He Always Goes First
(This article was originally posted on October 30, 2014 by Kim Hall on her blog, Given Breath.)
This week I was asked (again) to explain my views, as a Christian, on same-sex unions and the church. It’s notable that I’ve not been asked quite so many times my thoughts on consumerism and the church, or grumbling and the church, or making idols out of our kids and the church – but, whatever.
In regards to LGBT people, what is the church to be about? It might help to first look at what – regarding the whole world – the Christian church is to be about.
It appears that the church has always been tasked with an important mission: to go with God into all the world, offering welcome because of the suffering work of Jesus, so that every person would entrust themselves to the care of the rightful King.
The church is to be about offering welcome.
And what does this King require of his people? That they have mercy and joy. That they love justice and wisdom, and work diligently to create beauty and order where there is none. He requires that they trust Him. He expects those who bear his name to offer welcome to the weak and kindness to the outsider: to consider others as significant as themselves. The King does not allow favoritism. He hates haughty eyes. He does not accept bribes. He requires that we go about our business showing an otherworldly care for others, even our enemies.
Is that what your church is about? Or, are there some parts of the kingdom that are excluded from God’s concern? Are there any cultures that are too far gone — that will just never get it? Are there some people who have so made their beds, and now will just have to lie in them?
The church is to be about remembering who the real Hero is.
One of the reasons we entrust ourselves to the King is because He always rides out into the battlefield before us. God doesn’t sit behind the lines and demand his people fight for their lives alone. He always goes first. God leads the charge directly into the heart of death and decay and divisiveness to win life and freedom for his people. The church follows Him into the fray, not because we are heroes, but because we trust in his plans. And His plan is that not one of his own should be lost.
Who understands the battle for our hearts? Christ was tempted in every way: tempted to exaggerate, to lust, to exclude, to despair, and to give up. He was tempted to consider himself superior. He suffered the exhaustion of all our human temptations, and that was only the beginning of his suffering!
Who understands the wounds of relational wars? Jesus was unfriended, mocked, not considered, discredited, betrayed, distrusted, and often unwelcome. He had no wife, no children, no sexual comfort, no home of his own. His was an ordinary and unremarkable life with uneducated and simple friends who all disowned him at the end of the day.
Who has been on the front-lines of all physical and emotional battlefields? Christ’s body was broken. He was hungry and thirsty, abandoned and forsaken. He died.
And then, who beat death? The real Hero returned from the battle perfectly, gloriously alive after three days. The wounds of his earthly suffering were not erased from his new body, but were a part of his wholeness. “I did all this so that you can live, too.” he told his disciples, showing them his hands and feet. “Be not afraid. I am He who saves you, and I will always be with you, even in your suffering.”
The church is to be serious about suffering.
It is terribly destructive, therefore, for any group of Christians to imply that all physical or emotional pain is to be avoided at all costs. The temptation that God can only be trusted if He keeps his people from earthly suffering, and grants their human desires, is as old as Eve and simply not true. We forget that the real King is not like us; he is not made in our own image. We are created in His.
A theme in God’s word to His people is that a faithful man/woman marriage relationship was designed, created, and blessed by himself for the good of the world. Gender is significantly more than a social construct to God: it is a purposeful and redemptive storyline throughout scripture. This is a cause of legitimate suffering for those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender confusion and regularly read the Bible. Are they out of God’s care? Why are they this way? What are they to do? Does God have a good plan for them?
Is the church a spiritual family – wise mothers, good fathers, kind brothers and loyal sisters – to gays, lesbians and trans-genders as they work this out within the context of the gospel?
This world is lonely and hard for anyone who travels through it. Everything is broken, groaning under the weight of our own agendas. Sin takes its toll on any soul who dares to be born. But God desired that each of us be born into this day and place for a reason! He has gathered us to be His body of believers for exactly this time. How will we live now?
The church must be about holiness.
Can we seek holiness in all our ways, church? Will we cling to the whole gospel, and let God’s presence enlarge us, protect us, and lead us all? Can we be remain celibate from all the things that keep us from our Savior, trusting that He alone will satisfy our deepest desires?
The Christian church must be a respite, a balm, for the walking wounded in this world. The body of Christ can say to all the people, “I know you are weary. Come in and lay your burdens down – you are not alone in your distress. Sit down with me and eat. Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine. I am here for you, will you be here for me? Let’s ask God to help us persevere and be faithful in all things.”
Offering warm welcome and familial care to LGBT people – or any image bearer – does not mean we dilute any of God’s inerrant truth: it simply means we take seriously what the church is to be about until her King returns.