When I began preaching the book of Romans several months ago, I knew that soon I would have to think through and preach on Romans 1:24-27, the most significant passage in Scripture about homosexuality and God’s judgment.
As I always do, I wanted to “get it right” — that is, I wanted to be sure to interpret the passage correctly. But I also wanted to communicate it with grace and gentleness. It’s easy to sound prophetic and get accolades and affirmation by preaching strongly against sins that many find distasteful. But that kind of attitude doesn’t always reflect the tenor of the passage and even more often, it doesn’t reflect the grace and wisdom of God. So I wanted to get the tone of the message right just as much as the content of the message.
So over the past couple of months, I have read half a dozen books, portions of several others, and multiple journal articles on the topic of homosexuality. I have been profoundly helped in my thinking about the topic by these volumes. One book in particular has been a clear guide in thinking about this topic: The Bible and Homosexual Practice. As I thought about the conclusion to the message this morning, I appreciated some of Robert Gagnon’s final words in his large volume. The are fitting for us as we contemplate the “leftovers” of this sermon and topic:
The homosexual and lesbian are not the church’s enemy but people in need of the church’s support for restoring to wholeness their broken sexuality through compassion, prayer, humility, and groaning together for the redemption of our bodies.…To denounce same-sex intercourse and then stop short of actively and sacrificially reaching out in love and concern to homosexuals is to have as truncated a gospel as those who mistake God’s love for “accepting people as they are” and who avoid talk of the gospel’s transformative power. It is to forget the costly and self-sacrifical work of God in our own lives, past and ongoing.
…In Christian faith this love comes about primarily by continual meditation on the good news of what God did for our own selves in Christ Jesus. God reached out to us in our sin. God paid the ultimate price to release us from self-centeredness for a relationship with our Creator. We have won something better, something more exciting and joyous, than the state lottery — not by luck, but by God’s gracious design. No truly good thing will God spare us since on our behalf God did not spare even God’s own Son. Even through the difficult times God can transform us into the image of Christ. We can be free from fear, from anger, from hate, from greed, from self-pity because the relationship with God in Christ transcends all else.…We can direct our love of self to a love of others, knowing that God has and will provide all we need. Thereby, we fulfill the command to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Out of our overflow of joy and peace and gratitude we are “constrained” to pursue others in love, whether we like what they do or not.
This book has been aimed at showing that affirming same-sex intercourse is not an act of love, however well meaning the intent. That road leads to death: physically, morally, and spiritually. Promoting the homosexual “rights” agenda is an awful and harmful waste of the church’s energies and resources. What does constitute an act of love is befriending the homosexual while withholding approval of homosexual behavior, working in the true interests of the homosexual desire one’s personal repugnance for same-sex intercourse, pursuing in love the homosexual while bearing the abuse that will inevitably come with opposing homosexual practice. It is the harder road to travel. It is too hard for many people to live within that holy tension. Yet it is the road that leads to life and true reconciliation; it is the calling of the church in the world.