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Let's Talk about the Hard Stuff, Part 2

From the series Not Beyond Reach

Nothing has caused more animosity between the Church and the culture than issues surrounding sexual freedom, gay rights, and transgenderism. In this program, our guest teacher Aaron Pierce winds down his series, Not Beyond Reach. Learn how we can engage people on these sensitive subjects, with unconditional love without compromising the truth.

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Message Transcript

Sexuality is undoubtedly the issue that draws the most hostility from secular culture, right? towards the Church. And if you’re going to be actively engaging in secular culture, the topic of LGBTQ+ is unavoidable. Like, it just comes up.

And societal attitudes have changed rapidly in the last few decades, right? That those identify, we talked about this, those that identify as LGBTQ has grown exponentially with each generation.

And so, it’s a crazy thing. And in today’s culture, there’s very little room for rational conversation that challenges the mainstream narrative. It’s tough, right? Because discussions about LGBTQ rights are emotionally charged and they are drawing on themes of justice and equality connected to the civil rights movements of the fifties and sixties. That’s what makes it so hard, right? Because you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history and anything less than total affirmation of all things LGBTQ is quickly labeled as homophobic and bigoted.

And it’s a big challenge. Secular workplaces celebrate Pride Month with no regard for anyone that might not agree with it. Like, it’s a really tough context. And their allies, frankly, are the most vicious in their defense, right?

So, this is a really challenging time for Christians who hold to a traditional, biblical sexual ethic. It’s hard. And the thought of engaging these conversations can be terrifying and paralyzing.

And so, the challenge is, and what I want to begin to unpack is how should a faithful follower of Jesus live in a Pride Month world? How do we do that? And so, let’s talk a little bit about some key assumptions.

The first step in engaging this topic is to recognize that beneath the mask of, like, intense moral conviction there is actually deep confusion and brokenness. At the core of the confusion today is the circular statement, “love is love.” Right? Now, and this statement, as you know, is a banner for LGBTQ rights and it implies that people should be free to love whoever they want, however they want.

But the question, of course, is: What is love? Right? And pop culture messages on love are so confused and conflicted. I mean, love is sex; love is lust; love is a feeling; love is whatever I want it to be. And the reality is that we’re just confused and we are desperate for belonging and acceptance. That’s the core truth that you can hold onto is that people are desiring belonging and acceptance, but they have no idea where to find it.

Even within the LGBTQ movement itself, there is so much confusion, division, and incoherence. I mean, the “L” the lesbians and old school feminists are fighting with the transgender movement, I mean, because what are women’s rights if there is no such thing as a woman? Right? And mental healthcare is in disarray because no longer are we seeking to align people’s mental state to their physical realities or objective truth, but instead align their bodies to their psychological feelings, right? It’s a crazy, confusing time.

And as we already discussed as it relates to politics, Jesus responds to the confusion with compassion, right? That is always Jesus’ response. When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

So, like Jesus, as we engage this topic and, you know, LGBTQ community and their allies, we need to start from a place of radical love and mercy. That’s where we start.

So, part of approaching this with love is approaching it with empathy, which means that we need to understand their reality properly so that we can have a better empathy.

So, while some of the explosive growth in those that identify as LGBTQ is just kind of just a trend and oftentimes when people are looking for a place to connect and belong and be affirmed, they are going to identify this way. And so, there’s some of that for sure going on.

But many people really do experience same-sex attraction and they do experience, you know, gender dysphoria and other things that are confusing as it relates to their sexuality. And over the years, debates have raged about whether you are born gay or whether it’s a choice. And the truth is that the reasons are complex and they are not the same for everyone.

And then we need to make a critical distinction between temptation and sinful action. There’s a, it’s a really clear thing. Because temptation is not a sin, but the action in thought and deed in response to the temptation is.

And we know this because Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, yet He did not sin. He was tempted but He did not sin. And so, the truth is that we are all sexually broken, all of us. Each one of us to some degree is the product of sin of others, our own sin, and our fallen nature. And so, that is why we approach this whole topic with humility, empathy, and compassion because we are all in that place of brokenness. And it changes the approach and the mentality that we have when we engage people.

And then we can approach it with love in action. We have talked about this in other contexts but one of the lies of our culture is that in order to love someone, I must affirm their lifestyle and behavior. And this is one of the biggest challenges as it relates to sexuality.

And as we engage this topic, particularly if we are engaging people that are hostile as it relates to this topic, this is actually the first assumption that we need to challenge. Like, we can’t talk about, “Is homosexuality a sin?” or “God’s original design for the body.” We need to talk about, “Can I love you without agreeing with you?” That’s actually the first thing that I need to talk about. And so, it’s challenging, right? Because sexuality in our culture has been tied to identity.

And so, a rejection of my sexuality is a rejection of my core identity, which makes this so incredibly tough. So, that is why the best way to challenge this lie – the lie is to love someone I must affirm – the best way to challenge that is not to argue and debate, but actually to prove it by living out that love. That’s the way you’re going to actually challenge that lie is you’re actually going to love them even though you disagree with them.

And, you know, this doesn’t have to just be people that are LGBTQ, it can be someone that is politically on the other side or anyone that might disagree with you. How are you going to demonstrate that you can love them in action while not agreeing with their lifestyle? That’s how you prove it, by doing it.

And so, remember that people are longing for deep relational connection. Like, that is an assumption you need to remember is always true. And so, if you can continue to be a friend and develop authentic relationships with people, you are able to show them Jesus through your actions. And that is often where it starts. And, again, it can be really simple things.

So, it’s the example of showing love, proving that I can love you and not agree with you, proving that. And that doesn’t mean compromising our theological beliefs at all. Okay? And remember that being in a relationship and association with someone is not synonymous with affirming their lifestyle. It’s about challenging that lie that stands in the way of them meeting Jesus. That’s what we are doing.

Now, a couple other key things to understand in terms of just when you’re engaging the topic, because there are some key assumptions.

The key spiritual, kind of, apologetic assumption that you’re challenging, essentially, is related to purpose. Because the question is: Is there a transcendent universal purpose for sex, marriage, and our bodies? That’s the question.

Or are marriage and traditional sex ethics a social construct that can and perhaps should be abolished for the sake of personal happiness?

Like, that’s the question essentially that we’re asking. Now, in the secular world, meaning and purpose is self-defined. So, there is no transcendent designer that has imparted a particular way to live our lives. You know?

And this world views sex, which is now devoid of the consequence of procreation thanks to contraception and abortion is a personal source of pleasure and self-expression, governed only by the concept of mutual consent. Like, that’s the only kind of thing that you’ve got to stay within.

So, sex in any form or context that does no harm to others is viewed as the ultimate expression of freedom and it’s kind of this liberating, unshackling of social constraints that have oppressed our true identities. Like, that’s the worldview that shapes the kind of sexual ethics that we have today.

And so, you can’t be your whole self, this is a quote I heard in this conversation, if you listen to the rules of others. It’s kind of the mindset that you hear. Now, of course, sadly, the consequences of this sexual free-for-all is a completely different story, right? Loneliness, anxiety, depression are at epidemic levels, especially amongst young adults. Sexual violence has been linked to a copious amount of time viewing increasingly hardcore pornography. And sexual satisfaction is plummeting.

So, sexual freedom has instead led to bondage and addiction. Now, in the Christian view, worldview, because here’s the paradigm. We don’t want to talk about what you can’t do, we want to present a positive view of sexuality, a positive vision for sexuality. And in the Christian worldview, we were created intentionally by God. He created our bodies, minds, and souls with a clear purpose and a way to operate them as revealed in the Bible, that will allow us to thrive, to thrive spiritually, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

So, God’s design for sex and marriage and our body is not about control or limiting our happiness, it’s about protecting us from harm and allowing us to thrive. That’s why He has created His way of doing things. And this is true in other ways, areas as well. And this is one of the ways you can kind of make this logical leap.

Because the more scientists discover about the body, let’s say, as it relates to nutrition and exercise, the more we can align ourselves to that truth, right? Like, there’s certain foods that we are learning, well, this is not really good for us so I should stop doing that so I can live in alignment with the truth of how my body was designed to operate.

And that is a truth that secular culture will buy into, by and large, right? And it’s the same truth as it relates to our sexuality. Because what happens is we are trying to approach someone with love and we want to point them to Jesus, but inevitably, you’re going to have someone say, “Well, is homosexuality a sin?” “Do you affirm homosexuals?”

And dodging that question at that point is just unhelpful, right? So, what do you do in that moment? Here’s how I think you should handle it. First of all, I usually respond, “Well, do you really want to know?” And what I’m begging the question there is do you really want to hear what I have to say or are you just kind of looking to fight me?

And even by asking that question it makes them go, “Okay, no, yeah, I do really want to know what you have to say.” And then the second thing I’ll say is, “Okay, well, if you want to understand my view on sexuality, you need to see it in context.” And too often, we kind of just take it out of context and we don’t understand where that all fits in.

So, if I’m going to explain it to you, let me give you the context. So, the context here is that I believe that every one of us has incredible value because we were created by God, that He loves us and knows us and that He created us for a purpose and that because of that, no matter how I live my life, every person deserves to be treated with love and dignity and respect.

So, I’m challenging the first narrative already, right? in that. And I’m also giving a basis for human value and dignity that the secular worldview does not have. Right? And then I say and because I believe that we are created by God on purpose, that He created us, like we’ve talked about, to live in a certain way for our good. That His rules are not about control or limiting our freedom or fun. It’s about – He wants, He’s like a good dad that wants the best for us and that when we live in alignment with that, it’s how we thrive and how we are healthy.

So, my view on sexual ethic fits there. Now, you may not agree with it, but you understand that it doesn’t mean I hate people and it doesn’t mean that I want to take away your fun. But I actually want what is best for you. And that is the basis why I believe that sexuality is intended between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. That is how it is for our good.

Now, that’s the context from which I can explain it. Now, they may still be offended or they may still not like it but at least they understand the context, right? So, that is my encouragement is that that’s the way you can approach that question if it comes up.

Now, last thing. It’s Jesus first. Sexuality and behavior and discipleship second, right? The goal here is that we are introducing people to the person of Jesus and as they get to know Jesus then the secondary things of their behavior and their sin will be dealt with afterwards.

So, one of the challenges for the LGBT community and secular culture in general, especially those that grew up in the Church, is they have a very legalistic view of Christianity, right? They – and the LGBTQ in particular believe that to become a Christian I have to act and behave a certain way first. And that’s not true, right? They don’t understand God’s grace and unconditional love. And what they don’t understand is that submitting my sexuality to God’s design is a discipleship issue based on trust that God is good, right? And which means I know Him, I trust Him, and that His ways are better than my ways.

And that until I have an encounter with the living God, made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I surrender my life to Him, and invite the Holy Spirit to live in me, none of that will make sense, right? It doesn’t make sense to give up my sexuality unless I know a good God who I trust and who I will submit to.

And so, that’s why they need to encounter Jesus. And so, as with anyone, the goal is not to convince them to adopt your moral framework, but to introduce them to the person of Jesus. And Jesus is the ultimate answer to the intimacy that we seek. He’s the only one that will satisfy our deepest desire for belonging and acceptance.

And when I experience the profound love of Jesus and understand the beauty of who He is and what He has done for me, all that the world has to offer pales in comparison.

I love the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” that says, “And turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

So, rather than focusing on their behavior, focus on introducing them to the person of Jesus. And surrendering their life to Jesus, they are convicted in power by the Holy Spirit to make Him Lord of every part of their life, including their sexuality.