A sense of perspective

At the risk of being repetitive and boring, banging on about the church and homosexuality again

This is written mainly to a Christian audience, but if you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian, you’re of course still very welcome to read and comment on it!

Below is a letter I wrote to Christianity magazine, printed in this month’s edition.

One of the reasons for this letter is that divergence of opinion on sexuality seems to be currently the distinguishing factor between church and the rest of society – at least publicly, as portrayed by the media.

This worries me immensely, although I know this is not actually the predominant differentiating factor for (hopefully) any Christian, but rather an emphasis implied by the media.

The things that should distinguish the church from the world around us are qualities such as joy, love, forgiveness, mercy, grace:

Joy: Christians should be the happiest people on earth because we’ve received the best news ever, of a slate wiped clean, of eternal love, with the joy of true liberation.

Love etc: We should be known for our love for each other: church fellowships held together by patience, mercy, forgiveness, unity of heart, and overflowing with grace and generosity to the world around us.

Actually, much of the time this is the reality!

One of many things that drew me to Jesus was seeing faces of Christians ‘glowing’ with the joy of knowing the Messiah. They had something supernatural and wonderful.

The unity, love and community support within ordinary church fellowships goes on unnoticed by the media and much of society, week in, week out. Churches are made up of ordinary, broken people with faults and difficulties, and yet these fellowships are communities held together by patience and love in the face of (at times) misunderstandings and disagreements that are typical of any family.

Church members’ support for each other is often phenomenal and sacrificial, without any trumpet-blowing or media hype.

Their experience of Jesus’ love drives many to serve outside their churches, in the wider community, either voluntarily or (as in my case) in paid work, through organisations like Street Pastors, hospices, healthcare and other public services.

Privately, church communities are often what they should be, distinguished from the rest of the world by love, joy, patience and mercy. Let us not be fooled by the media that we’re defined by views on sexuality.

So that’s the backdrop to my letter to Christianity, which was edited down to the point where the argument I was making was unfortunately somewhat lost. Hence, for the record, below is the full letter (with relevant Bible passages also inserted, rather than just references).

Note to self: in future, when writing to magazines, write shorter letters!

Here’s the letter:

Dear Christianity

Whatever our view is on homosexuality, it’s important to hold it in perspective. To illustrate from the story of Sodom: even IF (and that’s a big ‘if’) homosexual practice is always wrong in God’s eyes, the sin of Sodom was not so much this as the fact that they had become so self-centred and hedonistic that, not only did they neglect to show hospitality to strangers and care for the poor, they went even further by seeking only to rape and abuse those who came to visit their city.

See Ezek 16:49-50: “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen”.

The root was selfishness. What can we learn, therefore, about how to treat gay or straight people who visit our churches or move into our streets? How good are we at welcoming and caring for people? Are our church services designed to serve ourselves or to draw in outsiders? These questions are more important than sexual orientation or practice.

This sin of Sodom was the worst possible abuse. AND YET…even worse than this in God’s eyes is the rejection of grace and of the Holy Spirit by those who have seen evidence of him working before their very eyes.

See the words of Jesus in Luke 10:8-12: “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say,‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.”

How we respond when we see God at work and hear his voice is ultimately more important than anything. This will affect how we love God and people, whether gay or straight.

Even IF we believe homosexual practice is wrong, it is OK for others to believe and practise otherwise with a clear conscience. We can agree to disagree. If same-sex marriage is approved, it will apply to a small minority and will not threaten traditional marriage nearly as much as the far more accepted and widespread practice of heterosexual co-habitation or the prevalence of failing heterosexual marriages. I see few Christians campaigning against heterosexual co-habitation. Let’s not worry about same-sex marriage: who knows, maybe gay couples will show greater commitment and honouring of their vows than straight couples?!

Let’s avoid hypocrisy as much as possible, keeping things in God’s perspective and making God’s priorities our priorities: such as practising hospitality, recognising God’s voice and showing grace and love to people of all sexual and theological persuasions!

(I promise the next blog will be on a completely different subject!)

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4 thoughts on “A sense of perspective

  1. Tricia says:

    Very well written Roger !

  2. Nancy aguilera says:

    My thoughts EXACTLY Roger. My heavy heart stems, though, from the knowledge that so many Christians, even in my own church, are completely willing to write our gay brothers and sisters off, as if they don’t matter. Remember, I am in gun-toting cowboy Arizona with all the prevalent stereotypical views that go along with that group. Proud rednecks. And I know that in mAny ways I am a slacker Christian, I have been saved by grace and I should be shouting that from the rooftops and sharing Christ’s love with everyone. And I haven’t been doing that. And frankly i’m scared Roger. God has been calling me, loudly, to minister to his gay children. For at least 3 years. I mean, it started as a whisper, but now it’s a constant shout. There is the face of one gay friend (who I don’t work with any,ore but who I still friend on FB, therefore he is easy to find) that floats in front of my eyes when I am dropping off to sleep, and who is there when I wake. There are other faces too, but his the most and i know I’m supposed to talk to him first. I don’t know how to obey, and I know I’m dragging my feet. But I’m literally losing sleep over this and, lazy Christian that I am, just really hoping this longing will go away. Thanks for listening and please pray for me. I don’t think God is going to let me off the hook and let working in the church nursery be one of the only ways I serve him.

    • Don’t really know what to say, Nancy, except that it’s lovely to hear your heart, I’d encourage you not to beat yourself up over anything you feel you’re not doing (grace is enabling me to use the word ‘should’ far less these days in my inner vocabulary), but to let those prompts lead you to pray / intercede for the people on your heart, whether that’s gay friends or church family who feel the opposite to you, and see what opportunities God brings your way, or see if he puts it on your heart to step out boldly in some specific way to express that grace. I’m sure he’ll lead you.
      Thank you for sharing your heart in this way, and I will pray for you. Always be motivated by grace, rather than guilt or ‘should’s or ‘oughta’s!
      But also don’t be too afraid of going against the flow! I’m always nervous about being controversial, but sometimes just need to do it anyway.

  3. […] sexuality as one of the main issues that divide the church from wider society (as I wrote about in A Sense of Perspective), and my longing to see all people come to believe in the Father’s all-welcoming arms, have […]

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