I don’t know whether to be more concerned by the state redefining marriage or by Steve Chalke redefining sin and religion. All I know is that it is a sad state of affairs.
Steve Chalke bandies around the word ‘inclusion’ to implore Christians to be inclusive of those in the gay community. It sounds good – it’s one of the latest trendy words in local councils and education. But it’s a misnomer; true Christianity has always been inclusive. We are exhorted to accept, love and help our neighbour – no matter who they might be. We are all invited, we are all welcome to ‘come as we are’.
But we should come as we are and leave some things behind: namely a sinful lifestyle. In his article Chalke essentially says that homosexuality is not a sin, and that we should encourage those with a gay disposition to enter loving, monogamous relationships. He compares previous mistakes over the issue of slaves and women in the church to mean that this too is a fuzzy, cultural area that we need to embrace and move on.
However, whether one agrees with issues of equality in church leadership or not, nowhere in the Bible do we read that women and slaves will not enter the kingdom of heaven; nowhere is the issue of their eternal souls in dispute. The arguments surround their roles, not their personhood or daily practices. The apostle Paul even states “I do not permit a woman to teach” not “It is sinful for a woman to teach in the church”. (Even if he had said the latter, we would read his words in view of other references to the matter throughout the Bible.)
The scary thing is that liars and adulterers are listed alongside homosexuals, as those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Homosexuality is no worse state to be in than many typical, daily inclinations of heterosexuals (aside from the frequently occurring likelihood to succumb to STIs). The distinction is that we are to put certain practices behind us, to take up our cross and follow Christ. That is not easy for anyone. It is not easy for those predisposed to homosexuality. The fact that Jesus doesn’t hone in on homosexuality as a topic of teaching proves that we, too, should not give it too much attention. (Vilification of gay people and loving Christ may not co-exist together, either.)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not anti-gay. No more than I am anti anyone else. But I do believe that we do people who enter our churches a disservice when we say that they are welcome to stay as they are. Embracing Christ in our life should transform us from the inside out. Those who loved getting drunk turn aside from that, those who revelled in angry outbursts and pride, no longer submit to their natural inclinations towards rage or self promotion. Those who couldn’t resist serial flings and adultery are called to be faithful and love their spouse.
Becoming a Christian is synonymous with change. We ALL have to change in one way or another. But we cannot do that in and of ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit’s power and a desire to change. If I am happy yelling at my kids and justify it as ok because I’m the parent, I will continue to yell and scream at my kids. Nothing will change unless I desire to live and behave differently and I invite Christ to take a hold of my life and transform me. Admittedly this is an ongoing process, one that doesn’t often happen overnight. Christianity is a walk, it is a journey; we should have grace towards those who make progress in different ways and at different rates.
If a prostitute comes into the church and becomes a Christian, having seen her need of grace, love and eternal life, do we encourage her to stay the same? What if she was ‘born that way’ – i.e. Her mother was a prostitute and she become one as a young teen herself; she knows nothing different. She doesn’t know how to receive true love or be wooed by a man. She only knows going through the motions in sexuality and reluctantly dishing out sexual favours in return for financial reward. Will we not offer counselling and help to get her out of this lifestyle? Will we not provide examples of how loving relationships function in our church? Will we not allow her to struggle through the changes, but still offer tenderness, kindness and understanding?
In promoting the natural state of man as acceptable, (albeit with the caveat of homosexuality within a monogamous setting), I believe Chalke is setting the church up for failure. Failure to be the church, to adhere to sound doctrine and failure to stand out as something different from worldly institutions. When the Church looks exactly the same as the world, I will no longer want to be a part of it; the Church will need overhauling and a passion for returning to its original mandate – love God, love others and be set apart (different).
What will happen when the paedophile who loves God wants to retain his/her disposition and enter a monogamous relationship with a willing 11 year old, with willing parents ready to ‘bless’ the relationship? (Although admittedly the paedophile could never stay monogamous as his/her ‘partner’ would grow too old for him/her.) What will happen when two men and a woman who declare themselves as bi-sexual request a ‘blessing’ as they were ‘born this way’ and no-one would want to deny them happiness?
The fact is, most sin is enjoyable and feels natural to us. My orientation, my natural predisposition, is sinful. I want to swear at the bad driver and disrespect others; my heart is naturally deceitful and depraved. But thankfully there is hope for me to become a whole new person (‘a new creation’ is the biblical phrase). Our present or past lifestyle does not have to be a permanent state and we should not let our feelings dictate our actions. (Note that I do not expect those outside the Christian faith to change at all. They don’t want to and why should we expect them to?!)
In all these conflicts, we should return to basics. I follow Christ. I want to live according to his ways and his teaching. I will love others and will not be ruled by any earthly/ natural inclinations. After all, we all incline towards sin and what we want. What does God want? I’m tired of hearing what men and women want. True Christianity is denying self and living for Christ. Please can we return to that?
Perhaps if we did, we would find ourselves welcoming the outsider, the unlovely and the sexually-different-to-us, and in doing so reflect the Christ in us. And that is something that could truly make a difference.
For similar content, check out…
Customize my faith: Examining our tendency to work our faith around our lifestyle,
Setting things straight – Regarding Rupert Everett’s Assertion About Gay Parents
and Fifty Shades of Gender
Also, do take a look at an Evangelical Alliance article here, which expresses some thoughts on the above topic with better clarity than I could manage.