Homosexuality and the Church’s Holy Tension

Robert A. J. Gagnon, on the final pages of his opus, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001), pens important words about the challenges ahead for the church.

The core proclamation of the gospel declares that God made amends for human sin while humans were still ungodly and hostile sinners, that God experienced the pain and agony of offering Christ up to death in order to rescue the maximum number of people from sin and transform them into Christ's image. To denounce same-sex intercourse and then stop short of actively and sacrificially reaching out in love and concern to homosexuals is to have as truncated a gospel as those who mistake God's love for "accepting people as they are" and who avoid talk of the gospels transformative power. It is to forget the costly and self-sacrificial work of God in our own lives, past and ongoing. . . .

This book has been aimed at showing that affirming same-sex intercourse is not an act of love, however well meaning the intent. That road leads to death: physically, morally, and spiritually. Promoting the homosexual "rights" agenda is an awful and harmful waste of the church's energies and resources.

What does constitute an act of love is befriending the homosexual while withholding approval of homosexual behavior, working in the true interests of the homosexual despite one's personal repugnance for same-sex intercourse, pursuing in love the homosexual while bearing the abuse that will inevitably come with opposing homosexual practice. It is the harder road to travel. It is too hard for many people to live within that holy tension. Yet it is the road that leads to life and true reconciliation; it is the calling of the church in the world.

The real difficulty for the church lies not in assessing whether the Bible's stance toward same-sex intercourse is unremittingly negative, nor even (as is increasingly being suggested) in assessing whether the hermeneutical appropriation of the Bible's stance for our contemporary context sustains that witness. No, the real difficulty for the church lies in the pastoral dimension: the "nuts-and-bolts," day-to-day compassionate response to people whose sexual actions are recognized to be sinful and harmful to themselves, to the church, and to society at large. (492–493)

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist and staff writer for Desiring God and the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015). He hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts, and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and their three children.