The church and homosexuality - a response to John Pavlovitz
This article is a response to an article in the Huffington Post by John Pavlovitz. Links to this article have also appeared on Facebook.
The charge being made in John Pavlovitz' article is that the church's response to homosexuality is unloving, critical, and effectively excluding LGBT people from the organised church. That the reactions from Christians is hurtful and destructive. That Christians demonise homosexuals and hound them out of the church.
To what extent are these accusations true, what is their context, and how should the church treat homosexuals?
Does the church, and do Christians, respond to homosexual people in the way that Pavlovitz suggests they often do? Unfortunately, in many cases they do.
There are many who just react and abuse. Some of them are church members who are not living out the faith they profess. Some of them are just rabble rousers using God's name because it suits them. But there are also genuine Christians who respond in ungracious ways. Who do not look at the persons, but just at the sin. Perhaps they are revulsed at the thought and gut react to it. Perhaps it is too close to their own desires and their reaction is defensive. Often people's thinking on this issue is very black and white, when the reality is nuanced, as it always is in human affairs. Too often Christians show a lack of grace and mercy. The very things that God has shown us in redeeming us from sin
The guts of Pavlovitz' argument is that God made homosexuals that way therefore we just have to accept that. (You need to read his original blog post, which is linked from the Huffington Post article, to see this) To do otherwise is to argue with God. Therefore, according to Pavlovitz, we have to treat homosexuality the same as any other sexual orientation. In this Pavlovitz does not seem to recognise the results of the fall into sin.
Many people have a tendency toward drinking alcohol. Once they start drinking they just want to keep going. That tendency seems to have a genetic basis. God made you that way so to argue with that is arguing with God. But that doesn't mean that getting drunk is OK.
Some people have a tendency to want to be promiscuous sexually. That also seems to have some genetic basis. But that does not mean that adultery is OK.
We all have sinful tendencies. That is the awful fact of our fallen state.
As Christians we take our beliefs from God as he reveals himself in the Bible. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
The Bible treats homosexuality as sin. Just as it treats many other things as sin. Sexual sins, such as adultery, sins of covetousness, lack of self-control, stealing, murder…. We should not overstate the condemnation of homosexuality, but we should not understate it either.
Homosexuals are people too. Made in the image of God. And he holds them responsible for their actions. As he does all of us. To say that people with a homosexual tendency are the only ones who are unable to control that tendency is to treat them as less than everybody else.
Jesus cared for broken sinners, but was not afraid of condemning those who were ready to accuse others while continuing to sin themselves. Like the Pharisees who wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery while they were not living exemplary lives themselves.
One of the difficulties we human beings have is that we tend to see one side of a story and become very intolerant of those who see things differently from us. Pavlovitz' article in the Huffington Post illustrates this well. He is pretty scathing of the church and of Christians who have a different perspective from him. His article itself is ungracious while he is accusing Christians of being ungracious.
So how should the church care for those with homosexual tendencies? The first thing to recognise is that those tendencies are not wrong in themselves, any more than a tendency to drinking too much is not wrong in itself. Completely accepting people with that tendency. They are human beings with issues just like everybody else. And then dealing with wrong behaviours in the same way as dealing with any other wrong behaviours. With justice and grace and mercy and compassion. Not pretending that something is OK when God clearly says it isn't. That is not mercy. But recognising the struggles of life that we all go though, and not demonising one sin over another.