God vs Gays: My Response to Brandon Ambrosino

It has been a long time coming, and the day has finally arrived. The supreme court of the United States has declared that gay marriage must be allowed in all fifty states as a matter of law. Like many conservative Christians, I am saddened and alarmed by the decision. There are two primary reasons for my concern, and it may surprise some readers (and my gay friends) to learn that gay people marrying one another is not my chief concern. The two issues that are causing me great alarm are: (1) Our Federal government, along with a substantial segment of the population, has declared that the Word of God will no longer be recognized as having any authority; and (2) The door is now open to begin writing laws to prosecute those who do not agree, charging them with hate crimes for merely exercising their clearly articulated constitutional rights to free speech and the free practice of religion.

I read an article on the TIME website written by Brandon Ambrosino titled, “This Is the Time to Move Past the God vs. Gays Debate.” I am writing in response to his comments. I found the article to be thought-provoking and well-written. I’d even go so far as to say that if any argument could be put forth to persuade me to reconsider my own position on homosexuality and gay marriage, Mr. Ambrosino’s would be the one to do it. You can read the article by clicking here. Since Mr. Ambrosino did not provide his email address, I am not able to respond to him directly. But I do want to address his comments about Christianity and the early Church, which upon close examination prove to be in great error. It is my hope that the ideas expressed here will help to explain why Christians can love gays while still opposing gay marriage.

Before tackling the specifics of the Time article I’d like to briefly articulate my own position on homosexuality and gay marriage. This is an issue with personal application for me, and one that I have worked through in my own heart over a period of many years. I have a brother who is gay whom I love, and I have gay friends whom I would never want to hurt. My desire and conviction is to treat gay persons with love and dignity even while having some fundamental disagreements with them. I believe it is possible to do just that.

First of all, while the Old and New Testaments of the Bible clearly identify any sexual contact between two people outside of heterosexual marriage to be sin, I do not consider it a sin to have same-sex attraction. Every one of us is born with certain predispositions toward behaviors that God identifies as sin, because we are a fallen race. Most gay people will assert that they were born gay, and it can be hurtful to debate that issue with them. For me, it’s a moot point. The real issue for me is what will I do about my desires that are not pleasing to God? As a Christian, the answer to that question is central to my life and my decisions.

We all, whether straight or gay, must face the reality that we are born of a fallen race and we all engage in beliefs and habits that seem fine to us but are identified in Scripture as coming short of God’s standards. Adultery, and divorce and remarriage, are two common behaviors among straight people that are sinful according to Scripture. Struggling with wanting to do these things is not sin; acting on them is. Being born with gay tendencies or struggling with same-sex attraction is not sin; engaging in gay sex or embracing homosexuality is, from a Biblical perspective.

While I am very aware of the pain and struggle that many gay people have gone through, as a Christian I must adhere to Biblical absolutes when making moral decisions. Surrendering one’s life to Christ means accepting His boundaries and obeying His commands in all areas of life. We can and do fail greatly as we endeavor to do this, but we must never compromise because of the difficulty. Every one of us must face our own personal demons, but we must never make peace with them.

Thanks be to God that He sent a remedy for our condition in the person of His son, Jesus Christ, who shed his own blood to buy us back as a race and as individuals. We can now be reconciled to God. The starting point for that reconciliation is to acknowledge our need and our sin, asking God to forgive us and to give us divine grace to abandon those things we once embraced. If God’s word is clear on an issue, then we must be clear also of our intent to obey. Our brief lifetime of struggle is nothing compared to the eternal glory that awaits those who labor to obey Him now, and to live in a way that pleases Him in this age.

Secondly, while I have deeply held convictions about these things, I do not make a practice of lecturing others about them unless I am asked, or unless I am challenged. I feel that Mr. Ambrosino’s article laid out a challenge and that is why I am responding. Every person must be free to make their own choices, and also to accept the consequences of those choices. It is of paramount importance that we as Christians show love and compassion to those who we are in disagreement with. It is not my job to go around telling gay persons that I disagree with them. They must wrestle with the issues and reach their own conclusions. As a Bible teacher, it is my responsibility to articulate the Scriptures clearly and honestly so that everyone will know what God says as they consider their own sexuality and other important life issues.

With this very brief overview of things, let me respond to the Ambrosino article. There are two fundamental errors made by the author. I’ll respond to them in order. The first error is to suggest that Jesus wants us to all just get along, even if that means abandoning our principles or disregarding His own teachings. Here is a quote from the fourth paragraph of the article:

“Since Christians are under an extreme obligation from their founder to take the lead on reconciliation, I think they should be the ones to set the example here. That means, whatever their private theological convictions on the matter, they need to respect the law and find ways to honor and even celebrate their gay neighbors’ happiness.”

Actually, Christians are under extreme obligation to obey the teachings of their Founder! Nowhere in Scripture are we told to compromise on moral issues in order to reconcile with anyone. In fact, we are commanded to do the opposite:

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light  (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  (Eph. 5: 5-11)

Does that even remotely sound like Christians are to take the lead in reconciliation? Consider these words of Jesus, AKA our Founder, when He was giving detailed instructions to His disciples prior to sending them out on a preaching campaign:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matt. 10: 34-36)

No, this idea of Christians being under ‘extreme obligation’ to get along with everyone is a figment of Mr. Ambrosino’s imagination. What about his assertion that Christians are to keep their ‘private theological convictions’ to themselves and do what they are told by the civil authorities? What did the apostles proclaim when confronted with civil orders that were contradictory to obedience to God?

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

One of the most common refrains heard from unbelievers is that religious people should keep their religion to themselves. While I agree that it is rude and obnoxious to constantly preach at people who don’t want to hear about faith, the underlying assertion from many is that Christianity should be more or less invisible, just a private matter of the heart for believers who should keep quiet and make no noticeable impact on society. Not only is this idea at complete odds with Scripture, but it is also thoroughly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States as well as the Bill of Rights. Some people need to be reminded that the First Amendment establishes the freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.

Next, Mr. Ambrosino argues that modern Christians should take a cue from the first century church. He cites the example of the Council of Jerusalem in 49 AD, which took up the contentious issue of whether Gentile converts should be required to be circumcised. The Council decided not to impose this Jewish ritual on the Gentile Christians, and Mr. Ambrosino states that this is the sort of open-minded decision that would serve the modern church well when welcoming gays and gay marriage. But there are several major problems with this line of thought.

First of all, circumcision was commanded by God, not forbidden by Him! The early Church leaders were discussing the issue of whether this Jewish ritual, first commanded by God to Abraham in the Old Testament, was applicable to Gentiles. They were not debating whether a forbidden activity such as gay sex should be allowed among non-Jewish believers. So the Ambrosino argument is clearly one of comparing apples and oranges. But the real foolishness of using this Council as a pattern for modern day acceptance of gays can be seen when we study the passage, found in Acts chapter 15. While the Apostles decided not to impose circumcision on the Gentiles, they did in fact make several requirements of them. The following is an excerpt from the letter sent to the Gentile churches from Jerusalem:

“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:  That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Did you catch that last requirement? Yes, the very Council that Mr. Ambrosino cites as an example of Christian tolerance commanded that the Gentile Christians abstain from sexual immorality! Either he has engaged in very sloppy journalism or else he knowns full well that his cited example actually condemns his own cause and he is hoping that his readers don’t know. It is just this sort of twisting and manipulating of Scripture by unbelievers as they attempt to coerce Christians into backing down from their convictions that makes articles like mine necessary, and causes unnecessary division and bitterness between people of faith and those who oppose them.

Mr. Ambrosino goes on to conclude that the Church must resign itself to the new reality. To his credit, he also calls upon the gay activist community to engage in deep reforms. To the degree that he calls upon both sides to engage in civil debate while respecting each other, I can agree. But he and all gay persons must understand that true biblical Christianity and gay marriage are completely incompatible. The true Church should not, cannot, and will not accept gay marriage. Civil unions and partnerships are the choice of those entering into them, but marriage as ordained by God is under the domain of the Church and has been since the beginning of man. As Christians, we are under ‘extreme obligation’ to our Founder Jesus Christ to obey His commands and to obey God rather than men when the two collide.

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  -Jesus Christ

Does Jesus love gays? Yes He does! Look at the picture illustrating this article. It’s from the story of Jesus and the Samaritan women at the well. While she wasn’t gay, she was involved in a sexually immoral lifestyle. You can read the story in the Gospel of John, chapter 4. Jesus did not call her names or shame her, but He also did not affirm her moral choices. He showed her love but also required her to change. She was amazed at his insight into her heart and told her entire village what had happened.

This story shows us exactly how Jesus loves the flawed and the broken, which is all of us. He knows our hearts and he treats us with kindness in spite of our sin. We can “come as we are” to Him to find love, forgiveness, and power to live as He wants us to. But the message of God’s love must never be construed to mean that we can stay as we are. His love does not mean he necessarily approves of our choices. May His grace find all of us striving to keep His commandments with humility of heart, and treating each other with kindness despite our differences.