Same-Sex Marriage: Five “But What About?”s

For the last two weeks, Larry Trotter, lead pastor at North Wake Church, has preached a series on same-sex marriage. Last week’s message covered five “contras” of same-sex marriage. LarryTrotter This week (08-16-15) addressed five “but what about?”s–objections and lingering questions about the biblical teaching concerning same-sex attraction. The five “but what about?”s are:

1. But what about Leviticus? Leviticus clearly prohibits same-sex relationships (Lev. 20:13). But it also prohibits eating shellfish and getting tattoos. Are same-sex opponents guilty of cherry-picking the book? We don’t follow its commands about diet, dress, and the like. Pastor Larry points out there is a distinct difference between the ceremonial, civil, and moral components of the Mosaic Law. He notes that the New Testament repeats the moral prohibitions of Leviticus (including those about homosexuality) but not the civil or ceremonial edicts.

2. But what about all the other sins that Christians tolerate? For example, what about divorce? Or what about gluttony (a particularly Baptist sin)? Larry acknowledges that the Church has failed to stand consistently about certain sins. But the argument based upon the Church’s failure itself fails. In effect it is an admission that same-sex activity is also sinful.

3. But what about those in a same-sex relationship that is faithful, monogamous, and stable? Pointing to 1 Cor 5:1-2, Larry replies that faithfulness in a biblically forbidden behavior does not make the behavior less sinful.

4. But what about Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction? Larry appeals to Sam Williams in his answer. Dr. Williams serves on Southeastern’s faculty as professor of biblical counseling and as an elder at North Wake Church. He makes the distinction between same-sex attraction (SSA), same-sex orientation (SSO), and “Gay or Lesbian Identity”. The first two (SSA) and (SSO) are involuntary, but the decision about identity is a choice. We all struggle with a variety of attractions that are outside the will of God. Deciding to act on those inclinations, and deciding to find our identity in those inclinations, are moral choices.

5. But what about my family and friends who are involved in a same-sex lifestyle? Larry cautions that we cannot justify homosexuality. We are to tell them that in the Gospel there is hope for all, and that Jesus is worth it. And we are always to engage others with grace, humility, and love.

As I listened to Larry’s message I was struck by the pastoral sensitivity and care with which he preached. He pointed the entire congregation to grace and forgiveness of the Gospel (Rom 8:1). The audio of the entire message can be found here.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Frogs (Yes, Frogs) In Life and Ministry

Frogs. Yes, I said frogs. Today’s post is all about them and their role in our world. Hang in there, I promise this will be relevant.

You see biologists tell us that when one wants to study and observe a specific biodiverse environment or biosphere, you can study the health of certain critical species and they will help you know the health of the overall biological context. Frogs are one of those species in many environments. They sit in the middle of the food chain. They eat and help control insect populations and they are a food source for many (including us – try a good frog leg sometime!). If your frogs are not doing well, odds are the overall fauna and flora are going to be suffering as well. Kind of like honey bees. We need them to help the plants pollinate and we need the plants to grow to feed others and so forth. Frogs.

I often tell churches with whom I am consulting that there are several “frogs” in church health as well. Key issues, spiritual disciplines or ministries one can study to see how the overall congregation is probably doing. They are health indicators for the entire spiritual environment.

Evangelism can be a “frog” for example. If a church, and therefore a specific group of believers, is not evangelistic that is an indication of something wrong spiritually. They are not reaching other people for a reason or for many reasons. What are they? It is a symptom of a disease. Why are the people not sharing their faith? What is going on in their relationship with God or one another that is holding them back or paralyzing them in fear? Those are the underlying issues that must be addressed.

Stewardship can be a “frog” also. People often vote with their money or display disobedience in their giving. I often will do a study about the giving potential of churches. I will take a county demographic study, take a low-middle average income per household and divide that number by ten. I then determine how many active households attend the church regularly and multiply that number with the final figure from the county. If your active families made the low-middle average county income and tithed, this would be the amount you would expect the church to receive every year. Often the average income of the active church family is much higher than that low-middle county figure by the way. With very few exceptions in the many churches where I have worked this formula, the total amount that should be received is double to triple of actual income. This is not a sermon about tithing that can be a discussion for another day. But many churches pray for budgets that are often unhealthy and not sacrificial or cheerful.

What are some other “frogs” in your ministry life? Disciplines, biblical responsibilities, ministries that are reflections of the overall health of the church? Of your life? What about the level of biblical prayer? The frequency of personal Bible study? The list could go on and on. Instead of condemning people for their unhealthy practices, ask why are their practices unhealthy? Begin to address those root issues.

When I was a full time pastor, I once led a children’s sermon using a frog as my illustration. I talked about becoming new and transformed with the whole tadpole to bullfrog story and then shared (which I copied from someone, somewhere so forgive my plagiarism!) that frog stands for Fully Rely On God. Good lesson, child-like, move on right? Well, I made the mistake of beginning the whole thing by saying how much I liked frogs. So from then on people began to give me frogs. Frog statues, frog carvings, frog rugs, frog lamps, frog posters, frogs! At one point over 400 frogs were collected around my office. My wife decorated her school classroom in frogs. I was surrounded by frogs!

How many frogs can you find in your life? How healthy are they?