Monday, March 19, 2007

sexual ethic

In regards to homosexuality, various Christians disagree. At one poll we have those who believe that homosexuality is a sinful deviant choice made by some in our society. At the other poll are those who don't see any part of homosexuality as sinful or wrong. Moving toward the middle, some Christians believe that it is a sin to commit homosexual acts but not a sin to have homosexual attractions. And others who believe that homosexuality is not sinful so long as it is within a life-long monogamous relationship.

Largely the ethical divide centers around heterosexuality being acceptable according to scripture and homosexuality being unacceptable. The tension is found when thoughtful Christians wrestle between scripture and the testimonies of otherwise faithful Christians who practice a homosexual lifestyle. To add to the confusion are the testimonies of faithful Christians who feel as though they have been "freed" from the homosexual lifestyle and now live relatively normal heterosexual lives. A final ingredient is the ongoing discussion between psychology and genetics as to whether people are "born gay", have a "predisposition to homosexuality", are a product of a damaging familial environment, or a mixture of two or more of these factors. It's the old "nature vs. nurture" conundrum.

Politically, its an entirely different question altogether. Whether to allow same-sex marriages is influenced by your view of homosexuality, but it is not asking the same question. The political question is whether we are willing as a society to change the definition of marriage as we know it. And if we do change it, to what should we change it? If we allow "other" forms of marriage such as same-sex marriage, why not allow polygamy? Where do we draw the line and on what moral basis to we draw it. So while your view of the morality of homosexuality will influence your political view here, it is not necessarily true that if one is ok with homosexuality "morally" that they will be ok with changing the definition of marriage for our society. That's where the civil union option comes in.

There is a lot to take in when the discussion becomes so multi-dimentional. But I wonder what would happen if we shifted the primary ethical divide in the conversation. One of the problems with the main division of sexual ethics being "homosexual vs. heterosexual" is that it leaves out a driving theme in scripture. The danger here is that Christians who are heterosexual would feel free from the prophetic voice of scripture simply because they are not homosexual. And homosexuals would feel free from the prophetic voice of scripture simply because they are written off from the beginning of the conversation. The result would be the same in both cases: sexual immorality in the form of promiscuity.

What if, instead, the line in the sand was monogomy vs. polygamy/promiscuity? This seems to be an even harder command for our society to follow. Much harder than "don't be gay." A sexual ethic that demands monogamy demands the same of heterosexuals and homosexuals. It doesn't allow for scapegoats and it doesn't let anyone off the hook. Surely, elevating the conversation in a way that showed that Christians stand for monogomy rather than just heterosexuality, would be difficult. It may indeed have a more negative reaction in our culture than calling homosexually a sin.

Calling for monogomy in both the heterosexual and homosexual communities seems more radical and more prophetic than calling for the end of homosexuality. It forces each and every one of us to look into the mirror and see whether we have held up this sexual ethic. It seems to be what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:27-28)

By saying this Jesus drew the line in the sand in a different place than the Pharisees. They wanted to condemn the adulterer and praise the person who hadn't slept with another man's wife. Instead, Jesus wanted to reveal the adulterer that lurks beneath the surface in all of us. He isn't giving his blessing to adultery. Instead, he is simultaneously calling us to a higher standard of living and making us all aware of our need for God's mercy and grace.

I wonder what Jesus would say to us today. Maybe it would be something like this: "You have heard that it was said, 'the homosexual offender will not inherit the kingdom of God' (1 Cor. 6:9). But I tell you that anyone who has slept with his girlfriend, had a one-night stand, looked at porn, cheated on his wife, or lusted after a co-worker will not enter the Kingdom of God."

I don't want to take this issue lightly. I am a Christian who views "homosexual acts" as sinful while "homosexual attraction" as a by-product of nature and nurture. But I also don't want to draw the line in the sand at the wrong place. I am thinking more and more that I need to be a champion of God's love and grace. And maybe this looks like taking a stand for monogamy in all its forms rather than a stand against homosexuality.


At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - what a great post, Mark! I tend to be more of a reader than a "poster" of blogs, but this was really's something that the hubby and I discuss often, and I always felt like I was grasping for the words to make my argument...I feel like you said it brilliantly, so I can just point to you! =) Thanks, hope all is well - love reading your blog!
Sara (Newberry)

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Great to hear from you!

At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am a Christian who views "homosexual acts" as sinful while "homosexual attraction" as a by-product of nature and nurture. But I also don't want to draw the line in the sand at the wrong place. I am thinking more and more that I need to be a champion of God's love and grace. And maybe this looks like taking a stand for monogamy in all its forms rather than a stand against homosexuality.

Very well said. The last paragraph is a very insightful perspective; I agree completely.

Hubby (Sara's)

At 7:31 PM, Blogger ballofdirt said...

Wow, your interesting. So who gave you the right to change what God has laid out so clearly in scripture? I find no tension, only tension I feel is when I am against the will of God. So you have believed in the lie of satan that says "did God really mean that?" So now your a little god, go join the Mormons.
1 Timothy 1:9-11 (New American Standard Bible)

realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers
and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

I'm not going to sit here and list all the scripture that clearly says what the will of God is here - HE HATES IT !!!- it is not natural no matter what emergent twist you put on it. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you not Rob Bell.
You sound like a man that believes in soft theology, Jesus said we will be hated because of him.
If your going to preach, stick to scripture not man made theology. Your messing with peoples salvation telling lies like this. God has clearly drawn the line in the sand and you and I are not allowed to MOVE IT. True conversion is what God seeks. We all should be striving for that, not blurring the lines or moving them to create a new God that is not offensive to anyone. Just so we can have a conversation. Lets study God's word and seek Him, why do you think 2000 years of church history can changed by you and Rod, and Brain and .............?
What is the theme you speak of? LOve LOve LOve, Ya God is perfect love, a refining love. Not a pampering love.
Tell me what you were saved from and to. Once you truly understand that, you can not speak of God this way.
Please I ask you seek God not man, your salvation and other you talk to could be lacking. Thats not good, you either got it or you don't. Jesus said Matt 7:13-23

13Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
14"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

17"So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

18"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

19"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20"So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

22"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'

23"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Hey ballofdirt,
Thanks for posting. Maybe try to be less hostile next time, but I appreciate you taking so much time to type such a long comment.

Its good to know someone finds me interesting. I catch a lot of people dozing off during my sermons and catching up on their much needed sleep. So its good to know at least one other person on this planet finds me interesting.

From your post you seem like you are a fellow brother in Christ. But you also seemed a bit angry. I appologize if some of my ramblings on this blog offended you in some way. Its not my intention.

It also sounds like you are worried that when I preach I might lead some people astray. I pray that that is not the case. As I preach from scripture, my hope is that more and more will come to know the truth and grace found in Jesus Christ, your savior and mine.

You asked an interesting question. What am I saved from and what am I saved to? Great question my friend. I will do my best to answer it.

I believe that scripture tells me that I am saved from a life of bondage to sin. I am saved from my old life. I am saved from living a life of anger, hate, discord, lust, impatience, and selfishness. I have been made new by the blood of Christ. In Him, I have new life. I am a new creation.

I am saved to eternal life. I am saved to live life the way God always meant life to be lived. I am saved to a life of peace, love, truth, vulnerability, transparency, healing, and righteousness. I am saved to a life that doesn't end with death, but goes on to eternity with God.

I am saved from a life of division among Christian brothers. I am saved to a life where Christians can love each other, even when we are wrong. I am saved to a life where my love for you is more important than "defending my position." I am saved to a life where we can disagree and still see the best in each other. I am saved to a life where I can pray for your marriage tonight, and you can pray for mine. I am saved to a life that treats "younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters." (1 Tim.5)

I am saved to a life that is called to "be completely humble and gentle" and to "be patient, bearing with one another in love." I am saved to a life that makes "every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Eph.4)

I would love to talk with you more over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Or maybe you can come over my house and my wife can cook us dinner. She is good at baking.

And anytime you would like to hear me preach, so that you can be sure that I am not leading people astray, you are more than welcome. In fact, that would be awesome. I am preaching at my church for the next three weeks. Please come. We meet at the AMC Theater in Towson, Maryland at the Towson Commons at 11am on Sunday mornings. See you there!

At 6:38 PM, Blogger ballofdirt said...

I am passionate about what Jesus has done for us, not angry. You said some of the right things, however you didn't talk about your stand on homosexuals. I want to know what scripture you are using to justify your statements.

None of the things you mentioned regarding what you and I are saved from are going to throw us in hell. Try again Pastor, what are you saved from?

Let's role play - If I was a new comer how would you share the gospel with me? Oh ya I don't have time for you to build relationship with me I'm dying in days?

Do you have a Cross displayed in the front of your sanctuary?

Please continue the "conversation".

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Rather than role play, lets have a real relationship. I know you have heard some pretty bad things about the "emergent church". Most of which is probably not true.

One thing the emergent church is really passionate about doing is loving Jesus and loving people. This means we try to be as "authentic" as possible. Rather than pretending you are a newcomer, I would rather that you actually come and be a part of our community.

Rather than role playing, I would rather sit down with you over coffee and tell you what I believe the word of God says.

If you don't have time for me, I understand. I am a busy person as well. But dialogs over an electronic medium are often not productive. There is too much room for miscommunication.

So unless you want to meet up one on one, or unless you want to come and visit our church, I cannot help you with your questions. I am not skilled enough at writing to be clear, loving, and communicate effectively.

If this does not satisfy you I am sorry. I wish I had more to offer. But until then, I wish you well my friend. I pray that your love for people will grow as you grow in your love for Christ.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger ballofdirt said...

Would love to meet with you. Say when and where.

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Sorry it has taken a while for me to respond. I have been working on a sermon for this weekend and doing lots of yard work in the backyard.

I also heard from Sarah DeFontes about who you are in relation to her and her husband. I have been praying about getting together with you. Specifically praying about when, how and why. After hearing about some hurtful comments on Sarah's blog, I think it is best that you speak to them rather than to me.

If they are who introduced you to our church, my blog and the emergent church in general and if you know them already, then I think it's best you work through your questions with them.

I say this with some hesitation however, knowing how much your comments on Sarah's blog have already been so hurtful. If you do choose to continue a conversation with them, I would ask you to please have more respect for them then you have shown here on my blog site.

While you say you are passionate about Jesus, the manner in which you have conducted yourself here is evidence to the contrary. I truly expect more from a man who claims to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Your angry tone, arrogant assumptions, and disrespectful responses are proof enough to me that you are less concerned with examining truth and more concerned about slinging false accusations and crying heresy.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God." (Matt.5:9) My hope for you is that you would begin to find the blessing that comes with making peace with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than making war with them.

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully, I have not misunderstood you. If I have, I apologize in advance. I have a hard time with blogs for this reason - it is really easy to misinterpret what is being said.

You seemed to be saying that the dividing line in scriptures is that heterosexuality is acceptable, while homosexuality is not. I would have to disagree. The way I see it is the dividing line is sexual purity in all regards, which is where I believe the line in the sand needs to be. You would never encourage someone with a predisposition towards alchoholism to take a drink, or someone with a predisposition towards pornography to buy Playboy. I guess this is how I view homosexuality. I have no doubt that some have a predisposition towards it - for a variety of reasons, but we do not tell them it's okay as long as they remain in a monogomous relationship. Not because I view homosexuality any differently than any other sin, but because it is sin, and sin is deadly.

I have a friend who was telling me that she had a friend who confided in her that she was thinking about having an affair. (Confusing, I know) My friend is not a Christian and had herself almost destroyed her marriage with an affair - she had just a week prior to this conversation told me how difficult and painful this time in her life was. I responded to her by saying, "You need to stop her." She told me that she didn't want to judge her. I needed to ponder this and ask myself, "Was I judging her?" The conclusion I came to was no. She is judged already. I was loving her by wanting her to avoid the pain and destruction that an affair would cause. My point is that sometimes the world looks at our love as judgement. I will be the first to admit that many, many horrible things have been done in the name of Christ. Perhaps this is why Christianity has gotten such a bad reputation. But mostly I believe that it is as Psalm 2 "Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'" We live in a fallen world and people want to be their own God.

I do not believe you can be a faithful Christian and a practicing homosexual any more than you can be a faithful Christian and a liar.

I agree that the political question re: same sex marriage is different and we need to approach it from more than just a moral standpoint.

However, the line needs to be drawn at sexual purity - in all regards. This is an impossible task, as are all of God's commands, and we are unable to do this on our own. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit - if we are a new creation, God will begin working all of this out in us. We tend to put our own levels on sin - making some sins worse than others (which is I think what you were saying towards the end), but in reality sin is sin and if we are drawing a line in the sand, it must be where God draws it, not where we think it should be - that's relativism. In our post-modern culture and in our heart-felt desire to reach it, this can be a great temptation. Romans 12:1-2 should be our goal.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with what you said. My attempt in this post was to draw the line where Jesus would. And I think sexual purity is that line.

You and I agree that homosexual lifestyle is sin. But I was trying to get at a new way of approaching the subject. I was trying to get away from the paradigm of "heterosexuality is fine" and "homosexuality is bad." I was trying to move the conversation to one of monogamy and sexual purity. I think you stated this well in your comment.

You also said:
" I do not believe you can be a faithful Christian and a practicing homosexual any more than you can be a faithful Christian and a liar."

I believe you can be a struggling Christian and a praticing homosexual just like I believe there are thousands of men involved with pornography and are attempting to be faithful Christians.

And I do believe monogamous homosexual relationships are less damaging than promiscuous ones. The same is true in heterosexuality.

That doesn't excuse homosexual behavior. But it does help me gain perspective and have a healthy dialog with someone who is a Christian and lives a homosexual lifestyle.

I appreciate your response. Thanks for taking the time to engage with me on this issue. Its helpful for me if, next time with your comment, you leave a name rather than just "anonymous". Thanks.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger ecclesia said...

As you know, I've been following this particular post rather closely. In the process, I've come to really think about it, and I wanted to add to the mix of thought. A couple Scriptures come to mind, as I'm sure you are well aware of them. I'm sorry if this becomes lengthy, and you may decide we should sit a talk about this some time, but I'm going to at least put it out there.

First I see 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. I'm going to start with vs 18 as that is the meat of it. "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body." To me, that refers to any form of sexual immorality, including homosexuality. I think you do agree there based on what I've read thus far.

Now I'm going to back up a little to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers 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 justifed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God." Now, to me that is saying that once receive that grace or accept salvation or we are a new creation, however you want to word it, these things should no longer be. If we continue to live a lifestyle that we know is sin, how can we be an effecive witness? Maybe we can witness love, but how do we witness the rest of it. Wouldn't God's mercy in a situation like that be mercy and forgiveness in that which is past, but we move forward into a lifestyle of right living? I hope that made sense. Let me clarify with another Scripture. John 8:1-11. This is where Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and the Phariees brought Jesus a women caught in adultery. They wanted to throw stones at her. Here's the thing, they weren't fit to cast the stone because they weren't living the gospel. They didn't believe Jesus was who He said he was. So, they didn't have a right to condemn. Now, Jesus didn't condemn her either, however following that he said, "Go now and leave your life of sin." There was still that command of I don't condemn you, but you still have to leave that lifestyle you were living.

Now I want to go to one more piece of Scripture. These are some harsh words to take in, but in some way, it makes sense. It's 1 Corinthians 5. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among the pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship that man who did this? Even though I am not physcially present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgement on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord...I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral...In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral...With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church (I take to mean the Saints, the believers)? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you.

Now, here's my thought. I've pondered this Scripture for a while as I've been dealing with a friend who commited adultery not too long ago. By the way, I'm not "Anonymous." I know that person spoke of adultery too. Anyways, I've been praying for so long as to how to handle her. For the 6 years that I've known her, she has claimed to be a believer. Now, the fruits of that haven't been very apparent over the years. So, it's hard to say either way. I have decided to keep my distance from her. We talk on occasion, but I"m always honest about how I feel. I think many people have distanced her because of this. In the process, I know she is lonely, and just might be on the verge of coming around. You see, she is living with the guy she cheated on her husband with.

I think Scriptures are clear that we treat a brother different from an unbeliever. To me, this is giving us, the Saints, the ability to judge. Does that give us the right to finger point all day long? No. But sexual immorality is black and white. Now, what if a believer is struggling with this, but knows they are wrong. Well, they have to reach a point where they make a decision. Do they stop doing it or not? I believe after some time, if that person does not give way to Scripture, again, the church has every right to judge.

Okay, so how do we tell the difference between a believe and a non-believer? That's a good question. Here's my thought. If someone says they are a believer, we initially take them at their word. But then we watch the fruits of that. If we don't see the fruits, then maybe we have to confront. If we confront, and that person still wants to live and sin, then maybe we do exactly what Paul did in the Corinthians. We have that right. Now, when I speak of sinning, I speak of those sins mentioned in the text I gave. Some things in Scripture are rather gray. Perhaps we should hold onto the black and white and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us through what is gray, what is not obvious. Does that make any sense? I could probably find more Scripture all over the place on this particular topic, but I've already written a book.

You and I were talking last week about Horizon and how you see a true Galatians church, but you would also like to see some more of Corinthians too. I think that's what you said. That would be a good balance. Perhaps there are times we do have to stand firm on things that are uncomfortable to stand on. Perhaps, some might walk away, but isn't that what they did in Jesus' time. I've been doing a lot of study in the book of John and that book has some hard teaching. At the end of John 6, people walked and Jesus was okay with that. He asks Peter if he's going to walk too? And Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life..."

Does that sound harsh? I don't mean to sound harsh, however I think sometimes as Christians we have to take an uncomfortable stand. Somehow my stubborn head is trying to learn and comprehend this. Does that mean we are to be nasty? I'm not saying that at all. Perhaps the word I am looking for is "firm."

Now, I know some Christians out there are struggling through homosexuality and other types of sexual immorality. If you heart is truly after God and your motivation and desire is to do the right thing, and you are making an honest effort in your life to make changes and pray and read Scripture and you come to find truth, then you're headed the right direction. But my thought is, if you feel that you are Christian and what you are doing is okay, then maybe Scripture needs to be looked at again.

I heard a teaching online a few days ago about True vs. False Conversion. One thing made sense. When we truly know Christ, we "fall into sin," whereas maybe a sign of false conversion is we "dive into sin." Still pondering that one. Let me know your thoughts. Not sure where I stand on that, but there's a part of that that makes sense. My dad always tells me, "If you are worried about it, then you are probably okay." Question is, are we aware of our sins and do we want to turn it around?" Most times if not all of the time, I know when I sin. Even if it's brought to my attention by someone else, I generally ponder it and realize it. I don't know. Sorry to ramble, I was just intrigued by this whole discussion and it really had me thinking, so I had to contribute.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I like what you say here. I agree with the need to be loving but firm, truth in love. For more of my thoughts on this see my blog post entitled "Q-Tip."

As for the rest, I would love to keep this conversation going in person. Thanks for your thoughts.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger tali said...


have i mentioned lately how proud i am of you?

i'm sure that sounds pompous, but i really am.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. It is wonderful to bounce this around with others.

Sorry to post under "anonymous" again, but I cannot remember my password! :-) ecclesia knows who I am and can let you know.

"I do not believe that you can be a faithful Christian and a homosexual any more than you can be a faithful Christian and a liar." I wanted to explain....Where we disagree is in wording. I agree that Christians struggle with sin. I liked the way you worded it in your response better - "struggling Christians". For when I knowingly and willingly sin, I am not being faithful. However, we are not perfected in our actions overnight and we may be in sin and not aware that we are in sin, but as Christ reveals this, it is our responsibility to be obedient - this is faithfulness. Does that make sense?

Eccliesia worded it beautifully and I agree with her. There are things in scripture that are black and white - upon those things we must stand firm. There are things that are "gray" areas. In these areas we offer grace and allow the Holy Spirit to convict. I love your church's views on leadership - that as we lead others to Christ and Christ-likeness, we are leaders. This is the goal ultimately isn't it?


Post a Comment

<< Home