This post includes some of the content from the "Current Ministry Issues and Challenges" section of my statement of faith paper. Considering that I spent my last two posts talking about homosexuality, I thought it might be beneficial to provide a more theological angle as well (which I hopefully achieve in other postings on the topic as well). So I'm jumping out of the order in which my paper is written to accommodate this post.
Current Ministry Issues and Challenges - Homosexuality
The issue of homosexuality is difficult because of its hotly contested political nature, and therefore should be handled carefully and theologically by the church. As I see it, the culture's acceptance of homosexuality as a morally acceptable way of life is a foregone conclusion, and so the church's task is to determine how to biblically respond to homosexuals and to the culture at large. Although sin is sin (James 2.10), some sins have special social relational, and cultural ramifications that stigmatize those who fall prey to such sin, and can also stigmatize the church in its response to such behaviors. It is to the church's benefit to wisely analyze such issues biblically before speaking on them. In the book of Acts we see the apostles addressing moral and spiritual issues not through political or social action, but through the preaching of the gospel in the public square (see, for example, Acts 2.13-40, 4.2, 4.8-12, 17.16-31, 22.1-23.11, 24.1-26, 26.1-29). Therefore our message to the culture at large concerning this issue should be biblically based, theological, and gospel-centered.
Homosexuality is a sexual perversion that deviates from God's design for sexual activity. All sexual activity outside the bounds of the biblical prescription of one man and one woman in the context of marriage is sinful (Matthew 5.27-28, 19.4-6). The condemnation of such sin by the church, however, must be followed up with the good news of the gospel as well - that all sin, including sexual sin, can be repented of and forgiven by grace through faith. Homosexuals, idolaters, drunkards, thieves, adulterers, the greedy, and swindlers are all welcome to come and be washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6.9-11). This is the message that the church should be trumpeting as it engages in the conversation about homosexuality.
Moreover, I believe the church should be leading the charge in the protection of the sanctity of marriage, namely as being between one man an done woman for life.k This battle is fought on the homosexuality front, but can also be extended to encompass the issue of divorce. Christians should not be adamant regarding the definition of marriage for societal or cultural reasons, or to preserve an idealistic tradition of marriage, but instead should fight for a biblical definition of marriage primarily for theological reasons. Not only is the physical prescription for marriage one man and one woman for life, but the roles played by t he man and the woman in marriage carry theological weight as well. Marriage necessarily images the gospel and the relationship between Christ and his church - Christ playing the part of the husband, and the church playing the role of the wife. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Wives are to submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord (Ephesians 5.22-23, Colossians 3.18-19). Gender, and the role it plays in marriage, is vitally important to the theological message of the gospel. In short, the theological implications of marriage are diminished (at best) for obvious reasons when marriage is redefined to include a sexual union between two people of the same gender, or when a blind eye is turned to those who are contemplating divorce, or struggling with the effects of divorce.
All homosexuals who repent of their sin and believe the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit should be welcomed into the church and granted full fellowship amongst the body, in the same way that all sinners of every stripe are given such privileges (1 Corinthians 6.9-11). As with all sin that is repented of, the fruit of repentance from homosexuality may take different forms, such as celibacy, or a total transformation, complete with new sexual desires. The only thing that can be said in certainty is that the Holy Spirit grows each believer in holiness according to the measure of faith that has been granted to them, and enables them to battle against sin (Romans 6.22).