8 Things Christians Should Know About LGBTQ Issues

Recently, a young woman who grew up in the church where I serve as a pastor declared she is “pan-sexual.” This particular badge of sexual self-identity was new to me, but because the moral ethos in the Olympia-Tacoma-Seattle corridor of Washington State is slightly left of Stalin, it wasn’t too surprising. For some time, I’ve been planning to address homosexual and transgender issues in two or three sermons. This “pan-sexual” declaration has accelerated my plans.

When I prepare topical sermons, I’m fond of structuring them around a series of propositions (“** things you need to know about the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, homosexuality ,” etc.). So, to that end, here are eight foundational things I believe evangelical Christians need to know about LGBTQ issue. This is not an academic article, and each point here could be expanded greatly. Instead, this is essentially a very rough draft of a sermon I’ll deliver later this Summer.  

1. We’re all broken sexually

In a generic sense, every one of us is born as a criminal in God’s universe (Eph 2:1-3). We’re broken, and Jesus is the only One who can put us back together. This brokenness shows up in every area of our lives. It especially shows up in our sexual appetites and relationships. We’re broken sexually, just like we’re broken everywhere else.

So, we need to acknowledge that we’re sexually broken people. This brokenness isn’t what God wants and isn’t what God intends. When God brings someone into His family, He gradually reforms his sexual impulses and every other area of his life. 

2. God defines sexual holiness 

We don’t live the way we should. God gave us resources that tell us who He is, what He wants, how we got here, where this world is headed, how He plans to fix it, and how everything will end. These resources are the Holy Scriptures, which Christians have collected into the one book – the Bible. That resource tells us everything we need to know for a faithful life. It gives us the rules, the guardrails, for sexuality.

God’s people can’t have sexual relations with close relatives (father, mother, step-mother, sister, step-sibling, granddaughter, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law; Lev 18:6-16). They also can’t have relations with both a mother and her daughter, or even grandchildren (Lev 18:17). You also cannot marry your wife’s sister (Lev 18:18). You can’t have sexual relations with a women during her menstrual cycle (Lev 18:19). You cannot be unfaithful to your spouse (Lev 18:20). You cannot sacrifice your children, the God-given fruit of your marriage covenant, and murder them in homage to a pagan god (Lev 18:21). Homosexuality (specifically, male homosexuality) is prohibited; “it is an abomination,” (Lev 18:22). Bestiality is forbidden; men and women are specifically mentioned (Lev 18:23).

Why?

Because God has set His people apart to be different; to not copy the mores and practices of the unbelieving nations around them. Instead, “[y]ou shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them,” (Lev 18:4). Sexual immorality makes a person “unclean,” both morally and ceremonially (Lev 18:24). A nation which practices these vices will pollute the land itself. The punishment is excommunication. God wants nothing to do with such people (Lev 18:29); He exiles them and cuts off access to the atonement and forgiveness of the sacrificial system. “You shall holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine,” (Lev 20:26).  

3. God’s standards for sexual purity are applicable today

These Old Covenant laws about sexual morality are still in force today. It’s true that Christians in the New Covenant operate under a different legal system, but the new system shares common punitive offenses with the old. This “crossover” effect isn’t confined to the Scriptures. In the military, for example, servicemembers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”), whose punitive offenses are in Articles 77-134.

The UCMJ says it’s a crime to not obey a lawful order (Article 92). This is a military-centric offense; it doesn’t apply in the civilian world. So, it falls by the wayside. However, the UCMJ also says it’s a crime to commit rape. So does the local jurisdiction where you live. There is a crossover. The legal mechanisms to take care of this rape charge are different in the UCMJ and your local jurisdiction, but the act itself is a crime in both contexts.

It’s the same with sexual immorality.

  • The Apostle Peter reminds us that “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” This last bit is a quote from Leviticus. Peter thinks the Old Covenant law code is valid, in some sense.
  • Paul has the sexual codes from Leviticus in mind when he writes to the church in Rome. He describes homosexual behavior as “impurity,” (Rom 1:24). He calls it “the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,” (Rom 1:24). He says this conduct is the result of rejecting God (Rom 1:25), as if one’s conscience becomes seared and calloused when one deliberately casts God aside. Homosexuality is a “dishonorable passion,” whereby men and women commit “shameless acts” with one another (Rom 1:26-27).
  • The Apostle Paul criticizes the church at Corinth for not disciplining a professing believer who has an ongoing sexual relationship with his mother-in-law (1 Cor 5). Where does Paul get the background to call this sexual relationship immoral? He gets it from the Old Covenant; specifically from Leviticus 18. Paul even echoes the Old Covenant precept of excommunication when he advises the church to “purge the evil person from among you,” (1 Cor 5:13).

Those guardrails from Leviticus still apply today. God doesn’t change. His character is fixed, and He defines morality and righteousness – not us.

4. God can forgive

Christians need to know that God can forgive sexual immorality. He can forgive any crime. He forgave a murderer named Paul. He forgave a disciple who abandoned Him and cursed Him. He  forgave the Roman soldier who helped to kill Him. He forgave the woman with five husbands, who had abandoned her previous spouse. He forgave homosexuals (1 Cor 6:9-11). He forgave a cheating tax collector, whose theft had pushed untold numbers of struggling families and desperate businessmen into poverty and despair.

God can forgive. He’ll forgive anyone who comes to Him for mercy and forgiveness.

5. God can change a person

When a person becomes a believer, he experiences a spiritual birth. His heart and mind are made new. His soul is brought to life. A person who is in the flesh cannot please God, but the Spirit changes the mind and heart so he wants to please God by doing what He says. He makes you a new person.

The Apostle Paul explained that Christians, who can behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces (unlike the Old Covenant saints), “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” (2 Cor 3:18). The “image of God” in man is structural; it’s the constellation of attributes, character, nature and make-up in us that enables us to have right relationships with God and with one another, in God’s family. That image has been ruined, but when God saves a person He sets about to restore it, bit by bit. When Paul says a Christian is being “transformed into the same image,” he means God is reforming and restoring your nature, character and make-up so these relationships with God and His people can be like they ought to be. Of course, the job isn’t ever done – but He’ll chip away at it.

This reformation proceeds according to the Lord’s standards. This is why He works with us to “put off the old self with its practices” and to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator,” (Col 3:5-10).

God can change a person, bit by bit, to not crave a homosexual or sexually immoral relationship. After all, Christians have been cleansed by “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).

6. Christians must never wear their sin as a badge of self-identity

The Apostle Paul makes Christian self-identity the cornerstone of his first letter. He borrows this sense of communal identity from the Old Covenant and imports it right into the Christian church:

  • He says Christians are a chosen race (1 Pet 2:9); their individual ethnicities are subsumed under their identity as children of God.
  • Christians are royal priests (1 Pet 2:9); mediators who represent Christ to the world. Collectively, believers are part of a brotherhood of priests who represent God’s royal kingdom.
  • More than that, all Christians are part of God’s holy nation ( Pet 2:9). Christians from all over the world, from all cultures, backgrounds and walks of life – they’re part of something that transcends temporal geo-political boundaries. They’re fellow citizens in God’s country.
  • Christian are a special people who belong to God (1 Pet 2:9); again, the earthly divisions and swallowed up in God’s family.

Christians are a family; a covenant community of people whose most basic job is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” (1 Pet 2:9). Any Christian who characterizes her faith by an adjective that marks out a particular sin (“gay Christian,” “trans Christian,” etc.) is either being self-defeating or is glorifying in something God hates. A sinful struggle should never become a badge of conceptual self-identity. Rather, Christians should glory in their unearned status as covenant members, priests for God, and members of His family. Or, as one song expresses it, “I’m a child of God! Yes, I am!”

7. Talk with LGBTQ people; not at them

The Lord often works through relationships. You build a relationship by earned trust. This takes a long time. Christians won’t reach people caught in the grip of sexual deviance by self-righteous indignation from a distance. There is a way to build relationships to earn the right to speak truth in a person’s life, without being a prig, while being firm and faithful to your Christian convictions. This isn’t the article to explain how, but there is a way.

The sexual codes in Leviticus were directed to covenant members; to people who already had some sort of relationship with Yahweh. Unbelievers in the New Covenant era don’t have that relationship to God’s law. They’re outside the family. This means many things, but one thing it means is that acknowledgement of God’s law as a legimate source of authority is not a common “point of contact.”

Talk with people, not at them.

8. The world will always hate the Gospel

No matter how delicate your relationship with an LGBTQ individual is, you’ll be derelict in your duties if you don’t evangelize him. And when that happens, no matter how sensitive, nice and polite you are, the Gospel will make people mad. There’s nothing you can do about it. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” (Jn 15:18).

Whatever else needs to be said, I believe these eight principles are correct. Christians need to somehow thread the needle between sugary sweetness and bloviating self-righteousness. I think these points can help.

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There are 10 Comments

pvawter's picture

Thanks, Tyler. These are clear and helpful thoughts that Christians need to hear and embrace. 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Excelllent article, but I take exception with this:

God can change a person, bit by bit, to not crave a homosexual or sexually immoral relationship.

Technically, this is correct.  Whenever anyone says "God can" --unless we are talking about sinning -- we have to admit the possibility. But DOES HE, or, better yet, "Does He always?" or even "Does He usually?"

I think it is more accurate to say, IMO, that "God will help you to resist acting upon sinful cravings or desires."

Think about it -- how many sinful desires do we experience throughout our lives?  God taking away our sinful desires would be the equivalent of Him removing our sinful nature.

There are cases where homosexual men, for example, have been transformed and actually become opposite-sex attracted.  But most success stories are homosexual men who surrender to Christ and simply abstain from sexual invovl\\lvement and put their minds elsewhere with God's help.

The fact that Exodus International has thrown in the towel with helping homosexuals become heterosexuals bears much weight with me.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think you're right; that's a more accurate way to say it. Thanks!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

...along with Ed's modification.  I think one thing we need to know, understand, and accept, is that if indeed we believe that the person who fornicates sins against his own body, we can expect that in many cases, this particular sin will be extraordinarily "sticky" and hard to deal with.  For that matter, I think we see the same kind of thing with various kinds of mental illness.  

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

I love the way Tyler started this article:

In a generic sense, every one of us is born as a criminal in God’s universe (Eph 2:1-3). We’re broken, and Jesus is the only One who can put us back together. This brokenness shows up in every area of our lives. It especially shows up in our sexual appetites and relationships. We’re broken sexually, just like we’re broken everywhere else.

So, we need to acknowledge that we’re sexually broken people. This brokenness isn’t what God wants and isn’t what God intends.

I've had some good conversations with LGBTQ+ people, and it's usually because we can share/sympathize on being 'broken' in some way - being afraid of something, for example, or being angry at some other item in the news that is unjust/evil.  Learning to build a relationship that way has allowed me to continue to open up and talk about other things like my beliefs in a way that was clear where I stood but open to building a relationship and being able to help/minister to them in whatever way I can.  This also goes to Tyler's other point about talking with people, not talking at people.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jay wrote:

I've had some good conversations with LGBTQ+ people, and it's usually because we can share/sympathize on being 'broken' in some way - being afraid of something, for example, or being angry at some other item in the news that is unjust/evil.  

Yes, but I would add a caution which may not apply to you at all. For many of us, that struggle is not as constant or our memories not as bitter.  Everyone has been hurt, even damaged.  But some people are damaged more deeply than others.  Sometimes, such attempts to identify are insincere. And some people become enraged more easily than others.

I have had some pretty good sinus/allergy problems.  When people who have a little hay fever think they can relate to the struggles I have had in that area, it aggravates me.  So, unless you have been hurt deeply, it can be a bit contrived to equate our experiences with someone who has had much more severe ones.  But if we truly have had experiences of similar intensity (or are equally angry at the same kind of wrongs), that can be a great connecting point.  As long as it is not forced, contrived, or inflated. Again, I am assuming that such is not the case with Jay.  

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

There are at least four categories of people who may be struggling with deviant sexual sin in their lives, and they need to be dealt with differently. Of course, every encounter is different and context is important:

  • Unbelievers. Your goal is evangelism, not to "make them straight." You're putting the cart before the horse if you do otherwise. You should probably pivot from sexual deviancy to "we're all broken in some way" and go to evangelism, and have that discussion. The sexual sin is a convenient launching point for the Gospel.  
  • Unrepentant believer (not a church member) who wants to be a faithful Christian. You still have a common point of contact, and you should aim to push on inconsistencies and appeal to what he knows is still true. You have no covenant "hold" over the person, so your job is rather easy. 
  • Unrepentant believer (church member) who wants to be a faithful Christian. Same as above, but punitive steps will need to be taken for church discipline (e.g. loss of Lord's Supper privileges, ministry leadership and participation). You may lose the member. It'll take some serious effort to retain the person. 
  • Repentant believer (church member) who wants to be a faithful Christian. Like with any sin, if you're satisfied the person is actively working to combat the sin and flee from it, punitive measures will likely not be necessary. 

I had a meeting with the pan-sexual woman today. It was a nice talk. She told me her story.

  • I asked her what changed her mind about sexuality and Christian morals. She stated it was the people she knew who had struggled with homosexuality.
  • She said she now views the Bible as a guidebook, a catalog of people's experiences with God.
  • I politely asked her where she finds her grounding for morality of any sort, if she claims to be a Christian, rejects Scripture's authority, and can be swayed by "pain" people feel. She was startled, and said she didn't know. She admitted "my journey isn't complete."
  • I extended an open invitation to chat about these issues anytime, in great detail, anywhere, with any people she wants to bring along for support. She thanked me, and stated she was happy I am willing to listen to her. 
  • She said she'd never spoken to any conservative pastor who was willing to listen, disagree, and not be scornful. I hope she'll agree to meet again. 

She is category 2, above. My goals were to (1) find out which category she fit into, (2) get a sense of her openness to this kind of conversation, and (3) gain an invitation to talk more over the course of the Summer. If she had been hostile, I would have figured I'd never speak to her again, and been very blunt. She was perfectly polite and open, so I was very kind and hopefully we'll chat more this Summer. 

Observation: I think younger pastors will be better at dealing with these issues than older ones. I also think bi-vocational pastors who live and work in the real world are better prepared for these issues on an interpersonal level. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler said:

I think younger pastors will be better at dealing with these issues than older ones. I also think bi-vocational pastors who live and work in the real world are better prepared for these issues on an interpersonal level. 

Wisdom often increases with age, but because of the emotional intensity of the issue, I think you are right.  Younger people are calmer about this (it is a normal part of culture now), and people who are bi-vocational have the contact opportunities and used to an enviornment that accommodates this.  

Appreciate you, Tyler.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joeb's picture

I read an article about these churches leaving the Methodist church but not for the reason you would think.  They are leaving because they are tired of the LGBTQ debate.   As far as they were concerned there is nothing to debate.  These churches take the position that it is sin period and believe the debate is taking away from the churches central cause which is evangelism and outreach to their community.  The churches appear to be African American Congregations.  

I totally agree with them. 

pvawter's picture

All great points, Tyler. Thanks for writing this up. One small pushback, however, when you say:

I think younger pastors will be better at dealing with these issues than older ones. I also think bi-vocational pastors who live and work in the real world are better prepared for these issues on an interpersonal level. 

While I acknowledge that being a univocational pastor can lead some to being insular and isolated from "real world" problems, I think it is not so much a factor of where one works as of one's heart for others and willingness to be in the community building relationships and sharing Christ. My experience as a fully supported pastor is that I have many opportunities to speak with homosexuals and professing believers who struggle with same-sex attraction. We're really only as isolated as we choose to be, regardless of our vocation(s).

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