In the last few weeks, many of us have found ourselves in discussions about the recent US Supreme court discussion on same sex marriage. Many people are asking how should we think about this issue, and how does it impact us as a church. Of course we are in Taiwan and not in the US, and so there are both similarities and differences in the cultural situation. However, our experience tells us that what happens in the US or the West is often like a tidal wave so that in time its impact is felt here. In fact, we all know that its impact is already being felt.
One of the problems of knowing how to discuss this issue is that there are always different people in the room who need to hear different things. As Kevin DeYoung has said, “Sometimes there is a need for toughness. At other times there is a need for tears. Sometimes there is a need for defense and sometimes a letting down of our defenses. Sometimes there is a need to rally the troops and other times when we need to put up our hands and come in peace.”
John says, “The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The challenge of a pastor is how do you strike the right balance between grace and truth, i.e. between Biblical conviction and Biblical compassion. Churches that are all grace (totally accepting; “I’m Ok; you’re OK”) usually lose the gospel and the authority of the Word. Churches that are all truth are often brittle, judgmental and often fail to know how to extend grace to people who are struggling or who have embraced LGBT as normative. Actually, this is a little misleading as grace without truth isn’t really grace, and truth without grace isn’t really truth, but that would be a whole other blog. But what does it mean to love our LGBT friends and at the same time be a community of grace and truth?
In framing these thoughts, I have been most helped by my fellow pastors who as shepherds deal with individuals who are impacted by these kind of cultural shifts. They are all wise models of what it means to reflect Jesus’ balance of grace and truth. In particular, Zach Eswine, Kevin DeYoung, Greg Thompson, Scott Sauls and Tim Keller have been a great help. Some of my thoughts echo some of theirs. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
Becoming good listeners to each other’s stories
Are we able to listen to each other’s stories without filtering them out? Jesus often told parables like the story of the Good Samaritan where the characters are juxtaposed in interesting ways. In other words, to Jewish people it would have been odd to hear a story where the Samaritan was the hero. Samaritans were despised by Jews in that day. Jesus is good at offending all of us (religious and non-religious). We need to be able to listen to the people in front of us without censoring their story, and receive Jesus’ critique. We also need to be able to offer people a robust love that goes beyond tolerance. Part of what this means is that we need to be able to disagree without assuming that the disagreement is hatred. Jesus disagreed with all kinds of people while not hating them.
Here are some stories that I have heard:
A certain pastor described a young man who sent his sister to visit his church. The young man was afraid to visit himself. He wondered if it was a safe place to address these issues.
Another young man was kicked out of his home by his father when he said that he was attracted to those of his own sex.
Another person said that they couldn’t find a good church. He did not want to attend a church that accepted his desire for same sex marriage because he didn’t feel they were being faithful to Scripture.
Another person was seeking to leave his LGBT lifestyle and felt rejection from his LGBT friends.
Another person was raised by his two lesbian mothers. They were divorced and his mother remarried again. He had three lesbian mothers. He said he had been loved well, and he was grateful. But now he said he was married and his wife was having a daughter—and he felt the loss of never having a father figure in his own life. He feels a deep void in his life.
One friend of mine was living a gay lifestyle. He came to Christ. He had a friend who was lesbian. She became a Christian. They married and now share their story with many people.
Some have had surgeries and then wanted to have them undone because it hadn’t produced the changes desired.
There are those among us with same sex attraction who want to be married. And there are others who have chosen to be celibate while living for Jesus.
Can we hear the variety of stories in our midst and around us and prayerfully find the balance of grace and truth that Jesus always modeled?
The diverse opinions that exist among us
There are many among us (myself included) who are sad about this ruling. There are others who are glad. Many don’t know what to think. In short, there are some who believe that God’s word prohibits same-six marriage and believe we should oppose this decision theologically and when needed (like two years ago) to oppose it politically. There are others who believe that while God’s word prohibits same-sex marriage that because we live in a secular democracy that does not reflect the law of God, we should reject it theologically, but permit it politically. Others believe that God’s word allows same-sex unions and thus believe that we should affirm it both theologically and politically.
Where Friendship stands
We have and will continue to embrace the church’s historic teaching on marriage. We believe that marriage is created by God to be a permanent and monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus in Matthew 19 said that marriage is from the beginning so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates a mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us.
Practically, this means that all of God’s people are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus. For singles, it will be a challenge to be celibate until marriage. For those married, there will be the challenge of being faithful to their spouse. For those with same sex attraction it will mean that they will need to find support and friendship in Christian community while seeking for God’s strength to remain celibate.
We are all called to help one another in the journey—married and unmarried, heterosexually attracted and same sex attracted. It will require great resources of grace, patience and hope for us to walk together in this journey. At times there will be failures. In those times, we will need to go to Jesus and hear him say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
What if I am same sex attracted or have friends who are same sex attracted, what can I expect at FPC?
- Welcome – We are all on a journey as sinners being saved by grace. None of us can boast in anything except the cross. So join us in the journey of being a fellowship of big sinners with an even bigger Savior.
- Friendship – We will endeavor to be a place where you can find Christian friends who can offer companionship, accountability and who will point you to Jesus and His Word. We need a place of love and laughter where we can bear each other’s burdens.
- Truth – We will always endeavor to preach the Bible faithfully and not go soft on the hard parts. We will try to let the glorious parts shine and allow the scary parts to do their work. We will always endeavor to embrace the whole counsel of God no matter how difficult, dangerous or unpopular.
- Gospel– We describe ourselves as a gospel-centered church. This means that we focus on the good news of Jesus and his historic death and resurrection on the cross as the greatest need for every day that we live our lives. We will always try to be a place where this is central to all we do and say.
- Hope – Like Wesley said in his hymn, “Jesus breaks the power of cancelled sin. He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me.” None of us have arrived, but God has promised to give us everything we need for life and godliness.
Some would argue that this is the way God has made me. But our desires and our sexuality have been impacted by the fall. Our essential identity is to be found not in career, family, sexuality or anything except our relationship with Christ which gives us increasing ability to say yes to Him and no to our frequent, fallen desires.
In short we are committed to helping one another--married and unmarried, heterosexually attracted and same-sex attracted. We desire to be a place where we can be welcomed and nurtured into what God has called us to be. We also want to equip you to follow Christ in a secular age to live as a missionary people. Historically, the church has usually been a minority and been at its best when it has operated from the margins as a living, loving, grace and truth fellowship that is salt and light in the world. Please come and talk to us. My door is always open to listen carefully and compassionately.