Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- His good, pleasing and perfect will. -- Romans 12:2
I always wanted to sing, but never had any confidence in my voice, nor did I ever learn to read music. Still, that didn't discourage me from joining the First Baptist Church youth choir. The summer trips were great; the youth musicals inspiring, the snack suppers worth the effort. The choir sounded great too, but I can take no credit for that. I did not want to be heard, so I kept my voice so low it couldn't have added much,
If I got a little too loud in practice and Mr. Shadle would hear a bass off key, he would silence all the tenors, altos and sopranos and ask the bass guys to sing alone, walking back and forth in front of us, leaning in with a hand cupped over his ear. He never found me; I would just mouth the words as he approached and let the other guys carry the weight for all the sound. I made the choice to have no voice. I didn't contribute much to the singing and, because I was hiding, I never got the instruction Mr. Shadle might have given me, so I really still can't sing on key . . . at least not on purpose.
When it comes to the chorus of sexual chaos into which this current generation is falling, I think a lot of Christians have made the choice to have no voice, opting to let others carry the tune. Many Christians are choosing cowardice over courage; callousness over compassion; indifference over love; comfort in ignorance over strength in truth.
What are we afraid of?
Recent headlines paint a picture of a nation obsessed with sex, not in the way of the google-eyed fraternity beer-boys in weekend football commercials, but in a disastrous dead-end way diminishing individuals and dealing death. Indeed, we're beginning to see life basically defined by sexual identity, a dwindling down of self-worth that leads to division and judgment . . . and endless pain. And Christians, if they're not just sitting it out on the sidelines are too often speaking harshly and arrogantly, putting more distance between them and ones who need them. Sadly, some of the most judgmental people in public may not regularly be in church, but they often cite scripture and portray themselves as advocates of righteousness.
So, what is true? The truth is that, scripturally, any sex outside of a marriage covenant between one man and one woman for life is a sin. The truth is that Christ died for all sinners, sexual or otherwise. The truth is that people who are confused about their sexuality and think themselves gay, or people who find themselves addicted, or people who find themselves giving into temptations, having sex with the same sex, lusting after someone other than their spouse, staring at pornography on their computers, fantasizing . . . are people who, like you, were made in the image of him, and like you -- and all other sheep -- have gone astray.
The truth is, they are as loved by God as you are . . . and the truth is when one of them jumps off a bridge, or leaves a spouse, or hides in a closet, or moves into a dangerous and misdirected lifestyle, we should weep and pray . . . not point and parade in our own over-rated righteousness.
Maybe we're afraid of looking tolerant, so we settle for looking ignorant instead. But . . . tolerance does not necessarily mean agreement. Being tolerant of others is not a compromise of our own beliefs, it is a demonstration that we know and understand that sin can and will wrap itself around the mind and heart and soul, and only Christ can break those bonds. We're not privileged to know how and when He will do so, so we continue on in hope and love. If we demonstrate our conviction that a relationship with Jesus is the only way to have a relationship with God, then we need to tolerate people we disagree with and be prepared to witness to them . . . and we can do so without endorsing their ideas. If our personal convictions are true and strong, they are not endangered.
When it comes to sex, we don't much teach and we don't much preach. And we certainly don't reach, as in out. While our pews on Sunday have their share of pornography addicts and same-sex strugglers, rare is the church where any effort is made at all to provide a safe place for confession, accountability and repentance. To most of the sexually-broken, church looks more dangerous than a dark corner in a Mafia-run Mexican village. Our message is simple: "Just don't. And if you already do, don't tell us." We have some "don'ts" who will and will never look for help. We have some "already do's" who would die before revealing. And some of them are dying inside within easy reach of the light.
Are we obsessing about sex? Consider these recent events:
Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach at Penn State, is accused of recruiting young boys through his charity organization and sexually abusing them.
Bernie Fine, assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, is fired after allegations that he molested boys.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain is being dogged by women who claim he sexually-harassed them and by one woman who claims to have carried on a 13-year adulterous affair with him.
These three men find themselves in the sexual spotlight, and that's just in the past few weeks. But questions about sex and our society are becoming more common, more consistent and more consuming.
A judge declared that "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" should not be enforced in the military, no matter what the military itself or the American people think.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who is married, was accused of sending sexual messages and naked photos to a female sports reporter and other women.
Bishop Eddie Long, leader of a 25,000-member megachurch in Atlanta, faced accusations of sexual coercion from four men, former parishioners.
The U.S. Supreme Court considered a free speech case against Westboro Baptist Church, an independent "church" group that protests outside military funerals with signs that say "God Hates Fags."
A judge overturned California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, and Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to appeal, despite the will of the people having already been expressed at the ballot box.
New York Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino is declared homophobic by his opponent for saying that children should not be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.”
Teenagers across the country have committed suicide after being taunted as allegedly gay. One young man in my own hometown of Norman allegedly went home after a public City Council meeting recently where an ordinance to celebrate GLBT month was debated and he shot himself in the head. The remarks made at the meeting were demeaning and callous, with no regard for who might be harmed by the painful condemnation.
Authorities arrested 10 people in the Bronx, N.Y., in connection with the brutal assault of two teens and an adult who police say were tortured for being gay.
Porn filming was put on hold because a major porn "star" was infected with the HIV virus. According to Family Safe Media, a new porn film is shot every 39 minutes in the United States alone, and more than 50% of Christians report that pornography is a significant problem in their homes.
Teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease rates continue to rise. Statistics show that more than 60% of teens have had intercourse before high school graduation.
The U.S. Customs Service reports there are more than 100,000 Internet sites offering child pornography.
Scan the Internet and you will find countless more headlines about sex. And while the bullying of the gay teens has brought that particular issue to the forefront and created a sense of sensitivity, the underlying issue is the fact that the church has ceded sexuality to culture. Christians may not condone what once would have been considered a sexual revolution, but has now become our sexualized reality . . . but we are accomplices in our silence, from the pulpit, in our homes, in our own lives. We're not adequately putting forth an alternative for those who are trying to find their identity through sex. And we're not showing grace to those who have fallen into one of Satan's most attractive traps. We leave them thirsting, we scrimp on forgiveness, we withhold entry on the only path to redemption because, why? We're afraid we'll get tainted? Misunderstood? Labeled as either tolerant or intolerant or as moral bigots? What tender hearts we have become toward ourselves, even as we have hardened our hearts toward others. Surely we cannot be satisfied to let Ellen and Oprah handle this. Let's not assuage our guilty feelings by watching coverage of candlelight vigils for the ones who took their own lives in despair, not when we are called to be the light.
Woe is me is not an expression of faith.
Too many Christians gather together to lament the fact that the world -- somewhere out there -- is going to hell in a hand-basket. We shake our heads back and forth with pained expressions, declaring the sexual perversion of the modern day must be a sign of the end times. For some, sexual brokenness may well usher in their personal end time, as they find themselves drowning in sexual addictions down the street from the sanctuary door. If we really believe the end is near, should we not be working ever harder to take them with us?
Truth Should Trump Tradition
Some Christians have ingrained Leviticus 18:22 so deeply into their spiritual psyches that they cannot find any room to combine it with the slightest vision of love and grace and forgiveness and healing. Dismissing the sexually broken homosexual with a lifted chin and the word abomination, they live in a world dominated by their memories of "Daddy says all homos go to hell" and that settles it. Why can't they reach out to the ones they would so easily condemn and quote 1 Corinthians 6:11? "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."
Toss the Winnie the Pooh Routine
There's too much head-scratching "What's a bear to do?" and not enough "I love you." Why do we find it so difficult to love someone who struggles with sex? If we show love, we open doors. If we open doors, we enter lives. If we enter lives, we have a chance to speak the truth of God's grace to heal and restore all of the broken. Why do we determine that some brokenness is beneath us and beyond God? There's too much hand-wringing and too little hand-folding; too much pointing and too little praying. And, when we pray about something, should we not also ask God what He might want us to do about it? As in "do."
Quit Hiding Behind the Smokescreen of Indoctrination
We so often point fingers at the media, the entertainment industry, educators, liberal lawmakers, college campuses and say they are indoctrinating our youth. Why are our youth not already indoctrinated with the doctrines of our beliefs? Why are they so easily taken down in cultural challenges? We make jokes about having "the talk" with our children and yet, by the time some parents get around to it, the child has moved beyond the talk . . . to the touch.
We are too silent.
We have forgotten that a life lived well is a demonstration stronger than any indoctrination. We have forgotten that personal demonstration day-to-day has greater influence than parades on Pride Day. We have forgotten that we are to love our neighbor. We have forgotten that it is that very love by which we are to be identified.
If we are Christians and we are not hurting for others because of what we see, then we have allowed the influence of culture to make us indifferent. If we are hurting, and we are doing nothing, we have allowed culture to make us impotent.
How much longer will we pretend to be a mighty choir, but only mouth the words?
It may be that your church is an exception to the rule when it comes to providing a biblical, truthful and compassionate response to the sexually-broken. If that is so, I hope you will leave a comment below to serve as an encouragement for other Christians to step forward and stand with no rocks in their hands, as Christ would.
What programs does your church have in place to help the sexually-broken? Who in your church has been trained to counsel the boy or girl, man or woman, who struggles with homosexual temptation to help them find support? What are the materials and where is the support for the porn-addicted Christians in your church? What is your church's position on restoring an adulterer? Who will you go to at your church for counseling if your son or daughter says "I'm gay?" And, are you ready if your brother in Christ comes to you and says he is struggling with sexual addiction and needs your help?
Wait. Is that silence?