Pastor Andrew used a great metaphor this week: As our pastor he’s working to help us young Christians navigate through the fog surrounding same-sex marriage. I appreciate that. As we are driving, with our graduation tassels freshly hung on our rearview mirrors and the radio of culture blasting, we need those outside voices of wisdom and maturity. I want to write today as one of those young Christians and give everyone a look at the fog from the driver’s seat.
There are actually two different questions my generation is asking and it would be helpful for everyone to distinguish these two in our conversations. Here they are…
1. Can a Christian be living in obedience to God and practicing homosexuality?
This is significant. For the longest time there were two options: Be a Christian, or practice homosexuality. There is now a proposed third way: Be both. Many denominations reflect this thinking of late as they’ve changed their stances. Pastor Andrew has examined this third way a lot lately and has written some very good things. I will let his writing suffice and focus more on the second question.
2. Can I answer “no” to question #1 and still support my homosexual friends who are not claiming to be Christians?
Here’s the bigger issue for my generation. How should I treat those who are not claiming to be Christians, and are therefore not asking me as a brother in the family of God to hold them accountable? If they are not part of the family, and aren’t claiming to be, can I celebrate their new freedoms with them?
This is the bigger question my generation is wrestling with. This is the question that keeps us up at night and prevents us from making this issue a quick, black and white decision: “Well this is an easy one – write down the answer and move on.” These aren’t issues numbers 12 and 13 on an agenda. These are our friends, our siblings, our neighbors. These are people we love. And so, there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to close the issue and we begin to inwardly resent those who can so easily slam the book shut. We silently whisper, “Can we at least talk about it…”
Someone very near and dear to me is a lesbian. She’s practically blood. She got engaged to her girlfriend last year, and after seeing it on her Facebook, I began to wait for the inevitable phone call. I knew this day would come, and I wrestled with it in my own head and heart multiple times. The phone rang and this time it wasn’t a drill.
“I saw that!” (Wait, do I congratulate her?)
—The questions only got more difficult from there.
“I want you to be my best man. What do you think?”
“Wait- you’re the groom? Are you trying to make me a bridesmaid?! I’m offended!” (Laughter – good! Continue evasive joking maneuvers.)
“If not, obviously I understand and respect where you stand and stuff. But would you at least come?”
All I could muster was a “Let me think about it and get back to you.”
I am honestly torn. I love this person. What’s more is she’s not professing to be a Christian! She is actually professing to not be a Christian. I felt the effects that the culture was having on my millennial mind. “She’s not a Christian? Can’t I go to their wedding?” Please let me be honest – part of me wants to.
Here’s where I land:
1. First, I am not going to judge them, meaning I am not going to hold them accountable to something to which they haven’t asked to be held accountable. Instead I am going to watch myself closely. I am going to walk with my brothers and sisters closely, who are waging the difficult war against their own passions, and have asked for my help and accountability.
2. I am not going to celebrate. Yes they aren’t claiming to be Christians, and so I don’t hold them accountable or secretly try to manipulate them to act like one (as if acting like a Christian is what gets one to heaven.) But here’s what I realized: If I really believe that someone is living a life that is not in line with the way the designer designed life to be lived, how can I celebrate? This is true for any activity, not just homosexuality. If (realistically: when) my non-Christian friend is sleeping with multiple women rather than committing to one life-long marriage, I don’t celebrate. When my friends are living in debauchery, I don’t participate. When my friends make money, women, fame, or anything else our world offers the defining pursuits of their lives, I don’t celebrate. It’s not exclusively about homosexuality; it’s about any lifestyle that we believe is walking away from the designer. “But Sam, they aren’t Christians. Plus, it’s not as if stopping those things would save them.” You’re absolutely right. Yes, I don’t try and hold them accountable, but are accountability and celebration my only two options? I can’t do either because…
3. I want so badly to introduce them to and see them following the designer. I don’t want to “turn them to heterosexuality.” I want to see them turn to Jesus! I know that living life for Him is thoroughly more satisfying than living life our way – It’s the life that God designed.
In the end, I have decided to not participate in or attend the wedding. Part of me wants to. It’s probably the part of me that is a citizen of this country, a product of this generation. This part of me wants to at least put a rainbow on my Facebook to make sure that my relationship with my dear friend isn’t severed. Wouldn’t that let her know I still love her?
But I am making my decision, not because I am trying to hold her accountable and teach her a lesson by my absence. And it’s definitely not because I don’t love her. It’s because I could not, because of my love for her, pretend to celebrate her living in a way that is contrary to the way that God designed life to be lived. I had to ask myself, “If I went, would I be able to genuinely clap and applaud? Isn’t a wedding one big celebration?”
Picture this: Someone is walking down a path away from the designer, away from the way He designed life to be live. We all know where that path ends, and yet here I stand, as someone given the good news about our redeeming God, cheering them as they walk in the wrong direction. If I’m being consistent, wouldn’t that be cruel?
In love, I call Christians who deviate from the design to turn back. In love, I want to introduce non-Christians to the designer, and tell them that when all of us mess up the design daily, that He’s also the redeemer. And in love, I never celebrate anyone walking down a road away from the designer.