyone doesn’t make it right.

    We are to be a ‘peculiar’ people. I am a little peculiar because I don’t go to church yet read my bible, pray and put effort into living by God’s ways.

    Lets not worry about the next guy I guess. I don’t accept sinful behavior for myself. Like God, I will warn others of the adverse affects of their behavior but like God, I won’t physically stop them. Like God, I will let them dig their own pits and let them fall in. They are going to do what they want anyway.

  18. How terribly annoying. Logical, thoroughly considerate and intelligent. There’s nothing for me to pounce on, so I’ll part by saying I think you’re a quite decent human being.

  19. I would like to read comments regarding how we are created; God breathes life into each of us. Do you think people are born/created one way or the other? Are we born prideful or gluttonous or are those our life choices as we grow older? Sexual tendencies are exhibited in children before they are even aware of what homosexuality is, not a choice as they grow older.

    • Not entirely true, Josie. I understand why you believe that tendencies are exhibited in children before they are aware of what it is and that it is not a choice they make as they grow older. But a scientific study (there are a great many) of identical twins reveals the truth. Out of the thousands of identical twins studied in America, Australia and in Europe, that there are no DNA attributed same sex attraction components that are common in both siblings. Of the twins that have one twin with opposite sex attraction and the other has same sex attraction, 11% were males and 14% were females. That means that 11% of the male twins had one that was gay and 14% of the female twins had one that was gay. In the study of twins, if it were a genetically passed trait, then that figure would show that all the males and all the females would share the very same tendency, but they don’t. So this research proves that external events and stimuli and not genetic ones are the motivators for developing same sex attraction. I am convinced that our sinful world is the single most influencing contributor to our non-geneticly inclined orientation. Researchers say that whatever the reason a person becomes homosexual actually is, it certainly is not a trait that babies are born with. The influence come after the birthing process is over.

  20. IN THE BEGINNING…

    Have you ever noticed that there are no two people the same. They don’t look the same, they don’t act or smell the same. Everyone one is a unique person, modeled by their creator and the sum of their experiences. Even a cloned sheep is not the same as the original, life experiences determine what it becomes.

    As we grow and develop, carefully orchestrated chemical reactions activate and deactivate parts of our genome at strategic times and in specific locations. Epigenetics is the study of these chemical reactions and the factors that influence them. (*)

    Spiritual growth, social interactions, physical activity, diet, atmospheric conditions all signal the cells how to develop and store our experiences and prepare for the future. All of these experiences influence our memories, short- and long-term health, mental and physical strength, even things like bone density, skin color and posture are effected.

    God created light and separated the light from the dark. He did not create darkness. Total darkness is the absence of everything. As darkness is the absence of light so evil is the absence of good. God created all things and it was good. The potential of evil is always there just as the potential for darkness is always there.

    Genesis 2 says… “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

    “At last!” the man exclaimed.
    “This one is bone from my bone,
 and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”

    This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. And it was good. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
    None of this can happen unless it is a heterasexual relationship.

    God does not change. Hebrews 13:8

    (*) Genetic Science Learning Center (2012, January 24) The Epigenome learns from its experiences. Learn.Genetics. Retrieved February 01, 2014,

  21. One comment that struck me as odd was that “Why didn’t Jesus speak specifically about homosexuality?” Unless I missed something, in my bible it says in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and that Word was God. I have noticed that God mentions several times in the bible that he feels homosexuality is a sin. Since God said it, therefore didn’t Jesus also say it? And if he said it once before, does he really need to say it again or was it unclear the first time? This is what many people use as an argument for homosexuality as being okay, that since Jesus didn’t speak on it, it can’t be wrong. My bible tells me Jesus wrote the whole bible, not just the gospels, and my bible is pretty clear about homosexuality as a sin. So I really don’t think there is much uncertainty there to live with. How a Christian responds to sin is another matter. I think another commenter did well in showing that responses should differ whether presented with someone unsaved or someone claiming to be a christian. I don’t think Jesus’ stance on homosexuality as a sin is uncertain though.

    • You are absolutely correct. Jesus is the Word of God & The Word addresses homosexuality several times. And I Cor 5 addresses how we deal with fellow Christians who refuse to repent of sexual immorality whether it’s fornication or adultery or homosexuslity. This is way more an open shut issue than modern Christianity wants to admit & that is because we want to cater to people more than we want to honor God & obey Him

  22. I think many of the commenters don’t know any homosexuals that they love. Before making your voice heard about your perceptions about holiness make your actions seen about love (which Jesus, Peter & Paul are explicit in in saying is superior to everything else that Christians seem to think is so important). Also, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live. If you want to be right with God then stop fixating over what you think are people’s sins and just love them. Also, concerning the woman caught in adultery, your role is to put down your stone, it’s the Savior’s role to speak 1 on 1 with the person He just saved.

  23. Also, none of your theology matters if you don’t have love (love homosexuals as thyself – translation to non-narcissists: love homosexuals as much as your own family/children)

  24. I don’t feel that anyone should be refused the opportunity to seek God, to be in church, to hear the Word preached and to be loved by the church. This is the model Jesus set forth. He was also pretty bold in telling people about their sins and that they should repent and turn from them. This is a difficult thing to balance. For me, the distinction in whether someone should be serving in ministry or leading is in how they view their sin. Does the homosexual view their sin as sin and are they fighting to win against it, or are they asking it to be viewed as acceptable (or even right). Does the person struggling with addiction view it as a sin, or have they resigned themselves to it being a part of their life. Same with pornography, gluttony, gossip, anger, laziness, everything. Someone who will call their sin what it is and actively seek God’s help as well as the help of pastors, Christian friends, etc. in repenting and turning from their sin is qualified to lead. Paul called his sin what it was and was open with his struggles, this is part of what made him a great leader.

    We should always being accepting of and loving toward people, but when we begin to view sin as acceptable, then we are compromising a core value. The greatest value is indeed love, but truly loving someone means sometimes having the courage to tell them difficult things. Graciously and lovingly, but not dodging the issue either. Jesus spoke to the tax collectors (thieves) and prostitutes and loved them, but he also told them (BECAUSE he loved them and for the sake of their souls) that they needed to stop being thieves and prostitutes. I admit that doing this well is extremely difficult, but Jesus warned us that following him wouldn’t be easy. May God give us the ability to wisely balance grace with truth in all of our endeavors, so that we might bring Him the glory. Blessings.

  25. Reblogged this on Rob Frank's Blog and commented:
    This is an excellent read!

  26. I agree that homosexuals should be welcomed into attending church..where else will they find the transforming message of a relationship with Jesus Christ? Dialogue is also important. BUT…eventually, there is someone who has to make a decision and act on certain convictions, and that person is often the pastor. Being married to a pastor and also holding a staff position at our church, I know that we both are compassionate and loving toward those in sin, while hating the evil of sin and what it does to people and families and society. We both hold the biblical conviction that homosexuality is sin…so what does a pastor do if he lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage but has the conviction that it is sinful? He still has to reach a point where he tells a couple “no” if they ask him to marry them. Many of you say we shouldn’t overinflate homosexuality as a sin, that it is no different, than, say, adultery. So, let’s put this scenario into the church. An adulterous couple comes to church. Everyone knows they are in adultery. Perhaps their spouses are also going to that church. They want to be accepted in their adulterous relationship. Then, they come to the pastor and want to become members. They want to get involved with the youth group. They don’t acknowledge that their relationship is sinful ; in fact, they say that adultery is the new civil rights. It’s the way God created them. They start pushing for rights for other adulterers. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for biblical convictions while still loving sinners. It is easy to point the finger at pastors or church leadership when we aren’t the ones having to live it out and actually make the courageous decisions. The church leans more and more to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism…a feel-good code that involves God when we want him and takes away from the life-transformation that happens with a personal relationship with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. We forget that Christianity is about change. I am seeing a disturbing trend in Christianity…what supposedly challenges the status quo is actually very much a part of it.

    • Irene, thanks for sharing this, this was very helpful to me. :-)

    • An interesting analogy, but I would say that pastors marry adulterous couples all the time. Adultery is not just cheating on your spouse; it’s pre-marital sex, too. And couples who are sleeping with each other do get married in the church.

      I’m not saying the church should marry a gay couple. I just don’t think we’ve demonstrated that unrepentant sin in a relationship is an obstacle to a church wedding

      • Or any kind of unrepentant sin, for that matter. We’re kidding ourselves if we think all church members do not have some kind of unconfessed sin their life, some of which churches are aware of but are reluctant to deal with.

      • I think the point was exactly what you are getting at. An adulteress couple deciding to get married is confessing the wrong and making it right. A gay couple asking to get married is not confessing the wrong but rather embracing the continuation of the sin.

      • I don’t think that’s true. If they were repentant they would stop sleeping together until the marriage. I don’t think that happens. They’re not necessarily getting married so it’s okay to sleep together (which is not a great reason to get married anyway). They may be getting married because that’s what they want to do, but they also happen to be sleeping together.

      • I think the finer point here is that we socially accept divorced/remarried people and ostracize homosexuals. We are not mortified at the idea of Christians gossiping, being lazy and gluttonous but if a Monogomous gay Christian couple walks in your church the we HAVE to rebuke them in love? Fear driven hypocracy.

      • I don’t know, I can’t judge the motives. I have to trust that a pastor/priest has had the proper counsel with them. I know plenty who do stop until the wedding, of course I know those who do not. For me I leave that to God. But a wedding is setting things right regardless. :-)

    • I get it, it’s scary to contemplate an issue that doesn’t affect you (unless you are a closet gay) but could cost you your community & your family’s livelihood. But this is fear of church politics not our Christian mission. If you really believe what you are saying then you have to be consistent in your repsonse to every sin other wise you are targeting one group. Do you tell every gluttenous person in your church that they are sinning? No.

      • Yes. It is clearly communicated from the pulpit. Also those that are willing to open up and talk with each other often confess their sins. Sometimes we confess in a joking way so as to keep it light, other times, mens or women’s or small groups or even one on one with each other alone we invest time into each other. We are not perfect and we are struggling to be better but we definitely know we are sinning. James 5: 13-18

      • That’s fine, so when we are talking to our homosexual friends and they open up then we can speak whatever we’ve earned the right to speak into that relationship. Much like a surgeon that has just saved you can say, ‘hey fatty, knock it off with the fast food’ or the way Jesus spoke into the life of the woman caught in adultery.

      • Don’t forget this part. Yes. It is clearly communicated from the pulpit.

        Also, I have on occasion pulled someone aside to warn of the consequences of continuing in a particular sin. Several times with gluttony, I in turn, must be willing to shoulder the knee jerk reactions that come back at me.

        I must also accept that there may be truth in the words.

        But after the initial pain, things are much better and we respectfully try to help each other through life.

        I have also had people come to me to point things out, I try to stop and evaluate what is being said. talk through it and change.

      • As a pastor it’s just good to be able to take criticism. As a shepherd to your congregation you must challenge them with a calculated voice or less you will lose your influence in their life, thus making your role I’m their life obsolete.
        There is nothing calculated about broadcast declarations aimed a a demographic of individuals (homosexuals) when you cannot know the condition of their hearts, how they will react.

      • I’d like to encourage everyone to think about sin as a form of spiritual poverty. The poor don’t need to be told that they are poor (it can be taken the wrong way), they need solutions to problems that they don’t know they have. They need a bed side manner that alows them some dignity. And don’t forget, the Law exists to show us our insufficiency & is the context for our reliance on Christ. We can keep 613 commandments and out righteousness is still just filthy rags.

  27. Clearly sex is at center stage in our culture – why? On the one hand, homosexuality should not be elevated to a sin worse than say embezzlement, but it achieves more prominence as a person’s identity is more of a core issue. Sexual identity now has several faces to it (GLBT) & it has penetrated our culture with strong emotions. It’s the issue that won’t go away, it’s in the media almost every day, yet conversation on the topic has become tougher to do rationally.

    I read a lot of comments about the church being unloving & polarized, but little about the aggressive tendencies of gay militants, and the use of negative language to render anyone who does not support the gay cause as an “oppressor”. As a teacher, I’ve also seen that aggression politically in the school system. It comes across as agenda-based, if not sacralized under the banner of “human rights”. Thankfully, not all gays are militant, but on that pushy side of the spectrum It’s a movement that usually just wants what it wants. I prefer more positive ways in which which ‘change’ can be sought. .

    In our diverse day and age, everyone is free to have their own paradigm, and feelings – but a sound rational & passionate basis about love and sex sometimes elude us. There are better ways to dialogue – and hopefully the cafe will set an example. My suggestion: keep it open, but not spineless in the name of love – I hope this distinction is helpful. For there are lots of confusing definitions of love being bandied about today e.g. Macklemore’s song “Same Source”, performed @ this year’s Grammy’s, could be discussed & unveiled lyrically for its sweeping general assumptions that bear his world-views on what love is. Talk about being evangelistic in the other direction! (No mention of Sacrifice btw)

    If Jesus had a bunch of correct Bible interpreters come to Him like the scene with the adulterous women, they’d be asked to put down their stones too, but Jesus would probably still draw a line in the sand, then tell the gay person he/she/they are not condemned, yet – and here’s the tricky part- still ask to ‘not sin anymore’ (John 8:3-11). Does sin exist? Is it a universal truth for humanity? If so what is sin? What was the sin for the adulterous woman? Is there sin with gay sex, if so where and when? Those are the kinds questions that would benefit from discussion, and to do it rationally without the emotive end taking over is our/my challenge.

    Open dialogue needs respectfulness, and from my experience, the gay community could up the ante by dropping the inflammatory and boxy language to Christians – or anyone who does not agree – and at least try to grapple with some of the verses about love & sexuality, as a whole in Scripture. If all those verses already been deemed non-applicable or irrelevant, then we all might end up like the book of Judges, where everyone does what they feel is right – but likely way off. C.S Lewis forecast this peril of putting our emotion first, and the risk of being infants otherwise in “The Abolition of Man”.

    • Uhg, the ‘go & sin no more’ point again? That’s not the point of application. There is a public & private component to this response that Jesus gives. Unless you are having a private conversation with a homosexual that you have just saved (like the woman caught in adultery) then you are soft-balling the challenge here. Our application in the public arena is to PUT DOWN OUR STONES period.

      • @Brian Bowhay, The sin in my private life overflows to others in my personal life, there is no distinction. All sin has consequences no matter where they are made. The greatest example is Adam’s sin in the garden was very private. Just Adam, Eve and God himself, yet ALL creation was forever changed. Romans 5:12

      • That’s not my point. Jesus addresses the crowd (us) with a specific challenge and then Jesus (not us) addressed the individual (for the sake of this dialog, homosexuals) with a different specific challenge. The lesson isn’t to TELL people to go and son no more, that’s the right of the one without sin.

      • I think the problem is we as Christians want to preach to the world the expectations we hold for ourselves. We have to understand that the world is the world and they care about our Christianity and morals like we Christians care about Islam. We would put up with those of Islam telling us how we should believe and live as the world does with us. All we can do as Christians is lovingly preach the gospel and live what we believe and practice what we preach. It’s not for me to save the world but as David said, “Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts:”

      • Yes, I would emphasize preaching the Gospel not the Law.

      • Brian we are able to tell people what the bible says. We have to assume that what the bible says still applies to today. Forgiveness is for everyone who believes and confesses with their tongue yet are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1

      • Yes, but the key here is ‘application’, as in the wrong application of this account.

      • In what way is this wrong application? What is the right way?

      • The right application is to put down your stone and walk away. In this account homosexuals are in the role of the adulterer, we are the crowd and the Holy Spirit in the role of Jesus.

      • The example you give above relates to a new Christian, not a lost sinner. We know this because Jesus stood up and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

        “No, Lord,” she said.

        And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

        What do I do with the Great Commission and all the examples the apostles gave us? Matthew 28: 19-20 …Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…

        The Bible clearly says, “We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:22

      • Nothing in the example differentiates Christian or non. The crowd are clearly the religious people preoccupied with sin (that isn’t theirs) and the entitlement to punish. The woman is merely the one on trial by mob mentality.

        The commandment that Jesus gives is to love. Love doesn’t focus on the sin (which is easy, costs nothing & produces nothing), love focuses on solutions resolving the cause of the symptoms.

        How has pointing out other people’s issues worked for you? It raises walls of defense rendering them incapable of being helped by you. So the confrontational approach makes it unlikely that you would be able to fulfill Rom15:22

      • No the opposite is true! Confessing your sins and allowing others to come along side and help brings us closer and into a better relationship with Jesus and each other.

        King David knew this when he wrote the psalm,

        “When I refused to confess my sin,
        my body wasted away,
        and I groaned all day long.
        Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
        My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.”
        – Psalm 32:3-4

      • I can’t tell if you are trolling me or not. You are now talking about confessing YOUR sins versus pointing out someone else’s.

      • In regards to Christian or not, when Jesus says “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

        “No, Lord,” she said.

        And Jesus said, “Neither do I…”

        I can’t read a persons heart but Jesus can. Clearly he understood her heart and her response to what Jesus just did for her. He forgave her. We know Jesus did not blow off the situation because he said, “Go and sin no more.”

      • I’m not sure what your argument is. If the woman was a Christian the we can tell homosexuals that they are sinners?
        If that’s your logic then you have to be consistent. You have to follow everything Jesus did as an example (walk on water, cast out demons, get crucified for the sins of the world). Not everything Jesus did is our example to follow, some things were his exclusive right as messiah.

      • Brian at this point we will need to agree to disagree. I interpret the bible differently. This can go on forever. Thank you though for having a civil conversation with me. I appreciate it more than you can know!

      • Thank you Mark, that’s nice of you to say. Sorry if anything I said came across as being contrary.

    • @Michael Hart — This is a great set of questions!

      [Does sin exist? Is it a universal truth for humanity? If so what is sin? What was the sin for the adulterous woman? Is there sin with gay sex, if so where and when?]

      In another conversation I recently had, a question was asked, “was all sin equal.” Without wasting a bunch of time here is a great article. http://billygraham.org/answer/are-all-sins-the-same-in-gods-eyes/ The gist is pertaining to eternity – all sin is equal, however in our mortal life there are repercussions to our sins and God deals with them individually in the bible.

  28. It’s been great for me to come back online and read, as Mark said to Brian, a civil rational discourse. Thanks Mark for the feedback on the questions. I confess I have no stock answers to them all, certainly I have my Biblical leanings as you all do, yet believe faith insists on us asking deeper questions. That’s why sane & non-reactive discussion is so important. One of the concerns I have is the suppression of truth by larger statements that look like they have worked through all the angles, but instead force one to accept at a new conclusion pre-maturely, which then forces a superficial or emotional ‘yes’. If you don’t support that latest ideological conclusion, then one gets into hot waters.

    Check out Piers Samson’s narrow minded premise that seems to grant him permission to dump on Ryan Anderson: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/piers-morgan-gay-marriage_n_2963749.html..
    It’s a good example of discourse growing more non-civil, although Ryan takes the high road
    (a point made by a gay marriage proponent, who found Samson’s handling of the discussion to be poor). So I think we’ll need to recapture the art of debate, and agree on some basic principles, that Samson forgot, which is when you agree to disagree, you don’t belittle another person. It’s almost like we need a set of instructions to debate again – here are the rules, but regrettably in some parts of the culture it seems like ‘open season’ to fire away.

  29. @Mark – thanks for the link to Billy Graham article, – worth reading.
    re: Graham’s comment on Sodom and Gomorrah, indeed there are Biblical passages that indicate the sins of S & G were quite past just sexual behavior, e.g Ezekiel 16:42.
    So S & G as an example of sexual sin is not an appropriate reference for modernization as we first need to include all the sins listed there.

  30. What would Jesus do? He would assure his love for us. He would teach us that though we each are born to a sin nature and that we do not have to be bound by that nature. And just as he told the rich man to give up all he knows (sell all your belongings and give it all to the poor), He would tell us to give up what prevents us from fully experiencing Christ–sacrifice what we think defines us– and pick up our cross and follow Him! And when we respond with our new, spirit filled selves just as Zaccheous did while climbing out of that tree, I could just hear Jesus exclaiming “Salvation has come to this house!”

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  1. The Church’s Dangerous Dilemma | Six:11 Ministries - March 7, 2014

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