It is no secret that the church likes to pick and choose which moral shortcomings it likes to stick on. Depending on where you live, your denomination, and your class you probably have a list of specific sins that are extra sinful than others. I grew up with premarital sex, drugs, swearing and not going to church being the worst possible things you can do. In some cultures greed is the worst possible thing. In others homosexual sex is the worst thing you can do. Depending on our church culture will dictate on how we treat these sins. Depending on the kind of sin you are committing and how socially acceptable it is in your church culture will depend on if you can be a leader or not, if you can serve in kids ministry, if you can sing songs up front, if you can be ordained or if you will eventually find yourself in the inner circle of friendships in your congregation. Lots of sins creep through unnoticed. Gluttony is a big one. I grew up with an overweight pastor dripping sweat from the pulpit calling out the gays and Muslims. He was allowed to be in leadership. Yet fornicators would be kept at an arm’s length from the entire congregation.
Without arguing the rightness or wrongness of homosexual sex, here is my proposition.
If you find yourself in the camp in that homosexual behaviour is a sin then may I suggest that you look at a gay man like a women who had premarital sex and ended up getting pregnant. Most people in most churches hold to the belief that pre-marital sex is sin, so this young woman committed a sin. The problem with this specific sin is that it now changes the direction of this person’s entire life. One “sin” changed everything. This teen is now a mother. Most Christian do not believe that this is the proper way to become a mother, since it was based on sin. With this situation before you, my guess is that the solution is not to condemn, judge and kick out of the church this teenager. My guess is that no one would say “you can never be on leadership while you are still mothering this child that was born because of your sin.” No one would ask her to throw away her motherhood. No one would ask her to stop being a mother so that she can follow Jesus. This is her life now. It’s a life based on sin, but it’s her life. She is what she was handed, whether or not it came from sin or not. Even if this teenager asks for forgiveness, she is still a mother of a child out of wedlock, she always will be. Her title, her very identity has changed forever. This child in many ways is a symbol of a sinful lifestyle and yet I feel like most of us would have no issues with her eventually being on one of our leadership teams and being one of us.
Now, why do we allow some “sin” to define people forever and other sin we eventually are able to look past and bring people into our closed circles? I know I’m stretching here making this link, but more than anything I’m trying to make a point. If a women through sex can turn into a mother and have their lives changed forever because of a sinful decision, then maybe we can look at homosexuality the same way. Being gay and having gay sex is an identity that depending on where you land on the issue, could be considered a sin. Yet for some reason, this identity of gay will never be overlooked at churches. The mother of a child out of wed lock will be forgiven, and probably very quickly, and they will probably eventually get all sorts of love and support dealing with this “problem” that they have brought on themselves. Grandmothers will watch the kid, the daycare will find extra help, the families will help her get comfortable in her home. But if you are gay? Why would we support you? That is sinful. Love and accept your boyfriend? Hell no. That is aiding and abetting your sin. That is pretending like we support this lifestyle and we do not. We don’t mind aiding and abetting this mother by watching her kid, but no way we are having dinner with your gay boyfriend.
So why do we have to take a stand on homosexuality but we don’t make the same stand against single moms? For the sake of this argument and for those that are stuck on this gay issue, I say that if you should offer the same kind of love and support to a gay man as you would a single mom (and hopefully every single other person in the world). We all live wrong lifestyles to someone somewhere. Wrong lifestyles are the prerequisite for being human and needing Christ. I don’t see why we allow sin to define one person for there entire lives but for other people we seem to look past it very quickly and see the broken human that is there. I don’t think we have the right to pick and choose. I think we should all find who the people are that we have the most compassion for in life and then learn to extend that to those that we have a hard time giving any to.
Update: Please read this comment below, I think Kevin better approached what I was trying to say in much less time. The basic question he is asking is what does repentance look like for a married gay couple with kids?
27 thoughts on “On Being Gay, Teen Moms and Where Our Compassion Comes From”
Clearly both the homosexual and the fornicator are sinning. Both can be restored through repentance. If not, both should be disciplined. I also think it doesn’t make any sense for you to insist that a woman with a child born out of wedlock is living a life based on sin. If she’s repented this cannot be the case. Moreover, if she keeps the child she’s doing the right thing, evidence of that repentance.
I also believe that some sins are more heinous than others. Should you be rebuked for taking a not-so-subtle jab at another Christian for being fat? Yes. Should you be kicked out of any leadership role? I don’t think so. You go around the internet calling people out for perceived lack of graciousness and then every once in a while you make crass, ad hominem remarks about a Christian leader and throw the whole visible church under the bus for injustices that only you seem to have noticed. I don’t see what this accomplishes other than to bring yet more reproach on the church.
Tom, the issue in this post for me wasn’t who is sinning and who isn’t, the point is how the church views sinners. But I do think you landed on an important point. Sinners that are repentant and sinners that are not. However, this doesn’t solve our problem of what happens when people disagree on what sin is.
A bit related and something that I have been thinking about as of late… While I hold a fairly “traditional” view of marriage, it is becoming more “grey” for me.
The scenario that’s been running through my head is let’s say that a lesbian married couple have some kids. Their family is fairly healthy (as healthy as it could be), they are good parents, have a good relationship, etc.
One day, the family discovers Jesus and seeks to live their lives for Him (aka, make a confession of faith or however you want to word it). What does “repentance” look like for that family? What do I tell that couple about how to engage in the life of the church and grow as disciples of Jesus? Does that mean breaking up a monogamous healthy relationship? Does that mean tearing up some kids from their moms because their moms shouldn’t be together anymore? It doesn’t seem so black and white anymore with situations like that one.
Kevin, exactly what I’m talking about. Thank-you, what you wrote is much more clear. In your example what some call sin now has to become an accepted and embraced lifestyle by Christian communities. They are gay and they are also parents…..at some point (I hope to God) the church learns to accept these people like anyone else and get over their obsession with the “sin” in their life.
I think Christians naturally fear/ostracize the unknown. A teen getting pregnant in the1600s would have experienced the same kind of rejection in the church that a homosexual experiences now. Homosexuality is our Scarlet Letter these days, but I wonder how it will look in 200 years? I think the church at large is naturally a more rejecting body than an accepting one, and that’s pretty sad. We’re known more for what we’re against than what we’re for.
good question nate. is it because the church’s view is that a gay person is conitnuously committing acts, while a teen mom committed only 1 act in the past?
I still feel, 5 years after getting pregnant outside of wedlock, that I would not be accepted by a church to be on their leadership team. just sayin’. I could be wrong, maybe a church would act with open arms. Another way that I’ve thought of of the whole “continual sin” vs. “one sin act” is thinking about someone’s who’s been divorced. They are continually living a divorced life, which is frowned upon or sinful. in the same way, a homosexual could be viewed as living a continual “sinful” life. Although I dont think i agree.
Hmm…yes, good distinction, for some reason people see some sins as this ‘continual thing,’ but just for some, not for all….I think my argument then would be that we need to pick one, either we are always sinning and we all are and none of us should ever be allowed into the club or we should never be identified solely by a sin or an ongoing sin.
I suppose a lot of it comes down to the way we view sin in general. If we view it as some sort of contagious infection for which we have no cure, then it’s justifiable to quarantine people. But I think we should be able to realize that sin isn’t that at all. In some ways, this reluctance to invite people in is a refusal to give them the cure.
There are 2 messages the church can send out, in my opinion:
“Get your shit together and then come join us.”
“Come join us as we all work on getting our shit together.”
Forgive the language, but that’s the divide I see in church ideologies. I get the sense that some people feel the need to protect the institution at the expense of the people.
I think Tom assumes a lot when he begins his first sentence with “Clearly…” That matters related to sexuality are much contested these days, suggests that things are not so clear — even amongst those who affirm the inspiration of the Bible, try to follow Jesus, follow mostly in the mainstream of historical Christian doctrine, and so on.
As for the point about repentance, well, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus regularly proclaimed people as forgiven before those people repented. The point being that it is often forgiveness that enables repentance, and not the other way around.
I should also mention that I don’t think homosexuality is a sin.
I tried to write this post in a way that would help people who did think homosexuality was a sin see the awkwardness/inconsistency of such stance. I’m unsure I managed to do that because of the whole continually sinning/one time sin difference, but I think Kevin was able to do that better through his example.
Perhaps I should also mention that I feel highly ambiguous about moral judgments related to premarital sex, but I figured it wasn’t worth opening that can of worms here.
I’m going to have to back up Tom on his point. The issue is one of repentance, and what repentance is, and what it looks like in action. I hope it doesn’t need to be said that gay people can’t actually have kids, so it’s not at all the same, two formerly gay-lifestyle lovers can repent and live seperate lives, a single mother can’t live without her child that she bore, even after repenting. The fact that that is hard to figure out is a little confusing (when I do think about it, which I don’t, otherwise someone might call me “obsessed” about it, which I’m not)
Gay people can have kids from prior relationships, by adoption, by in vitro fertilization, by surrogates, or by other means. Maybe you should at least a little time thinking/obsessing about this.
Also, even if you want to push the repentance issue, you need to address the point I raise above. Seriously, read the Gospels and look at the times when Jesus says things like “your sins are forgiven” and look to see how many times those statements follow upon repentance and how many times they don’t.
I’m aware that a growing number if people in the church are openly questioning the traditional position the church has taken with regard to homosexuality. Scripture and tradition speak so plainly against it that I have a very hard time respecting their opinions.
I think your point about how Jesus forgave before He commanded repentance illustrates my point: regeneration leads to repentance. Church discipline is one means by which the Ascended Christ leads His people to it.
Are you attracted to people of the same gender as you? If so, how do you deal with that attraction and how does it impact the way in which you understand yourself?
BTW, Tom, I’m not trying to be a douche by asking this (since, after all, I see nothing odd or wrong or gross or whatever about same sex attractions). I’m genuinely curious. I’ve wondered if your strongly formulated views on this matter are, in part, a response to something going on inside of you and, while I understand if you don’t want to out yourself on this blog, you’re always welcome to email me to discuss this further.
Haha, did Dan just ask Tom if he was gay?!? Or is he accusing him?!? Oh man…too funny…
p.s. Tom, I didn’t answer Dan back because he has such a strange understanding of repentance that I honestly didn’t even know where to begin (and I’m glad I didn’t or he mighta accused me of being gay too! lol)…and just don’t have the time to give lessons in theology to people who neither care to understand, nor believe in the authority of, the Apostles or the Law & the Prophets, but that last comment blew away his first lol, I’m literally laughing to myself…too funny…
I’m not “accusing” Tom of anything. I’ve got no issues with homosexuality from a Christian perspective, so “accusing” somebody of being gay would be like “accusing” somebody of being straight. Wrong word choice. Besides, I’m asking a question, not making a statement.
Also, regarding my exceedingly “strange” understanding of repentance, well, like I said, I suggest you read the Gospels for yourself and see what is actually written there. I’ve studied the ol’ B-I-B-L-E for a long time — at undergraduate, graduate, and personal levels — and I’ve learned that the Bible teaches a lot of things that will sound “strange” to those of us who grew up within an Evangelical milieu.
Well, say as you will, it sure sounded like you were accusing him (I just called it what it looked like) of being gay lol, which is fine, it really doesn’t bother me, I got a good laugh at how quickly that discussion took at 90 degree turn.
As per “homesexuality from a Christian perspective”, it’s like (to steal Bill Maher’s analogy), killing whales for Greenpeace. I just dont’t think you can “square that circle”…there’s interpreting, and then there’s just ignoring…
As for myself, I spend most of my time not studying Evangelical, or Protestant, or Catholic, theology, but rather non-Western theology, and the theology of the early Church Fathers, they just don’t have the big issues Westerners have with interpreting the Scriptures. As this line of thinking so aptly demonstrates.
“Calling it what it looked like” just demonstrates that you don’t know how to read very well… meaning that you probably aren’t able to read Scripture very well either.
As for one’s hermeneutical lenses, well, the Church Fathers are good for some things (in particular, their advocacy against wealth accumulation and private property) but not so good at other things (like they way in which they create a strongly hierarchical power structure within the Church). There is little reason to think that their reading of Scripture is better or worse than that of others… even though they are trendy right now amongst Evangelical types (better stated: they are better in some ways, and worse in others ways).
And you do notice that Tom hasn’t replied, right? I’ll let you imagine why that may be. Could be that he can’t be bothered to because he’s so damn straight, or it could be because it’s against his religion to lie, but also against his religion to be gay. Sucks for him if it’s the latter, which is why I want him to know that I’m willing to support him in any way I can (granted, there’s no need for him to out himself publicly — “lol”ing dudes like you would probably make it difficult for him — but he’s welcome to email me).
Haha, like I said, say what you will, I’ll just call it what looks like…
And Tom, I would disagree that more and more people “in the Church” are accepting homosexuality. Rather, more and more people are rejecting the Bible and the Church and finding themselves in heretical versions of Christianity, outside the Church, in rebellion against God and under His wrath, to put it in the language of both the Scriptures and the Church…may we ALL repent before our day has come, before, as Jesus puts it, the sheep and the goats are seperated, the wheat from the tares, and the tares are thrown “into the fire”, one need only study the writings of the Apostles themselves to see the truth of these statements, as much as people may not want to believe in them, or hear them…
I think the logic of this post is somewhat problematic for me. Belief-attitude-action are given a pretty clear progression without room for variance. However, it seems there’s a false analogy happening because of the continual/past division that’s been mentioned – and the repentance factor.
I’m in the minority of the commenters it seems – I do believe Scripture’s consistent in homosexual sex being a sin.
(Tangentially, the term “homosexual lifestyle” makes me cringe. what lifestyle? my gay and lesbian friends go grocery shopping and work and go to school like the rest of us? geez.)
However, my belief that the Bible’s unambiguous on this constituting sin doesn’t necessarily lead to rejection of homosexual people – any more than the church these days necessarily rejects an unwed mother or tells an unwed couple to get out of the church.
People in a church where an unwed couple come to Christ may encourage them to get married (such an easy answer, comparatively) but the encouragers’ goal is the same.
If we’re a community walking towards God, how do we encourage each other to honor God with our bodies and our sexuality in a way that accords with Scripture; even when it constitutes self-denial of what feels natural? (Spending time as a youth pastor, these are questions that teenagers ask in simpler terms all the time – gay or straight). And that question’s relevant to all.
In my own experience growing up in a (very) conservative church, I’ve had many lesbian and gay friends since I was a teenager – some of faith, some not. And I still do. I’ve never been threatened or afraid or worried about that – most often, I’ve been extra-careful to listen closely to them because of the horrendous treatment a lot of them have experienced for their orientation.
So like anyone else, I shop with them, spend time with them, have them over for dinner, and yes, put their boyfriend up in our guest room… just like any other person. The belief an action is a sin doesn’t mean I take the attitude of rejecting the person, but including them. My belief in their inherent value as a person and the desire of God to step into their life and make them whole drives my action – as it does for anyone else.
No matter where our sexuality is at, it’s all broken in some way. No one’s exempted, no one’s perfect, and a hierarchy of sexual sins is ridiculous. However… some things carry a lot less baggage and can be healed much more easily. And some things we take to the grave. But Christ redeems and changes us from wherever we are. Unless you come to Christ, though, behavioural change (and whether it’s even possible to change orientation) is a moot point.
Orientation’s such a huge area to define; but I have gay friends who believe their orientation will never change, and some who believe it possibly can. The ones who are Christians and do believe it’s a sin put their faith above their sexuality – saying even if it never changes, they’ll continue to follow Christ over their desires.
Others do believe it can change and others are at a point where they have attraction to both genders and choose monogamy with one. I think I only have one friend out of those people who think he’ll ever stop experiencing same-sex attraction, though. But these aren’t “easy fix” of Exodus or similar stories here – these are people with whom I still dialogue, still love, am praying for daily in all areas of their life and seeing all areas of their lives come together – and there is far more to their lives than their sexuality, but it a part of what’s healing and changing through Christ and through being part of the community of God.
As I’ve said, I’m apparently in the minority of this site’s commenters on my interpretation of Scripture, but I do want to offer how I’ve thought about it for the past ten-fifteen years and how it’s worked out in my life, even as a child of a very conservative church. And perhaps extend that as an example of what I believe to be biblical fidelity on sinfulness, but also the responsibility we have to be gracious and loving people, recognizing our own failings and weaknesses and the complexity of our fallenness.
Meredith, thanks for your last comment, I think to better understand the problem of what I see now is not so much a proper ethic on how nice we should be to gays and lesbians, I’m hoping we as the church have at the very least learned to show some respect when speaking to or about oppressed groups like this. The better question now I think for conservatives to face into is the homosexual’s place in a church community. Can they be in places of leadership? In Kevin’s example above, can the church support and love a gay and lesbian couple and their children who has recently come to know Christ without needing to force their understanding of what repentance looks like on them?
I can see that your view on how to treat them is good, but what happens when these people want places of leadership and equal standing with you, can you give it to them or do you have reservations?
To be succinct, I think the church is lousy at including and inviting people into being a part of it, but often careless about who they let into leadership. And a low-commitment no-membership model simplifies things in some ways and complicates some in others.
A church should be resourcing and loving any couple who attends, regardless of whether they’ve met Christ yet, regardless of whether their relationship accords with Biblical teaching – children or no. Because we’re all broken people getting it together.
At the same time, a community will teach and encourage each other towards holiness so that the glutton will learn to honor God with his body. Or that the unwed couple gets married. Or if you live in certain places, the polygamist realizes three wives isn’t God’s ideal (even if that interferes with a stable polygamist home) ;)
As far as breaking up houses, I think the question comes into play: Is obedience to what someone believes is truth going to be contingent on the perceived utility or benefits/risks of the outcome? If someone believes their sexual relationship is truly sinful and arrive at the interpretation of Scripture honestly – then does that get submitted to the utilitarian outcome test? I don’t think so.
But let’s not jump to conclusions either that ending a sexual relationship between two people always has the same relational consequences of complete destruction and chaos, especially when there’s children involved. Could a great deal of that stability be preserved? Biological parents may/may not already be in the picture. Intentional male mentors for boys raised by two mothers (or vice versa) may already be in the picture. Of course there’s pain, and I don’t want to be calloused – but does avoiding pain come first?
Is stability something to be preserved at any cost? Again, is obedience to believed truth contingent on the perceived utility of the outcome? (I’m aware of longitudinal studies and books, e.g. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce and the long-term stats on the damage of breaking up stable married homes even when there’s dysfunction involved, though of course this particular situation isn’t addressed)
Leaders and a community can continue to teach and encourage each other to hold to what the Bible says on all issues – without conveniently omitting hard things or those that require radical life change, or “okaying” things large or small, while being honest about one’s own life.
If there’s membership at the church, there is a place for a voluntary and free commitment to say “I agree with what the Bible teaches as understood and taught by this church, and I want to place myself within that and commit myself to living within that” which usually comes with a certain measure of additional accountability to that church’s interpretation of the Word. So if it was a church I was leading and people want to be in membership – are they in agreement with the church’s statement of faith, including its relational and ethical components? (of course, the membership question may not come up at all in many churches)
Leadership is something I think we open up too easily – still mostly to white guys or older white guys in most churches, still mostly to those who have achieved business-type success.
Is there a place for someone who still identifies their orientation as homosexual but is committed to submitting their sexual actions to what the Biblical standards are that the church teaches as Scriptural (and that they believe for themselves the Scripture teaches)? Definitely. If we only had a place in leadership for those whose sexuality was absolutely whole, no one would be there.
But at the point of leadership, it’s not so much forcing an understanding of what repentance looks like on someone, but ensuring that leadership is committed to embodying and teaching that which the church believes. And there’s New Testament back-up for ensuring care and consideration as to who’s a leader and who’s not, and seeing what their lives are like.
If the “according to what we believe the Bible teaches, homosexual sex is a sin, orientation may never change” teaching has been clear all along, and if that’s what the church has been teaching all along and encouraging each other towards, that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who is entering the leadership process or wanting to be an example.
And by force “their” understanding, Nathan, you mean “force” God’s teaching on sin on people? How is that even considered “forcing”? Is telling people that the Bible teaches something “forcing”? If they haven’t confronted God’s revealed definition of sin, they probably have yet to confront what coming to Christ even is. Is telling someone any sort of sin great or small “forcing”? I’d have to say the “forcing” is not actually “forcing”, it is keeping faithful to Scripture (as Christ himself did), and that could include things like pride, anger, lust or greed (amongst others). But “forcing” people to stop these things is actually for their own good, even if it is rarely done in churches today (maybe their actually unconsciously encouraged, but that is another issue). But I take exception to the terminology of telling people God’s view of sin is “forcing”. Is your anger at Christian hypocrites “forcing” your view of faithfulness on them? Hardly. It is reminding them of what faithfulness is, and we are duty bound to bring that up (by God).
Anyways, just my thoughts…