That’s How You Start a Monday
This morning, my daily NPR informed me of another stunning story. If you haven’t heard, a few weeks back Bishop Jim Swilley came out to his congregation that he was gay. I’ve lost track, but this is probably the 74th pastor to do this in the last five years. I’m a bit frustrated.
I don’t usually write angry blog posts and this will not be the first. I’m not frustrated that Bishop Swilley is now a happy man, getting a good night’s sleep. I’m not that frustrated that his ex-wife is the associate pastor at his megachurch. I believe it’s wrong, but dirty brass needs little inspection when the ship is going down. And you know, I’m not even so frustrated that he’s gay. While it pains me, I realize that his orientation is merely a symptom.
I’m mostly just frustrated with how he justifies it all.
I’m sick of the tired arguments that attempt to legitimize a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals deserve love and respect just like everyone else, but their attempts to justify their lifestyles do not satisfy. Bishop Swilley’s view of Scripture is casual at best, and dangerous at worst. His view of God’s truth is the indulgent greenlight for his behavior.
Please understand that this post is a reaction not against Bishop Swilley himself, but against view of Scripture and its authority in life. It took tremendous fortitude to come out to his congregation and I’m saddened by the so-called “Christians” who would turn a cold heart to him or do worse. That said, I’m more saddened by his approach to God’s Truth.
Following are just three of the problems I have with Bishop Swilley’s defense of his homosexuality.
First Problem: I Didn’t Ask for This
The bishop told his congregation that his sexuality was unasked for, “imposed” upon him. He of course is asserting the position that homosexuality is a way one is born and not a choice. Bishop Swilley insists that it was not a preference but an ontological certainty that he was gay. He struggled with for decades. He quoted Scripture, casted out demons, and fought against his own mentality to deal what he was feeling. I can’t imagine the strain that must have put on a young man. I sympathize with him. It must have been a hard way to grow in the South.
Now, I’m not going to get into whether or not there’s a “gay gene” or whether or not it is a matter of choice. For the record, I don‘t believe it is a choice, but that is not the concern here. For the sake of argument, let’s say that it is a part of his nature. Let’s say that he really was born innate tendencies toward the same sex. It’s who he is.
Does such a defense justify his desires? Does it make his wants any less sinful than my own? I was born with innate tendencies toward pride, lust, and covetousness. It’s very natural for me to have those desires. That’s the way I lean as a human being. But those are the desires that I must fight daily, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because natural does not mean good.
Geoff Ashley, of the Village Church, puts it this way:
“Even if one were born with an orientation toward homosexual desire, such a proclivity would not evidence the legitimacy of that desire. Sin has radically affected every aspect of our lives and permeates all of our desires and affections and we are daily called to repent and trust Christ for strength.”
Nature vs. preference is a moot point. Sin is sin and it should not be excused even if it is simply a part of human DNA. Humanity, in its entirety, is fallen and needs to be redeemed by the Gospel of Christ.
Fun extra: Bishop Swilley, in another interview with Joy Behar, quoted Romans 9:20 (“Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”) to suggest that God made him as a gay man and that he should not question God’s wisdom in that. Unfortunately (though I appreciate the appeal of such an argument), that verse is actually talking about salvation. In the context of Romans 9, Paul is actually referring to God’s sovereignty in the purpose and destination of eternal souls, not in the way God that creates people.
Second Problem: Focus On Your Own Game
In his interview with NPR (which I would highly recommend you listen to), Bishop Swilley quotes Phil.2:12. He expounded upon this verse by saying that ” your relationship with God is not my relationship with God and, frankly, it’s none of my business”. Therefore, his responsibility should be simply to preach the Gospel and let the Gospel do its work. A bishop should not meddle in the spiritual lives of his parishioners. It is their own salvation that they need to work out with fear and trembling.
I have a problem with this because he takes that verse out of context with marvelous abandon. Paul saying “work out your own salvation” is not an attempt to steer clear of interfering in the lives of people. Actually, that whole verse is an attempt to get into the lives of those people in Philippi. In the same verse, Paul commends them for their past obedience to his teaching. Clearly, he felt that he (as a minister of the gospel) had the loving right to speak truth into their lives.
So for Bishop Swilley to quote Paul to insist that a Christian’s life is a private matter (including whether or not he or she is a homosexual) betrays a total, and perhaps willful, ignorance of the context.
Third Problem: Jesus and Homosexuality
At the end of his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Swilley agrees with the host that Jesus never talked about homosexuality. Again, Geoff Ashley at the Village has written brilliantly on that subject. I’ll let you read it in its entirety, but one of his points is that Jesus never mentioned homosexual because it was not a relevant issue in first century Jewish culture. He also makes a great point about the foolishness of making an argument from silence.
Love and Disagreement
I have a deep and strong affection for the homosexual community. I truly do. I believe they are one of the most misunderstood, mocked, and persecuted tribes in America today. They deserve nothing short of our utmost kindness and respect.
But that doesn’t mean that I need to agree with them where their views depart from Scripture. My love for them is also expressed in my speaking the truth about Christ and about truth and about the intended role of sexuality in the world God created. And I welcome civil and sincere discourse.
Here’s to hoping that the angry comments will not descend upon me like a squadron of TIE-Fighters.
Your PB from J for today: “This is true love. Think this happens every day?”
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