President Obama’s recent statement concerning his views of same sex marriage has generated no small amount of discussion and controversy. In what was doubtlessly a political calculation the President made that statement couched in political and attitudinal terms. That is, this new take is his personal view. He has personally has come to a place where he can now accept and stand behind same sex marriage.
This change is not restricted solely to the President. Advocates for Gay rights have tirelessly worked to change the public perception of same sex couples. Over the last 15-25 years America has done a near 180 on the issue. The attempt has been to sanitize and normalize homosexuality.
There have been countless actors, musicians, athletes, and politicians who have publicly spoken out in favor of Gay rights. Many from these same spheres have themselves disclosed that they themselves are gay. It has become commonplace to have television shows and movies with gay characters. Characters like Oscar on The Office have helped to gradually move the meter on public opinion.
Now NBC is set to debut a new show this fall entitled The New Normal. What is the premise? Two guys are married and of course can’t have a child of their own. They hire a surrogate to begin their family.
This is not simply an attempt at normalization from Hollywood it is a realization of it on Main Street. In a short period of time recently my wife and I saw a gay couple walking on our block, my son saw two guys kissing at their lockers at school, we visited a potential home purchase owned by two men, and have seen many (many) gay couples at the grocery store. And listen, we are in Omaha! This is, after all, “somewhere in Middle America.” While it may not yet be “The New Normal” homosexuality is surely becoming more or prevalent and more accepted.
Now, what does this mean for Christians? What does this mean for missions?
Among other things,
It means that we better get justification and sanctification clear. This is such an epidemic in evangelicalism; we aim to justify the church and sanctify the world. The world is not going to keep the Ten Commandments, walk in the Spirit, or glorify Christ…they can’t! They are unbelievers and they will act like it. This should not surprise us. We can recall our own unbelieving lives and we have read passages like Romans 3. The transformation into Christ likeness comes out of being declared not guilty and righteous in God’s eyes (Rom. 5.1). This comes by the merit of Christ in his doing and dying for sinners like us. We cannot expect unbelievers to look and act like believers. Having our these theological categories straight will greatly aid our interaction with the new normal.
It means that we better be clear about the character of God. The repeated theme is that “God made me this way and he would not want me to be unhappy.” The issue is not as much about the morality of the unbeliever but the character of God. Who is God? How did he create? Why did he create? How does he communicate what morality is? How do we know what he values? All of these questions drive us back to the Word of God for objectivity rather than subjectivity. God’s love is characterized by holiness and truth. You cannot know or experience the love of God apart from truth. In order to feel his love we must know him. Before we go about arguing about the cultural usages and understanding of particular Greek words there is priority to understand and communicate who God is.
It means that we better be clear about the problem. Far too many times I have heard evangelicals talk about homosexuality like our job was to get them to become heterosexual. If we can just get them to be straight then our work is done. The Christian objective in missions is to see people become Christians! This means that we want to see all sexual sinners become worshipers of Jesus. This includes fornicators, adulterers, porn-addicts, homosexuals, or whatever other category you can think up. The goal is to become a believer who turns from the worship of self to the worship of God. It is to turn from rebellion that is characterized by the suppression of truth to the submission that is characterized by obedience to the truth (Rom. 1.18-25; 3.19-27). The central issue is worship, or idolatry. The central answer is always the gospel.
It means that we better be clear about our tone. Can you lovingly engage a homosexual with the gospel in a winsome, tactful and still faithful way? Can you love them? This is really a question that I think evangelicals need to wrestle with and decidedly answer “yes, we must!” Pivoting out of the points above, that is out of the gospel, we have to see our own weakness and neediness. Who among us is not needy of the grace of Christ? Then we must lovingly and faithfully talk to others about it. If you can’t get control of yourself and speak the words of grace and truth to someone who is straight or gay then you need to ask God to give you a bigger heart. Ask him to shake you of pride and work gospel compassion down into you. I know that God is saving a lot of people from a gay lifestyle and I pray that he will continue to do so. As missionaries we need to speak and act like we actually want him to.
CONCLUSION–Be Prophetic from the Center!
The “new normal” is upon us. How will we respond? D.A. Carson has rightly said, “It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins, what we need is to be prophetic from the center.” That is, preaching against issues that flow out of a rejection of the gospel (sexual sin, abortion, etc) are peripheral and must be addressed by means of the core gospel, that which is of first importance.” (1 Cor. 15.3-5) In light of these ever-changing times, may this timeless charge become the “new normal” for us as evangelicals.
About the Author: Erik Raymond has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond. This excellent article was adapted from his website http://www.ordinarypastor.com on May 15, 2012.