I assume most of you are semi-familiar with drama surrounding Jen Hatmaker. Last week, “Religion News Service” published an interview they conducted with her in which she “came out” in support of same-sex relationships. Sadly, her revelation didn’t come as much of a surprise. She made a couple of ambiguous, suspicion-provoking comments earlier this year that indicated she might have been shifting toward a gay-affirming sexual ethic. Her recent statements to RNS confirmed that such a shift has in fact occurred.
However, Jen is not the pioneer of this movement away from orthodoxy. The number of professing Christians rejecting the biblical sexual ethic (as it is traditionally understood) has steadily been climbing over the last few years. Many who once submitted to the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual behavior now propose that theologians have long been off base in their interpretation of the texts addressing this issue. They don’t believe the Scriptures speak ill of loving, monogamous same-sex relationships, but only homosexual activity in the context of rape, child molestation, and idol worship.
When I became a believer in 2010, all of the self-identified Christians in my life were overjoyed to hear I was no longer partaking in what they themselves described as the sin of homosexuality. They unequivocally supported my unexpected decision to live in obedience to Christ. However, the vast majority of these faith-professing people are singing an entirely different tune today. Though they initially patted me on the back as I embarked on this difficult yet unthinkably satisfying journey, they now believe my repentance is self-destructive—and that my “message” (the gospel) is a poison to other same-sex attracted people.
“I admire you for the strength you exert every day in suppressing this part of yourself,” some kindly say, “but you don’t have to live like this. God wants you to be happy with a person you find desirable. He will still love and bless you if you find a man to spend the rest of your life with.” And then there are other professing Christians who take a not-as-nice approach and run around town telling people (who later tell me) that I am deceiving myself, misrepresenting Jesus, and negatively influencing others with my antiquated beliefs.
I understand this is part of the gospel package. Following Jesus with this thorn lodged in my side is always going to earn me some sideways looks. The way my repentance fleshes out is weird and counter-cultural. But it’s not counter-Christian—and this is where I struggle. How am I supposed to respond to faith-professing people who have deviated from the clear teaching of Scripture? Is this a matter we shouldn’t split hairs over, or is it alarmingly serious? Can I—should I—continue to enjoy fellowship with them and view them as my brothers and sisters in Christ?
Paul minced no words when instructing the Corinthians in how to respond to professing Christians who personally indulge in sexual immorality (and a whole slew of other sins) and refuse to repent:
“ . . . I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11
Though the postmodern masses may describe the above response as unloving and intolerant, it is a good, right, and faithful response that preserves the purity of the Church and demonstrates to the deviant person the gravity of his or her unrepentant error. The hope and aim is that this person, by means of detachment from the fellowship of believers, will be shaken out of his sinful stupor and enter repentantly back into the fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
But what about the person who calls himself a Christian and doesn’t personally participate in sexual immorality, but he encourages others to do so? Is this a lesser offense that merits a less severe response?
I’ve been asking myself this question for some time, and, after seeking the Lord’s wisdom in the Scriptures, I have arrived at the conclusion that I cannot extend the hand of fellowship to a gay-affirming person—nor can I affirm his or her salvation.
Paul spends the last half of Romans 1 describing the vile state of man in his unregenerate condition. After addressing the sin of homosexual behavior at length and then listing about two-dozen other sins that characterize the unbelieving life, he summarizes the chapter with the following verse:
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:32 (emphasis mine)
Paul considers “giving approval” to those who indulge in homosexual sin a grave enough matter that he included it in one of the most damning passages in the entire Bible. This is obviously not one of those non-essential issues around which there is room for differing perspectives. Encouraging other people to embrace a way of life that God defines as abominable seems to be a “make it or break it” kind of thing.
Though it is difficult to do so, we must realize there is a terrifying possibility that our “Christian” friends and family members who heartily approve of same-sex relationships may possess a darkened, unrighteous, truth-suppressing heart (Romans 1:18-23). Though these people insist that they know Jesus, and though their lives are decorated with Christian-looking deeds and activities, it is possible that Jesus does not know them (Matthew 7:21-23).
If we really care about these people, we cannot chalk this up to a simple difference of opinion and continue engaging with them as if all is well with their souls. We must tell them, in love and with tears, that their willingness to condone what God despises is symptomatic of an evil, unbelieving heart that has the potential to lead them away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). We must plead with them to forsake this path of destruction and come sprinting back to the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20