The South African social media is currently buzzing with comments about the planned visit by an American homophobic ‘pastor’.
By the time you read this article he might already have been banned from entering the nation because of his reported hate speech, but whether he comes or not, the issues he is stirring up still need to be addressed.
I do not have the stomach to spend hours listening to the man’s pronouncements, but the statement of faith of the church he leads gives me enough information to go on for the purposes of this post. Their doctrinal statement consists of 11 clauses, but only two are statements of orthodox Christian belief; the other nine concern fringe rather than fundamental issues. For instance, that the King James Bible is ‘the Word of God without error’, and that ‘life begins at conception’. Three of the clauses are rejections rather than affirmations and one of them reads ‘We believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty. [See HERE for the full statement]
The book of Revelation (22:15) contains a statement of those excluded from the fellowship of heaven and its earthly shadow, the church. It reads,
‘Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying’.HCSB
So first off, if we consider ‘exclusions’ then we should not treat sexual immorality differently from the other items in the list. Those who love to lie, for instance, would include a horrendous number of politicians, salesmen, and others. In my opinion, homosexuality would certainly be included in the ‘sexual immorality’ category, but then so would fornication and adultery… oops, there goes another huge percentage of the population.
A second consideration worth thinking about is the supposed duty of Christians to pass judgement on non-Christians and their behaviour. This is just plain wrong thinking because Paul writes very explicitly; ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside’ (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). When it comes to those who profess to be Christians and who seek church fellowship then we certainly have an obligation to correct, counsel, admonish, and even exclude – if all else fails. Paul deals with this in an equally forthright manner:
‘’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, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
Of course, for me, the model for our attitude towards the perceived sins of others is… Jesus. His attitude towards sexual immorality, in particular, is captured in His interaction with the woman caught in the act of adultery. His final words to her were,
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10-11).
He neither condemned nor condoned, but instead He saved… and that says it all. In fact, Jesus seems to have reserved His condemnation exclusively for the Pharisees who regarded themselves as the pious servants of God yet were filled with religious hate… men much like the American ‘pastor’ who triggered this article.
Just in case I am misunderstood or misquoted, let me place on record my attitude towards homosexuality:
- I do not regard homosexuality (and that includes lesbianism) as a natural, normal, or biblically supportable practice.
- However, I do not regard it as worthy of being singled out and raised into a category of misconduct more detrimental than other practices such as drunkenness, lying, cheating, fraud, bullying, spousal violence, rape in any guise, and so on.
- I think that people who, for whatever reason, feel strongly drawn to any of these destructive behaviours, but refuse to practice them and seek to overcome their urges, are commendable and should receive my love and support.
- I do not think that I have any business judging those who are not members of the Christian church, but should rather treat all people with respect and dignity.
- However, I resist the calls by secular society to regard homosexuality as a natural and normal alternative lifestyle.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand how anyone who is born again of the Spirit of God into a life of following Jesus can be either homophobic or hate-filled, any more than a disciple of Jesus can be anti-Semitic – it seems such an impossible contradiction.