SUNDAY: Bible Study - 9:00 AM | Worship - 10:00 AM | PM Worship - 6:00 PM | WEDNESDAY: Bible Class - 7:30 PM | 8110 Signal Hill Road Manassas, Virginia | 703.368.2622
When It Happens…
We have a sister congregation somewhere west of the Mississippi that is, in many ways like us. They are slightly smaller than we are, about as diverse. They have been around about as long as we have. They take the Bible just as seriously as we do. They have a similar “feel” – they feel like a family. At this congregation, men and women who are gay feel secure to come and ask for the prayers and support of the congregation to help them lead obedient lives.
This has never happened here.
In my 25 years at Manassas folks have come forward to confess just about everything, and ask for prayers. We have always loved and supported each other through challenges and temptations. But no gay man or lesbian woman has ever come asking for our prayers and support. Why? Is it because none of our members have ever been gay? We know this isn’t true. Is it because gay members assume they will not receive the support and prayers 0f the congregation in their struggle – at least not from everyone? Yes, I believe that is exactly the reason.
Is this assumption correct? I hope not. Christians speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15), with gentleness and reverence (I Peter 3.15), and willingly bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6.2).
Let me be clear, because the Bible is clear. It is wrong for one person to have sex with a person of the same gender (Leviticus 18.22, 20.13; Romans 1.27, I Corinthians 6.9, I Timothy 1.10). But scripture does not teach that we should be hateful about this. As a teen, in Sunday school, I was taught that “homosexuals are an abomination,” that “all gay men have the potential to act like the men of Sodom”, and that “being gay is as bad as committing bestiality or murdering your parents.” I have heard similar things spoken here over the years – sometimes in Bible class. These statements are wrong. They contradict what we know from life. They contradict what we know from the Bible. They certainly discourage any gay man or lesbian woman from asking for our prayers.
The verses mentioned above are often used as evidence that derision for homosexuals is God-sanctioned. Yet when one reads those passages, one finds that the same lists include the covetous (I Corinthians 6.10), liars (I Timothy 1.10), heterosexual adulterers (Leviticus 18.22, 20.10), and sinners in general (I Timothy 1.9). No one ever taught us that coveting was equivalent to bestiality or murdering one’s parents. The men of Sodom were rapists. Many certainly had wives and families. Almost all men who rape other men or molest boys identify as straight. It is Biblically, and factually wrong to associate the men of Sodom with all gay men.
The list in I Corinthians 6.9-11 is important because it says gay men have become Christians. And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (verse 11). Paul reached gay men at Corinth with the Gospel of Jesus. Was this evangelistic success accomplished by derision and hatefulness or with friendship and respect? We know the answer to that question.
Whenever it happens that a brother or sister comes and says, “I am gay, and I want to lead an obedient life. I need the prayers and support of my church family to face this challenge,” we will surround this person with love, prayers, and encouragement. If we don’t, we will be the sinners.
Back in 1968 when Andy Warhol made his comment to photographer Nat Finkelstein about everyone enjoying 15 minutes of fame, he seemed prescient, and the notion entered the cultural water-supply. I would argue that Warhol's prediction is only partially fulfilled. Some people do enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. I offer Clara Peller, William Hung, and Michael Edwards as exhibits A, B, and C. The greater cultural phenomenon is that some folks take 15 minute's-worth of interesting content and parlay that into long careers and massive fortunes. I offer the names Hilton, Kardashian, and Lohan as exhibits C, D, and E.
Those who take a teaspoon full of talent and manufacture a fortune and a career usually do so by combining physical attractiveness and shamelessness. Our culture is obsessed with "reality" — with famous people baring their lives and their bodies for public inspection. Of course, nothing could be less real than "reality" entertainment. The camera changes everything it captures, and everyone in front of a camera strikes a pose.
A century ago our culture had the same appetite for celebrity, but most of those celebrities were guarded about their personal lives. No celebrity couple has been as popular and well-known than the Lindbergh's were in the 192o'3 and 30's. Charles was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Anne was a Senator's daughter who was a pioneering aviatrix herself, helping her husband set records and explore air-routes. If these accomplishments were not enough to ensure their celebrity, their firstborn son was notoriously kidnapped and murdered in 1932. Through it all, both Lindberghs were fiercely private.
In a 1931 flight, Charles and Anne proved that the quickest air-route to Asia was across the Arctic Circle. In 1932 their son was kidnapped and murdered. In 1934 Anne wrote about their 1931 flight in a book titled North to the Orient.* In North to the Orient she does not mention any of the details of that hellish year, 1932 — but she does mention her son. After taking off from New York they flew over Long Island, and she could see "the harbor where my family waved, the white farmhouse on the point where my baby was. What a joy to hold them all in my eyes at once, as one tries to possess all of them in one look." Later, in Japan, she hears a melancholy song at a tea ceremony, and asks for a translation. It is the song of a mother who has lost her infant son, and Anne writes: "I long to see my boy." She wrote that line after she had already lost him. I think that despite the fierceness of her privacy, Anne has given us a moment of reality, and bared for us her heart.
This is an exceptional gift. One is reminded of the famous comment Stephen Vincent Benet made in his epic poem John Brown's Body about General Robert E. Lee keeping his heart safe from the "pick-locks of Biographers." It is rare that we get a clear glimpse of the true heart of another.
To truly observe a heard laid bare, one must open the word of God. David surely gives us his heart time after time in the Psalms. David is called the man after God's own heart (Acts 13.22). This was the reason he was chosen to be King (I Samuel 3.14); for no one lays His heart bare like God does.
How can I give you up, 0 Ephraim? How can I surrender you, 0 Israel? My heart is turned over within Me. Hosea 11.8
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you in with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31.3
This is love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4.10
In every verse of the Bible, as well as every sunrise, every rainfall, every fresh-baked loaf, every new-born child, God bares His heart. We need no pick-locks to help us discover it — the love inside is visible and real.
*North to the Orient, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1935.