And Such Were Some of You

(I am posting my sermon notes from 5/10/15 [didn’t see that number set until just now] in their entirety here so that they may be easily referenced by anyone wondering just what I said about the topic of homosexuality.  I did stray a bit from my notes in the delivery.  As soon as it is uploaded you will also be able to listen to the sermon at: www.hope.org/blog/sermons/.  –geno)

And Such Were Some of You

Intro:   My favorite text from the Bible is not a touchy-feely thing. Rather, it is an earthy explanation of the effect of the gospel of Jesus. Here it is:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (I Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV)

The good news here is that all manner of broken, sinful people in the ancient Greek city of Corinth had found their way to faith in Jesus Christ. The list is tantalizing. I find myself fitting into four of the nine categories. How about you?

I love two other things about this text. First, notice the three-fold effect of Christ’s rescue for broken people, for sinners. In Jesus we were WASHED, we were SANCTIFIED, and we were JUSTIFIED.

Paul is saying that the work of rescue, the work of salvation in Jesus for sinners, renders us clean (washed), holy (sanctified—set apart for God), and forgiven (justified—declared not guilty at the judgment seat of God).

Now THAT’S very, very good news for broken people.

The second thing I love about this text is the pivot point:

And such were some of you.

Just six words, but a powerful reminder, a powerful testimony. Paul is saying that the Corinthian Christians were egregious sinners, but rescued.

This morning I am beginning a series of talks on the subject of homosexuality (or same-sex attraction or same-sex orientation).

Let me say at the outset that I do not believe the Bible condemns same-sex orientation per se. This text and others, I believe, condemn homosexual sexual acts and those who engage in them.

I should also say that the Bible condemns our lusting after one another whether heterosexually or homosexually, but not mere orientation.

But there is great, good news here. If God can wash clean a drunk or a thief or an adulterer, he can wash, sanctify and justify a homosexual person.

Why This Topic?

Let me talk for a moment about why I am choosing to take on this subject. First I want to shape the conversation at Hope Chapel. Second, I want to present a vision for a culture at Hope Chapel that is different from the world around us, and in many ways, different from the prevailing religious culture. Finally, I believe I should talk about these things before the Supreme Court weighs in on the matter as is expected later this summer.

  • Shape the conversation at Hope Chapel

I would love for Hope Chapel to become a place where the topic of same-sex attraction doesn’t freak people out. My hope is that we can bear the cultural pressure of our day without being forced into the camp that despises homosexual people or the camp that says homosexual activity is blessed by God. Biblical truth supports neither group, in my opinion.

On my part, this month-long sermon series is an attempt to move us in that direction. But whether we get there is entirely up to all of us. I can tell you that there are many here, probably most of us, who have deeply-held feelings on the topic as well as personal experience with a friend or family member who is gay and in the lifestyle.

But, as far as I can tell, there are very few people willing to sit down and share their thoughts on the subject for fear of what others will think. Will I be condemned because I do not hold to the evangelical party line? Will I be seen as a bigot because I do not accept our culture’s embrace of all things gay? These are very real fears.

Let’s be done with the silence and the fear. That’s the devil’s work among us. Here is how I propose to begin the conversation. Ask someone you know to tell you about his/her experience with a friend or family member, someone they know and love who is a homosexual. And listen without judgment. If you get asked, I hope you share from your heart.

Please notice I did not say we should begin the conversation with pronouncements or teachings or opinions about homosexuality. Begin with your real-life experiences and tell your story without a sermon attached. Listen with compassion and try to understand the other person’s perspective.

  • Vision for different culture at Hope Chapel

This leads to my next reason for taking on this subject. I would like to see Hope Chapel develop a certain kind of culture with regard to same-sex attraction and those who wrestle with these feelings.

I would like for Hope Chapel to become a safe place for someone who is struggling with homosexual orientation, or even in the lifestyle, to be embraced, listened to and loved well. I would like for Hope Chapel to be a place where a person can say, “I think I might be a homosexual,” and that person would be listened to sympathetically and loved unconditionally.

I would love for Hope Chapel to be a place where (unconverted) same-sex couples could explore the Faith with us without reprisal or being shamed. I believe Jesus was like this. “Come as you are, but don’t stay that way,” is a good way to say it. Jesus flat-out loved broken people.

In John 8, we have the famous story of the woman caught in adultery. She was tossed at Jesus’ feet and her accusers, who all knew the Bible well, were standing there with stones in their hands ready to execute her.

Jesus first scratched something in the dirt. Then he looked up and things went sideways for her accusers. Jesus turned the judgment around.

“Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Oops!

Jesus also say, “Go and sin no more,” to the woman.

There is a lesson here. We must never fall into the place of calling for God’s judgment on fellow-sinners. At the same time we must never accommodate what God calls sin. How do we do that? No formula.

We are uncomfortable in this place because it is a place where we are unsure of ourselves. Isn’t there a line we can cross where we are accommodating sin too much? Yes. Isn’t there a line we can cross where we are judging others improperly? Yes.

But here is where we have the opportunity to mature into a congregation that develops a more Jesus-like culture. We have to learn to walk in this place of tension by loving people completely and speaking the truth in love.

Difficult, but not impossible. On Friday I ruined a garage door at my house when attempting to fix one small roller. It turns out that the whole contraption is a carefully-balanced machine that constantly fluctuates between two positions—open and closed.

Tension provided to very powerful springs is needed to open and carefully close the large door. Without this tension the machine would not work and the door would be hard to open and close because of its weight.

I want to suggest this morning that this tension between whole-heartedly loving people far from God and speaking the truth in love is what will make for a humble, grace-filled culture that we are called to develop together.

  • Supreme Court decision this summer (get in front of it)

The third reason why I want to tackle this topic this month is that most observers expect the Supreme Court to hand down a ruling supporting same-sex marriage at some point this summer.

I have been explicitly asked in a handful of emails to speak to this topic.

So here is what I am going to do: I am going to carefully walk through Biblical texts and lay out both sides of the debate…and then offer my opinion.

I Will NOT anathematize those who see and teach things differently. While I think they are wrong, they are still family, still brothers and sisters in Christ.

We do not need to necessarily walk together, but I will genuinely respect and love them.

After an examination of the relevant Biblical texts I will spend a bit of time talking about how to engage our family and friends and the larger culture with grace and truth.

Please note: At no point do you need to agree with me. You are only constrained to love me…as I am to love you.

Conclusion:

So let me end where I began: And such were some of you.

There is great, great hope in this sentence. It is possible to have sinned against the God of heaven and find oneself seated as a son or a daughter next to our God at a the wedding feast of the Lamb, an heir to the Kingdom.

But this is only possible because the uniquely-begotten son of God most high gave his life for us and the Father accepted that sacrifice as adequate payment for our offense.

Don’t you want to find yourself in the middle of those six words? Don’t you want to be washed, sanctified and justified? Don’t you want that for those whom you love? For those far from God? I know I do.

Never forget that the saint who struggles with sin was once a sinner who had no hope of ever becoming a saint. The task of the saint is not merely to struggle against sin, but to exalt the One who delivers from sin so that others may too drink deeply of that rescue.

Application:

Get in groups and tell your story to someone. What has been your engagement with someone you know and love who struggles with same-sex attraction? Where do you feel tension? Have your friends pray with you, over you.

Let me model one side of this conversation by telling you part of my story.

I was converted in late 1974. The senior pastor of my home church left to plant a church in another city about a year and a half after I arrived there. He installed a man named Ted in the senior pastor role.

It turns out that Ted had struggled with same-sex attraction since well before puberty. In fact, Ted had been in and out of a number of same-sex liaisons while managing to marry well, sire two children and serve as a Sunday School teacher, a campus ministry leader, a mega-church elder, and now, a senior pastor.

After about three years in his role leading our church Ted acted out with a young man in the congregation. That young man reported the incident to our elders who then publicly removed Ted from leadership in the church. The action was pretty severe.

At first I was very angry with Ted because he had never revealed his struggles to me. However, I remained very close to Ted and his family through this period, refusing to treat him as a leper, as we were instructed to do.

During the many, many talks we had over the course of the next several years I came to learn a great deal about Ted and his life and his struggle. I always knew that Ted loved me genuinely and I loved him as well.

Eventually, after his children were grown, Ted left his family and engaged in the gay lifestyle. His wife never gave up on him, but she always challenged him to turn from his ways and obey Christ. After a while Ted called me personally from another state and said he wanted out of his lifestyle. I told him that if he wanted my help he would need to move to Austin, submit to the elders of my church and begin meeting with me regularly.

Ted began well, doing as I had instructed hem.  At some point Ted decided that he no longer wanted to walk in some of the restrictions we had placed on him and he walked away. He died just a few years after that.

At his funeral I told of Ted’s impact on my life. At that point I had been a senior pastor for about 12 years and I said, “When I am faced with a pastoral difficulty I close my eyes and I think, ‘What would Ted do in this situation?’”

Ted was, in my opinion a gifted pastor and evangelist and he taught me most of what I consider to be the most valuable lessons about the ministry I’ve ever received. I’m convinced that I will see Ted in heaven because I witnessed the Spirit of God in him, even though he was a man broken sexually.

Do you have a story to tell? Find someone who will listen without judgment and begin the conversation.

 

 

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