If it’s the Gospel Alone, is Same Sex Behavior OK?

BeechingLast week Vicky Beeching publicly announced she’s a lesbian, and has known it since age 13 (she’s 35).  A British singer/songwriter, she lived in Nashville for 10 years crafting worship songs like Glory to God Forever and Above all Else.  I find the crystal quality of her voice and melodies riveting.  In fact, as I listened to the choir and worship team at Kingsgate Community Church sing Wonder of the Cross [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yzx8QUQRS8], I couldn’t stop weeping…

May I never lose the wonder
The wonder of the cross
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost

Undone by mercy and left speechless
Watching wide-eyed at the cost
May I never lose the wonder
The wonder of the cross

Having grown up as the “poster child for Christianity” yet struggling with same sex attraction, Vicky endured much dissonance.  She hoped confession to a priest and his subsequent absolution would change her.  It didn’t.  She thought the deliverance professionals who cast out demons would bring her inner tension to an end.  They didn’t.  With a double life and all the trauma plaguing her she came down with an autoimmune condition so severe that it required chemotherapy.  She now tells young people who are gay that they don’t need to choose between their faith and their sexuality, that God loves them exactly as they are.


But there is a lie clearly implied behind the surface truth: “God approves of you as you are.”  Meaning, He’s happy when you are intimate with someone of the same sex.

Then what are we to do with Scripture that says the opposite?  In describing same sex behavior, God portrays a humanity in full on rebellion against Him: That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires.  Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other.  And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other.  Men did shameful things with other men and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved (Romans 1:26-27).

Yesterday when I mused how fast the culture is trending in favor of same sex behavior and marriage, someone asked me if I think the day will come when we who take the Scriptures at face value on this issue will be in the minority in the evangelical church.

Yes.  In 5-7 years.

As I see it, what will hurry it along are churches increasingly diluted by people who neither read their Bibles nor believe Genesis to Revelation contains exclusively what God has self-revealed.  That is, that God has pristine and objective truths which He refuses to put to a vote so we can sniff in amusement at its lack of popularity or contemporaneity.

In our study of Galatians we continue to beat the drum that the gospel is the good news that Jesus’ work on the cross plus NOTHING saves sinners like me.  We are not saved by our deeds–nor any opinions about things like homosexuality.  However, that is quite different from concluding that God is comfy with whatever behavior and attitudes professed Christians display and portray.  If a church member who is a bigot attacks his Mexican neighbor and is unrepentant, should we say, “God loves you exactly the way you are”–by which we mean, “God’s ok with what you did and with your attitude”?

Nothing but Jesus saves people, but the Jesus who saves also changes people (1 Cor. 6:11).  We should have compassion on people like Vicky who struggle with longings that God says are not to be fulfilled.  (That’s not only true of same sex desires, but of those who might want someone else’s wife, or want to take things that don’t belong to them, or want to buy things they can’t afford–or, like Israel, who want a god who can be seen.)  We should share in our brothers’ and sisters’ struggles with prayer, patience, accountability, kindness, understanding…, with love.  But endorsing disobedience will not make a strong or godly church, it will not make worshipers.  The fact that people live with tension over sexual desires should not deter us from advocating righteousness any more than the threat to a believer’s life because of her faith, should deter us from encouraging her to “stand fast!”

On a related note, what’s the church to do with her music?  Boycotting good music with great lyrics because the author is stumbling, hardly seems worthy of the people of God.  It’s the Spirit–not economic pressure, which we pray will bring our sister to repentance.  As Russell Moore writes, “…the most important question, for this decision, is not, “Is this person right?” but “Is this song true and good and beautiful and edifying?”  Wonder of the Cross most assuredly is.

Apparently I was Mistaken

In yesterday’s “Toxic People-Pleasing” sermon I claimed that the one command repeated more often in the Bible than any other is “Fear the Lord”.  Seems that I was wrong and that the brother in the second service who offered “Fear not” was correct.  Among others, the formidable scholar N. T. Wright made the claim in Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, and Rick Warren found enough examples to offer one for each day in a yearlong devotional; at least 365 times God has said in one way or another, “Don’t be afraid”.

Until I go through all 66 books myself and count both commands, I will concede the point.  Brother–whoever you are, you were right.

While we’re mentioning Rick Warren, he says 2 main obstacles keep us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives: envy and–(are you ready…?) PEOPLE-PLEASING!

Goodbye Robin

We are all shaped by our childhoods.  You said yours left you with a “Love Me Syndrome”.  Maybe the toxicity level was finally high enough to kill.  You said you found your wealthy father frightening when he was home.  He and your mother worked so much that the maids reared you.  Bullied by schoolmates and with no friends except the ones in your mind and your 2000 toy soldiers, you say you grew up with an acute fear of abandonment.

After googling your name for images I was startled by the similarity of most: sleepy eyes, a thin smile for the public, but a countenance suggesting you hid things that deeply absorbed you.  Sad things.  Or evil things.  Or good things you didn’t know what to do with.  I’ve always wondered if Patch Adams was your own metaphor for “laugh your way to happiness”.

Recent rehab.  Again.  A history of addictions and depression.  Admirers wonder how you could have so much yet be so distraught.  The Oscar.  A cover on TIME.  Worth $130 million as recently as 2012, the $30 million you lost to two wives sent you back to TV work to pay the bills.  Even put your 600+ acre estate on the market recently.

We loved you with or without all that.  How you made us laugh.  From Mork and Mindy to Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam, to my personal favorite, Mrs. Doubtfire.

Fox News’ Shepherd Smith gracelessly labeled you a “coward”.  Only those who’ve seriously flirted with suicide can appreciate its lure.  To the rest, it’s lunacy.  Why would a man choose oblivion or worse to life, love, fame, and fortune?  Prefer death to a future?  Because as Blaise Pascal put it rather indelicately, “All men seek happiness.  …This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”  For some, inner sorrows which cannot be explained adequately to others–or understood by others, pommel and drain a person to such an extent that nonexistence seems like happiness compared to existence.

They say you were bipolar.  I hope professionals had you on the proper medicine.  But some meds are now part of the problem.  Studies show some antidepressants actually increase the allure of suicide.

Did anyone ever whisper  “Jesus” to you?  He came to seek and to save lost people like me and you.  Came to heal brokenhearted folks.  Came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.  Came to bear our judgment and bear our sins.  Came to release us from idols like wealth, other people’s approval, and substances that make promises they can’t deliver on.  Came to bring us…, hope.

Remember what Arthur Mendelson said to Patch Adams?  “No, no, look at me.  You’re focusing on the problem.  You focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution.  Never focus on the problem.  Look at me.” 

Look at ME.

We are awash in a sea of problem, of disasters, of misfortunes, of sorrows, of despair, of fears, of broken lives.  Of sin.  Jesus gets in front of us and says, “You’re focusing on the problem; look at me.”

Goodbye Robin.

Gender Inclusive Language in my New Bible

My new preaching Bible the NLT, contains some  gender-inclusive language–long a code phrase that makes people like me nervous.  In general, to use inclusive language means using words that do not belittle or exclude women from respect or the conversation.  With reference to Scripture, it means that if it’s clear that the original author meant his words to apply to men and women–even if he only used a male word like “brothers” or “men”, that translators make the wording say so.  However some inclusive translations also alter the meaning of passages such as Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Timothy 2:12 (not NLT) which they perceive as slighting women by giving only males the responsibility to shepherd their homes and churches.

Since the purpose of any Bible translation is to make the original author’s message clear, translators have to wrestle with what the author meant–as well as what he said.  Their job is to be clear to readers who don’t understand the language it was first penned in, and who don’t live in the culture of those who first read it the letter.

So, in this Sunday’s text when Paul wrote to immature Christians in Galatians 1:11, he wrote in Greek to, “brothers”.  Just to the male members of the church?  Of course not so in my English NLT it’s translated “brothers and sisters” because Paul meant for his message to be received by the women as well as the men.  Since some people might not realize that today when they hear “brothers”, the NLT clears it up by adding “sisters” even though the word was not in the original text.

Similarly in the following verse (12), whereas in Greek Paul says he did not receive the gospel from any “man”, in my NLT it says “I received my message from no human source…”.  Again, translators want to make sure readers understand the divine origin of Paul’s gospel, not rule out any male origin while leaving the door open that a woman may have given him the message.

To Muslims, the Qur’an is to be learned–often memorized.  Since their Book is too sacred to be translated from its original Arabic, even those followers who can’t speak Arabic must learn it in a foreign language.  To Christians, the Bible is to be understood since it is God’s revelation of Himself.  Not only can it be translated, it must be.  So that readers may say, “Ah, now I understand who God is, who I am, what he wants from me, and what he promises me.”

Shifty Fades of Grey

Last week we joined our children and grandchildren for an wonderful vacation by a Kentucky lake.  The last day of the week my son’s boat was taking on some water so we went to the pool instead.  Since it was a small one the ten of us kind of took it over but the five women there in their fifties and sixties gladly made room as they fussed over the grandchildren.

Later I overheard them discussing an upcoming movie in and realized it was Fifty Shades of Grey.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock you recognize the 2011 erotic book that’s somehow made S & M cool.  After selling 100 million copies and becoming the fastest selling paperback of all time, the movie’s being released next Valentine’s Day.  [Seriously?]  After 100 million people viewed the trailer the first week, Jimmy Kimmel’s interviewer on the street had some fun asking people if they plan to see “50 Shapes of Grape” or “50 Snakes are Great” or Shifty Fades of Grey”.

The women by the pool chuckled at their 50 Shades discussion; some seemed intrigued, others uncomfortable even by the conversation.  The appeal the book holds for women has earned it the label “Mommy Porn” and its expected movie viewership will be heavily female.

It is good for Christian husbands and wives to delight one another in the bedroom, but this is hardly the manual to reference.  Crystal Renaud remarked dryly, “Christian Grey [main character] belongs in jail, not in your bedroom.”  Christian blogger and author of Dirty Girls Come Clean, Renaud is a former porn and sex addict whose post on 50 Shades is hard-hitting but incisive.  Beyond the obvious immorality, she points out why this kind of “literature” is hardly women-friendly.  http://dirtygirlsministries.com/?p=6958