Few events produced by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma have proved to be timelier or more needed than the recent conference on “The Gospel, Sexuality, and the Church.” While this was a conference primarily for pastors and staff, the sessions will be available online so anyone can listen to them. My purpose in this column is not to revisit the conference in a detailed way, but I would like to draw some conclusions that hopefully will spur us to greater convictional kindness toward those struggling with same-sex attraction or activity.
With so much attention centered on same-sex marriage and the firestorm related to religious freedom, it is important for us to not panic while standing our ground. Every indication is that the United States Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage the law of the land, but it does not mean pastors or churches will be forced to perform or accommodate same-sex marriages. Churches would be wise to review and consider adopting statements of faith that set forth biblical positions on marriage. Adding brief statements to bylaws can also be helpful. There is just no need to panic.
Homosexuals are individuals for whom Christ died. They are not our enemies, but people whom the church should engage with love and truth. Russell Moore was not shy to say that if we, as believers and churches collectively, are not struggling with these issues, it is likely because we have not penetrated the lostness in our community. Homosexuals live all around us.
We must not fear people who are not like us and that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) folks. Too many times, our hesitancy to open doors of communication with these people is because of the loud and proud militants identified by this moniker. Large numbers of these folks are not militant; they are people broken by sin just like we are. We need not fear them, nor do we need to compromise our beliefs. What we must do is love them, listen to them, and lead them to the truth spoken in love.
Our willingness to listen and engage must be founded on the truth. We must remember our job is not to win an argument, but to lead them to the truth of God’s Word. Frankly, we (I) have too long viewed homosexuals as different from us. They are not. Their struggles and sin may be different, but struggle with identity and sin is true to all of us. Loving another person, no matter what their struggles or area of brokenness, does not demand a compromise of truth, but it does demand a willingness to walk, not drive, someone to truth. This demands prayer, patience, tough skin, and a listening ear. Dennis Jernigan testified that the person who helped him walk away from homosexuality told Dennis he would not condemn him and would walk with him. If he fell down, his friend would pick him up no matter how many times he fell. Transformation will come in one-on-one relationships, not mass meetings, private or public.
Above all, we must believe in the power of the Gospel. I think we are too often unbelievers in the dynamic and unlimited power of the Gospel to transform sinners. As Al Mohler so eloquently stated, “We do not need to fear that the Gospel will fail.” When a person embraces the Gospel, it is powerful enough to change a person no matter how broken or scarred. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition in I Cor. 6 when he reminded the church members that some of them once were in this sin and many other sins. Yet, they had been changed by the Gospel.
Dealing with LGBT-identifying people is a new journey for many of us and our churches. But if we are true to the Gospel, we must not ignore anyone in the community. If we believe the Gospel, no one is our enemy, and all are candidates for the transforming power of the Gospel. The truth will set them free, even as it has us.
I have no doubt we will struggle, make mistakes, and experience some angst in seeking to impact every segment of our culture with the Gospel. The LGBT group is only one group among many, but I am confident in the power of the love and Gospel of Christ. Every man, woman, and child needs the opportunity to hear and embrace the Savior.