Responding the way Christ would respondcomment (0)
January 9, 2014
By Jennifer Davis Rash
It’s not a comfortable topic for church congregations to discuss. More and more families have relatives living an open homosexual lifestyle, and many Alabama Baptists have friends, co-workers, neighbors and/or acquaintances who are gay or lesbian.
When there’s a real person attached to the label, it changes the discussion. It causes those involved to think on it at different levels.
And while churches cooperating with the Alabama Baptist State Convention would easily agree that following a homosexual lifestyle goes against the biblical standards for a believer’s life, they still must face the reality that practicing homosexuals sit in their sanctuaries each Sunday.
This fact is elevated as more and more states are allowing same-sex couples to “marry.” What is a church family to do when a same-sex couple shows up at church and wants to be involved?
Baptist leaders across the nation (see story, this page) are encouraging church leaders and congregations to talk about this topic now and be prepared rather than waiting until the couple walks in one Sunday.
The leaders, as well as pastors across the state, emphasize the importance of the approach and the attitude. It is vital that followers of Christ respond the way He would respond, they explained.
“We as Southern Baptists need to be very careful, not only in our actions but also with our attitudes,” said Edwin Jenkins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Athens. “We need to have the same kind of love that our Lord had when He said, ‘Go and sin no more.’ That must be our attitude.
“We need to be very careful about pointing fingers at the sin of someone else when we have sin in our own lives that needs to be dealt with.
“Our arms are open to all, and we will love everyone with the love of our Lord as He has loved us while not condoning things such as gay behavior,” Jenkins said of First, Athens. “It is important to keep pointing people to the Scriptures and to the Word of God.
“All have sinned, and disobedience to parents is in the same group,” he noted. “We have to be very cautious about differentiating there. The holiness of God becomes the key. ... When we start putting categories on sin, then we need to go back and look at Romans 1. It puts all of us in the same category in terms of violation of the holiness of God.”
Addiction recovery groups and counseling sessions are two ways to work with individuals dealing with any sinful behavior, Jenkins said.
“Whatever a person’s difficulty, Christ is gracious to all of us. No sin is OK. We are all sinners and are on level ground at the foot of the Cross,” he said. “One of the best things we can do is counsel our people on an individual basis and listen to them.”
Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Opelika, agreed that support groups are key to help people who are struggling with a sin such as homosexuality. Support groups also are helpful for parents who have children living a homosexual lifestyle, he said.
Scoggins, who preached a sermon on “How Christians should respond to the issue of gay ‘marriage’” (see outline, this page) in April 2013, said, “We are trying to set up some standards for our folks, not only about what is the truth but how to express the truth in love.
“The main reason we must speak with humility is that we should realize our own lives are far from what God expects them to be,” Scoggins preached in the sermon. “Homosexuality and gay ‘marriage’ are not the main problems of our day. People don’t need ‘right’ opinions on these issues as much as they need a right relationship with God.”
Bill Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, said it all comes down to balance.
“We have to be careful that we don’t treat homosexuality and lesbianism different than we would other sins,” he said. “We have to love people who are sinners but preach repentance. ... Homosexuals and lesbians are no different than any other person needing to be led to Christ. Are they welcome here (at NorthPark)? Yes, just like any other person genuinely wanting to worship.”
Bobby Hopper, director of missions for Bethel Baptist Association, added that many times “we get so tied up in the battle and conflict that we forget there are casualities all around us.”
“There are hidden victims of our congregation,” he said. “You are belligerent in your sermon (against homosexuality) while there is a couple sitting in the congregation with their heart breaking because of their child.
“We must realize there are these bystanders that are part of the process,” he said. “We have to do like Jesus did and have compassion.”
How Christians should respond to the issue of gay 'marriage'
Proverbs 3:5–8 • Sermon outline by Steve Scoggins
I. Too often we Christians are known more for what we are against than who we are for. We are for people.
1. God loves every person (John 3:16).
2. Every person is a sinner (Rom. 3:23, 5:8).
3. Since God loves fallen sinners, we must love fallen sinners (John 13:34).
4. God’s ways are the best ways to live (Ps. 19:7–8).
II. The Bible does not teach gay “marriage.”
1. The Bible is the most verified ancient book.
2. The number one reason we believe in the Bible? Our Lord Jesus believed in the Bible and trusted its truthfulness (Matt. 12:40, 5:17–20).
3. I trust what Jesus said about the Bible because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. That verifies that what He says is authoritative.
Here are a few things to consider about the resurrection.
a) The resurrection is the only logical explanation for the empty tomb.
b) More than 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus risen from the dead (1 Cor. 15:6).
c) The changed lives after the resurrection point to the fact that it occurred.
III. We must have the same attitude toward moral issues that Jesus had.
1. Jesus said He agreed with the moral standards of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:19).
2. Jesus never lowered any moral standards of the Old Testament. He always raised them (Matt. 5).
3. Jesus endorsed heterosexual marriage (Matt. 19:4–6).
1. Ultimately it is God’s responsibility through the Holy Spirit to convince people of God’s truth (John 16:7–8, 13).
2. We Christians must concentrate on dealing with the real problems instead of just the “fruit” problems of a lost culture.
3. We Christians must speak with great humility when we deal with this subject.
To read the full text of this sermon by Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Opelika, on April 21, 2013, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org and type “How Christians should respond” in the search bar.