The LGBT movement is fully underway, we might even say “established” in our culture. I’ve blogged about this issue a few times already. I’d like to note some things before I get to the essence of what I’m addressing here.
We haven’t seen how far this movement will go, yet. In my lifetime this issue has gone from anathema to celebrated. In 1972 homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. The very next year that was changed. Now it is fashionable to approve of same-sex attraction, practice, marriage, rights, and overall standing in our society.
Heterosexual marriage isn’t controversial but saying that marriage is between one man and one woman, only, is viewed as a very narrow view. The Christian belief of marriage, one man for one woman, is not fashionable and it is certainly not on the uptick.
Christians need to come to grips with this. To fight for public opinion is to fight a losing battle. Our culture is not guided as we are. To resent this is to chase the wind. Our way forward is to graciously articulate a biblical position, not win more arguments and elections.
I can say that I’m familiar with two critical responses when the LGBT issue comes up: we must 1) love ALL people and 2) it IS sin. The first response is focused more on the humanity of someone who identifies as LGBT. Often this response tends to call into question whether this is actual sin or not. The second response goes for the jugular. “We’re dealing with sin and that is the end of the discussion,” someone might say. This person is not really interested in “watering” the issue down by factoring in anything else. Furthermore, he/she may not be able to grasp subtleties for lack of personal study.
Having said these things, I read a book last month entitled “Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality.” The title is a mouth full! I’d like to interact with this book in April’s blog.
The author, Preston Sprinkle, is a speaker and teacher with a Ph.D. in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland. I found him to be easy to read, theologically sound, and yet gracious and relatable.
The book is written for “students between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two” (pg. 13). He does say up front that he believes “the Bible prohibits homosexual behavior” (pg. 13). The three purposes he seeks to fulfill are 1) educate readers about homosexuality 2) explain what the Bible says about the subject 3) cultivate a heart for people (pg. 16).
For me, #2 isn’t so much of an issue but I am and still continue to be interested in # 1 and 3. Historically I’ve been among those who draw the line and end the conversation rather quickly. However, that doesn’t produce a lot of peaceful dialogue.
He tells a story of young man who talked to his church leadership about his struggles with same-sex attraction. Their responses ranged from “I thought he was a Christian” to “When did you decide this” to You know…what God thinks about homosexuals?” (pg. 20).
At issue here is a misunderstanding about the nature of same-sex attraction. To be attracted to members of the same sex is not the same as affirming same-sex behavior, to have consciously decided to pursue sin, or to be ok with said desire.
The physical attraction many feel toward members of the same sex is involuntary. When this is understood, the conversation shifts from judgment to listening and understanding. Who among us chooses the desires that spring up from our brokenness? At issue isn’t so much the desire but what we do with it.
Sprinkle cautions against language like “us and them” or “we and they” (pg. 34). In a helpful insight, he also notes how we are NOT obligated to act on desire. As fallen people our desires manifest themselves in myriad of unbiblical ways (pg. 47).
Sprinkle’s analysis of the Sodom and Gomorrah story goes something like this. This story is about denouncing gang rape (pg. 58). Ok. Let’s not be too modest. If we have NO other revelation and if we have NO other context, sure, gang rape is bad. However, a broader reading of Scripture would bring us to conclude a little more than saying gang rape is bad. It is gang rape, but the demand for same-sex behavior is also at issue.
Ezekiel tells us that Sodom’s sins were pride and refusing to share. Yes. However, as Sprinkle argues elsewhere, this doesn’t mean no other sins are at issue! My sense is Sprinkle could have been a little more forceful here but simply declined as he had other cards to play later.
One thing I found helpful was a section devoted to definitions. In chapter four he deals with the words gay, transgender, and transvestite. He also notes that many who identify as gay or lesbian may not prefer the label “homosexual”.
He also links the way the LGBT community has been treated historically as similar to tax collectors in Jesus’ day. One of his better points is “acceptance precedes obedience.” This acceptance refers to a loving reception of the person, not an overlooking of sin. In other words, “Acceptance doesn’t equal affirmation.”
In successive chapters he counsels those who think they might be gay. He defines “gay” as having same-sex attraction, not necessarily an identity. He addresses navigational issues like dealing with a gay friend, homosexual promotion in culture, and attending gay weddings.
He concludes by noting three guiding principles. First, homosexuality is about people. Second, believe the Bible. Third, listen learn and love.
I would recommend this book for anyone needing help in navigating this complex topic. Sprinkle covers a wide range of issues (noted above) and sets the reader up for a more nuanced interaction with and love for the LGBT community.