This blog series is going through a particular, yet typical, evangelical sermon on homosexuality. If you haven’t read the other parts, you may want to begin here. This post responds to the last of four theological propositions that the preacher beings his sermon with. These propositions may well be things that you have heard in church contexts – and they are propositions that I think many evangelicals simply don’t question. My purpose is to raise questions from the perspective of generous spaciousness in the hopes that it will catalyze more conversation within our churches.
The first of the preacher’s theological propositions stated that because the Bible contains the exact words of God, the Bible has the same authority as God. The second theological proposition was that the Bible is clear on sexual ethics. The third theological proposition declared that “We’re all born that way.” And the fourth theological proposition proclaims that repentance is the mark of a true follower of Christ.
In this fourth proposition, the assumption in the sermon seems to be that such repentance for sexual minority persons is the relinquishment of same-sex sexual behaviour and ongoing commitment to sexual chastity.
How might this proposition be processed by the 13 year old sitting in this mega-church who is in the middle of trying to understand his experience of finding himself attracted to his male friends? What exactly is this junior high student supposed to repent of? He’s not sexually active. He hasn’t dared to even talk to anyone yet about the attempts he’s making to figure out whether or not he’s gay. I asked a 13 year old how they would feel if they heard this proposition and their response was very telling. First they said they didn’t understand what the preacher meant, then they said that no should force anyone else to repent, and that they wanted to make their own choices for themselves. It made me wonder if this kind of proposition would draw a questioning 13 year old closer to faith or potentially cause them to question the relevance of the Christian faith.
Or what about the adult who has finally come to terms with their sexual orientation and is out to close friends and family as a gay person but lives a single life and remains uncertain about whether dating a same-sex partner is appropriate for them or not? What does this theological proposition mean to them? Does it mean they shouldn’t keep wrestling to discern what God is asking of them? Does it reintroduce a sense of shame and uncertainty about their decision to come out?
I also wonder what this preacher might say to some of my partnered and married gay friends who describe their repentance as the Spirit moving them from the house of fear and shame to a deeper faith in God’s love and mercy covering their lives, and being bigger and stronger than even the possibility of them having discerned wrongly. They indeed experienced repentance, a changing of their mind, but what their mind changed about was the character, trust-worthiness, and faithfulness of God – their repentance made them believe even more deeply that God’s mercy and grace can be trusted and that God will be faithful to them. If it is indeed the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance, then is this not a legitimate example of repentance?
Another gay friend has shared that in the coming out process she grew spiritually because she had to repent from finding her identity in people pleasing, making people happy, and not making mistakes. Coming out, and knowing this would disappoint and displease some people, meant that she had to find in a deeper way that her identity was being a Beloved Child of God whether everyone was happy with her or not. Is this not the fruit of faith?
My question for this preacher would be whether or not there is room in their community to have robust conversation about what repentance might look. Can repentance look differently for different people?
Well ok – we’ve made it through the four theological propositions. Stay tuned for the next posts about the exhortations this preacher wants to give to sexual minority persons and their family and friends.