How Can the Church Be Welcoming and Biblically Faithful?
(By Megan Fowler, byFaith Online Magazine). Sexual identity and behavior often dominate our cultural conversation. It’s also a subject that leaves many Christians wondering how to respond. A purely cultural understanding of sexuality leads some to conclude, “Who am I to judge?” while believers who have a better understanding of God’s design for sexuality sometimes keep quiet for fear of offending others. But these hands-off approaches are at odds with Scripture.
With this tension in mind, last year’s General Assembly [Presbyterian Church in America] offered two seminars on sexual sin. In a seminar titled “Sexual Confusion in the Church: Becoming a Welcoming Church While Remaining Biblical,” Tim Geiger, Harvest USA executive director, presented practical ways the church can respond to sexual brokenness. Geiger also participated in a panel discussion with David Strain and Allan Edwards called “Sexual Brokenness in a Fallen World.” Strain is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi; Edwards pastors Kiski Valley Presbyterian Church near Pittsburgh.
Both Geiger and Edwards have dealt with same-sex attraction personally, and both have learned to walk in repentance. Strain grew up in an unbelieving household with a brother who identifies as gay.
Disordered Heart Desires
While it isn’t clear how many believers wrestle with same-sex attraction and other sexual sins, it is clear that sexual brokenness is pervasive, even in the church. A question, then, addressed in both seminars, was: How can the church be a nurturing place for the sexually broken without compromising the truth of the Gospel?
It starts with a biblical understanding of God’s purpose for sex, Geiger says. Which, to be fulfilled, requires that sex be between a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage. As Geiger pointed out, sexual sin — including same-sex attraction, improper heterosexual attraction, and pornography — is rooted in something deeper than sex. It is a selfishness problem. Disordered desires, then, always lead people to pursue good things the wrong way, he said. For example, our culture celebrates the lie that sexual desires are merely biological, and that acting on them has no outside consequences.
There are, in reality, serious consequences. And for believers to accommodate the culture’s view, they, like so many of their contemporaries, must view others as nothing more than a means to an end: “a way for me to get what I want,” Geiger said. The Apostle Paul warns against this in Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
“We do damage to God’s intention when we say that [sexual desires] are merely biological,” said Geiger. “The Lord tells us there is no way we can engage in sin and not damage our ability to understand God and be in relationship with Him and others.” Disordered sexual desires thus subvert the truth about God, man, and Scripture. Ultimately, they are a way for humans to declare autonomy from God.