By Pastor Dave Glesne
The article about the Reitan family (Pioneer Press, "Mankato / Family featured in documentary about gay rights")would have the public believe that, at its root, the homosexual issue is a matter of gay rights - an issue of justice and tolerance. Citing the personal experiences of this family, it speaks of the injustices and cruelty toward same-sex persons in both the church and society. Without a doubt the anger, rejection, pain and hurt are very deep and real.
As a Christian pastor, I acknowledge that same-sex persons have been wounded deeply by the Church’s lack of love. In the past, society has often rejected these homosexual persons and when they have come to our churches they have felt the same rejection. On behalf of the Church, I would ask Jake Reitan and all other same-sex persons who have been wounded, for forgiveness as we repent of our lack of love. It grieves me that these persons have not experienced the love and compassion of Jesus Christ in and through the Church.
I believe this is the place for the Church to start – with repentance. Unhappily, however, the matter does not end there. The assumptive language of gay rights, love, acceptance, and tolerance is loaded with assumptions that cannot go unchallenged. The article would above all have us believe that there is no reasonable distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, that they are part of the same inherited identity.
The Christian faith, however, is rooted in the distinction between who we are and what we do. Jesus died on the cross to save who we are. Our sinful behavior – what we do separates us from God and is that for which Jesus had to die. In those who are following Jesus, God is at work reorienting our “orientation” toward self-centeredness toward eradicating our bad behavior and bad attitudes. He does this work in us precisely because He loves us and knows that our sinful behavior brings destruction to our being.
So God is not conflicted with loving the sinner and hating the sin. He loves who we are, after all He created us and sustains our being, our identity. But He hates the behavior which destroys the very being He created.
God understands, then, that we have only four options in this loving and hating business. 1.) We can love both the sinner and the sin; 2.) We can hate both the sinner and the sin; 3.) We can love the sinner and hate the sin; and 4.) We can hate the sinner and love the sin. These are the only choices. So if the Reitans refuse option three, which of the other would they have us choose?
The third option means that we can demonstrate love and acceptance toward ourselves and others – sinners though we are. It means we can follow the example of Jesus with the woman of Samaria. (John 4:4-26) The woman had been married five times. Jesus never approved of her multiple-marriages, but he didn’t allow them to disqualify her from receiving Living Water from him. He accepted her. He accepted her without approving of her behavior. As a result, her life was transformed.
The Reitans, it would appear, get out of this dilemma by assuming that same-sex behavior is not a sin, so we can love the behavior as well as the person who does it. But if same-sex behavior is indeed a sin, they do not get out of their dilemma.
By definition sin is some transgression of the will of God. He has given us that will in His two highest laws, the commandments to love God and one another. By drawing a line, these commandments define sin. Sin is failure to love God and one another. And the love spoken of here is a specific kind of love – agape love – which does those things that are life-promoting, what is good for the other, even when the other may not want it, and at any cost to himself. This is the Way of the Cross.
Every text in Scripture treats the issue of homosexual practice as contrary to the will of God. There are no exceptions. This biblical position is the historic position the Christian Church has held for centuries. In order for us to change, those who would revise Scripture would need to build a biblical and theological case for God approving of same-sex behavior. No such case has been made.
Love for the same-sex neighbor, then, does not allow us to say “yes” to behavior to which God has said “no”. Agape love, which seeks the good of the neighbor, accepts the person as Jesus accepted the Samaritan woman, but it does not approve of that behavior which is destructive of the neighbor.
Pastor Dave Glesne is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, and author of "Understanding Homosexuality: Perspectives for the Local Church" published by Kirk House Publishers.