Our family loves watching movies together. From when the kids were small, it was an opportunity to learn to accommodate each other’s tastes. Sunday nights are movie nights, and we all take turns to pick a movie for the night. We make popcorn, smoothies and later some hot chocolate. When the kids were smaller, this meant that sometimes we all had to sit through a bratty Barbie movie one Sunday night (gritting my teeth but trying to make it look like a happy face smile) and a Spider-Man movie the next (I did not mind these!). Lucky for us, our whole family more or less like the same genres nowadays (sci-fi, action, fantasy mostly).
When the kids grew older, we started to watch TV series together as well. The Flash was (and remains) one of our favourites, and we’ve rewatched some older series again; like Lost and Prison Break (although we sometimes have to forward through a scene or two).
Lately, we have noticed an escalation of same-sex relationships being portrayed especially in the later releases, even to the point of seeming forced. It is as if the producers felt they had to include an LGBTQI+ (and all variations of this acronym) theme in their shows even if it does not really fit the narrative or add anything to the authenticity of the show.
This bothers me
I have written on the topic of polarisation before. I am quite sure my personal discomfort of the LGBTQI+ push will be answered by accusations of homophobia. Maybe you are in the same position – you don’t necessarily agree with the LGBTQI+ agenda but you’re feeling the strong social pressure to “think” that LGBTQI+ is normal and anything else is just a byproduct of some old-fashioned ideas? You might be accused of standing in the way of social progress. Of being a bigot. Of being judgmental.
Enough has been written about the one-sidedness of these kinds of allegations elsewhere. This post is not intended to deal with the stereotypical, overhyped arguments from either side. In my opinion, it is a bit unnecessary to call someone a homophobe just because he/she does not agree with LGBTQI+ viewpoint, just as it is quite silly to call someone a Christophobe for not liking a Christian outlook.
I am very aware that this is a complicated topic and that there are many nuances which I may not be aware of, but here is the perspective from which I write; I am a middle-aged dad, who holds (theologically at least) a conservative evangelical Christian viewpoint. I have an 11-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter who’s immediate social circle includes kids who openly profess to be “gender non-binary”, bi-sexual, gay or lesbian. Close friends of mine have had to work out how to handle their “gender-fluid” son. Some members of my extended family struggle with sexual identity. Another friend has gone through a process of transgender (and I am sorry to say I have not stayed in touch or reached out as often as I was intending – forgive me!). An old school-friend has gone through a process of a radical pendulum swing from one side to the other, and has (re?)discovered Jesus again. My teacher friends tell me stories of how they can’t say simple things like “Good morning girls” to an all-girl class any more. Some of them might not want to identify with being girls and the school wants to be politically correct in this area.
Spiritual War or Culturural War?
What are we as Christ-followers to do? How are we to think about these flexible gender-ideologies gaining momentum? Or what if we are ourselves tempted by, or even fully engaged in the ideas and practices advocated by the LGBTQI+ view on gender?
A good place to start is with some Biblical orientation. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are in a battle, and it is a spiritual one.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12.
Spiritual warfare has many facets, but one facet that’s relevant for this conversation was highlighted by Wayne Grudem years ago:
Culture wars have always been spirit warsWayne Grudem
Think about it.
The cultural setting is always the incubator of what is or isn’t socially acceptable. A simple example: The Bible has much to say about the priority of keeping the marriage bed undefiled. It makes sex an important aspect of both the expression of love and procreation within the boundaries of marriage (Hebrews 13:4, for instance). But let’s just cut to the point and drop the pretences. How many of us have slept with our spouses before we got married? How many of us have lived together before the big wedding? How many of us married our first-time sexual partner? Now for the follow-up questions… how many of us really stopped to think about what we were doing? How many of us got rebuked or reprimanded? Even if we did, were there any real, punitive consequences because of these kinds of lifestyle choices?
I am guessing the answer is no. Having sexual encounters before marriage is an acceptable phenomenon in secular culture and has been progressively so since the sexual revolution in the sixties. Despite church communities having many successes to instil a Christian counter-culture in the youth, many a blind eye remains turned.
So, back to culture wars that are spirit wars. Although the Bible is pretty clear in its views about sex and marriage, which customs would most young people follow today, whether they come from a Christian home or not? In the spiritual/cultural battle of the general views on sex before marriage, who has won? I think the answer is obvious.
Which makes me wonder? My generation has largely accepted that sex before marriage is fine because the general post-Christian Western culture has allowed it for decades. Does that mean that the teenagers of today will be similarly blasé about the normalcy of an LGBTQI+ lifestyle?
Actually, I don’t wonder. I know. It is already happening.
Setting the tone
Concepts like tolerance, diversity and respect for other viewpoints are essential. They should be protected and promoted. Yet for those of us who are Christ-followers, we need to make sure that these noble concepts are not turned into something they’re not supposed to be. For example, they should not be leading us into groupthink, forcing us to (un)consciously accept the lie that a disagreement with a set of ideas is the same thing as hating the people who hold them.
We don’t have to agree with everything in the cultural narrative. Rather, as Christ-followers we should be prepared to preach and defend in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2-4). And to those who don’t share our faith in the God of the Bible, we need to apply patience and wisdom.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.Colossians 4:5-6
This presupposes one vital point, however…
We have to know what ideas are actually Biblical and which aren’t.
Separating the sin from the sinner
Separating the sin from the sinner is such an important Biblical concept. If this wasn’t true, then none of us would have been able to get reconciled with God. Jesus is the Great Separator of our sins. In the same trajectory we need to differentiate between sinners (no different from ourselves), and the sin. For Christ-followers, our sin have been dealt with on the cross. For those who aren’t, it remains unresolved.
Just as there is cultural pressure to accept LGBTQI+ as normative in our society, there is also pressure on Christians to do away with its general teachings against homosexuality and gender neutrality. Attempts have been made to provide alternative interpretations to key Biblical texts dealing with homosexuality, and philosophical approaches have also been tried.
For example, some have argued that the New Testament actually doesn’t give us a moral code to live by (deontological ethic), but that it promotes the ideal character traits we should strive for instead (virtue ethic). Using this line of argument, the premise is then made, that nothing about a monogamous same-sex relationship contradicts a life of virtue.
However, this is a false dichotomy because the New Testament writers have a lot to say about both what you do and who you are. Andrew Wilson on thinktheology.co.uk gives a great summary of this debate between Preston Sprinkle (non-affirmer) and Jeff Cook (affirmer) here, if you’re interested to get into a bit more into the Biblical details. I highly recommend it since Andrew Wilson has struggled with same-sex attraction himself, and writes honestly and authentically about the topic.
In the end, anything outside God’s parameters of sexual orientation and practice, is sin. That means missing the mark of what God designed it to be, thereby causing damage to ourselves and also dishonouring God in the process.
In conclusion, a few open-hearted statements to those who hold an alternative view on sexual matters to what the Bible teaches.
I am a Christ-follower.
If you’re homosexual, I don’t hate you, despite what a polarised cultural viewpoint might want to claim about me.
If you struggle with gender identity, I don’t hate you, despite what over-excitable social media accounts might proclaim about me.
If you’re transsexual, I don’t hate you neither do you offend me, despite your doubts and suspicions.
If you’re my colleague, and we work together, I will continue to work alongside you and treat you the same as my other colleagues.
If you’re my friend, our relationship will follow similar ebbs and flows to any other friendship. You being in one of the LGBTQI+ categories will not change that.
If you’re a family member, I will continue to laugh through the family dynamics, and sometimes team up with you to wash dishes and other times just sit and chat over a glass of wine.
During some conversation, we might discuss issues of homosexuality and at other times not. Sometimes we will just hang together and talk about other things people talk about, like music or politics or work. If the opportunity and tone of the conversation lend itself to that, I will share my views and opinions and you will share yours, and they might differ. When this happens, I will try not to force my view on you, but I will direct my thoughts and opinions on what I believe the Bible teaches. I will no doubt gain insights from conversations like these, and you might too. It might influence my perspective, and perhaps yours will be influenced too.
And sometimes we will just have to agree to disagree.
I will try to do this to the best of my flawed ability.
However, what I won’t do is to make the Bible say something I don’t think it is saying, just to avoid a disagreement or to fit in with the cultural narrative.
What do I believe the Bible teaches on the subject?
I have read the Bible for long enough to be convinced that the “traditional” view of marriage and heterosexual relationships is the one upheld therein. It is clear God created humankind male and female, that they are different, that one is not more important than the other and that both genders have equal standing before the throne of God – both genders are created in his image. There are roles assigned to both males and females. I understand sexual and marital unions to be between males and females and this forms the Biblical basis for the nuclear family unit. Trying to remove the importance of gender from romantic/marital relationships is to impose something on the Text which wasn’t present originally. It was clearly forbidden in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) and is included in the list of sins people need to repent from in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10). The introduction chapter to the book of Romans does not leave any room for same-sex relations either (Romans 1:18-32).
Having said these things, my role on earth is not to necessarily convince you of the truth, but to bear witness to it as best I can. The Holy Spirit stirs up the heart. As far as it is possible for me in my context, I’d like to follow the Apostle Paul when he said:
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.1 Corinthians 9:2
Last message to my fellow Christ-followers
And lastly, I would like to encourage my fellow Christ followers to remain rooted in the Scriptures and to heed another famous line from the Apostle Paul:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes … For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”Romans 1:16
If you have struggled in the past, or are currently battling with gender identity, same-sex relationships or any other counter Biblical sexual issue, know that you can go back to the One who forgives because He is the only one who can (Psalm 86;5; Luke 5:21).
Jesus understands the cultural battles each generation has fought since the beginning of time. The Father has the answers. He holds Hope in His hands. Hope to deal with the pain, conflict, guilt, and isolation that comes with sexual sin.
Remember how he dealt with the woman caught in adultery? He wrote in the sand until all the accusers left. And then he left her with those striking words:
Go and sin no moreJohn 1:1-8