“We need to love them more than their gay friends do, and we need to love them more than they love their homosexuality. Only then can we point to the greater love that God has for them” (p. 73).
It is by far agreed that homosexuality is the defining issue of the day for the church. If you have an internet presence with a blog you are discussing it, and if you don’t then you are certainly reading about it. And if you can stomach it, you can watch or listen to endless commentary on news media outlets and the radio. With a host of pastors, bloggers, counselors and theologians also weighing in on the discussion, it is pretty easy to see that most of the evangelicals commenting on this issue are not homosexual themselves. They are discussing the issue from the outside looking in, as it pertains to the activity of homosexuality.
That is why a recent book on this issue is so unique. Sam Allberry, pastor and author, has written a short and very readable book titled Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction. Allberry is a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. Choosing to use the phrase same-sex attraction (SSA) to describe his sexual struggles, Allberry writes clearly, pastorally and biblically. He chooses to use the term SSA, instead of gay or homosexual, so as to avoid defining himself by his sexual struggles.
Laying a biblical foundation of sex
In the first two chapters Allberry discusses what the Bible has to say about sex and homosexuality. Beginning with Genesis 1 and 2 we see how sex is rooted in the goodness of God’s original creation and is designed to reflect the oneness and unity of the trinity. Adam and Eve were alike as humans but different in genders by design. As with the trinity, there is a oneness but not a sameness, unity but not uniformity. Marriage brings two of the opposite together as one. “Sex” between the same genders is not only not sex but the sexual activity that does occur falls terribly short of creating the oneness and unity between the two that God intended it to.
Following the Biblical foundation for marriage and sex, Allberry briefly and clearly tackles five key passages that specifically address homosexuality.
- Genesis 19 – This is the story of Lot and the two angels that visit him in the city of Sodom. With the additional testimony of Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6, it is clear that one of the sins of Sodom for which they were to be judged, was sexual immorality.
- Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 – These two passages clearly denounce homosexual practices amidst the condemnation of other sexual sins such as incest and adultery.
- Romans 1:18-32 – In this biting passage homosexuality is depicted as unnatural in that it is against how God has created things, and it is also seen as a sign of God’s judgment.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – In this text, it is clear that like any other unrepentant sinners, those who engage in homosexual behavior and do not repent of it will not enter the kingdom of God. However, the good news is that one can repent of it and enter the kingdom of God.
- 1 Timothy 1:8-10 – Here homosexuality is declared unjust and one of the many acts of sin that the law was given to judge in order to evoke repentance.
If you questioned the meaning of these passages before, Allberry’s lucid thoughts can certainly bring you back in line with Scripture. He dispels the popularly perpetuated myth that God is for committed and faithful relationships whether they are heterosexual or homosexual (p. 37-38). He concludes this chapter by saying, “The situation is worse than people think. God is opposed to all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage” (p. 36).
The Christian and homosexuality
The questions is commonly asked, “Can you be a gay Christian?” Since God clearly does not condone homosexuality then how are Christians supposed to handle SSA? Allberry embarks on this chapter riding on a very fine distinction between the unrepentant person who takes hold of their SSA and lives it out, and the Christian who recognizes their struggle with SSA but seeks to walk in repentance and in step with their identity in Christ. “What marks us out as Christians is not that we never experience such things, but how we respond to them when we do” (p. 41). For Allberry, a Christian with SSA who accepts God’s teaching on homosexuality in the Bible, will not seek to give themselves over to those passions and therefore will not welcome the idea of being a "gay Christian." The term "gay Christian" carries with it acceptance and toleration of their SSA that God does not.
Chapter four gives a number of helpful practices for Christians struggling with SSA such as prayer, biblical thinking about one's identity in Christ and especially the willingness to be open about their struggles with others in order to seek spiritual help and accountability. Allberry is right to point out that change in regard to a person’s sexual desires is possible, “but a complete change of sexual orientation is never promised in the Bible” (p. 46).
The Church and homosexuality
Many people in the unbelieving world, and even some Christians, contend that the mere belief that homosexuality is wrong, is bigoted, intolerant and unchristian. In chapter four Allberry lays out some honest and helpful advice for how Christian churches should handle homosexuals attending their churches. Central to this advice is that we need to see their spiritual needs in the proper order. They need Jesus first, and then we can show them what Jesus and the rest of the Bible has to say about their sexuality as creatures created in God’s image. At the end of the chapter, Allberry delicately and yet unequivocally warns Christians and the church that to teach that any kind of homosexual activity is ok is actually sending people into destruction (p. 69-70).
So, is God anti-gay? Allberry says no. God is against our sin whether it is adultery or homosexual behavior. He is against the person sin wants us to be. However, God is seeking to save the lost unrepentant sinner and bring them to repentance and right relationship with Him through Christ.
In this brief book, Allberry has certainly gone out on a limb exposing himself as one who struggles with SSA. He has put himself out there for the benefit of other Christians who struggle with SSA, and to help their brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t share such struggles to better understand them and know how to help and love them. When a Christian gets to know a homosexual or a person in the church who struggles with SSA and they want to know what Scripture has to say about it, this is the first book I would turn to.
About the author
Sam Allberry, studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, and has since worked at St Ebbe's Church, Oxford. He now lives and works in Maidenhead, Berkshire (UK), as Associate Minister at St Mary's Church in Maidenhead.
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