Imagine giving a cymbal to a three-year-old. Oh, he’d love it! You, however, might lose your sanity as that child went around your home: CRASH! CLANG! CRASH! It would be very obnoxious. However, put that cymbal into the middle of the right song and it adds enormously to the impact: “And the rocket’s red glare – CRASH! – the bombs bursting in air – CRASH!” Powerful.
So it is with any truth of God’s Word. Used correctly and applied appropriately, any truth can be beautiful. Used incorrectly and inappropriately, and any truth of God’s Word can come across as… well… just annoying. Paul writes: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 1:13).
I fear that many Christians have come across a little gong-ish and cymbal-like when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. To only rail against the immorality of homosexuality is to accomplish absolutely nothing. You proclaim what everyone, including the homosexual, already knows deep down inside. They might try and suppress the conscience, but it’s still there.
What God says about his will for human sexuality is Law. The ultimate goal of all God’s Law is to lead us to Christ. It’s like the spokes on a bike-wheel. They all go to the center… all tie into the axle. Likewise, all Law is intended to show me my sin, and thus, demonstrate my need for a Savior. The Law shows why Christ must be at the center of my life. I need what only he can give!
So it is with God’s condemnation of homosexuality. The main purpose is not to get people to cease homosexual behavior. That changes nothing. For there will be plenty of heterosexuals found lacking on the Day of Judgment! So ceasing homosexual behavior is the secondary goal of God’s Law. But the main purpose of God’s condemnation of homosexuality is to cause the one guilty of such sins to flee to the grace and mercy that is found in Christ. Paul also writes: “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “Speaking the truth in love” doesn’t simply mean we say things politely. It means we speak the truth with the goal of having people “grow into… Christ.”
So now, let’s apply this to the topic of homosexuality. How would we speak the truth in love to someone struggling with this sin?
We tell the truth that homosexuality is not, under any circumstances, acceptable. It is contrary for God’s plan that family would consist of one man and one woman united in marriage. Moreover, we state the truth that those who reject God’s Law do so at the risk of their eternal soul. This is true whether one rejects what God says about homosexuality… or gossip… or divorce. To rebel against God’s Law it to declare war on the Creator. It’s a war that cannot be won.
We confess the truth that we are just as guilty of sexual sin as any homosexual. My heterosexual sin of lust might not disgust you as much as two men making out, but to our holy God, both are grotesque. This demonstrates that the message we share is not done with a spirit of self-righteousness or a better-than-thou attitude. Rather, we are simply trying to share a medicine for a disease which affects every man and woman, straight or gay – sin.
We proclaim the truth that in Christ, God reconciled the world to himself. Jesus has made full payment for all sin. The truth is that if a homosexual is struggling against his sin, even though others might still condemn him, Jesus doesn’t. Instead, Jesus proudly calls that person “brother” or “sister.”
We comfort with the truth when one is saved, that does not mean sin disappears entirely. The repentant homosexual might still struggle with temptation, just as I constantly struggle with my temper or my pride. Yet through faith in Christ, the struggling sinner stands pure before God.
We encourage with the truth that in baptism Christ sends his Holy Spirit to live in us, so that just as Christ literally rose from the dead, we might live an entirely new life. Thus, there is hope for the homosexual that change can be made. There are hundreds of thousands of homosexuals who eventually became heterosexual. They still aren’t perfect. And they don’t have to be, for Christ is perfect for them. In gratitude to their Savior, they seize upon the Spirit’s strengthening, and they struggle to live as Christ has called them to live. That’s a beautiful thing.
Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
So speak the truth.
Speak it in love.
By Jonathan Hein
Pastor, Beautiful Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS)