For centuries evangelicals have been relatively united in their belief that homosexual behavior is not God’s best for His children.
Exodus International, founded in 1976, provided support to ministries advocating that view through personal counseling, support groups (many sponsored by churches) and in the broader culture. In 2012, however, some in the leadership of Exodus began sending mixed messages about the possibility of overcoming homosexual desires.
A few of the leaders returned to homosexuality, stating that a gay identity was God-given. Others have argued that a “deeper understanding of grace” means that accepting a homosexual identity will not affect one’s relationship with God.
Several very confused people have since contacted me with questions about efforts to defend homosexuality within a biblical context. One person asked if he had been unnecessarily resisting something that really isn’t forbidden.
The common thread of such questions leads back to humanity’s original temptation by Satan: “Has God said?” And then his subtle follow-up statements: “God is just holding out on you. He doesn’t want you to know something that will make you like Him.” “God won’t do anything. You won’t suffer any consequences.”
Those tactics are still prominent in the enemy’s arsenal — and why wouldn’t they be? They remain incredibly effective. We humans still haven’t realized that Satan is far more crafty than any of us. We overlook the fact that he is described as a deceiver or liar more than a tempter. I’ve heard people say with great confidence that they are sure they haven’t been deceived — which is the mark of the work of a master deceiver.
Part of the problem is that we are allowing ourselves to ask — and answer — the wrong questions.
If we ask the wrong question, the answer won’t really matter. We get lost in arguing nature, nurture, born that way, I’ve tried to change and can’t, I can’t deny my feelings, this is who I am.
The correct question is “Has God said?” If we determine that, all the other questions are superfluous.
When my son was young, we often watched the television program “Different Strokes.” One day he said, “Dad, that theme song is a good song. ‘Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.'”
I thought about it for a moment and replied, “Well, that does sound good. But the truth is that if God says something is right, it’s right even if the whole world says it’s wrong. If God says something is wrong, it’s wrong even if the whole world says it’s right.”
On the issue of homosexuality, some have decided that we’ve misunderstood the biblical texts; over the last 50 years, several books have been written to defend that position.
As I’ve examined some of those arguments, I’m reminded of something a seminary professor told us young theologs who were bursting with great wisdom and were so anxious to impart to a heretofore unknowing church. He said, “If you think you’ve discovered some great truth that no one else in 2,000 years of church history has discovered, you’re probably wrong.”
Only in the last five or six decades have we seen concerted arguments that we have misunderstood every text in the Bible on homosexuality. Perhaps that view would have more merit if one overlooked the fact that not one verse in the entire Bible speaks favorably of homosexual activity or relationships. You also must overlook the fact that Jesus made clear God’s original intent (Genesis 2; Matthew 19:4-6).
I have been accused of just defending the status quo, whether I am convinced or not, because of my background and/or my past position as the Southern Baptist Convention’s national strategist for gender issues.
I can only say that nothing causes me greater concern than to think I would ever stand in a pulpit — or anywhere else — and knowingly say something that isn’t in line with God’s Word.
When I was a pastor, a man once came to me to say that “some people” were unhappy with “some things” I had recently said while preaching. He thought a good solution would be for the deacons to look over my sermons before I preached them.
I responded that I was very much aware that someday I would answer to God for every word I said and that, as James says, “teachers will receive a stricter judgment.” I have a holy fear of that. Nothing any church or any group could say or do to me could cause me greater concern.
I’ve spent more time studying this issue over the last 20 years than any other single issue or doctrine, with the possible exception of our identity in Christ. I can find nothing in latter-day scholarship that supersedes the collected wisdom of over 3,000 years of biblical studies.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:14-15, “Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head — Christ.” And then more pointedly in Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Be sure you are asking — and answering — the right questions. Many are falling prey to the temptation to interpret Scripture in light of their experience instead of interpreting their experience in light of Scripture.
Let us be diligent in our study of the Word and then let us also be careful to speak the truth in love.
For those who persist in saying what God does not, I fear for them. Their statements may negatively impact many others. And one day they will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an answer.