If there’s one cultural debate that’s exhibiting a lot more heat (i.e., emotionally charged rhetoric) than light (i.e., rational, calm dialogue) it’s the debate regarding homosexuality. Both sides – conservative and liberal – would serve the overall societal discussion better if the latter were practiced.
However, I’m encouraged lately as I’ve heard calm, reasoned responses from evangelicals like Al Mohler. This was evidenced in his comments on the explosive story last week regarding Tim Tebow’s cancellation to speak at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. I especially resonated with Mohler’s words concerning the challenging tension of our communicating tone and biblical convictions on this combustible topic.
Evangelical Christians are now called upon to think strategically about what it means to speak truthfully and lovingly to a society that increasingly sees us as the moral outlaws. Clearly, we must watch our speech carefully, measuring every word for truth and tone and avoiding incendiary sound bites. We must also guard our hearts toward the persistent temptation towards self-righteousness. But, at the same time, even the most humble statement of biblical truth can now be turned into a sound bite described as hate speech and a refusal to affirm the normalization of homosexuality is turned into repulsive intolerance. We now face no shortage of arguments for capitulation, but abandoning the truth of God's Word is not an option. We deny the gospel if we deny the sinfulness of sin. That sin. Every sin. Our sin.
There’s more than great wisdom there. There’s sound discipleship for all of us. And it speaks to all of us. If we tend to be stalwarts for truth who speak with fire in our bellies about God and the gospel, we need to make sure that fire is tempered by the kindness of the cross. If we tend to be compassionate personalities who naturally shy away from controversy, we need to make sure we don’t deny the Lord while warming ourselves around the fires of cultural engagement.
Most importantly, however, we need to remember that the goal in all this is not merely “winning” the cultural debate. Yes, we ought to stand for traditional marriage at the ballot box and in our public policy. Yes, we must not give into cultural pressure to avoid this topic in our pulpits and evangelistic preaching (when it’s providentially brought up at the water cooler or over the backyard fence by the non-Christian to whom we’re witnessing). And yes, we must remember our tone when communicating on this topic. (To sound like a frothing-at-the-mouth Fundamentalist is only going to hurt our case; conversely, this doesn’t mean we need to address the topic like Mr. Rogers, either.)
So, what’s the goal? The goal is to see men and women, boys and girls transformed by the power of the gospel – no matter the particular enslavement to sexual sin with which they struggle. We are all fundamentally flawed in our sexuality. Regarding the issue of sex – and before the white-hot holiness of the triune God – there isn’t a pure one among us. If we claim that our bodies are “pure,” our minds definitely aren’t, and that leaves even the most (self-deluded) self-righteous person in our midst guilty before God and in desperate need of His forgiveness through Christ.
Not much will be accomplished if we debate the issue of homosexuality with an unloving heat that slings subcultural lingo like a grenade into the other’s camp. At the same time, as Christians we’re called to preach the gospel – without shame (Rom. 1.16) – whenever we have the opportunity. But, as we preach, let us keep in mind that the goal is not merely to: silence the opposition, see them change their intellectual position, or even their moral practice. The goal is to see lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit in response to the good news of Jesus Christ. That will change one intellectually. That will change one morally. That will change one politically (on this topic). But they will do so for the right reason – namely, the second person of the Trinity took on human flesh, lived a morally flawless life, died for a believing individual’s eternal punishment-inducing sin, and gloriously resurrected from the dead! In other words, their transformation on this topic (whether intellectual, moral, and/or political) morphed from hearing a message, not agree with a social mandate.
I read one such story of transformation lately that stirred my heart on a deep level, because it reminded me that transformation – not argumentation – is the goal of our interaction on this polarizing topic. The goal is not to put others down, but to point sinners – like you and me – to a Person. It’s not about winning an argument, but winsomely communicating a message. And the reason we’re so eager to speak this message (though we often battle nervousness when we attempt to do so) is that the message transforms hearts and minds and lives, and it’s done so to us, and in us. The gospel has transformed all our messed up sexualities, and – for Christians – it’s still in the process of daily mopping up the mess with Jesus’ blood and righteousness. May the janitorial work of heaven begin this same grace-filled cleanup with others to whom we communicate it – whatever the sexual predisposition or tendency.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” – 2 Cor. 5.17, ESV
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Cor. 4.16, ESV