There is a stream of tears dripping from the end of Rachel Held Evans’s recent blog, “If my son or daughter were gay…”. I have to admit: I am crying, too.
And who wouldn’t weep, if the assumption is that homosexuals are unequivocally beloved as homosexuals in the church, that God apparently does not call them to repent and change, that churches should not preach against homosexuality or distance themselves from it and that a church who does is a “bully” from whom we need to “protect” our homosexual children?
Yes, I am crying, too, but for a different reason. I am weeping over the disgrace to God, the neutered theology, the tortured application of “unconditional love.”
I weep for the same reason Jesus wept: because people could not see who and what He was, and that He had the power to redeem—to transform even the dead.
This means there is something to be redeemed from: death, and not just death, but the sin that caused it (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:56). Such sin, we must note, includes homosexuality and homosexual practice:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9–11 ESV).
When pro-homosexual forces deal with this passage, they find ways to try to diminish its clear point, which is: there is no place in the kingdom of God for such sin, including homosexuality.
Yes, we know that there are other sins besides homosexuality mentioned here, but that does not remove the fact that homosexuality is, too. It is sin, and it will keep you out of the kingdom.
More often, however, is the tactic to emphasize the statement, “And such were some of you.” By this an attempt is made to argue that there were homosexuals right there among the Corinthian church, and Paul was addressing them along with all the other Christians as Christians! Paul says these people were “justified.” They had found forgiveness despite being homosexuals!
No: “Such were some of you. But you were washed. . . .” These people may have been all kinds of such sinners in the past, but that was in the past. They had been washed and sanctified, etc. They had repented and were called to quit fornicating, etc., which is what the rest of the chapter says.
Paul then called that same church—as a church—to separate itself from such sins in society (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
So it pains me to tears when popular Evangelical voices like Rachel Held Evans lead a stream of emotional followers to sanctify and justify the opposite: calling the Word-preaching church a “bully” and reversing God’s Word concerning homosexuality in the church. She writes:
I’ve already heard from a mom whose son came home from the Scout meeting in which he and his friends were informed that the church that sponsored them was pulling their funding because the Scouts no longer discriminate against gay boys. The Mom said her son was angrier than she’d seen him in a while. But he wasn’t angry at his gay friends; he was angry at the Church. . . .
If God blesses Dan and me with a child who is gay, I would want that child to know without a doubt that he or she is loved unconditionally. I would want her to know nothing could separate her from the love of God in Christ. I would want her to know that she isn’t broken, she isn’t an embarrassment, she isn’t a disappointment.
May I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the bullies.
And may I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the Church.
This is not a failure of that Church. It did the right thing. It called homosexuality what it is—sin—and dissociated itself from an organization that tolerates it. This is exactly what Paul did do in regard to sexual sin: he didn’t just denounce it, he kicked a guy out of the church for it (5:1). He condemned the church for not taking such action sooner (5:2). (See my Biblical Logic, pp. 211–212).
Dear Rachel: was Paul a “bully”? Do you need to protect your child from Paul?
This is not a failure of the church. It is a failure of parenting, and of spiritual leadership by Evans. The parent should lead the child to truth, and teach the child both how to understand and to accept the truth, even when it seems uncomfortable.
The spiritual leader should lead the parent in explaining why truly loving that child means doing these very things, even when they seem uncomfortable and unpopular. Such a leader should be able to discern that love is only love if it is in terms of God’s Word. He defines love and loving actions, not us.
When our own (fallen) personal sentiments about personal comfort, pain, and even adverse outcomes (suicide, etc.) guide what we choose to call sin and what we choose to call bullying, then we have—just as Eve once did—subverted God’s authority. We have not applied God’s love, we have replaced it with a foreign love—one based on whether or not the fruit before us seems pleasing to the eye, desirable to consume, and conducive to wisdom (a.k.a. “progress”) at the moment. This is the opposite of faith.
When Rachel Held Evans writes that if she herself were “blessed” with a homosexual child, she “would want her to know nothing could separate her from the love of God in Christ” (Rom. 8:39), she is making the most terrible of assumptions—one that destroys the distinctive of the redemptive work of Christ and the mark of the Church itself. That is, that this love of which Paul wrote in Romans 8 is an exclusive love shown specifically to those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4), who “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,” in whom “the Spirit of God dwells” (8:9), who live accordingly (8:12–13), who are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (8:29), who are “predestined,” “called,” “justified,” and “glorified” (8:30), and in short, those only who are “God’s elect” (8:33). To these people—those already in the church, and thus having repented—and not to all sinners indiscriminately, God has promised that nothing can separate them from His love.
No unrepentant sinner can have that assurance, and it is dishonest and subversive to tell them they can on those terms. Rather, there is another category with which they must also deal: sin, death, and God’s wrath.
To apply Romans 8:39 without the qualification that one must be a repentant, redeemed member of God’s church before that unconditional love can be assumed is to deny the boundaries between sin and righteousness, death and life, love and wrath which God has ordained. It is instead to replace His Word with your own. Evans is, perhaps unwittingly, replacing “the love of God in Christ” with “the love of Rachel Held Evans.”
And that’s the real reason to cry. To cry over the fact that a church calls homosexuality sin and that it hurts someone’s feelings is to cry over the fact that you’re not God.