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Friday, July 8, 2011
What If My Child is a Sinner or worse–Gay?
I know some of you are mad at me for that title, but this is a serious question for conservative Bible-believing evangelicals and needs serious reflection and thought. This issue has come to the forefront to those of us in more liberal leaning states, like New York which recently passed a gay marriage bill. I live in New Jersey, and I believe that something like this will happen here pretty soon, and so I and my congregation will be dealing with this issue in an up close and personal way.
It is one thing to argue about this issue from a safe distance. It’s entirely another thing to have a difficult issue like this one come into our home. I know good Bible-believing Christians who have children who are gay. I also know families who have children who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. My very conservative evangelical brother divorced his wonderful wife and married another woman. I was really, really mad at him. I’m still a little bothered by his actions today. But, he is my brother, and I love him. So, that’s that. In this article I want to answer the question; what if someone we love is doing something that we think is a sin? What should our attitude be towards sinners? Hate the sin, love the sinner? I think it’s more complicated than that.
I think that this question addresses the ethical tug of war between principles and love. Our principles are laws and values that we uphold to create a healthy environment. In order to honor and protect the people around us we have to live a certain way; don’t steal from them, don’t harm them, etc… For most of us the concept of love is unconditional. We love our family and friends no matter what. Of course, that is just a concept. The way we apply it can be vastly different. A member of a family, who feels that another has sinned, may shun that person, regardless of their belief in unconditional love. When I found out that my brother was leaving his wife, I couldn’t talk to him for several months. But I got over it. Sin within the family becomes a tug of war between rock solid principles found in the Word of God, verses loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The story of Jephthah found in the book of Judges Chapters 10 and 11 is one where following principles causes an innocent death. Jephthah makes a vow that if he wins a battle, he will sacrifice the first person he meets at his home. He expects that person to be a servant. Instead it is his daughter. Because he believes in the power of vows and he is a man of principle, he goes through with this terrible act. Strangely enough he breaks several of the Law’s of Moses in his rash action that he should have been aware of. There is a prohibition against making vows, a prohibition against child sacrifice, and of course a prohibition against murder. But in the end Jephthah is a man of principles and regardless of how we see him, he stands by them.
I am a man of principle as well. If one of my children get in involved in drug use, I will do what I can to help them. That is, if they keep the drug use out of the house. If drugs enter my home, however, the kid who brought it in is gone. Illegal drugs in this home could get the house seized by the police and me fired from my job. We could end up homeless and penniless. Therefore, in order to protect the rest of my family, I would throw the offending kid out onto the street. I would do this after talking to him/her and giving warnings, as Jesus taught us to do. My kids know me well enough to know that I don’t make idle threats.
On the other hand the story of Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 20 is a story of Jonathan defying principles in the name of love. Jonathan’s father Kind Saul wants David dead. Jonathan is David’s friend and protects him from his father’s wrath. He breaks several important laws in this process. The Law of Moses says honor your father. It also says obey authority, in this case the King. Jonathan is aware of the law but puts principle aside for the love of his friend.
However, love gets pushed out of the way when we need to protect ourselves and our families from a troubled family member. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with schizophrenia and became a threat to her mother. Betsy and I tried to help, but the law prevents us from doing anything, unless the person is a threat to herself or someone else. My mother-in-law was forced to remove her from the house because of how dangerous she had become. Fortunately she found help in California, became properly medicated, found a husband and lived a good life. I thank God everyday for that outcome. Because sometimes love isn’t enough to save someone you love.
So let’s get back to the question at hand, what if our child comes to us and says the magic words; I’m gay. The Bible says several things that address this. First, your child is a sinner. I won’t trouble you with the biblical citations, but there are a lot of them. Second, all human beings sin and fall short of God’s glory. Guess what, you are a sinner as well. Once again the citations are too numerous to mention. Third, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The Bible says, very clearly, you love your kid no matter what. God leaves the way we love our children up to us.
So I can only speak for myself. If I had a child who is gay, I would not treat him/her any differently than I would treat my other children. A gay child does not harm my family or my church family, and does not end the world as we know it (if you believe the political rhetoric). However, I’m not going to become a liberal theologian any time soon. And don’t look for me performing any gay marriages. My conservative evangelical principles can only be pushed so far. But I will love my kid and I hope you will do the same.
God bless you,
Pastor Bill Whitehead