The Church’s Position on Homosexuality
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,.
1 Pet. 3:15
The first century was one of intense persecution for Christians. While the persecution Christians faced would certainly become even more severe before Christianity triumphed in the Roman Empire, it was those early years that tempered the church and prepared her for victorious life during her approaching more difficult years. Peter’s counsel to the Christians living in that first century provided powerful guidance to help equip the early believers for the trying days that lay ahead. As scattered “aliens” the early Christians had to learn to live above their circumstances and focus their attention on God and the salvation He provided them through Christ (1 Pet. 1:1-12). By maintaining this focus, they would be empowered to live thoughtful, holy lives that would bring glory to Christ and serve as a powerful witness to the lost (1 Pet. 1:13-2:12).
Christians are under severe pressure today to accept homosexuality as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. There is even considerable pressure in some denominations for this. The recent act of the Episcopal Church to make a practicing homosexual a bishop of the church is one of many examples of this.
Regardless of the myriad voices calling on the church to rethink its position on homosexuality the biblical witness is clear—homosexuality is not an acceptable alternative lifestyle. While this is true, the church must not turn its back on homosexuals. In light of the terrible devastation caused by this lifestyle, the church must develop an effective ministry to homosexuals that will draw them to Christ. Peter’s counsel to those who were experiencing persecution provides some superb guidance to the church as it considers how to engage in ministry to homosexuals. His counsel in 1 Peter 3:15 offers three guidelines that are particularly helpful to the church as it develops an effective ministry to homosexuals.
I. The Church Must Remain Committed to Christ as Lord
Peter knew that it wasn’t enough for Christians to simply acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. Mere assent to Jesus’ divinity would not be enough to help them live victorious lives in the face of intense persecution. Nothing short of total commitment to Christ as Lord of their lives would sustain them.
Peter emphasized the importance of Christ’s lordship by telling his readers to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” This brief directive offered considerable guidance. Peter’s use of the imperative form told these believers that this was not an option if they wanted to withstand the pressures they faced. They owed their primary allegiance to Christ. Furthermore, Peter told them the area of their lives in which they needed to sanctify Christ as Lord. They needed to set Christ apart as Lord in their hearts. Edwin Blum, 1, 2 Peter, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 240, notes, “When the center of one’s life is rightly related to God, he is able to respond properly to the vicissitudes of life.”
It is easy to see the importance of Peter’s counsel in developing a ministry to homosexuals. The constant pressure Christians will face to accept other authorities on the question of homosexuality requires a firm resolve to remain faithful to the One who called them and gave them the ministry of reconciliation. Only a total obedience to Christ will enable Christians to stand firm in the biblical truth about homosexuality.
II. The Church Must Have a Clear Message
Standing firm on the truth of God’s word is only the starting point for Christians. They must also have a message for an unbelieving, skeptical world. Peter told his readers that they must be ready at all times. In other words, Christians must know what they believe and why they believe it from the start. Peter told his readers to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks. It wasn’t enough for them to go out preaching, constantly on the attack. There would be times when they would be asked about their faith. They needed to be so knowledgeable about their faith that they could answer questions at any time. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 114, comments that “this attitude calls for an intelligent grasp of the hope and skill in presenting it. In Athens every citizen was expected to be able to join in the discussion of state affairs.”
The church must be this prepared in its ministry to homosexuals. It must be able not only to declare the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, but also be ready to explain why it is so convinced of this. To say, “Well, it’s just wrong,” will not convince anyone of the moral or spiritual reasons why homosexuality should not be condoned or accepted. If Christians are uncertain about their conviction in this area or they convey a weak message to homosexuals, they should not be surprised if their denouncements fall on deaf ears. To convince someone of the truthfulness of a claim requires confidence in that conviction and a well-argued apologetic.
III. The Church Must Have the Right Attitude
Peter saw no place for arrogance in the church’s ministry. Even though he knew Christians had the truth, and everyone needed to hear that truth, Peter didn’t consider it a matter for arrogance. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the Three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude, p. 151, quotes Luther on this passage, who said, “‘When you are asked about your hope you are not to answer with haughty words and carry things off with audacity and force as though you meant to tear up trees, but with fear and humility as though you stood before God’s judgment and were making answer.’”
Peter’s counsel to his readers is certainly appropriate for ministry to homosexuals. Unfortunately, much of Christian history and some segments of Christianity today, are marred by spiritual arrogance and hatred toward homosexuals. While it is certainly understandable that Christians would be deeply offended by homosexual behavior, this offense cannot give way to fleshly responses. Indeed, spiritual arrogance and hatred will undermine any effort to minister effectively to homosexuals. Most homosexuals chose to adopt their lifestyle after intense personal struggle. As a result, they feel very strongly about their lifestyle. To disregard these convictions and simply declare the equivalent of “turn or burn” will only drive homosexuals further from Christ and make it more difficult for them to ever be willing to consider the sinfulness of their lifestyle. Gentleness and a sincere respect for them as men and women for whom Christ died, and whose lives have inestimable worth, is crucial for ministry to homosexuals.
It is crucial that the church make two commitments. First, she must commit herself to the truth that homosexuality is not an acceptable, alternative lifestyle. Second, she must commit herself to a redemptive ministry to homosexuals. If the church ever accepts homosexuality, the best hope homosexuals have of leaving this lifestyle will be lost, because the key to leaving homosexuality is spiritual. It is found in relationship with Jesus Christ. However, the church must make sure that she offers Jesus to homosexuals in a loving, redemptive way, or she will risk alienating the very people who desperately need the message she has.
What Can One Person Do?
- Ask your pastor to preach a message on why the church must minister to homosexuals.
- Have someone involved in ministry to homosexuals lead a workshop in your church on ministry to homosexuals. Visit the website of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the names of some ministries to homosexuals.
- Begin a ministry to people infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.
- Write letters to the editor explaining why you are opposed to same-sex marriage.
- Ask God to give you a deep love and compassion for people trapped in the homosexual lifestyle.
- Befriend a homosexual so you can share Christ’s love with him or her on a regular basis.
Bible verses about the Homosexuality:
Gen. 19:4-5, 13; Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Deut. 22:5; Jud. 19:22; Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9, 13; I Thess. 5:22; I Tim. 1:9-10; II Pet. 2:6; Jude 7; Rev. 22:14-15