I recently attended the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention national conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” I am thoroughly encouraged by the work of this entity of our convention and the leadership of its president Dr. Russell Moore. The conference was designed to equip churches, pastors, and Christians to minister in our 21st century context on the issue of the future of marriage and sexuality. I would like to share 10 reflections on the conference:
- This conversation must focus more on elevating Biblical marriage than highlighting what marriage is not – We should uphold Heterosexual marriage because Jesus did! Marriage points us to a greater reality – a reality that highlights the whole story of the Bible, of a King pursuing a bride at the cost of His life to rescue her, redeem her, and sanctify her to Himself so that they live in union forever. In this conversation, if there is capitulation, the gospel is muddied. Now to be clear, the gospel does not lose its power, but any union short of a man and a woman in marriage pictures something false about the gospel (Ephesians 5). The gospel is put on display when a husband (man) sacrificially provides and cares for his wife (a woman), and a wife lovingly respects and submits to her husband. That home gives a glimpse of an eschatological reality as the future consummation of the kingdom is brought into the present. So, we must speak up about biblical marriage – it isn’t a loving thing to muddy that glorious message. We must be known for what we are for – the glorious realities of biblical marriage – in a culture that so desperately needs to see and hear it. Danny Akin’s message from the conference particularly highlights biblical marriage.
- This conversation must be done in compassion, conviction, and community – Many speakers pointed out our poor past history in relating to homosexuals, and many asked for forgiveness from them. It is clear in the past there has been much more condemnation than compassion. The tone and tenor of this meeting was a plea to relate to homosexuals with love and embrace rather than shouting or shun. Greear even said, “some gays and lesbians have been cast off by their parents in the name of Jesus, but that was Satan dressed up in Jesus’ clothing and using His name.” We must be driven by compassion the same way our Lord was when He saw the crowds. But this compassion must also have conviction. Moore says it this way, “we are to speak His words, but to speak them the way He does it.” Rosaria Butterfield reminded us that a homosexual’s greatest sin is not sexual; it’s unbelief.
Real love and compassion doesn’t stop with sentimentality but sees the holistic needs of a person. This will take a ministry, Moore reminded us, that does not relate to LGBT people as freaks to either be raged against or dismissed, but as people to be loved (that includes trying to understand why they believe the way they do) and ministered to.
Finally, all of this must be done in community. One of themes that rose to the top was the necessity of being a real Christian community in the church as we minister to the LGBT community. There are several reasons this is so important. First, the question of reparative therapy for LGBT came up often, and over and again the answer seemed clear. It is not compassionate if we merely teach Jesus will take away all of these temptations from you. He might, but the promise of the Gospel is not that you will be temptation free, but rather that in the midst of temptation you will be given the Spirit to fight and flee. However, in order to fight and flee by the power of the Spirit we are given another grace gift – the Christian community to spur us on to love and good deeds. Moore pointed out in a press breakfast that some of our Christian testimonies that only teach complete victory can be very discouraging to others because for some this will be a struggle for the rest of their lives until they see the King face-to-face. Jackie Hill Perry reminded us we do not fight sin in isolation. In addition, many from the LGBT community that consider Christ fear that if they turn to Him they will lose all sense of community that they have. We must share with them what Jesus shared with His disciples after the Rich Young Ruler turned away in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” And it must be true. We must be those brothers and sisters. I am so thankful for the tone of this conference (modeled so well by Moore and seen powerfully in the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield) and the call for compassion, conviction, and community.
- This conversation is ultimately about the glory of God – David Platt reminded us that ultimately our gender and sexuality is for the glory of God. Platt pointed out that we are created as a demonstration of His glory to display His gospel. And yet, we will be judged by His righteous law (of which we have all fallen short). Christ, however, in amazing grace pursues us with redeeming love. In light of these gospel truths, Platt gave the implications for our lives. We must flee sexual immorality for the sake of His glory in the World as we live out His design as image bearers. We must display sexual complementarity in marriage for the spread and display of the gospel. We must see our singleness or marriage as a gift to be used for the glory of God in the world, particularly in the expanse of the gospel in all nations. This conversation is not ultimately about who can have sex with whom, but it is ultimately about the glory of God. We must teach that anything less will lack the proper motivation by which we use our bodies in this world!
- We are incredibly thankful for the work of the ERLC to equip churches and pastors for this conversation – Baptist21 is extremely thankful for our partnership with the ERLC. You will be blessed, challenged, and equipped by the resources from this conference. Check out all the videos here! (Check out part 1 and part 2 of my reflections if you missed them)