Kimball’s chapter on homosexuality might be the best one yet, primarily because he writes as someone who has both thought through the issue theologically (and lands conservatively) yet has apparently interacted quite a bit with homosexuals. This includes hours of interviews with both non-Christian homosexuals and Christians who struggle with homosexuality. Much like his approach to the gender issue (see my previous post), Kimball urges increased thoughtfulness, listening, and understanding.
My burden in writing this particular post is to once again pass on Kimball’s challenge to those who are not planning on reading the book.
I need to be upfront that it would be exceptionally difficult for me to buy that the Bible does not condemn homosexual practice in all forms as sinful. I am aware that there is plenty of pro-gay Bible-believing theology coming out at this point and intend somewhere down the line to interact with it. The texts seem plain to me though and that is the truth of where I stand right now.
That said, the church absolutely cannot go on treating homosexuality as a super-sin. The inescapable fact is that generally speaking the church has reacted to homosexuals in stigmatizing, even homophobic ways (and please note the word “generally”). Preaching and teaching on homosexuality tends to be narrow and uncompassionate.
Kimball’s illustration is helpful and deeply convicting:
“Imagine an unmarried couple who are living together and are sexually active. They enter your church and tell you they aren’t Christians yet, but are interested in God and are checking out your church. They begin attending your worship gatherings, and you are happy to see them there, hoping they will come to trust in Jesus. You know they are living together, and you see them respectfully showing their affection by holding hands in church and putting their arms around one another.
But what if a gay couple did the same thing?” (148)
Even at my own church full of Christians who really try to get things like this right, this situation would be tough. And frankly, there is something understandable about that. The two would seem so out of place that it would be awkward. But could we get past that awkwardness?
Do not hear my wrong: I am in no way condoning homosexuality- as I’ve said, the Bible seems clear that homosexuality is utterly sinful. But it is in fact my doctrine of sin that challenges my thinking about this: if I truly believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that all are equally in need of Jesus, that none of us have any merit of ourselves to bring before God, then why would I treat homosexuals any differently than any other non-Christians?
This becomes especially important when we recognize, as Kimball stresses, that there are very likely some in our own congregations who struggle with homosexual urges, just like others struggle with urges to drink too much or have sex before marriage. A Christian who wants to please Jesus but struggles with homosexuality cannot be much different than any other Christian struggling with sin. If we respond in stigmatizing ways we only push these people away from the One Person who can deliver them from their own sinful hearts and reinforce the pain-driven church-hating subculture that is certainly out there.
I find in myself selfishness, lust, pride, lack of love, and lack of care for the poor, to name a few sins. I can only imagine that homosexual Christians find in themselves some of those same things, as well as homosexual desires. My Christian brothers and sisters pray for me, listen to my struggles, and act with compassion as they hold me accountable and lead me to Jesus to heal me and change my heart. The question is, where do we send homosexuals for that same deliverance, and what kind of attitude do we have towards them when we do it?