I just left the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention national conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” I am thoroughly encouraged by the work of this entity of our convention and the leadership of its president Dr. Russell Moore. The conference was designed to equip churches, pastors, and Christians to minister in our 21st century context on the issue of the future of marriage and sexuality. I would like to share 10 reflections on the conference:
- This conversation will not include a 3rd way – There have been some, and I believe there will be many more, who will seek to find a 3rd path on the topic of same-sex attraction and marriage. Mohler reminds us this will be a short-lived hypothetical, because eventually we either will or won’t recognize same-sex couples as married, we either will or won’t perform those weddings, and we either will or won’t accept same-sex couples as members of the church. Unfortunately, there is likely a great divide coming on this topic because it strikes at the heart of biblical authority and the gospel (see more on this in part 3). Ultimately, you will either stand with the Bible and the overwhelming testimony of Church history, or you will not. And as unfortunate as the divide is, it will be necessary for the unity of the church and the sake of the gospel. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 comes to mind, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Sadly, some of those we now call brother will be happy to scratch itching ears (just see recent articles on Hillsong and David Gushee). We should not be surprised when unbelievers reject biblical doctrine, we should be heartbroken when those who claim Christ redefine and revise the words of Scripture. Moore does not believe the revisionist groups will have successes though because there is one big obstacle in their way, the Bible. In fact, Moore pointed out that many have already moved beyond the Bible and will say the apostles and Jesus didn’t have the understanding of sexuality and gender we have today. This will not be a compelling argument for most evangelical Christians, Moore argues. I pray we will all (whether we stand with historic Christianity, a “3rd” way, or a revisionist way) weigh very carefully the accountability that comes with our way. What if we are wrong? What if we are calling sin something God doesn’t call sin? Or, what if we are really just encouraging someone in their rebellion against God’s design? And what if we will stand to account before God for that? What if?
- This conversation will bring opposition from both sides – Because there is no 3rd way there will be opposition from both sides. It is clear from the #ERLC2014 that there is much vitriol from those that do not agree with us on this topic. It seemed that many who lashed out were unbelievers, though there were clearly a few who confess Jesus as Lord who did so as well. In addition, as Moore often points out, if we speak to this issue with a convictional kindness there will be some conservatives who will be angry with us as well. This should not surprise us, our King was opposed, and we will be too. But lets be opposed for our convictional kindness, opposed for our message, not because we are jerks who needlessly offend. We should realize that even when we speak with tears and compassion, the minute we call something sin that others celebrate (and identify with) we will face hostility (just check out the #ERLC2014 Twitter feed during @JDGreear’s talk). We must also realize that many will hear what they want to hear during this conversation, and we may not always be represented well. Let’s not lose heart, get angry, or feel defeated. But let’s humble ourselves as we meditate on what Moore often reminds us. The worst thing that can happen to us is not cultural marginalization or hostility, its crucifixion and we’ve already been crucified and come back.
- This conversation has been addressed by Jesus, regardless of what some say – I have seen several article titles that say Jesus never spoke to Homosexuality, but indirectly He certainly did speak to it. Jesus in Matthew 19 addresses both Gender and Marriage, and He does not redefine it. He instead roots marriage and gender in creation, as He upholds what marriage IS thereby negating what it is not. Jesus says in Matthew 19:5-6, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” J.D. Greear pointed this out in a very helpful illustration. If his wife was brought on stage with four other women, then he could point out his wife in two ways. He could either point out the four she isn’t, or he could point out the one she is. And so it is with Jesus’ teachings on marriage, gender, and homosexuality. Jesus taught on marriage and He did not redefine or revise it. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Stay tuned in for part 3 (see part 1), and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.