There have been many changes in western culture in the past 50 years but probably none more dramatic than the public attitude and acceptance of homosexuality. In the 1950s anyone who practiced homosexuality was an outcast and was described by a set of derisive and abusive terms. Physical violence against homosexuals did happen and biblical passages were sometimes used to justify such violence (see Romans 1:26 – 32 or Genesis 19).
Many atheists and skeptics realized the error in such treatment of homosexuals and used this issue as a club against the Bible. When I was an atheist there was a saying atheists used which said, “If you are gay you are one of us.” Social change advocates in western countries made fighting such abuse part of their agenda. From this the gay activist movement evolved,which went beyond correcting abuse to promoting the homosexual agenda.
There has been a tendency to stereotype those who oppose homosexuality as violent “homophobes.” If you are not in support of homosexuality, then you have to be intolerant, ignorant, unkind, and a supporter of the abuse of others. Movies, like Brokeback Mountain, and TV shows have supported such stereotypes and increased support for the homosexual agenda. Popular talk show hosts like Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey have saturated the public with the homosexual view. What has not been heard by the public, or sometimes even by the church, is the Christian viewpoint — consistent with both the Bible and common sense. I would like to try to articulate that view here in the hopes it will promote understanding, unity, and tolerance.
I have a strong reaction to the use of alcohol as a recreational drug. The use of alcohol in medicine or to purify is logical and biblical (see 1 Timothy 5:23), but distillation did not exist in biblical times. The use of alcohol as a social lubricant is a part of our culture and many people include alcohol as part of their lifestyle — and it is a destructive lifestyle. I have seen the havoc that alcohol brings to those who use it, and to their families. People I love have had horrendous things brought into their lives by the use of alcohol. My work with young people has shown me how toxic alcohol is to growing minds and bodies. It is unquestionably the most destructive recreational drug of mankind. As a Christian, I believe the use of it violates biblical principles.
While I oppose the use of alcohol, I do not ostracize those who use it. I will try to encourage people not to use it, and I will try to explain why. I will also vote and participate in political action that limits the use of alcohol to minimize its destructive effects on our society.
Homosexuality is also a destructive lifestyle. The life expectancy of “gays” is generally less than the general population. Sexually transmitted diseases are spread more efficiently in homosexual acts than through heterosexual sex. The Bible condemns homosexuality just as it does recreational drugs, premarital sex, divorce for reasons other than adultery, and greed. Alcohol is far more dangerous to me personally than is homosexuality. I am much more likely to be seriously injured or killed by someone drinking than I am by someone practicing homosexuality. However, to those engaging in homosexual sex it can be life threatening. God has given us a moral code that works if we follow it. As a Christian, my job is to help people understand and follow that code.
Following God’s directions is more difficult for some of us than it is for others. Alcoholics tend to have children who are alcoholics. Children who have endured the divorce of their parents have a higher than average rate of divorce themselves. Children who have been abused are likely to become abusers. The causes of homosexuality are complicated and are still being studied, but it is obvious that sexual orientation has external causes. In all of the cases, the person involved has to make a choice. We are not robots and we can control whatever we do. The person who has been abused and has the desire to abuse when anger sets in can learn to control or avoid that behavior. The child of alcoholic parents can take special pains to avoid alcohol. Careful planning and choosing of a mate with conscious, prayerful foundation to the marriage can break the cycle of divorce.
Paul addresses this subject with great sensitivity in 1 Corinthians 7:7 and 17 when he says, “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. … Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” He goes on in verses 20 – 24 with “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. … You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” He then talked about choosing to live in a way that promotes his Christian walk. Verse 35 says, “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (NIV, 1984).
There is no way I can have the kind of devotion to God that I need to have if I am immersed in a destructive lifestyle. Whether that destructive lifestyle involves alcohol, abuse, greed, or sexual choices, the Bible urges us to help and support those who are in a battle with these predispositions. What we can do is find a way for these struggles to be turned into positive things.
My first wife, Phyllis, was born into poverty. When she was five her father died suddenly, leaving her ill mother with a one year old and a five year old and no money. When Phyllis and I married, I realized that the struggles she had been through as a child affected her outlook on life in a dramatic way. She could not tolerate financial risk of any kind. Investing was not something she could do, and in her view, you never borrowed money for anything. We talked and prayed together about her strong feelings which conflicted with my outlook on money. It could have torn our marriage apart, and when we did get some financial security it could have turned into greed, materialism, or selfishness. As Christians, we channeled her feelings into Christian work and she managed our ministry in such a way that it was always secure without ever having to beg for outside help. Our prayers were answered by God and Phyllis left a legacy of a financially secure ministry which is now approaching a half century of work.
I have friends who have taken their feelings of affection for people of the same sex and turned them into loving care and great service that I am incapable of. Rather than engaging in sexual acts that lead to destructive results, their energy and feelings have been directed into serving the mentally-challenged and elderly in kind and loving ways that build and sustain others. It takes discipline, prayer, and the compassionate support of others, but the result is incredible good coming into everyone’s life.
The lesson of the past is that the abusive and destructive treatment of homosexuals has brought polarization and isolation not only to the homosexual, but to their families as well. God calls us to live according to his Word. Paul tells us in Romans 6 to “no longer be slaves to sin” (v. 6) and to “not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but … as instruments of righteousness, for sin shall not be our master, … ” (vv. 13 –14) and “just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness” (v. 19).
First Corinthians 6:9 –11 records a message to Christians who struggled with a variety of life choices including sexual conduct and had chosen to change those choices. Paul says, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). That process and that help are available to all who choose to accept it.
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