Honest Questions

In my “real” life I’m a bit of a, well, a huge geek.  The kind of geek who, as a young child, was caught with a novel tucked inside of her study book in class.  The kind of geek who totally understands things like LARP and Cosplay.  The kind of geek who not only attends Renaissance Fairs, but does so dressed as a fairy queen, complete with hand-beaded wings.  (There is photographic evidence of this, but don’t even think of asking.)  I say all of this so that when I use an example from a cult favorite novel of ultimate geek cred in the next paragraph, you all know that this isn’t the least bit out of character.  And I really would have to stretch myself to think of a better example.

Enter the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a truly genious work not only of science fiction theatre, but as a commentary on the human condition.  There is a passage that describes the creation of the Ultimate Computer- The Computer that is made to answer the great question of life, the universe, and everything.  Crowds gather anxiously to hear the summing up of everything they want to know.  And the computer answers, “42.”  The crowd is aghast.  42?  What kind of answer is that?  The computer, Deep Thought, responds, “now that you know the answer, you need to discover the true question.”  What is the great question of life, the universe, and everything?

This passage came back to me a few days ago, when I was contemplating a question that I contemplate often.  This is the question:  When is it ever reasonable to kick someone out of church because of a sin they aren’t leaving behind?  See, every time something like homosexuality is brought up and I lay out my fundamental argument in support of embracing gay people, this other question is inevitably thrown back at me.

I say, “if being gay is really a sinful thing (a postulation I have deep issues with in the first place) and a gay person is embraced, discipled, and seeks after God’s hearts- it is unnecessary for us to offer conviction of their sin- God will do it himself.”

People respond, “but at what point is it reasonable to expect someone to cease to be gay?  What if it never happens?”

I think that, like in the case of the answer of “42”, is not answerable as such.  It’s not the right question, and thus any answer I give won’t be the right answer.  What people are really asking is, “when is it okay for me to not like their being gay?  To bring it up?  To make them stop?  To kick them out if they won’t?”  And if that isn’t what they are asking, then what they are probably asking is, “what if they never cease being gay and I have to confront my own preconceptions and face the fact that maybe I don’t have faith that God would convict them or that it is even necessarily sin?”

These are huge questions to grapple with.  Ultimately earth-shattering questions.  And it’s no wonder that instead of asking the questions that their subconscious narrative is screaming, people instead content themselves with asking a question that demands a more succinct answer.  The only problem is that I, like Deep Thought, can’t answer the question they are asking.  I have to answer the question they aren’t, the question they have yet to realize.  Instead of saying, “five years seems like enough, or maybe ten,” I have to respond more honestly, “what happens if they change in all ways aside from being gay?  Would you ever be able to accept their faith as genuine if they are still a homosexual?”

The answers to those questions can be heartbreaking.

But yet, they are important questions to ask.

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20 thoughts on “Honest Questions

  1. Ahhh this is such an issue. I totally sympathize with your struggle. When I became a follower of Jesus Christ many of my good friends are gay. So many encouraged me to confront and cut ties with them. I didn’t think this was the answer surely God loves them too :/ So I went to the Bible to really find out what he was seeking to show me. What I decided was yes it is wrong just as divorce, lying, murder, stealing all wrong. We ALL sin. I am no better so who am I to judge. I personally don’t agree with it but I still am called to love and accept and bring Jesus Christ into their presence. It is HIS job to reach them, to save them and to convict them. When they ask me what I think I tell them honestly, but they know I love them and it is said in love. ❤ Look at Jesus when the Pharasees brought that woman who commited adultery (John 8) look how he delt with that situation. Look how gentle he was. He did say "sin no more" but we are not called to be the Holy Spirt and convict. Anyways I feel passionately about this as well 🙂 Good luck on your quest for truth!

    • Thank you! It can be such a headache to deal with these kinds of issues- but I think that God loves all humanity, even the gay ones, so as a Christian we have an obligation to act out of love as well. I just don’t think it’s very loving to tell people that they are only welcome if they want to stop being gay. It seems so backwards to me!

  2. Hi there,

    If you’re not convinced that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1) then the answer to the question, “When is it ever reasonable to kick someone out of church because of a sin they aren’t leaving behind?” for you is never.

    If, however, you are convinced that homosexuality is a sin then the answer to the question is after due process has been taken according Scripture (Matthew 18).

    Church discipline is an act of grace. It has as much to do with reconciliation as it has to do with alienation.

    In Christ,

    Mark

    • Thank you for your comment. Romans Chapter One does not sufficiently convince me that simply having a homosexual orientation is a sin. Romans was written for a particular people facing particular problems, and the description of people’s falling into idolatry and hardening their hearts towards God was about a specific group of people in a specific cultural context that made a particular choice- I refuse to apply that broadly over all homosexuals- especially since I know from heartfelt testimony that not every single gay person came by their orientation after turning away from God. I’ve known far more people who became convinced that God had already disowned them because they weren’t “healed” of their orientation.

      Something is missing from this discussion. I can’t always put my finger on what, but something is missing, and Romans One certainly doesn’t encapsulate the whole of homosexual experience.

      I wouldn’t say the answer for me is “never”, I would say that the answer for me is never turn someone away if they are sincerely seeking God and their life shows good fruit. Sometimes this happens even while they are still gay, so why turn them away because of it?

      • 🙂 What Scripture wasn’t written to particular people at a particular time?

        I said, “If you’re not convinced that homosexuality is a sin” (which clearly you’re not) not, “homosexual orientation”. Even I’m not so silly as to think that sexuality is that simple.

        My understanding of church discipline is that a sin, known public, is confronted, first by one, then by two or three and finally by the church. Lastly, if a person still refuses to repent from the sin they are “put out”. It’s not about how well they’re singing in the choir or how often they’re teaching in Sunday School, it’s not even about whether they’re well liked or nice, it’s about them having been confronted with the Word of God and still refusing to turn from sin.

        Am I missing the boat here?

        In Christ,

        Mark

  3. Lindsey, Reading your words… the questions, the answers, the discussions fills me with HOPE!
    Unlike the words shared by “Mark” (who like my ex-husband believes that he has THE answers to the matters of sin and a fallen without Christ humanity) your honest conversations resonate within _this_ born again, Holy Spirit filled Christian woman–who has been married to another woman for a decade.
    If we do not have hope what do we have? And if we do not have love… we are just a lot of noise. Thank you for whispering hope and love above the din!

  4. Mark I understand you point. But personally I would rather have them coming to church in God’s presence where he is able to convict them and speak to them then to shun them. Same for any sin…. What about a man that is guilty and addicted to pornography? Or a teen being convicted of stealing? They are ALL sins. I agree that having them in the position of power or influence in the church mebbe not so good but why keep them from the presence of the Lord? Not sure I could be wrong as I am no biblical scholar I just love the Lord and love bring people to Him 🙂 I do understand you point and I know there is specific things in the New Testament that talk about making ppl leave the church… so I guess its a matter of opinion. ❤ Sarvent

    • Hi there,

      I kinda wasn’t aiming to make a point about homosexuality although it might have been an innocent bystander in a drive by shooting. I was attracted to the issue of church discipline. The question, “When is it ever reasonable to kick someone out of church because of a sin they aren’t leaving behind?”

      um, I have views on homosexuality as well, I just don’t want to get into a cat fight ;).

      In Christ,

      Mark

      • hehe 🙂 well I didn’t mean to put you defensive! I just seeking to see more your point! sorry!

  5. @Mark Penrith:

    While your supposition is certainly based in scripture, it still makes me uncomfortable. I tend to err on the side of grace. When the behavior is something that is clearly harmful to the body (such as an abusive person, a gossip, or a fearmonger) I can see the logic in the 1,2,3 approach. But for such things as one’s orientation that are not necessarily harmful, I get uncomfortable with the idea of casting someone out. Why? Because I know of a gay man who was married to a woman and living a heterosexual lifestyle for over ten years before his sexuality was no longer a struggle. He certainly was not weak-willed, did not lack faith in or commitment to God, and was sincerely seeking out his salvation. For a church to reject him based off of his sexuality in the face of his sincere regard for God may have hampered his salvation.

    So I find it hard to believe that there is any cut and dried rule to at what point one ought to simply say “enough is enough”. If someone truly loves God, is ardently pursuing salvation, has a life that bears good fruit- let it go.

    If, on the other hand, their life bears bad fruit (such as gossiping or bullying) and is a hindrance to the brotherhood, well, that’s another issue entirely.

    (And I do realize that arguments can be made against embracing couples who are actively engaged in homosexual relationships, but… well, that’s a little different than an orientation alone and can bear a greater argument from scripture.)

    I’ll honor your request to not make this a discussion solely about orientation- your greater thesis has merit. There should be a doctrine of discipleship and discipline- and that means drawing lines. But… where? That’s what I struggle with. As I said, I seem to err on the side of grace, and perhaps that’s my Achille’s heel.

  6. Oh, all of this stuff gives me a headache.

    But I was just wondering when we get to kick the guy in the pew next to me who thinks his neighbor’s wife is kind of attractive out too? 🙂

    Do we question him every week? How many warnings should he get?

    No, that would be way too complicated. It’s far easier to stick with the usual protocol and not worry about. (Double Standard, anyone?)

    I find the way many conservative Christians treat and refer to persons like myself VERY offensive. They tend to overlook the fact that I’m a living, breathing, feeling human being. Empathy!!! That would be very helpful. Wouldn’t it?

    • Oh, it gives me a headache too. After a recent conversation about this stuff with family I was sorely tempted to go stick my head in a rain barrel for a while. But I tried to suck it up and get them to see the hypocrisy. How is it okay to be asking when it’s alright to kick out one church member, while blindly ignoring the other church member using the prayer tree as a God-affirmed way to gossip and backstab?

      It’s got to stop. Either show compassion and sympathy always, or truly treat all sin as sin. I err with compassion always.

      Hence I’m still here, in my corner of the internet, banging on the pipes.

  7. I find it interesting that a church and its people feel like they can kick a sinner out of the church. Isn’t it the sinner who needs to be there? As a Catholic, we only kick out the truly crazy like that one guy who actually believed the earth went around the sun. Ok, bad example. But since we don’t know what is written on men’s hearts and what are the thoughts of God, how can we take the step to kick someone out of a community?

    • Hi Faemom,

      It’s weird, but before I studied the Scripture on this issue my response was exactly the same as yours: “What right do we have to sit in judgement.”

      Truth is though that it’s part of a right response to sin (go read Matthew 18 with focus on verse 15 – 17 and Galatians 6 with focus on verse 1 – 3 and 1 Corinthians 5 focusing on verse 11 – 13).

      Seems that God, in His wisdom, chose this as a means of grace to expose, rebuke, correct and restore people that have strayed from the path.

      do the Scriptures make sense?

    • The Bible does allow for it, but only in areas where someone is disrupting the body.
      I flee from these things though, because it so quickly turns into legalism and contradicts Christ’s sacrifice. I would say more in a comment, but my thoughts are turning into more blog posts… so stay tuned! It’ll be an interesting week on the blog, I think!

      (Hopefully my readership will forgive me for stepping back from my pet issues and talking about greater doctrine. I want to *push* myself.)

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