How many of you enjoy roller coasters? You never are quite sure after you are buckled in which direction you will be going, upwards or downwards, slow or fast, the sudden drops met with the epic gravity fighting upward slope. Little did I know that when I walked into the Intentional Church Conference, I would be strapping myself into a figurative roller coaster. People had driven in from all over the state of IL to Decatur to hear the speaker take on one of the most controversial, engaging, and polarizing issues facing the church. Christopher Yuan took to the podium and for the first hour he didn’t talk about statistics, trends, state’s rights versus federal decree, instead he just told his story. It was a story twists and turns—a story that starts off pretty smooth. Christopher’s life seemed to pretty much be on autopilot; he had breezed through college and was about a month away from finishing up dental school where he looked forward to stepping to the shoes of his father who had a thriving dental practice. Yet, underneath the smooth surface, were the twists and turns that leave your stomach in knots, Twist– he was running a little business on the side, actually a pretty big business, selling drugs out of his apartment, nearly a ton of marijuana, and he had an even bigger secret. Turn- Despite his conservative appearance by day, by night he spent the vast majority of his time in the gay-bars, hooking up with one guy after another. Homosexuality for Christopher Yuan wasn’t just another topic, wasn’t just a seminar topic, it was his life.
No doubt this is a delicate issue, for many a personal issue. We all probably have friends or family that have been touched by the topic, I know I do. Yet, even more broadly, this is an issue that has morphed: homosexuality has been declassified by many as a sin, unlisted as a problem to be treated, politicized and debated, swaying on opinion polls rather than God’s moral authority. Not surprisingly, the most pervasive question in a national survey of nonbelievers was simple: Why do you Christians condemn homosexuals?
We have been in an intensely practical sermon series called “DON’T ASK ME THAT,” wrestling through the questions we are oftentimes scared to be confronted with, that drive us to keep our mouths shut such as: Does God Exist, Can We Trust the Bible, Is Jesus Really God, and Why Church? Our focus was to be equipped to engage the lost around us and not just blend in with the lost around us. Yet, homosexuality as a topic can feel like the ultimate roller-coaster, hearing one thing in church and feeling contorted the moment you walk out, told tolerance is the trump card and biblical truth strikes close to home for those whose identity are rooted in their sexuality. Twists and turns. So today, I’m not going to waste your time with my opinion, but allow us to be rooted in the omnipotent words of God and the example of Christ. We need to start by re-framing the conversation, remembering what we are truly talking about…
Not About Condemnation but Concern—Check out John 4:6b-9, where Jesus is on his way to Galilee, traveling through Samaria. Jesus has what appears to be a chance encounter Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, The very fact that Jesus speaks in this context is revolutionary–it is obvious that only an outcast would dare draw water from a well at Noon, in the blazing heat unless they were feeling the heat of a different kind. The heat of rejection, scandal, and scorn. The scarlet letter burning through the fabric right into the flesh. “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)She knows that Jesus has crossed every line in the sand–Jew vs. Samaritan, man vs. woman, righteous teacher vs. home wrecking outcast that everyone else seemingly hoped would evaporate in the sun. What does Jesus do? He engages even when he doesn’t agree, he engages rather than flees, as a reminder to us of his overarching mission for his incarnation –(Luke 19:10) The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” He acknowledges in fostering a relationship what C.S. Lewis later penned:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Being truthful about sin doesn’t make us bigoted, half-wits, but is the natural out-flowing of legitimate concern. Medical doctor John R. Diggs explained some of the results of homosexuality: “Sexual relationships between members of the same sex expose gays, lesbians and bisexuals to extreme risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), physical injuries, mental disorders and even a shortened life span.” Literally this lifestyle is killing those who are loved by God. We rarely like to acknowledge sin. Ladies if you are married, you know that a lot of the time you husbands don’t even like to acknowledge when they are sick. We get stubborn. Yet it is acknowledging truth that a cure can be found. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declared to the church in Corinth: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexual immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. Grace is found when we acknowledge sin and accept Christ. Not condemnation but mutual concern.
Christopher told everyone around him that his life was fine, that is lifestyle was working, that is until his life came crashing down around him like a highway traffic accident. With an apartment full of drugs, the DEA burst in like it was some kind of Jason Bourne movie. In the aftermath, as everything he had worked for fell away in the blink of an eye: dental school was gone, taking over for his dad’s dental practice was gone, a life of respectability was gone, his friends, sexual partners, everyone was gone; except for one person. His mother had been trying to reach out to him with the Gospel, she had been praying fervently for him, she had been rejected by him, but finally when his world crumbled, she got a phone call. This could have been her big, “I told you so” moment. Yet, led in prayer, she realized this was her chance to show concern for his eternal future rather than condemn him for messing up his employment future.
There is no doubt that some attack homosexuals–Westboro Baptist and others. Yet, instead of trying to wound those whose world looks so much different than ours, those whose ideas are so far apart from ours, remember Paul’s most hopeful words come through what the people of Corinth “were,” “used to be,” that loving concern can produce transformation rather than empty acceptance.