How do you feel about Gays? The Tolerance Litmus Test - Question 2
A very, very important chapter in this book. How are churches going to deal with the issue of homosexuality? I'm really just going to give the highlights of this chapter. If you'd like to read or listen to a sermon I preached on this topic in February of 07, click here.
Here are some quotes from this chapter:
One of the top two most asked questions I get from unchurched people is "what do you think about gays?" Not just from people who are gay or have a close friend who is gay, but all kinds of people want an answer. Why has this become a watershed issue in our culture? Maybe because of the lack of mercy - no, downright hatred - our culture perceives from the Christian community toward gay people.
Actually, the real question is not whether to let gays into the church, they're already among us. The real question is whether to let them talk about it, so they can find hope and support to grow spiritually, and allow God to do his will fully in them.
[written of a man choosing not to act upon his same-sex feelings] In fact, because of his love for God and his commitment to living out God's words, Sean is not sexually active at all and never has been! In terms of a hero of the faith, willingly following Jesus despite the cost, there are few people with his commitment to Christ, which currently costs him acceptance in all camps.
This chapter tells three incredible stories of people who came to Christ and are processing their same-sex attractions. I wouldn't do it justice to try to summarize them, but they brought tears to my eyes.
[The scriptures] don't say homosexual sex is the unforgivable sin, but they do seem clear that homosexual sex is wrong. It's not what God intended.
Here's the point: God does not condemn us for being in a state we didn't choose, even though it may not be the way he intended originally, but he does hold us accountable for our choices.
None of us are as God originally intended, that's why this world's so messed up.
So no, I don't think a person is forever condemned because of a predisposition - if that's the case. But we are responsible for our choices. So there is a distinction between a predisposition and what we choose to do with it.
Again, I don't think God sees you as gay, but as a person.
[To a lesbian couple beginning to surrender their lives to Christ] There's a pure part of the love you have for each other, but I also think there's a sexualized part that wasn't as God intended.
Whatever God wants to do in your lives will not leave you unfulfilled and empty. It may be difficult, or at times painful, but it will leave you more fulfilled than before in the long run. That I know is God's promise.
We can make people conform but not become. So the better path is to help people trust God, and that's a struggle for all of us! Even for religious leaders who often struggle trying to control people's behavior, because it feels like a reflection on us.
One thing I know: not all gays want to be sexually active and promiscuous as they are sometimes stereotyped. Many want to follow Christ, and they want a supportive community that encourages their spiritual growth as people who are much more than their sexual orientation. If the emerging church is not willing to live in the tension, many of these people will be forced to choose between being loved, accepted and celebrated in the gay community vs. being forced to stay isolated and alone in the church, without the love and acceptance and support needed to truly follow Christ. The church must at least be an alternative to the promiscuously unfulfilling, alternative lifestyle.
In a world high on tolerance, the Christian church cannot afford to neglect our greatest asset: Grace... But even the most tolerant must also confront truth.
I know the quotes taken from this chapter may cause more harm than good, since they're not in context. But this was a great chapter. I can't think of how to improve upon the way John Burke addresses this very important issue.