Editor’s Note: With the recent United States Supreme Court decision regarding marriage we are again reminded of the importance of engaging with culture instead of embracing it or trying to escape from it. John Sprecher, Lead Elder of FCA USA, recently wrote about how this can be a Sobering and yet Encouraging time for us. Here is a thoughtful article that Travis Beck shared with the pastors and leaders in his region and we want to share it with you to invite further dialogue. We invite you as pastors and leaders to weigh in with your thoughts and helpful resources on how we can best respond as leaders, ministers, and friends to the questions surrounding homosexuality in the midst of the changing social landscape in the U.S. and Canada.
By Travis Beck
Cigarettes & Homosexuality: Movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s almost always show actors and/or actresses smoking a cigarette of some type. Cigarette advertising commercials remained popular well into the 1980’s with Joe Camel, and the Marlboro Man. Obviously, during these decades, much of culture was blind to the corresponding health risks of smoking. However, even when statistics clearly revealed corresponding health risks, many continued to smoke. We as humans often vote for immediate gratification over long-term implications. I have – and have had – a lot of friends and relatives who smoke, and I love them so dearly. Yet, while I have great affection for them, I cannot endorse their decision to smoke, because I do not wish for any of them to suffer the natural effects of doing so (i.e. lung cancer, emphysema, etc).
Today, I fear that a lot of well-intentioned people are lining up on the wrong side of facts and health risks when they say they support the homosexual lifestyle. While many people think they are being loving and open-minded by supporting homosexuality, they are actually endorsing behaviors that negatively affect the health and wellness of the individual, the family unit and society at large. Health and wellness statistics – regardless of one’s position or faith – offer abundantly clear and decisive evidence regarding homosexual practices. Many of these can be seen by visiting the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry website. Here is one example from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “While men who have sex with men [MSM] represent only 2 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for the majority (61 percent; 29,300) of all new HIV infections in 2009.”
Can’t I Love Someone? …Asking the Wrong Question: The question should not be “Can’t I love someone,” but “should I have sexual relationships with someone?” These are not the same questions! We can and ought to love everyone, and close friendships are a treasured gift. Yet we should not use love to justify unreserved sexual relations. We would not use this logic with our children or cats (sorry if that sounds disgusting – but it proves the point). Sex and Love are not the same thing.
Sex is an action and a choice. People are born as virgins – sex is not an involuntary behavior (with the exception of rape victims); it is a chosen behavior, an action of the will. Hence to say that one is born gay is not a correct statement. We must discern between real heredity DNA (blue eyes, tall/short, Asian/American) and personal acts of will (choices, actions, behaviors). Environments and prior experiences might shape our feelings and desires but personal responsibility cannot be annulled.
Purposeful Design: When I as a parent tell my child not to use a ball point pen to scratch their eyeball, it is because I care about the health, wellness, and future of my child’s vision. I can honestly say I have nothing against ball point pens. It is just that I do not believe that pens were designed for the purpose of scratching eyeballs, though people are free to argue or attempt otherwise. Similarly, scientific analysis seems to indicate (along with the God of the Bible) that human beings were not originally designed for homosexual purposes (i.e. health risks, reproduction, etc.).
What about Same Sex Attraction? Same sex attraction can occur, which is best explained by conscious or subconscious reactions due to prior physical and emotional wounds (abuse, neglect, molestation), and/or rewards (acceptance, pleasure). Yet, as in any other arena of life, emotion cannot hold unrestrained executive authority over morals. If such a theory was acceptable, a bank robber could likewise argue “I can’t help it, I wanted money.” Desire should not excuse one from personal responsibility: Feelings alone do not legitimize an action. In the same way with sexuality, people must look beyond lust to ascertain the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of such choices.
Perspectives and Desires Change: Desires, habits, and tendencies can and do change in relation to perspective and training. Former gambling, drug, and porn addicts can testify to this reality. It is scientific fact that “Neurons that fire together, wire together. Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. That rush of brain chemicals happening over and over again rewires the brain’s reward pathway ultimately changing the make up of the viewer’s brain. This can result in an increased appetite for porn” (www.fightthenewdrug.org). While this quote itemizes porn, the same effects pertain to those energies given to homosexuality or any other sin. Breaking from any unhealthy addiction, or gaining new perspective takes intentionality and support, but these neurological pathways can be rebuilt. We are transformed by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1-2), by setting our minds on the right things (Philippians 4:8), and by confessing our faults and receiving support (James 5:16).
God’s Love for People and Standard Concerning Homosexuality:
First, we know that Jesus came to save all of us (including those who practice homosexuality). God loves all people and desires everyone to receive his mercy and grace through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, Romans 6:23). Every person in the world needs forgiveness. Second, as Christians we are to be like Jesus in extending God’s love to everyone regardless of their actions (including those who practice homosexuality). Third, the Bible clearly forbids the practice of homosexuality. While many choices and actions in life are possible (even seemingly enjoyable), not all actions are beneficial or constructive to the general (physical, emotional, spiritual) health and wellness of humanity. 1 Corinthians 10:23 states that “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial, all things are permissible, but not all things are constructive.” Homosexuality is listed throughout the Bible as a sinful action (i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, etc.), as outside of God’s intended design, an with devastating consequences (Romans 1:18-28).
God’s Wisdom or Humanity’s Opinion: Even if we were oblivious to the health facts, or even if they did not necessarily exist, obedience to God’s Word (in light of its credibility) should trump our personal opinions. Time and time again, God’s word always validates itself. When we attempt to place our opinion above that of trust and obedience to God, we are guilty of blasphemy and on a slippery slope that leads to death (James 1:14-15).
Lovingly Disagree: In the same way that I love my friends and relatives who smoke cigarettes, I should love those who practice homosexual behaviors. This is the stance that Christians must take; we never devalue the individual, but rather affirm their great worth as being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, we never condone unhealthy or sinful behaviors. This cumulative stance best exemplifies genuine love for God and people.
I realize this is a sensitive and complex issue for some (particularly in the United States right now). There is much more to be discussed regarding the issue of homosexuality (one site that offers a great deal of thought and interaction is the Center for Apologetics & Research Ministry, but this short essay was written to address a few misconceptions and to show that genuine love and care should stand in opposition to homosexual practices. While we are only now beginning to realize the negative effects of homosexual behavior and its effects on health, the family-unit, and society at large; the God of the Bible forewarned all people to abstain from these types of sexual interactions. In hindsight we can see that His decrees against homosexual behavior were – in part – to protect all people from its inherent consequences of pain and sorrow.
Travis Beck is Associate Pastor at Life Church in Mt. Horeb, WI.