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I was recently asked about a rather touchy subject. A friend got into a discussion with another person who wanted to know where in Scripture Jesus overtly, definitively stated that homosexuality was sinful. Now, my friend is no scriptural slouch, and she quoted Leviticus 18 with a corollary reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. This was the Old Testament, however, and the other person wouldn’t accept it. So my friend quickly went to Romans 1. But the other person immediately shot this down, too, explaining that she was quoting Paul and not Jesus.
I’m not sure exactly how this conversation ended, but the situation was referred to me. In my turn, I also mentioned Matthew 5:18, where Jesus says, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” This could be followed up with Paul’s admonition to Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed and suitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
And yet, I realized the probable response I might expect from this answer: “That’s not what I asked for. I want you to show me where Jesus says, ‘homosexuality is a sin.’”
What we really have here, friends, is not a seeker trying to understand the Word and will of God. This isn’t somebody struggling to understand God’s standards; this is really someone trying to confine God to their sense of morality and the standards they want to have in place. Thus, it wouldn’t matter if we provided the contextual argument that, as a devout Jew, Jesus upheld the spirit of the Law. It wouldn’t matter that Jesus similarly doesn’t condemn other actions that we never question as sinful (i.e., rape or human trafficking). The issue is that this person doesn’t want to believe that homosexuality is a sin, and so they have structured the criteria for an argument such that they can refute, deny, or ignore any proof that might be brought. (They are not alone; Muslim apologists sometimes take a similar tactic regarding the divinity of Jesus, and even the occasional atheistic evolutionist will have a complimentary view on the fossil record.)
So how should we respond? What is the “right” approach?
Perhaps we should clarify, “Before I can really answer your question, I would like to ask, who is Jesus to you?” If Jesus is the Son of God, if He IS God, then He inspired the Old Testament as well as the New Testament writers. If Jesus is just another religious teacher, then we are coming from radically different values systems, and that’s the bigger issue.
Instead, maybe we should call such a person out on the philosophically dishonest nature of their request. This can be done by asking, “Is Jesus saying those words and that exact phrase the only way that homosexuality – or any morally questioned practiced – can be considered sinful?” Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the Law and the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament), but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Sure, we need to study diligently to understand how that testimony applies to us and our situation after His resurrection, but certainly, it’s worth the effort.
But that brings up a final response. Maybe we don’t need to waste our breath. If somebody won’t listen to our answer and won’t qualify how they can be proven wrong, then in all honesty they are declaring their religious beliefs and trying to evangelize us. We should each know that there are values and beliefs we hold in our own hearts that cannot be argued out of us, that we refuse to abandon, and for which we are willing to die. Sometimes, therefore, we simply need to agree to disagree and get on with the day.
Yet the question remains, why do some people spend the time and energy to have such arguments? Sometimes these folks want to feel vindicated in their chosen beliefs. Perhaps they know that the comprehensive testimony of God’s Word renders their chosen world view immoral and they simply don’t like that. And some people just like to get a rise out of us.
I would like to suggest another, alternative response we should consider in a situation such as my friend’s debate. In many such cases, we don’t know the other person. We haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and we can’t know their hearts. Therefore, do we really want to force them into a perfect, comprehensive argument that drives them away from Christ? One of our greatest goals as mature Christian believers should be to see other people find the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. How likely is that to happen from beating them into submission, or forcing them to accept our perspective?
Dear friends, such an approach is not how Jesus reveals Himself. Certainly, He argued with the religious rulers, but please notice that most of the time they start the fight, and they do so when Jesus is teaching the crowds. In response, He expressed love for the wayward and the sinful; He revealed Himself as the Messiah and worthy of praise, but He also expressed gentleness, humility, and even humor when engaging with people’s values (e.g., the woman at the well in John 4 and the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida in John 5.)
Just recently the Christian community had to say goodbye to Ravi Zacharias, a truly brilliant man and a phenomenal defender of the faith. What has consistently amazed me about Ravi, however, was that even though he could decimate the opinions and philosophically dishonest viewpoints of just about anybody, he always approached his work with a calm and compassionate demeanor. More than being well-educated, experienced, and spiritually gifted with great wisdom, Ravi had a servant’s heart for people doing the best they can while living in great pain.
Friends, that is the world around us and the mission field to whom we are sent. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Jesus died so that all people might have the opportunity to know God personally, that He loves even the wayward prodigals living steeped in sin. To reach out in love to lost, angry, and even dishonest people, even when they don’t fight fair, is the call of God to our souls even in difficult circumstances.
In Christ, Byron