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4

The Danger of Loving Others too Much
Posted by Clare
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“Mr. De Graaf, I understand what the Bible says, but what do you say to people who are gay, love each other and want to commit their lives to each other in marriage? Didn’t Jesus say we should love others and want for them, what we want for ourselves? Besides, how can that be wrong if that’s the way God wired them?”

On my recent teaching trip to Europe with four Christian college seniors, this question regarding homosexual marriage came up in light of President Obama’s recent statements on the subject. In an interview with ABC News he even invoked the Golden Rule, “It’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

This blog isn’t political or a thorough discussion of the homosexual issue. Neither were the guys on the trip advocating gay marriage, but were searching for a more thoughtful, yet biblical way to dialogue with those who are. So, here’s how I believe followers of Jesus ought to frame this and similar discussions when what is being advocated seems to be clearly at odds with the Bible.

I know what the Bible says, but…

To begin with, there is a particular phrase and a word that should never be used in this combination by Christians; “I know what the Bible says, but…” Using the word but implies that what follows the but, has equal or greater weight than the Bible. I hear people say it all the time, “I know what the Bible says about forgiveness, but…” and “I know what the Bible says about creation, but…”

In all fairness, if the Bible truly isn’t clear about a particular teaching, then a but may be appropriate if there is equally strong biblical evidence that “appears” to support a contradictory position. Then it would be better that we say, “I know what the Bible says and it also says…” However, but should never be followed by our, or anyone else’s opinion, only God’s. This treatment preserves the preeminence of the Bible in all matters it addresses.

What brought this discussion up was our reading together of the following verses relating to homosexuality.

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:13

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27

“Or 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.” I Corinthians 6:9

So, guys whether you and I personally like the biblical position on this issue, do you think the Bible is ambiguous regarding God’s prohibition against gay sex? Here’s the first principle for framing any discussion on moral or spiritual issues. The Bible trumps man’s opinion.

Keeping First Things First

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

Most of us can quote this passage in our sleep. But here’s the point: The first and greatest command is not love your neighbor. It’s love God above all else. But, what exactly does it mean to love God? Next week’s blog will address that issue more fully, but Jesus made it really clear that one of the primary ways we love God, is to obey God.

“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. Again in John 14:21 he says, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 Jesus said it over and over until he was blue in the face. The second principle is this; loving others cannot be done at the expense of disobeying God.

But, is there really a tension here? Is obeying God, really not loving others? I don’t think so, but it will feel that way to those who are disobedient. It sometimes even feels unloving to me. But, to say we don’t agree with God is the same thing as saying to him, “I think I have a better idea that perhaps you, God haven’t thought of.” Really? I’m not sure I could think of a more arrogant statement. “I don’t understand why God says…,” is an intellectually honest and more heartfelt statement/question. But, I have a better idea is arrogant and a sin.

God condemns virtually all sexual sin equally

So, I said to the guys, “Let’s apply this to the homosexual issue. Are there ways we can both obey God and try to be sympathetic to the dilemma of being gay?” Let me say right up front that I do not think the Bible teaches that simply being gay is a sin. But, it does clearly prohibit gay sex. And if we’re really honest, we heterosexual Christians tend to rank homosexuality as a greater sin than heterosexual, sexual sins. The thought of adultery outside of marriage is not as repulsive or sinful in our hierarchy of sins, as homosexuals having sex. I don’t think we can prove that from the Bible. Just read Lev. 20:10-16. God lists six heterosexual sexual sins that are so grievous in his eyes that they deserve death, including adultery. I Cor. 6:9 lumps all sexually immoral sins together as “Class A felony sins”. For reasons known only to God, he ranks sex outside of marriage, both heterosexual and homosexual, as equal sins.

So years ago I met with a homosexual Christian, who I considered to be a brother in Christ, who’s goal was to be celibate. I told him, “You and I have this in common – we both are lusters. My occasional lust for someone other than my wife is no lesser a sin than your lust for men. And, if I ever actually have sex outside of my marriage it will be no lesser a sin in God’s eyes than you having sex with a man.” He appreciated the fact that I somewhat understood his struggle.

However, I don’t share this common ground with homosexuals I’ve met who claim to be Christians, but have fully surrendered and embraced the homosexual lifestyle, including sex. But, the same is true of people who say they’re Christian but have given up the struggle with the heterosexual sins of pornography, or fornication (sex outside of marriage). In fact, followers of Jesus ought to find more in common with a celibate Christian homosexual than with a sexually active, unmarried, Christian heterosexual college student.

Finally it’s both helpful and humbling to remind ourselves that as serious as sexual sins are, Jesus had just as much or more to say about the sins of hypocrisy, pride, unbelief, the misuse of wealth and failing to care for the poor.

But, that’s just the way God wired me

We’ve all heard, the “But that’s just the way God wired me, so how can it be wrong?” argument. My answer to another gay guy I once met with was, “Sam, that’s not the way God wired you! Because of the fall and sin’s affect on the human race, that’s the way we are, but that is not what God intended for humans. If you had a brother-in-law who had an anger issue and beat your sister, would you honestly accept the “that’s just the way I’m wired, argument?” I already admitted I’m a natural born, heterosexual luster, but God didn’t make me that way. It’s sin!

In fact, every negative command in the Bible is there to curb and correct the way we are. God expects those of us who have been born again by the Holy Spirit to rise above the way we are, to live the way he designed us to be, holy and righteous and pure. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ll never be perfect, but we can do better! “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

Gay Marriage

“You heterosexual Christians have marriage as an option if you are in love with someone. Why can’t we?” And, it’s with this argument that I have the most sympathy. However, for all recorded history, in every culture and in all of scripture, marriage has always been defined as a union between a man and a woman (and sometimes to more than one woman). To attempt to redefine it to be something else would be the equivalent of a movement for calling welfare, wages. Everyone knows that welfare, or unemployment insurance isn’t the same as wages, which is pay for actually working. While I sympathize with welfare recipients who may want to dignify unemployment pay, it’s unfair and inaccurate to those who work for wages to simply re-brand the term to do so.

I personally believe this is the primary reason gays and lesbians are pushing so hard for the term marriage and want no part of calling it a “civil union”. All the legal rights of marriage could be accomplished with a civil union. But, they need the word marriage. The very word would legitimize their relationship and because sex is implicitly part of God’s design for marriage, being “married” would have God sanctioning homosexual sex. As a human and a Christian, I sympathize with gays that neither marriage nor sex is available to them. Nevertheless, our well intentioned attempts to love them can never be done at the expense of disobeying God. That’s the danger of loving others too much.

Conclusion

At the outset I said this blog was not intended to be a full blown discussion of the homosexual/marriage issue. But, Christians have not always framed the discussion well. At times, we’ve been shrill and hateful. This is where we’ve loved too little, not too much. And, today Christian young people are so into fairness and love that unless we do a better job of framing the issue with grace, we’ll lose them.

Question: Are there other thoughtful, biblical ways you’ve approached this difficult subject?

A Bonus Blog: This Saturday, as we think about Father’s Day, I’ll post a special blog, entitled 10 Ways to Love Your Children.

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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Comments (4)
Comments
  1. Calvin Webb said...

    Thank you for sharing, Clare.

    Something not addressed here is the aberration of heterosexual marriage. Those with whom I have the pleasure of knowing in the GLBT community are regularly calling attention to what’s become of the sanctity (or lack thereof) of this union. Do we as believers honestly feel homosexuals are a threat? If so, to what or whom exactly? How can something as insignificant as one’s sexual preference be enough to excommunicate an entire people?

    I’m not suggesting that’s the answer, or that you would ever entertain the notion of it being a good idea, but it HAS become our reality. Gay people are mostly facing ridicule at the hands of “Christian” protestors. All the while, heterosexual Christians contribute to other forms of sin (many of which you’ve already identified in your commentary, not the least of which wasn’t mentioned – abortion) and believe they’re “forgiven” of these shortcomings because of God’s love. How is their/our lust for pornography or sexual acts any different? Most people I know are not completely honest when it comes to matters of lust, if for no other reason than pride. This discussion is most often considered taboo and unapproachable, not unlike mental health issues or other less socially acceptable struggles. One might argue this stigma is doing more to harm than protect our society.

    I don’t love these people because I NEED to based on God’s commandment, rather they’re given equal opportunity to my respect, just the same as their hetero and asexual counterparts.

    If through my actions I’ve disobeyed God, that’s something I’ll have to learn to accept. I can’t turn my back on an entire people on principle alone.

    Reply
    • Clare said...

      Calvin, thanks for your comments. I’ve heard the same arguments you have. It’s true that heterosexual Christians have been failing in their marriages at an alarming rate so the “why not give homosexuals a shot at it?” argument seems reasonable, except that the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments clearly prohibits, at very least homosexual sex. And I can’t imagine too many gays who plan to be both married and celibate.
      To your second point, it isn’t that I consider gay marriage a threat, it’s just wrong for the reasons I’ve stated. Lastly, it’s not a “principle” when the Bible clearly prohibits it. A principle is something like forms of baptism or church structure. Principles are issues that have sound Biblical support over which Christians who truly love God and have a high view of the authority of scriptures differ. I have yet to read any biblical interpretation that come even close to making a case for gay marriage stronger than the verses I’ve identified against it.
      The litmus test of all their arguments is “fairness” which is tough to ague with unless the final test is “what does God have to say on the matter?” In the end that’s what it means to live by faith. Truly, I have great sympathy for their dilemma and I too have tried to reason myself into a position that might be a compromise, but I’ve not found one that squares with the Bible. I wish I had.

      Reply
  2. Lindsay said...

    Hi Clare,

    First just wanted to thank you for your blog. I’ve found many of the insights you’ve shared here to be very helpful to me, personally.

    I was just wondering if you have other areas where your sympathies are in conflict with your theological beliefs?

    Reply
    • Clare said...

      Yes, a lot actually.
      1. Why a loving God tolerates Satan and allows his people to suffer.
      2. Why God doesn’t save kind and generous non- Christians.
      3. Why it’s a sin for terminally ill people in great pain, to end their life.
      4. Why singles are not permitted to experience the joy of sex, especially those who have dedicated their life to loving God.
      5. Why a married person must stay in a loveless marriage.

      Yes, I have great sympathy when I have to tell people what God requires when my heart desperatly wants to give them an exception.

      Reply
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