Monday, April 29, 2013

Curse not Sin

Homosexuality is becoming a challenging issue for the church.

Here in New Zealand a law allowing same-sex marriage has been passed into law by the Parliament. The opposition was being led by a Christian group, but it has been unsuccessful in gaining traction. In the United States, the Supreme Court has agreed for the first time to hear challenges to laws banning same-sex marriage. The court will hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Christians will have to decide how to respond to these changes.

At a more practical level, some Churches are having to decide how to respond to homosexual people joining their church. Jeff Cook has written about the challenge he has faced.

The topic itself has gone nuclear. Churches across the country have split or fired staff because of their opinions or their confessions of sexual struggle. Recently, the church I planted lost a third of its support because of its approach to homosexuals in our community, and here is where the American Church sits: in a place of pain and tension, with both sides now solidifying.
The normal evangelical response is that homosexual behaviour is a sinful. People who come to faith should repent of their sin and turn for the wicked ways. That seems quite straight forward.

But Jeff Cook was challenged by the experience of one lesbian woman in his church.
One of the lesbian women who now serves in our church had a dramatic conversion experience and life change that was unlike anything I have seen before. I cannot think of anyone else who, after encountering Christ, changed so many of her habits, pursuits, and priorities. She is a radically different person and her transformation was unmistakably the work of God’s Spirit. But apparently the Holy Spirit is not interested in transforming her sexuality yet, and I find that worthy of note.

Why would God refrain? According to most of Christian culture her sexuality ought to have been the Spirit’s first target for conviction and repair, but her experience was not unique. I hear from those in other churches that gay men and women coming to faith and clearly stepping into a life of discipleship and sanctification are likewise not experiencing God transforming their sexual preferences. So how should we read this?
My response is slightly different. I believe that homosexuality is more of a curse, than a sin. Homosexuality is a curse that is the consequence of the sins of previous generations. When a sin is widespread in a society, worse sins take control and dominate the subsequent generations (2 Kings 10:31). Sodom is an example. Most Christians will be surprised to learn that Sodom’s root sin was not homosexuality, but pride and greed. Ezekiel explains what really started the rot in Sodom.
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom : She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).
The sins of Sodom were arrogance, laziness and refusal to care for the poor. It seems that when a society makes an idol of comfort and pleasure, it will descend into promiscuity and eventually into homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a second-generation sin. The sin of the previous generation curses the following generation to an even worse life. I am not saying that the later generation is not accountable for their actions, but their behaviour is often the consequence of a pattern established by the behaviour of a previous generation. What Lot found in Sodom was just the natural outcome for a society that worshipped comfort and wealth.

Our individualistic culture finds the inter-generational aspect of sin hard to understand. In some cases, it passes directly from father to son, but more often it works from one generation of a society to the next. When one generation moves into sin, the next is hardened and compelled to go further. One sin always leads to another. This pattern of going deeper into sin can be seen in Romans 1:18-32. When a culture denies the existence of God, worships the environment and exalts human wisdom, they, or the next generation, will fall into sexual immorality.
They became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another (Rom 1:23-27).
When people persist in worshipping created things, they end up worshipping their bodies and they have no protection from lust. God gives them over to the “desires of their hearts” which leads to sexual perversion. This may take more than one generation to work through the culture, but without repentance, it is inevitable.

The reason why homosexuality has become more common in our society is that previous generations stopped believing in a Creator and exchanged the truth about creation for a lie. Therefore, God has given the current generation of our society over to seduction and homosexuality.

Rather than condemning those who are inflicted, we should see their fate as a warning about the state of our society, and that we all share responsibility for this decline. The Church is the guardian of the gospel, so the greatest responsibility rests with us. We are part of a society that enjoys wealth and comfort; and the church has not been much different. Even those who do not accept the prosperity gospel are fairly serious about their comfort. Therefore, we should not be surprised that our culture is going down the same path as Sodom.

Going to back to Jeff Cook’s question about why people coming to faith in Jesus are not having their sexuality changed.
Why is it that many gay folk are redeemed and becoming sanctified and apparently not challenge to work on their sexual preferences by the Spirit?
The answer may be that repenting and believing is the correct response to sin, but it does not deal with a hereditary curse. If homosexual preferences are a curse that has come of a consequence of the sinful behaviour of the previous generation, it will have to be broken and healed. Unfortunately, the modern church is not well prepared for this task. We struggle to set people free from the curse of the common cold, so we are not ready to deal with such a serious curse.

Churches that have not dealt with the sins of comfort and prosperity will struggle to deal with sexual attractions. If we have not dealt with the roots, we will find it had to change the branches.

For more see Homosexuality.


Eli Chitaka said...

"We struggle to set people free from the curse of the common cold, so we are not ready to deal with such a serious curse."
Well said. It is cruel and unusual to punish people trapped in this sort of behavior/orientation when we can't even deal with basic relatively non controversial issues that need resolving.
I would say if homosexuality is the result of a curse then it goes all the way back to the fall. Brokeness just has different ways of manifesting in various cultures.

Your blog makes me think, that it would explain why the average western christian is not delivered from consumerism and individualism. Plenty of us christians are over indulging and chasing mammon without any sense of guilt.

Relativity does come into it... perhaps God is not putting his finger on this issue for some people and communities as his focus is elsewhere on bigger issues.
Unfortunately for certain christians abortion and sexuality is where its at in terms of no1 sins to deal with.

Noah said...

I really enjoyed this, Ron (thanks for reminding me to check it out, Eli!).

Have you read Brendan's thoughts? Pretty similar, yet with different language...


I've come to a similar conclusion as you but, until reading your post, had lacked the proper language to describe my impressions. I don't see homosexuality as a 'choice' or as an 'intentional sin' (though you could argue that acting on homosexual urges might still be 'intentional' - but that's not what I want to address) but as a 'condition'.

I don't believe that one is 'born that way', but that one comes into homosexuality as a result of a complicated concoction of conditions which are mostly tied to parenting (though not always).

So the 'curse' language is helpful.

As to Jeff's question... it seems odd to me that he would attempt to create a formula from one conversion experience. He seems to be asserting that God did a '100% restorative work' in her life except for just 'one thing' (her sexuality) - so it must not be a very big deal. The thing is, we all know that God will be working in this woman's life until the day she dies and she - like all followers of Christ - will never achieve perfection on Earth.

We could also assume that her sexual identity is so DEEPLY ingrained that God saw fit not to RIP it away from her, but rather to woo her into a new identity over time and with much patience and compassion.

If there's one thing I know from talking with my gay and ex-gay friends, it's that homosexuality is a curse that is not reversed instantaneously.... ever. It takes time, re-training, re-orienting, and numerous deep encounters with the Holy Spirit.