CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Sloppy and Unscriptural Thinking on Sin and Sexuality

Feb 5, 2018

One of the worst things church leaders can do is confuse worldly notions of compassion, love and tolerance with the biblical versions of them. They are usually as different as night and day. Yet as more and more churches become biblically illiterate as they soak in all things from the spirit of the age, this increasingly happens.

Instead of beginning – and staying – with biblical truth and absolutes to guide our thinking and actions, too many compromised churches simply run with whatever the world happens to be running with at the time. That is a recipe for disaster.

Examples of this are endless. Let me offer one such case which was brought to my attention today. A committed believer who takes seriously what Scripture says about things like sexuality, marriage and family was shocked on Sunday to discover something in her own parish.

She was quite concerned when she contacted me. She was rightly worried about a rather iffy article in the church bulletin of her local Catholic church. It featured an article about a situation overseas, and began with this opening introduction:

L.G.B.T.
Our faith calls us to be open to those on the fringes of society – to listen to their stories and to come to some undertanding of their life situations. It is only in this empathic environment that we will become the hands and the feet of Jesus for all. Those of us who have homosexual friends and famliy know some of the stories of the LGBT community, yet others may not have any contact with them. One way to become more aware is to read, watch and listen to stories already available.

Leaving aside the fact that whoever wrote this could use some spelling lessons, it is certainly problematic on various counts. The main problem is, this introductory paragraph quite significantly misrepresents what Christianity is all about. Our faith NEVER calls us to be open to sin and sinful lifestyles.

Yes, we are to reach out to sinners, but only and always with a view to seeing them turn from their sin, delivered from their bondage, and brought into newness of life in Christ through faith and repentance. That is always the end game for believers. It is not about just sitting around and being “open” to everyone and just listening to their stories.

Sure, if we have a relationship with a non-Christian, we seek to lead them to faith in Christ, and this involves having discussions, maybe over a meal or a cup of coffee, and so on. But just opening our minds to any and every experience out there – especially sinful ones – is not a helpful approach.

One might as well tell believers to just sit around and listen to and be open about adulterers telling us their stories. Or fornicators. Or thieves. Or drunkards. And if grouping these various sorts of sinners together is not to the liking of some, then they can take that up with the Apostle Paul.

Under divine inspiration he clearly told us this: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

And in verse 11 Paul goes on to make it quite clear what he has in mind: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Yes such people exist, and they now exist in the church of God. But they are ex-thieves, ex-adulterers, ex-homosexuals, etc. They have fully agreed with God about their sin, they have repented, and they have found new life in Christ. They now talk about how Christ has delivered them from their dead-end lifestyles and sinful bondages.

They are NOT sitting around in the Corinthian church or elsewhere talking about their sin, urging believers to be open-minded about it all. They are rejoicing that they are what Paul refers to them as: “that is what some of you were”.

Now if this intro piece had said something different, such as the following, we could all be much happier with it: “We need to know non-Christians, befriend them, and seek to reach out to them. We can listen to their stories, show genuine compassion, and pray for them. And we must pray for ourselves as we seek to help them out of their sin and into the Kingdom.”

THAT sort of openness to others and listening to their stories is of course not a problem. But we get no sense of this in their intro paragraph. And it does not get much better in the article they share after that. The bulletin linked to an article looking at the scene in Germany: www.ncronline.org/news/world/german-bishop-urges-church-debate-blessing-same-sex-unions

The title is this: “German bishop urges church debate on blessing same-sex unions.” The article begins:

The vice president of the German bishops’ conference has urged a debate on whether Catholic clergy should bless same-sex unions. “I’m concerned with fundamental questions of how we deal with each other; although ‘marriage for all’ differs clearly from the church’s concept of marriage, it’s now a political reality,” said Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck. “We have to ask ourselves how we’re encountering those who form such relationships and are also involved in the church, how we’re accompanying them pastorally and liturgically.”

Um, that is NOT the kind of debate we must have. That is NOT how we should be “open”. We are never told to bless that which is sinful. We are told to oppose and resist sin and evil. I would have thought a verse like Romans 12:9 makes this perfectly clear: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

There are of course plenty more such Scriptural injunctions for us to follow. But let me close by expanding a bit more on the Romans text. Some years ago John Piper gave a sermon on this. It is well worth reading or listening to. Here I can only offer a few bits of it.

In his opening remarks he says this:

My point is: if you will think and pray and obey your way down into this straightforward exhortation, you (and your children) will be liberated from many of the follies of this age—and every age.
Let’s do this together. I see five things to point out. You may not even be conscious of these things, and yet they can have a powerfully good effect on you. In other words, you don’t have to be an expository preacher to be transformed by the Bible. But it helps to have them pointed out from time to time and may hasten and deepen the transforming power of the text.

The five points he then offers and elaborates upon are these:

1. There Is Such a Thing as Objective Good and Evil Outside Myself
2. Choosing Against Evil and for Good Is Not Enough; Inner Intensity Is Required
3. The Bible Commands That Our Emotions Be Changed Even Though We Don’t Have Immediate Control Over Them
4. Objective Moral Good Is Good for Us, and Objective Moral Evil Is Bad for Us
5. Genuine Love Must Hate

He begins his discussion of Point 5 this way: “If there were a universe in which there was no evil that hurt people or dishonored Christ, there would be only love and no hate. There would be nothing to hate. But in a world like ours it is necessary not only that we love and hate, but that our love include hate.”

This is the Scriptural path all believers must follow. It is NOT about being open to sin, and just listening to the stories of sinners. It is about listening to sinners with true biblical love, and that means seeking to turn them to Christ and away from their sinful self.

www.desiringgod.org/messages/abhor-what-is-evil-hold-fast-to-what-is-good 

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13 Responses to Sloppy and Unscriptural Thinking on Sin and Sexuality

  • Hi Bill, this is a really good article, and I took a lot away from it. Would it be possible to do some follow up articles on the same topic that would reinforce the points that you’ve made from a Scriptural perspective? Engaging with the lgbtqr community can be very dangerous for young Christians who may not be well grounded in Scripture. The gay lobby can be very skilled in peddling their garbage, so Bill, if you could put out more “reinforcing” material on this topic, I’m sure it would be greatfully received and applied. Blessings, Kel.

  • The main offenders of this type of thinking is the Uniting Church and the Anglican Church. Sadly more recently the Churches of Christ. The Australian Church has lost the Gospel and is more about pleasing man rather than God.

  • Thank you for another insightful and much-needed article, Bill. It is amazing how many people can justify about anything in their minds.

  • Loving the down-to-earth but looking upwards approach ALWAYS to Our Heavenly Father above………..
    Thank you for this AMAZING article, Bill.

  • Do you have materials on how a local body of true believers can begin a comprehensive ministry to actively address these culture wars while still pursuing their call to spread the true gospel?

  • Amen. This is absolutely basic, foundational Christianity. When establishing new churches one of the very first things they were told to abstain from, outside of idolatry, was fornication:-

    Act_15:20 but that we write to them that they should abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
    Act_15:29 that you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which, if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Be prospered.
    Act_21:25 And as to the nations who believe, we joined in writing, judging them to observe no such things, except only that they keep themselves from both idol sacrifice, and blood, and a thing strangled, and from fornication.
    (MKJV)

    A five minute search through Bible texts yields:-

    1Co_6:13 Meats for the belly and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them. But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.
    1Co_6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body.
    1Co_10:8 Nor let us commit fornication, as some of them fornicated, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
    2Co_12:21 lest in my coming again my God will humble me with you; and I shall mourn many who have already sinned, and not repenting over the uncleanness, and fornication, and lustfulness which they have practiced.
    Gal_5:19 Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, …
    Eph_5:3 For let fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness not be once named among you, as becomes saints, …
    Col_3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (which is idolatry), …
    1Th_4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification, for you to abstain from fornication, …
    Jud_1:7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, committing fornication, and going away after other flesh, laid down an example before-times, undergoing vengeance of everlasting fire.
    (MKJV)

    How anyone can claim to Christian while ignoring the absolute basics beggars belief.

    Rev_14:8 And another angel followed, saying, The great city, Babylon, has fallen, has fallen; because of the wine of the anger of her fornication; she has made all nations to drink.
    Rev_17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet. And she was gilded with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
    Rev_22:15 But outside are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and makes a lie.
    (MKJV)

    These people are in for a huge shock when they are shown to have been preaching a different Jesus and their own, made up Gospel and Jesus says to them “I never knew you.” (Mat 7:23)

  • The current ‘Pope’ is responsible for much of this nonsense so much so some Catholics see him as more of anti-Pope than anything else not to mention the questions behind how Francis became pope in the first place.

  • John McW W, I suggest that all denominations are at risk of compromise. There are liberals/modernists within the Roman Catholic church obviously (seeing the source of the quote which began all this), and within my own Presbyterian denomination in Australia, as well as churches calling themselves Reformed, Presbyterian or similar, in other countries.

  • Yes this compromise is really happening in the churches but they have failed to teach about sin for so long, we have many situations that are out of control. Many young people (and others) in Church think nothing of living together before marriage. There are many single parent families in our churches the result of broken or uncommitted relationships/divorce. They all need love and understanding (and it is not the kids fault they don’t have a mother and father). And there is another new breed of family where women choose to have children with no intention of having men on the scene at all, as well as the children whose ‘parents’ are in same -sex relationships. I have been thinking a lot about this…how does the church approach this now having often never offered teaching and support to avoid these situations or in some cases these ‘families’ have become involved with the church after the damage has been done. I see this as a huge challenge for the Church today, especially as I said it has often avoided clearly teaching God’s standards.

  • Yes, as a Sinner,
    & someone who has been Righteously chastised by another Believer,
    It’s not Pretty
    BUT
    Necessary to Love and hate…

  • Excellent all of this!!

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