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Taking Refuge: Reflections on Same-Sex Marriage

Dear Christ Church Family,

I was moved by the response to Sunday’s message on homosexuality and gay marriage. I have never received as many emails – both before the sermon and afterward – about any message I have ever preached. It is obvious that Christians are deeply conflicted about what lines to draw, how to draw those lines, and why they should be drawn at all. This is truly a momentous shift in culture, and we all need to know how to process it. Below you will find both the video and the text from Sunday’s message as well as a free download of the anointed rendition of “Be Still My Soul” by our own Christopher Phillips and Amanda McCaslin. I encourage you to offer this link on Facebook and in personal emails to friends. We will gladly respond to all who wish to interact with the ideas presented in this sermon.

Please take note that on Sunday, August 4, 2013 during both the 8:30am and 11:00am services, I will be presenting my appeal for a church-wide visioning process that will determine the focus and mission of this congregation for years to come. That evening at 5:30pm in the Sanctuary, we will offer opportunities for congregational reactions and dialogue.

God bless you,
Dan Scott

 

 

Taking Refuge:

Reflections on Same-Sex Marriage

As I’m sure everyone understands, any reflection on recent political developments in our country is likely to be controversial. I regret that. To be honest, I have had enough conflict in my ministerial life. I would like nothing better than to settle down to my studies, play with my grandchildren, and write some good songs and books. However, our times require engagement. So while it is possible for a minister to make a good living by avoiding anything controversial, that is a coward’s path and one I cannot take.

So, I am going to take my time and talk carefully about some sensitive things. In making this script available, you will have the freedom to carefully review what I have said and then come to your own conclusions about where I stand.

First though, I want to thank you for the amazing amount of email I received the week prior to preaching this message. Many of you shared with me your struggles and those of your family. You expressed your trust that I would be respectful and kind today as I deal with this theme. I was deeply touched by that and promise to respect your dignity and privacy, now and in the future. Your notes showed me that most of you are ready for an informed and civil conversation about how to view homosexuality from a Christian perspective. So, I think this is the right time to begin that conversation.

I chose the Second Psalm for today’s reading because this Psalm describes the authority upon which a believer bases his beliefs and why his beliefs sometimes conflict with those of the world. Today’s New Testament reading of Acts 4:23-31 quotes the second Psalm because early believers found themselves in conflict with the authorities of their day.

There were two other pieces that formed a backdrop for today’s message, and I want to mention them.

We will celebrate Independence Day this week. That means many people expect me to talk about our nation and the gratitude we feel for living in it. That is a reasonable expectation, and I will honor it.

Then, I want to address the two groundbreaking decisions the Supreme Court made this week because they will affect how we live and behave as Christians in this country.

Both the Second Psalm and today’s reading from The Book of Acts articulate an important religious principle: that the rulers of the earth and God are sometimes on different pages.  At various times in history, this belief has made it challenging for believers to thrive in the nations in which they live. We have never really faced that tension in our country. However, in nations like Egypt and Nepal, believers feel it everyday. Although Christians are loyal to the countries in which they live, non-Christians realize that a Christian’s ultimate allegiance is to an authority other than the state and they often resent this.

There are two main reasons why American Christians have rarely faced this tension. First, our country has been friendly and respectful towards our faith and has often encouraged a high level of Christian influence on national life. The other reason is that many American Christians have mixed and confused patriotism with faith, so they have not been able to imagine what a conflict between these two things would look like. I will even go so far to say that for many American Christians, patriotism has been their real religion and Christianity a means of expressing it. As a result, when nation and faith are in conflict, American Christians often modify their faith rather than confront their country.

This is not new. Many Christians used their faith to validate and justify things like slavery, or the military conquest of what became our Western states and Caribbean territories. Of course, their faith was actually a civil religion, which they expressed with Christian jargon. However, those who articulated those views didn’t see it that way. They believed that the interests of their nation were Godly and biblical. That ought to make us cautious about entangling faith and nation too much.

To be fair though, we are not always sure where the line is between patriotism and faith. I for one believe that our nation is a precious gift. America is a good country in which to practice Christianity. It is not however any more of a Christian nation than say Bolivia or South Korea.

Many American Christians were horrified by the Supreme Court’s ruling last week because they were raised to view our country as something like a new Israel. Viewed in that light, America represents God and His law in a unique way.  As a result, America enjoys God’s special blessing and favor. The nation’s repudiation of faith then must necessarily invite God’s anger.

This view of faith and patriotism is not unique to Americans. Czarist Russia held that very same view. Russians called Moscow the Third Rome. They painted the Kremlin red to symbolize the Holy Spirit. The Czars prayed in church that God would empower Christian Russia to evangelize the world and to disciple the nations in the true faith.

To bring this closer to home, our country won its independence from a self-proclaimed Christian nation.  To this day, England’s flag is the cross of Christ superimposed over the cross of a martyred saint. Every Christmas, the BBC broadcasts the Queen’s homily throughout the commonwealth. It is usually surprisingly biblical and worshipful.

Several countries have thought of themselves as Christian nations in that way.

What the Supreme Court rulings destroyed was our ability to view the country as a kind of church, where nonbelievers are welcome but expected to conform to the minimal moral standards of our faith. If we had any doubts about that before, perhaps we lost them this week. The nation is not a church. Non-Christian citizens do not intend to live by the teachings of our faith, including what we believe about marriage.

Human history, as well as our faith, defined marriage eons ago. Like most pastors, I have tried to teach and affirm this historical definition of marriage. However, our nation – not merely through the Supreme Court but, if polls are to be believed, through rapidly shifting popular opinion as well – has decided to expand the meaning of marriage to include people of the same gender. That is a groundbreaking development, not only for our nation but also for all nations. It is a shock not only for our faith but for all religions, everywhere. By taking this step, our nation has made a decision that forces us to decide how we will define and live out our faith in God, in what is now very clearly an undeniably secular state.

The place to begin perhaps is to note how Christians ideally view and experience marriage. Christians believe that marriage begins as a ceremonial and sacramental event. It is something we have traditionally called Holy Matrimony. This event is not primarily a photo opportunity, a way to celebrate what has actually been done by the state. For a Christian, a marriage license from the state is merely a legal recognition of a Christian sacrament. Thus, the sacred covenant two Christians make in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not with the state; but with God. We appropriately ask the state to recognize the bond that results from the sacramental act of Holy Matrimony in order to establish the legitimacy of certain legal rights and privileges that our society grants to married partners.

Non-Christians establish a marriage contract through other religious ceremonies or through a secular registration of their intention to live together as a couple. In that sense, Christians and non-Christians use the same word – marriage – to define two different concepts.

In this light, what the Supreme Court decided this week was that our states are now free to extend legal recognition of the contractual bonds traditionally made by heterosexual couples to homosexuals. States have not, and cannot, redefine what constitutes the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

This point however brings me to another issue. The language I am using to define Christian marriage has become strange and convoluted to most Christians. It was not strange to our Christian grandparents, however. It has become strange to us because the American Churches, conservative as well as liberal, have already secularized their internal spiritual life.  We have secularized our worship services; our architecture; our corporate structures and nearly all other aspects of our faith. For several decades now, we have neglected instructing our young in the stories and teachings of our faith. We have lost nearly all means of church discipline. Our modern distaste for ceremony and our lack of interest in Christian theology has made huge portions of our Christian heritage appear alien and irrelevant even to most believers, not to mention how such things appear to non-believers.

For the most part, Conservative Christians have been moving in similar directions as liberal ones, just a decade or two behind. American Christianity, in other words, whether liberal or conservative, has not been “other than” secular culture. We have reflected the same opinions that divide Americans in general. Christians are interested in what non-believers find interesting. Christians dislike what non-Christians dislike. Churches compete with one another to see which one will become more like the world first and then call that success.

For all these reasons, Christians are not well prepared to address the issues raised by these latest Supreme Court Decisions. For that matter, we are not prepared to face other pressing matters either, such as globalization, our environment, and the implications of the Genome project.  We must quickly educate ourselves if we hope to offer the culture much more than anger on these issues.

When it comes to homosexuality specifically though, there are three issues a Christian must address.

Same-Sex Attraction

First, is the issue of sexual attraction.  By definition, homosexuals feel attracted to members of their own sex. They may or may not feel attracted to members of the opposite sex. Most homosexuals I know began experiencing this attraction at a very early age. They were usually ashamed by what they experienced, especially if they belong to Christian families. They often tried to deny it and move away from it and were usually unsuccessful.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much time today to deal with this topic. I will simply say that same-sex attraction is a human reality and that many, many Christians experience it. In fact, Christians experience the same spectrum of sexual desires and interests as everyone else. If I were to tell you that we have developed technology that reveals sexual dysfunction, and that in ten minutes a little yellow light will appear over the heads of everyone with sexual thoughts, fantasies, or behaviors others might find unusual, I guarantee you this sanctuary will soon have a lot less people in it. In this room, right now, are many people who experience sexual desires and dysfunction that cause them difficulty. Christians experience everything from types of prudery and sexual avoidance – which of course causes their partners pain – to hypersexual thoughts of scenarios, people and objects others would find bizarre. That is the truth. And yet, none of this removes any of us from the grace of God or from His healing and transforming power.

Most of us know that Christianity teaches that sexual behavior outside of marriage is somehow harmful to individuals and society. And yet, if that little light I was talking about were suddenly to appear over the heads of everyone who has ever experienced any sort of sexual act outside of marriage, we would probably have a smaller crowd next week.

Christians are called to sanctification. That process involves a cross, and that cross often affects our sexual lives. We accept this cross because we trust the Lord to work toward our ultimate good. Nonetheless, most of us sometimes stumble under the weight of that cross at times.

Sexual desire goes where it goes, and we must learn to manage it. Thankfully, few people, except for the most wealthy and famous, can act out all the fantasies in their heads. That includes many Christians who are presently, or who have at some time been, attracted to a person of their same sex. Sexual desire comes and goes, perhaps causes embarrassment or pain and then goes away, at least for a while. Most of us are in the same boat that way.  I’ll assure you it doesn’t go away completely until some time well after one’s sixtieth birthday.

Same-Sex Behavior

The second issue where homosexuality is concerned is homosexual behavior. The Bible teaches that sexual activity between individuals of the same sex is disordered, or contrary to holy living. We may do all sorts of things with the scriptures that teach this to try to make them mean something else. Nonetheless, 3,000 years of commentary on the Old Testament and 2,000 years of commentary on the New Testament, have reached similar conclusions about homosexual behavior. Interpretations of those passages that affirm something different than that are very, very new and very, very suspicious.

However, here again, American Churches have developed a very relaxed view of passages that define and regulate heterosexual life. In this very church, it has been nearly impossible to exercise any level of church discipline, however kind and loving we offer it. The moment a pastor tries to weigh in on things like inappropriate relationships or questions the wisdom of a Christian’s social media content, he is told to “mind his own business,” or “who are you to judge?” or “what century do you live in?” We have rejected nearly all forms of church discipline or pastoral authority, so much so that I am taking a risk by speaking about these matters today.  My point here is that we have been expecting our country to protect its moral boundaries but have not expected the church to protect its moral boundaries. Indeed, trying to do that is now viewed as judgmental and not a church’s right to address.

That leads to an important question:  how are we supposed to enforce church discipline when it comes to homosexuality when we have been ignoring unscriptural heterosexual behaviors and relationships? Here again, the churches have been as inconsistent and as unclear as the larger society. Preachers and gospel singers can have all sorts of moral indiscretions and continue on as if nothing ever happened, so long as their indiscretions are heterosexual rather than homosexual.

As a matter of fact, most Christians have approached homosexual behavior with something that is more like a “don’t ask; don’t tell policy” than with any clear biblical teaching about Godly morality. Until very recently, most homosexual Christians have desperately longed for help and healing and most of them still do. Unfortunately, few of them ever got that help. But we need to recognize that a believer who struggles with same-sex attraction, or who even acts out with other gay people from time to time, is usually troubled by the inconsistency between what he or she believes and what he or she does. Surely we all understand this. I certainly have felt disappointment about my ideas, emotions and actions that are inconsistent with faith in Christ.

What I am hoping to establish here is that homosexual behavior is not of a different magnitude of sin than inappropriate heterosexual behavior. Furthermore, homosexual behavior is not more damaging than many non-sexual sins that churches tolerate or even celebrate. There have been a number of times that upstanding Christians have brought pain into my life, sometimes by spreading stories that weren’t true. People like that throw a bomb in your boat and continue right on with life as though nothing has happened. So I can’t say that homosexual behavior affects the work of God or the spiritual health of human beings more than those kinds of sinful behaviors. And yet, I am called to forgive and make community with such people because I am not guiltless either. I also need forgiveness.

In fact, we all need a lot of forgiveness to walk the Christian path. I for one am willing to maintain Christian community with any brother or a sister who deals with same-sex attraction, even if he or she falls into inappropriate behavior from time to time. In fact, it would be far healthier for a church and its people if a homosexual person were able to appropriately reveal their struggle than to force him or her into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. When congregations quietly accept a person’s contribution to their church while suppressing the reality of their struggle, it corrupts the integrity and witness of that church. It also creates denial mechanisms that disillusion individuals who grow up in that church. This city is filled with examples of this kind of dysfunction.

That brings us to the issue of homosexual marriage, which is, in my mind, a very different issue, spiritually and biblically speaking, than either same-sex attraction or homosexual behavior.

Same-Sex Marriage

As far as I can see, scripture gives us no authority to call any homosexual union a “marriage.” If the state decides that a homosexual couple is “married,” I will treat that couple kindly and respectfully and not begrudge them any legal rights they may have because of their legal union. However, I cannot view their union as an act of Holy Matrimony, not because I don’t like homosexuals but because I operate under an authority that I believe does not allows me to do that. This is what we learn from the second Psalm and today’s passage from Acts: that sometimes believers are caught between the rulers of the nation on one hand and the Lord and His Christ on the other.

The reason for my stance on this is simple: if the Christian church, in all its parts and in every age, has been wrong about how it has defined Holy Matrimony, I have no idea what it has been right about. This issue goes to the very heart of Christian theology. To redefine marriage so radically would alter my understanding of the faith so much that I don’t know what would be left. Of course, we might say that our faith will be about “caring for the poor,” or “loving one’s neighbor” and so forth. My response is simply that the Lion’s Club can do such things as effectively as churches. We don’t need the church or the gospel in order to be nice to people, and not all Christians are nice anyway. What the church claims to be is an institution that proclaims eternal truths about life and eternity. It claims to assist people to walk toward transformation by walking out of the bondage of sin, which scripture defines rather clearly.

The bottom line then is that many people we love are attracted to members of their own sex. Just like the rest of us, they struggle to live godly lives. If they are not welcome among us, or if we must shame them into an unreasonable silence about the nature of their struggle, we simply don’t have much to offer the world except condemnation. For all these reasons, we must become more mature in the way we deal with our friends, family and brothers and sisters in Christ who experience same-sex attraction.

Nonetheless, we cannot view a homosexual union as Holy Matrimony. Scripture will not allow us to do that. If we bend scripture to accommodate our desire to do it, we will radically reshape Christian faith until it becomes impossible after that to claim that we represent anything more than cleverly devised fables and a helpful support group.

Let me conclude by addressing some things in our congregation.

We face a very different kind of society than the one our grandparents faced. Respectfully, I must say that what we affectionately call the “old time religion” is simply inadequate for meeting these new challenges. Insisting that we express ourselves as we did thirty years ago will destroy us. The “old time religion” was a specific spiritual response to a specific cultural situation, namely, the American rural frontier. The spiritual culture that the old time religion birthed gave us wonderful music and created a church environment that has been, and is still, precious to many of us. But the Christian church had been in existence long before the old time religion was ever thought of, and, as it turns out, the old time religion is not really that old.

We are now at another crucial turning point in global culture. These global changes require a different response than the revivalist culture of the rural American frontier. Pastors and other church leaders must be free to carefully adapt and adjust our eternal faith to the needs of a rapidly changing world. We cannot afford to destroy everyone who is trying his or her best to help us do that. If churches organize themselves around fear and hostility, we will soon be left with a very troubled collection of people who are terrified of the world and the people in it.

To tell you the truth, I must confess that I have come to fear the reaction of church people more than the reaction of non-believers. Most pastors feel the similarly. This situation must end.

Years ago, when I began to see the rate at which radical secularization was overtaking our nation and the church, I dug my roots deep into my faith. I studied the history and beliefs of the faith. As a result, I am not afraid or hesitant to deal with contemporary issues. I have become rooted in something eternal. However, as I began to go deeper into my faith, I began to encounter hostility from some believers. They got upset about the tools I had embraced to communicate and maintain my faith. I had come to sincerely believe that in a secular culture, the best way forward was not to secularize our faith more, but to restore sacred times, events and places; to offer our culture something different and eternal than what they can get at a concert or a mall. I came to believe that the best way to serve a post-modern world was not by holding on to things only a few decades old but by restoring beliefs and practices that were ancient, which indeed I came to view as timeless.

So I am no longer interested in being relevant. If I were interested in relevance, I wouldn’t worry about the trends I have addressed today. I would simply adjust and keep the church business going. But, what I am interested in is finding the truth and living by it. I am interested in going to heaven. And I am interested in becoming more like Christ.

What this means practically is that I may or may not be able to lead you to become the institutional and corporate success some of you would like us to enjoy. I do believe I can lead you to experience a transformed life in Jesus. I believe people hunger for truth and authenticity and by quietly embracing eternal things, we will probably attract hungry people into our church. But even if I’m wrong about this, I must walk the walk I believe God has called me to walk and it is not the path most American Evangelicals have been walking.

I believe that for several decades, many American Christians have been headed in the wrong direction. As a result, much of American Christianity now lacks the ability to meet our contemporary challenges. Because of this, I believe the way forward is to recover some of things we have lost. We must go deeper, become more informed, become wiser, become holier; we must serve the world better, and we must listen more and criticize less.

Furthermore, I have given up the culture war. I am not embracing all aspects of contemporary culture, but I am not at war with contemporary culture. I just don’t think we can serve people and fight them at the same time. We cannot talk about traditional marriage by becoming hostile to gay people. We will make a convincing case for biblical marriage if we offer the world some examples of successful and loving Christian marriages. We cannot yell about how the nation dishonors the Bible if we don’t have an appetite to read and study the scriptures. If we want to change the nation, the best thing we can do is offer our nation some saints, some evidence that Jesus radically changes people for the better.

On the first Sunday of August, I will use my sermon time to talk to you about a few practical steps I think our church should take to meet today’s challenges. I will invite you back that night so you can express yourselves about what you think that I have said. The hour is late and we must act. I believe I know some of the things we should do, and together we can discover all that God would have us to do. That Sunday in August, we will have an honest conversation, and I hope you’ll be a part of that evening.

One thing we know: we have entered very different territory than what any of us have faced before. But we will thrive in this new environment provided that our foundations are sound, provided that we can discern how the Spirit is leading us to walk. That is what the group of early Christians in our New Testament reading did. That’s the way we can move forward now. See what God is doing and join what He is doing. Sometimes we need to take a stand – sometimes it’s a difficult stand, a hard stand – but the world does not need any more anger.

Back when I was writing Faith to Faith, I carefully read sacred writings from other religions. I also met with representatives from those religions to make sure I had understood them correctly. I found Buddhists especially helpful and learned from a prayer from them called the Refuge prayer. It consists of three sentences:

I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Buddha’s teachings.
I take refuge in the Buddha’s community.

I asked myself whether I could say that I had taken refuge in Jesus. I was able to say that I did. I asked whether I took refuge in the teachings of Jesus. I realized that I was trying to do that. Then I asked whether I could take refuge in the community of Jesus. I realized that this was the most difficult thing of all to do. I realized that for many people, sometimes including me, church does not represent refuge. It represents pain, disappointment and sometimes, even cruelty.

I think we can change that by simply offering everyone, whatever their struggle and whatever their past, healing and transformation in Christ. That occurs however, in the context of a healing community where the presence of God is celebrated and where people learn about Him together.

I am finished fighting people. Our church corporation will either do well or it won’t. And while I will do all I can to help it do well, it is far more important to live our faith by shouting to all who pass by, “Come everyone who is thirsty and drink waters that never run dry.” It is far more important to live out our faith by repeating the words of Jesus to all who suffer, “come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We pray for the sick. We feed the hungry. We encourage the discouraged. If we do that, we don’t have time to fight the nation or its leaders, and at any rate, they too need the love of God.

We must settle ourselves. For the truth is, eras of history come and go. It is only God who remains eternally constant and certain. If we will not become militant and hostile, the Eternal God will “speak peace to our soul.” He will show us what the song means that promises, “in every change, He faithful will remain.”

We hope our nation will grow in godliness, but it is far more important that believers and the church grow in godliness, that we become a vehicle that “through many infallible proofs, shows Jesus to be yet alive.”

I want to end the sermon in perhaps a strange way as we listen to a song. On the way to church Wednesday night, my heart was so heavy, like many of you. And I thought, “I don’t know how we are going to function.” We have a nation that is increasingly and militantly secular and we have a church culture that gets angry at anyone who even deals with that in a rational way instead of calling for the radical overthrow of everything and everybody so we can re-establish Christianity as the faith of the country. I get pushed and pulled, and that night, I was weary. So I put on the church’s new Missions CD our choir records to raise money for Japan, and I heard a song I had not heard before. It was one of the more anointed songs I have ever heard in my life, and it pierced me to the depths of my soul, and in my car, I felt God put His hand on me and tell me that everything would be OK if I would just trust Him. Please listen to prayerfully to “Be Still My Soul.”

Heavenly Father,
We thank You for that song and the anointed voice that sings it and the prophetic message it brings to us. We confess to You Lord that we have reacted against many mean-spirited calls to holiness by being flippant about being unholy. We pray that in this congregation, Your Holy Spirit would woo us to be attracted to the joys of being a holy people. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that through Him, all people might be saved. Whatever might by my sin of thought word and deed – by commission or omission – You saved me through Your act of mercy on the cross, and You empower me with Your Holy Spirit that I might be transformed, and You give me the hope that I can walk out from my sin. We have talked a lot about homosexuals and homosexual behavior in this sermon and all over the country for a long time now. Sometimes it has been less about taking a stand for righteousness than just taking the light off of our own lack of holy life and creating scapegoats that we think somehow are worse sinners than ourselves, and in this, we have been guilty of gross levels of phariseeism and evil. Yet nonetheless, Your Word remains true to all of us, whatever orientation we may think we have. “If any man is to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” If any man names the name of Christ, let him depart from iniquity. Give us grace to do that humbly, graciously, lovingly, and willing to suffer but not inflict suffering on others. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
Amen

 

 

 

49 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Thank you, Pastor Dan Scott. Thank you.

  2. “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    And where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console,
    to be understood as to understand,
    to be loved, as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive;
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

    —St. Francis of Assisi

  3. Thank you, Pastor Dan, for this clear, godly, loving message for the body of Christ today. You are a gift to the Church – I thank God for you and for inspiring you to deliver this timely sermon. May He richly bless you, your ministry, your family, and the people of Christ Church Nashville. Yours in Christ, Freddy Richardson

  4. Wow. You just said everything that my husband and I have been thinking the past year. It’s not our job as Christians to jump to Christ’s defense. He never asked us to do that. He just asked us to show his love and spread his gospel.

    Thanks for this.

  5. Dan, I consider it a privilege to be your brother and I admire your willingness to approach the culture and the gospel with both intellectual honest and Christ’s compassion. Thank you for taking the risk and please let those of us who love you know how we can love and care for your needs.

  6. Thanks, Dan. I wish we were closer and could have further discussion and fellowship. The message is very thoughtful and loving. I believe walking that balance of speaking the truth in love without falling off on either side can be as difficult as Nic Wallenda walking across the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls on a tightrope. May God help us all to speak in His stead. Thanks again.

  7. Dan,
    I don’t know you, but I saw a link to your sermon by James Farley, who is the founding pastor of the local fellowship I attend.
    I want you to know that I’m very moved by your stance. As I read the words of your transcript, I kept checking for the typical Christian hostility that we see so much of, and I didn’t find it.
    I’m especially thankful that you clarified that “marriage” in secular terms is a social contract, yet not the same as Holy Matrimony that comes to us through our Scriptures. And I’m glad that you said you will respect and be kind to same sex couples whom you meet.
    You know, if Christian hostility was effective in winning souls to a rich, deep and long-term repentance toward God, the world would have been won many, many years ago.
    I have struggled with the questions that you raise, and have come to similar views. As one who has struggled with same-sex attractions, which, even after 20 years of marriage, haven’t just “disappeared,” I have wondered often how to relate to those who stayed in same-sex relationships, but who either gave up on their struggle to serve God, or who may not have even entered into that struggle.
    Here is the gist of what I have come up with again and again. I hope that I’m not watering down the gospel and am in error in my thinking, but, as I say, after years of seeking God on this, here is where I keep landing:

    (1) Jesus is real. No matter what sin or sinfulness one is in, Jesus can still draw him/her, and she/he can still respond to this “invisible,” loving, incredible God who chooses to enter into our miserable lives and offer mercy.

    (2) Sin is real. Even if you took the sexuality component out of the picture, sin is comprehensive enough that, should a person who is in a same sex relationship start to be drawn to God, they will have plenty to repent of as they realize their needy state before His holiness.

    (3) The way God leads people to Himself is sacred and sovereign. Proverbs says, “There are 3 things that are amazing to me.” Among them is “the way of a man with a maiden.” How God woos and draws those who eventually become part of His Bride, for whom He is so jealous, is beyond my understanding. I only know that God is big enough for the task, and that, despite Chrisianity’s faliures in terms of leading the lost to God, He wants people to be saved even more than we do. I’m confident in the process that He can initiate and that humans of all sorts and stripes and colors and backgrounds can respond to. He certainly knew society was going to go this way, and I’m sure He has not given up on people who are in same-sex relationships.

    Because of that, I can be kind and respectful to all people, not having to “win” them out of a crazy fear or out of my own insecurity. He is big enough to draw peole in, and to prompt His people as needed to know how to minister to all kinds of people.

    I can say, “Be still my soul.” because God is so big, and I trust him to keep moving on behalf of those He is drawing!!!

    Thanks for your thoughtful and careful reflection on these issues. I know that didn’t come automatically, and that you are not speaking “off the cuff,” but from many years of reflection, consideration, prayer, and repentance before God.
    God bless you and your congregation as you move in this new direction!

  8. One word: wonderful.
    I have been out of town. Thank you for emailing the link.

  9. Thank you Pastor Dan. This sermon was very much needed. God Bless you in your walk, as you have blessed me in mine.

  10. A refreshing and thought-provoking sermon, indeed. I will share this with many. I only wonder that Pastor Dan has never heard “Be Still My Soul”! It is an old, beautiful, contemplative hymn!

    • The hymn has been one of my favorites for years, but I never heard it sung as it was last Sunday. It really, really ministered to me.

  11. Dan,
    As always… theologically sound, culturally relevant and delivered with grace

    • Randy,

      Thank you so much for responding to the message. I am trying to respond to all the emails, which have been rather overwhelming.

  12. Thank you Pastor Dan. Speaking the “truth in love” is part of what we are called to do as Christians. You did with exemplary fashion in your sermon this past Sunday. It is evident that you speak out of a true heart to serve the Lord and His people, leading them in righteous pathways. May God give us all the grace that we need to lead His people and to stand for Him today and the days ahead. May He give us a heart to love all that come through our doors unconditionally and to speak His truth to them with eternity in sight. You are a true blessing to the Church of Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless you as you serve Him unwaveringly. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” I Cor. 15:58

  13. I would just like to say that I do disagree with you on many levels. I am not a person who hates or condemns homosexuals. I have some wonderful friends who are gay. I do, however, think that homosexuality is a sin. I don’t think that a church should shun anyone who sins in any way. The church is the place they should be. I know that there are “church people” who will not accept them, but they apparently aren’t Christians just because they are “church people”. I do know that our country was founded on Christianity, and I think that we are slowly getting away from that. We are so afraid to offend someone with our Christianity, but a large part of our country now doesn’t care very much about offending Christians at all. That said, I will say, and it sounds a little cliche’, but I don’t hate sinners, but I hate sin. I don’t hate anyone. I can say that with a clear conscience because, at least with me, it is true. So I will have to disagree with about 90% of what you said in your sermon. With love in Christ, Peggy.

    • Our country was not founded on Christianity. In fact many of our nations founders were outspoken atheists. Some of them were Christians, yes, but our country is not Christian State. It is a free nation where people of all religious views can live without fear of persecution and can enjoy equal rights under the law. This does not mean you ignore your faith to be a U.S. Citizen. Ir simply means that you live out your faith and spread the love of Christ in a wonderful nation that allows you the freedom to do so! The message was incredible and I’m so thankful for it..

      • “Our country was not founded on Christianity. ”

        Incorrect historical statement. More exactly, it was founded on a Christian Theology, with freedom of religion offered as a corollary.

        This nation is not a Christian nation, but it comes and goes on that aspect. By definition, if there’s freedom of religion, there no Christian State, unlike England. But Christians are allowed by their constitution to express and exercise Christianity.

        • Exactly… Freedom of religion or any of our Creator-endowed rights cannot exist without establishing first the “right-ness” (righteousness) of that “right” as it is rightly established in and by God.

    • Dear Peggy, I think you are right on target with what Pastor Dan’s message was. As I read your comment I thought???? Try reading through his message again. If you read carefully, I think you will find you are on common ground, more than you thought. It’s all about the love of Jesus Christ for us, his unbelievable forgiveness and grace… and then how we surrender to Him and allow him to use us to reach the lost… no matter what the sin.

    • peggy..respectfully, BEING gay is NOT a sin. To believe that is to not understand the very nature of sexuality and its nuances. This is the CORE of the problem with the church- they refuse to address things from a realistic viewpoint. While i am not Dan’s biggest fan, (i disagree with his assesment of the contemporary church- it takes a balance of ancient core truth and contemporary delivery to remain relevant and effective) i am very happy with the majority of this sermon.

  14. Thank you, Pastor. You are faithful to God’s word and faithful to God-given reason. Keep preaching and teaching in this way.

  15. Thank you Pastor Dan.Absolutely Brilliant!!! The sound of Pure Truth in this sermon is like the sound of great music to my ears. It is so thrilling. What you have hereby stated is what I have been trying to say to many Christian friends and pastors. This kind of honesty, knowledge and wisdom is what today’s church needs more of. It comes from The Holy Spirit instead of the Ego.
    I agree with every word and thought Pastor Dan has gifted us with. All praise be to God for raising up this kind of teacher in today’s dark World.

  16. Gracias por la descarga de la canción usted todos.

  17. Dear Dan,

    Thank you for your message.

    Fr. Barnabas Powell
    Sts Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church
    Cumming, GA

  18. Thank you, Pastor Dan for sharing your heart. My heart has been convicted.

  19. Dan,

    Thank you! I just spent 30 minutes in worship and being challenged by your thoughts and words. Thank you for a well-thought rational presentation of where our heads need to be. Thank you for the time you have spent in connecting with the ancient ways. Thank you for presenting the prayer of the Buddah – I want to make that my prayer, but that Jesus would be the center of it. Thank you for closing with Be Still My Soul. What a great way to close, to worship, to sit in my living room and life my hands and meditate on the words, be still my soul…
    Last, thank you for helping me to put so many thoughts and ideas I have had bouncing around in my head for well over 30 years into a better form of order and understanding. From patriotism to homosexuality, I never thought I would find order for both questions in a single message – great job. May God continue to speak through you. May you keep your life aligned to the Way – that ancient and sacred path. May God pour out his blessings on you.

  20. Thank you…Courage and principle are an amazing motivator. Your voice speaks volumes about all our detailed concerns. Praying for your continued success….many blessings…Shalom…Pastor Douglas, Dallas, Texas

  21. Father Freddy,

    Your love, support and friendship has been such a wonderful joy to me. I admire the path you have walked and the faithfulness you have demonstrated.

  22. Thanks for writing, Pastor Douglas. Addressing this theme requires a lot of wisdom and prayer. None of us are capable on our own, which, I suppose is how our Lord meant things to be,

  23. Father, Barnabas,

    Thank you for your kind note and for taking the time to write it.

  24. Jim,

    How kind of you to write. The issues addressed in this message are crucial for the Christian community in this hour. The responses to it tell me that much of American Christianity is ready to address them.

  25. Thank your for your beautiful message.

  26. This is not a message to take lightly. In fact, I printed it and have re-read it many times. This is about a lot more than homosexuality and same-sex marriage as the title mentions. It is about the move of our churches to the acceptance of secular ways. It is about the picking and choosing of sins we, as Christians, deem to be unforgivable. It is about acceptance of sinners – or non-acceptance. We, as Christians, should welcome everyone into our churches, but we must use our churches as tools to help us be more like Jesus. We should not condone sinful actions, but should be reinforcing Bible principles. I fear we are failing miserably in that respect by failing to teach our children. We have re-labeled our churches “worship centers” or “auditoriums” rather than “sanctuaries.” I need a place of sanctuary from the world in order to be able to “be still and know God.” Thank you for your message and for the message in song.

    • Thank you, Janice.

      You are right about the sermon being about a lot more than homosexuality. The more fundamental issue is about the meaning of Christianity itself and whether it remains intact if we keep secularizing it to meet “our needs.”

      If the scripture teaches us how to live, then to be a Christian includes adjusting our lives to the teachings of the faith. If they do not, then I’m not sure what they do, or what church is about.

      It is a watershed moment, no doubt about that.

  27. Dear Pastor Dan, Your sermon was passed on to me by a dear friend. So I appreciate both her for sending it and you for preaching it. My heart broke as I heard the underlying agony of pastoral leadership. I too have felt that agony, but after 16 years, I surrendered to its pressures. I am no longer in pulpit ministry, not because of the wrath of the culture, but because of the meanness of Christians. I am so happy to hear your word, and to admire your courage for daily letting Christ be your strength, and to stand with Paul in not trying to “win the approval of men”. Thanks for the refreshment

  28. Thank for such an awesome sermon. I know it was anointed. I had been struggling with how to deal with the issue. You put it right on the line. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  29. Pastor Scott,
    I soooo appreciate your message re homosexuality. I fully agree with your thoughts. I have one question: in living out Gods Truth practically on a daily basis, how do I obediently incorporate I Cor. 5:9-11 and understand Gal. 5:16-21 in light of your message. I have tried to think through this for a long time and hope you can help me. Thanks!!!

    • You raise some important questions that we must address. The Apostle Paul says we should not associate with those who live immorally. Viewed in the light of the entire messsage of the New Testament, I woudl think that Paul’s command has to do with believers rather than with non believers, and, with professing believers who have no stated intention of transformation in grace.

      For example, we can forgive a thief who repents, and perhaps forgive him many times if he shows great remorse and a willingness to make restitution. (Though we will watch our goods when he is around!) But a thief who laughs at our displeasure and follows and ethic is “finders keepers; loosers weepers” needs to be expelled from the community.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks for writing.

      • Thanks. I understand this in light of relating to unbelievers, but I am supposing that most of the homosexuals that would come to church would be professing to be born again Christians ( at least that is who I have encountered), so this is where it gets sticky. Also, is it theologically safe to say from Gal. that those practicing this life style ( even though they claim Gods love and forgiveness) will not intherit eternal life? How do I answer such questions. THANK YOU!!!!!

  30. That is what I called a Christlike sermon! Thank you Pastor.

  31. Sorry I missed this Dan. I will try and catch the video soon. Peace of Christ to you. – Thaddeus

  32. Bud,

    I do understand why so many pastors leave the pulpit ministry. The nation is so divided that we walk on eggshells everytime we try to speak. But in the ned, we are merely human beings, no more holy or smarter than most of the people we lead. Unfortunately, we lead at a time that our congregations want some answers and we have no choice but to offer them what we believe.

    Every conflict results in wounded people, and pastors are among some of the most wounded people I know. The spouse and families of pastors often go through intense suffering as well. So taking a sabatical is not a bad thing and allows a person to heal. Besides, the pulpit is not the onl, or perhaps even the most effective place to minsiter to those who need The Lord.

  33. I came to this website looking for details on the MDO program.

    I did not expect to come across this.

    Your ability to identify the problem of confusion between patriotism and spiritual faith as an unnecessary and unhealthy source of anger in American Christians has shown me that you are a man that I should be listening to.

    I’ll continue to check in here.

  34. Dan, as a fellow pastor and preacher, I know what it took to preach this sermon. I also know you have arrows coming at you right and left. I heard about the sermon because one of my closest colleagues in ministry heard it in person because he and his wife worship their on vacation Sundays sometimes. He was so impressed and so am I. This sermon is one of the most careful, intelligent, faithful, and loving articulations of the Gospel I have heard.

  35. Our job as Christians is to point people to the cross. When our sisters and brothers fall to temptain and sin, this is the chance where we get to demonstrate the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is love and even more so to nonbelievers who walk around with scales in their eyes, immune to the convictions of the Holy Spirit. We live in a fallen world where the enemy roams to and fro looking for those to deceive. Why are acting like defenseless and puny Christians? Why are we accepting this the way of life? Why are we saying we are stuck living in bondage forever even after accepting Christ? What happened totthe belief that Christ died for sin and now there is freedom and liberty in Jesus Christ? Until, we, Christians, recognize that this fight requires more than just speaking our the truth, we are not going to see change in our country and in peoole. This fight can only be won by prayer. It’s time we get on our knees to pray and to ask God in the name of Jesus to drive the enemy out! What’s happening inAmerica is a direct attact to the hear of God.The heart of God is the family unit. Time to wake up, believers and start to intercede!

    Just because we may feel attracted to the opposite sex does not mean it’s a good feeling. Not every thought and desire that comes through our bodies is a Godly thought and desire. Do wewwant people to be set free from their bondage of sin? Didn’tJesus conquered all sin and iniquity including death at the cross? Yes, times are changing, but the Gospel of Jesus has not! There is power in the name of Jesus to shake the Earth andset prisoners free? If you live people, why not pray for Jesus to set them free?

  36. Francis,

    The spiritual journey of everyone involves overcoming “that sin that so easily besets you.” I have some of those, and forty years of ministry tells me that you have some too. So we need grace, and we need sanctification. God helps us and we help one another as we keep walking Godward.