A dilemma that faces the church today, is how to offer inclusiveness while holding steadfast to the teachings of Christ, and doing so without appearing to offer condemnation to those sitting in its pews.
In an attempt to accommodate the sinner (which we all are), does the church intentionally or inadvertently contribute to the normalization of the sin?
And when defining sin, is it that cut and dry to tag homosexuality – a sin deserving of condemnation and separation from God?
But the Bible says it is, doesn’t it?
If you’re sure it does, then it might surprise you that Christian thinking on this issue is divergent.
I’m not a biblical scholar, so interpretations of original texts can confuse the day-lights out of me. I do believe however, that meaning can be lost in translation from the original Greek translation into modern everyday language translations, which is probably why some still prefer the King James version, first published in 1611.
In a blog post titled, “The Word “Homosexual” Does Not Appear In The Bible [Pre-1946]”, Keith Giles poses that up to 1946, no one could debate whether or not someone could be a homosexual Christian, because the Bible didn’t contain the word “homosexuality” until modern English translations began using it in the years following.
Giles goes on to say: “We have made this issue – homosexuality – one of the main tenets of the Christian faith. As if Jesus and the Apostles did little more than argue the subject day and night. [Of course, they never mention it at all].”
I personally believe that, although Jesus never specifically mentioned homosexuality by name, his silence does not mute other scriptural passages that taught on the issue.
But regardless of which side of the debate you happen to lean, we must all recognize that, in the end, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts our hearts of any sin present in our lives.
That may sound a little like punting the ball, in light of this debate, but its importance cannot be over-stated.
We also must realize that just because something is a cultural norm, doesn’t bring justification to it in the eyes of God. God, although a loving God, is also a God of righteousness.
Humans tend to leave out the second characteristic when trying to rationalize sin, when and where it is manifested – often becoming anesthetized to it in their continued attempts to reason it into normalcy.
The scriptures are not a moving goal post that changes position depending on the cultural norms of the day.
This is where the church needs to be a vanguard – a beacon of light in the ever-increasing darkness of godlessness we find ourselves in.
On any given Sunday, church pews are full of real people struggling with real addictions, divorce, pornography, idolatry and other things known or believed to run contrary to the Word of God. The common thread running between them is the word “struggling” – denoting a conscious effort to overcome something our conscience, or “that still small voice“, tells us is wrong. That voice shouldn’t be your neighbor’s, but rather the Holy Spirit speaking conviction to anything in our lives that would separate us from God.
The Apostle Paul himself struggled with sin, as he indicated in Romans 7:18-20, when he said:
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
That could very well be my life verse.
So how does the church offer inclusiveness while being a vanguard of holiness?
Colossians 3:16 tells us to let the message of Christ richly inhabit us as we teach and admonish each other with all wisdom.
Regardless of our debate over what is or is not sin, the Christian tenets of love and acceptance must remain at the front door of the church. Everyone who enters should find admonition instead of condonation, and grace instead of condemnation.
The bottom line.
The answer to the church’s dilemma, lies in Paul’s epistle to the church at Corinth.
“But all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ [making us acceptable to Him] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation [so that by our example we might bring others to Him], that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them [but canceling them]. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation [that is, restoration to favor with God].” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
A church of reconciliation.
A disentangled dilemma.