By Ashley Sharp
Today, it seems that when it comes to issues of homosexuality and singleness, the Church has more questions than answers, and often we don’t know where to go to find them. That’s why the Worldview Initiative hosted Dr. Christopher Yuan, an author who has written about his struggle with homosexuality and becoming a follower of Christ, to answer some of the burning questions that the population of Bryan College had. Because of time, Dr. Yuan didn’t get to answer all our questions, but I will attempt to answer just a few of the questions that the Church needs answered if they are to engage properly those inside her walls and in the greater culture.
Question 1: How do we address homosexuality in the Church? /Why do Christians Tend to view homosexuality as worse than heterosexual sin?
The question of how the Church should handle questions of homosexuality is in the back of every Christian’s mind, as we desire to love people unconditionally, but not bend on biblical teaching about homosexuality. Kevin DeYoung, writer for The Gospel Coalition, lists “The Ten Commitments” that every Christian should make before engaging with people inside and outside of the Church on the topic of homosexuality:
1. We will preach through the Bible consecutively and expositionally that we might teach the whole counsel of God (even the unpopular parts) and to avoid riding hobby horses (even popular ones).
2. We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexuality, but especially the sins most prevalent in our communities.
3. We will guard the truth of God’s word, protect God’s people from error, and confront the world when it tries to press us into its mold.
4. We will call all people to faith in Christ as the only way to the Father and the only way to have eternal life.
5. We will tell all people about the good news of the gospel, that Jesus died in our place and rose again so that we might be set free from the curse of the law and be saved from the wrath of God.
6. We will treat all Christians as new creations in Christ, reminding each other that our true identity is not based on sexuality or self-expression but on our union with Christ.
7. We will extend God’s forgiveness to all those who come in brokenhearted repentance, everyone from homosexual sinners to heterosexual sinners, from the proud to the greedy, from the people pleaser to the self-righteous
8. We will ask for forgiveness when we are rude, thoughtless, or joke inappropriately about homosexuals.
9. We will strive to be a community that welcomes all those who hate their sin and struggle against it, even when that struggle involves failures and setbacks.
10. We will seek to love all in our midst, regardless of their particular vices or virtues, by preaching the Bible, recognizing evidences of God’s grace, pointing out behaviors that dishonor the Lord, taking church membership seriously, exercising church discipline, announcing the free offer of the gospel, striving for holiness together, and exulting in Christ above all things.
As is evidenced here, the Church’s approach to homosexuality is multifaceted, and takes time and willingness on behalf of believers. Every confrontation and every conversation must be done in love as we always remember how we are all sinners saved by God’s grace.
With regard to the second half of this question, why do people consider homosexuality worse than other sin, Stoyan Zaimov, a writer for The Christian Post, interviewed John Piper in regard to this very question. When asked if homosexuality is worse than other sins, Piper answers that homosexuality is no more deadly than any other sin, and is certainly not more widespread than sins of anger, selfishness, greed, pride, etc., they are just easier to hide, and therefore don’t get as much attention. So Zaimov asked the obvious question, why do people seem to think homosexuality is worse than other sin? Piper says that the answer is threefold: First, Piper says that it isn’t Christians who put homosexuality in the headlines. The media has made homosexuality a hot topic and "Christians are drawn to explain our position in public through preaching and writing as often as we do these days because the media have made the issue so public that we feel we need to serve Christians with careful, biblical answers, and we need to clarify for non-Christians how we think." Second, homosexuality, more than probably any other sinful behavior, has powerful and outspoken people who advocate and dissent on issues of “gay rights” which draws a great amount of attention and scrutiny from all sides. Piper’s final reason is that homosexuality goes against nature, and that’s why it has earned an "unusual status in our moral discourse." In other words, it wouldn’t be hard for us to believe that someone is prideful or angry, but when we see a man attracted to another man and vice versa, it’s unnatural, not the way things are supposed to be, so we give more attention to it and are quick to condemn that sin more than others. Piper makes the clarification that although homosexuality is not more deadly than another, sin itself leads to death, and in no way should ever be minimized. He ends with this hope: "We all need the same Savior, and the blood of Christ is sufficient to wash away every sin and remove all judgment and bring us to everlasting healing and joy."
Question 2: How, as a married couple, can we help the Church celebrate singleness? /What do you think about Genesis 2:18? How is it good if God says it is “not good?”
In regard to the first half of the question, writer for The Gospel Coalition, Jennifer Grisham, wrote an article entitled “5 Things Singles Wish Married People Knew,” which contains wise practical advice for married people who have a desire to reach out to their single friends in a healthy way. Grisham’s first point is that married people should deliberately welcome single people into their families, based on Psalm 68:6, which says “God settles the solitary in a home.” Married couples should invite their single friends to eat with their families, and attend special events with them. Single people often feel like outsiders, and many of them long for their own families, and their married friends can help provide that. Grisham’s second point is that while marriage is sanctifying, singleness is as well. She says “Marriage paints a picture of Christ’s love for the church; singleness paints a picture of Christ’s sufficiency and the joy of a life that accepts the Father’s will, as Jesus did when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).” Therefore, singles are not “lagging behind” in their spiritual growth because marriage is somehow the ultimate tool for sanctification, but they are simply being sanctified by the same God in a different way. Her third point is that married people can help singles remember that they are defined by the blood of Christ, not their marital status. Whenever we feel that we don’t fit in, our response is typically to overcompensate for the real or perceived differences, which can be a very dangerous road. Single people need to know that they are not societal outliers that need to conform, a.k.a be married or in a relationship, in order to be considered part of a community, in this case the Church. The Church should celebrate our unity in Christ rather than emphasizing these differences that divide. Her fourth point is that the Church needs to recognize how much single people are lied to, inside and outside her walls. Our culture of self-indulgence and “freedom” tells single people that if they are not busily pursuing sexual intimacy, or constantly looking for a relationship, they are not living their best lives, and should adjust accordingly. Christian culture loves to tell us that “if we’re content enough, or if we stop looking for a spouse, then God will finally pull back the curtain to reveal the spouse he’s handcrafted for you. (Seriously, people say things like this.)” Both these perspectives are harmful, because one assumes that if we are not relentlessly pursuing fulfillment and intimacy then we are wasting our lives, and the other asserts something that is unbiblical, and uses contentment in God as a means to an end. Grisham says is best when she concludes “Offering suggestions about why God hasn’t given marriage is empty, but resting in him brings fullness and joy (Ps. 16:11).” Grisham’s fifth and final point is for married couples to not expect their single friends to get married. Almost every single person has a God-given desire for marriage. But sometimes, God chooses not to fulfill that desire, and married people should recognize that and not push their single friends toward marriage, or act like it will definitely happen. Married people can be a wonderful instrument of God’s love to the single person, and it isn’t an insurmountable undertaking, and following these pieces of advice will certainly help.
As for the second half of the question, we must keep in mind that Genesis 2:18 says “It is not good that man should be alone.” Writer for The Gospel Coalition Drew Hunter says this when commenting on Adam’s loneliness “While marriage was the immediate answer for Adam’s solitude, the story of Scripture shows friendship and the family of God are also his provision. Not everyone needs marriage, but everyone needs friendship. The single man is not to be a lonely man. Friendship is an often underappreciated necessity of life.” Singleness is not equivalent to loneliness, and the Bible even speaks of singleness as a gift. In 1 Cor. 7, and Matthew 19:11, singleness is described as “a gift for those to whom it is given.” Singleness is certainly a difficult road to walk, but those who are single can take courage and find rest in the fact that God loves them and knows their desires, and that we will be part of a heavenly marriage one day, single in this life or not, that will fulfill every longing of our hearts.