This week I was asked (again) to explain my views, as a Christian, on same-sex unions and the church. It’s notable that I’ve not been asked quite so many times my thoughts on consumerism and the church. Or, grumbling and the church. Or, making idols out of our kids and the church – but, whatever.
In regards to LGBT people, what is the church to be about? It might help to first look at what, regarding the whole world, the Christian church is always to be about.
It appears that the church has always been tasked with an important mission: To go with God into all his world, inviting and welcoming all his people to entrust themselves into the care of the rightful king.
And what does this rightful king (whose name is Jesus) require of the people who call him LORD? He requires that they love mercy and truth; that they seek justice and wisdom; that they walk humbly and compassionately with one another.
The true king expects that those who bear his name – Christians – will offer a warm welcome to the younger brother and prodigal sister. He requires that we stop and attend to those lying wounded in the road as if they were our own family. He asks us to seek out those who aren’t in our ‘inner circle’ and treat them as if they absolutely are.
The true King does not allow favoritism. He hates haughty eyes. He does not accept bribes. He requires that we go about our business showing an otherworldly care for others, even our enemies.
Is that what your church is about? Or, are there some parts of the kingdom that are excluded from God’s welcome? Are there any sub-cultures today that are too far gone for God’s ongoing care and attention? Are there some groups that deserve their unwelcome status? Are there some people who have so made their filthy beds, and now they will just have to lie in them?
One of the reasons the church entrusts herself to King Jesus is because He always rides out into battle before her. God doesn’t sit behind the lines and demand his church get out there and fight his battles for him. He always leads his people out. He always goes first.
Jesus always leads the charge directly into the heart of death, decay, darkness, and divisiveness. Why? To win real life and absolute freedom for his people who are lost, rebellious, angry, and proud.
And so the church follows Him into the fray because we trust in this stunning “I’ll go before you. I’m with you always. I’ll never leave you. I’ll die to ensure that you will live. Now, get up from your mat and follow me….” level of divine leadership.
We trust him. We trust in his strategy and in his plans for us and the world. And His plan is that not one should be lost. His intention is that not one sheep would perish. His desire is that all would be saved.
And we also know that this king was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. No, he was born tempted in every way. He was tempted to exaggerate, to lust, to exclude, to despair, and to give up. He was tempted to consider himself superior and go his own way. He suffered the exhaustion of all our human temptations – and that was only the tip of the iceberg of his suffering!
He was the true feast, the true and rightful king, but he was despised.
Jesus was unfriended, mocked, not considered, discredited, betrayed, distrusted, and often very, very unwelcome. He had no wife, no children, no sexual comfort, no home or earthly security of his own. His was an ordinary and unremarkable life with uneducated and simple friends who all disowned him at the end of the day. He was not a part of the ‘inner circle’.
He was the true feast, the true and rightful king, but he was rejected.
Christ’s body was broken. He was hungry and thirsty, abandoned and forsaken. He died.
He was the true feast, the true and rightful king, but his invitation was denied.
And then He returned from the battle perfectly, gloriously alive after three days. The wounds of his earthly suffering were not erased from his new body, but were a part of his wholeness. “I did all this so that you can live, too” he told his disciples, showing them his hands and feet. “Be not afraid. I am He who saves you, and I will always be with you, even in your suffering.”
3. And so, the church is to be really serious about suffering.
It is terribly destructive, therefore, for any group of Christians to imply that all physical or emotional pain is to be avoided at all costs. What I am saying is this: LGBT people suffer. But this does not mean that they are not welcome.
The temptation that God can only be trusted if He keeps his people from earthly suffering, and grants their human desires, is as old as Eve and simply not true. We forget that the real King is not like us. He is not made in our own image. We are created in His.
A theme in God’s word to His people is that a faithful man/woman marriage relationship was designed, created, and blessed by himself for the good of the world. Gender is significantly more than a social construct to God. Rather, it is a purposeful and redemptive storyline throughout scripture. This is a cause of legitimate suffering for those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender confusion and regularly read the Bible. Are they out of God’s care? Why are they this way? What are they to do? Does God have a good plan for them?
Is the church a spiritual family – wise mothers, good fathers, kind brothers and loyal sisters – to gays, lesbians and trans-genders as they work this out within the context of the gospel?
This world is lonely and hard for anyone who travels through it. Everything is broken, groaning under the weight of our own agendas. Sin takes its toll on any soul who dares to be born. But God desired that each of us be born into this day and place for a reason! He has gathered us to be His body of believers for exactly this time. How will we live now?
The church must be about holiness.
Can we seek holiness in all our ways, church? Will we cling to the whole gospel, and let God’s presence enlarge us, protect us, and lead us all? Can we be remain celibate from all the things that keep us from our Savior, trusting that He alone will satisfy our deepest desires?
The Christian church must be a respite, a balm, for the walking wounded in this world. The body of Christ can say to all the people, “I know you are weary. Come in and lay your burdens down – you are not alone in your distress. Sit down with me and eat. Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine. I am here for you, will you be here for me? Let’s ask God to help us persevere and be faithful in all things.”
Offering warm welcome and familial care to LGBT people – or any image bearer – does not mean we dilute any of God’s inerrant truth: it simply means we take seriously what the church is to be about until her King returns.
Peace to you, and yours.Kim
That they find the good, and think about the excellent, the noble, and the praiseworthy wherever they find themselves.
The king helps them establish beauty and order and peace where there is none.