How should the church approach homosexuality (IV): what Scott Sauls gets right...

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[This post is fourth in a series (the first, secondthirdfifth, and sixth) working through Pastor Scott Sauls and Christ Presbyterian Church's "Same-Sex Attraction Forum." More will follow.]

The forum hosted by Pastor Scott Sauls at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA), Nashville, promotes a skewed view of sanctification and weakens the hope of those struggling against homosexual temptation. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

We need to talk

Still, Sauls makes a few points that we ignore to our peril. First he establishes a rationale for why we, the Church, need to be talking about homosexuality. Now. Another pastor at Sauls’s church sets up the problem...

I did a social experiment this week on Facebook, which was a lot of fun. I put pictures of my family from Easter. Hundreds of comments and likes. A picture of a beer that someone left on my desk that said “Even More Jesus.” Lots of comments and likes. And then I promoted this forum. I had four comments and two likes, all of which were outside of this community—not inside this community.

In other words, people in the church were chiming in to adore family pictures and guffaw at jokes. But when it came time to comment on, or even hit the “like” button to support, criticize or question the forum dealing with homosexuality…nothing from the church.

Sauls is right when he says, “Why shouldn't the church of Jesus Christ be the first place rather than the last place where a subject like this comes up?” And then he takes his congregation to the Scriptures, beginning at the beginning and shows the Bible speaking on the purpose of God in sex.

And this is exactly the thing pastors should do. Why would we not speak up now? Everyone is talking about all things sexual. But the loudest voices are those speaking against God’s order of sexuality. So… why not speak now? The Church has the truth. Any VBS student could tell us what to do in this situation.

Hide it under a bushel? NO!
I’m gonna let it shine…

The Church has the truth that no one else has. Should she hide it under a bushel? Should she let Satan blow it out?

The Lord has said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27)

The foolish man builds on something that shifts. Its changing nature makes it dangerous. Judicial opinions and public opinion polls are always moving and shifting. Because they are man’s opinions. Since they are not Truth, they will not long stay true even to themselves. In 2008 a candidate was pushing the envelope to support mere civil unions. Yet in 2016, how many will dare oppose same-sex mirage and adoption rights for those “married couples”?

Perhaps people in the church want to hear about something other than the depravity of the day. Some want the church to be a “soft place to land.” But surely when an enemy is setting your house on fire is a bad time to seek out the comforting embrace of your armchair. Homosexuality is in the news. Homosexuality is getting promoted by the courts over the ever-weakening objections of we, the people.

Only the authoritative Word of God is able to speak definitively, without shifting. And this is what it says:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1Corinthians 6:9-11)


All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness... (2Timothy 3:16)

Some may object saying that surely everything that could be said has been said by now! But the Church does not exist to publish new information. "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). We do not lecture. We admonish. We exhort. We proclaim. We remind. We teach. Then we reprove. Then we correct. In a word, we keep training. Sin will not give up studying us. So we must not give up fighting sin.

And you think they have a problem…

Now that we’re all on the same page and know we should speak up about sodomy, and we’re all harumphing and cheering one another on…

Hear what else Pastor Sauls got right:

[Homosexuality is] such a big subject publicly and so the church needs to speak on it, but the biggest issue is pornography—by far, by a landslide, pornography's the biggest issue… upwards of 50% of men and 30% of women, statistically speaking, looked at pornography yesterday, and will later today (if they haven't already), and will also tomorrow…

Homosexuality may be compared to the wrecking ball in our culture. It’s visible, everyone is watching it do its work, and there is no denying its progress.

But we also have termites in the joists. While all eyes are watching the wrecking ball out there from the safety of the living room, the floor underneath us and the walls around us quickly are losing integrity. Pornography is doing its work quietly and unobstructed. Check out this site, then ask yourself whether homosexuality is the biggest and baddest game in town. And those statistics are from 2006. To put that in perspective, Facebook was just about 2 years old and it would be another year before Steve Jobs began selling us smart phones. Three years later a study found that “Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) young men and 1 out of 3 (31 percent) young women report using pornography.”

Now think about it. That was six years ago. So now, in 2015, would you guess that pornography might be a bigger problem for the families in your church than homosexuality? With homosexuals coming out of the closet, we shouldn’t expect that the closet is now empty. Rather, having them out there makes more room for us in here.

As it turns out, although these two sins are not identical, they are, nevertheless, very close allies. At least they show up together an awful lot. As a man secretly indulges one kind of immorality, he loses his resistance to every other immorality.

And so the church needs to preach the truth.

First, we must proclaim the Lord’s words:

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)

Jesus taught with authority because He knew His Father’s will and He knew about our sins. And these words are shot like an arrow to land center-target in our 21st century sin. A perfect shot. And Jesus didn’t draw His bow at random. He spoke with a purpose—to call us to fight against sin. Having heard His words and read them, what excuse will we have on that day “when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

Such preaching by the church will actually do some good! Wonder of wonders, we’ll help people by preaching the truth and applying it to people’s actual sins in real time.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. (1Corinthians 14:24-25)

We need to talk about the infestation taking hold in the church because we are called to disclose the secrets of the heart through preaching; because nurturing one kind of sin will result in the unexpected proliferation of other sins and sinful philosophies.

Help a brother out!

How do we go about helping men with secret sins and shameful attractions? Here’s an idea. We should love one another. We should be close. Here again Pastor Sauls says something helpful. He holds up David and Jonathan as an example of the kind of friendships we ought to have in the church.

And then there's Jesus and John, you remember that intimate moment at the end where John is actually leaning into Jesus' chest? Leaning in, and Jesus is holding him, He's not pushing him away. He's not saying, "Eww!" He's holding him. Intimately.

What would it look like if that started happening in the church between dudes? Seriously—it should. If we're creeped out by that, the problem is not with that, it's with us. He's there in Jesus' bosom, it says.

We cannot afford to leave men alone. And this means that, in the church, men need men to be close friends. Close. For example, just think of all the times in Scripture we see men showing their love for one another. Pastor Sauls uses David and Jonathan as one example. Consider:

…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. (1Samuel 18:1)

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. (1Samuel 18:3, KJV)

And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. (1Samuel 20:17, KJV)

Then, after Saul and Jonathan’s death in battle, David says "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women" (2Samuel 1:26).

These two men were friends and loved each other to the point where their relationship was, as David said, more wonderful than the love of women. It was the love of a friend, the unflinching support of a brother-in-arms. Can you imagine David’s love for the man who chose to suffer the anger of his father and relinquish the rule over his father’s kingdom to support David as the future king?

But the language of friendship in the Bible is not limited to words they say about each other. No, the examples in Scripture call us to be close with each other.


So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house… (Genesis 29:13)

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Genesis 33:4)

Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. (Genesis 48:10)

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

True, all these involve family members—not just friends: Laban and his nephew Jacob; Esau and his brother Jacob; Jacob and his grandchildren; and a father and his prodigal son. But you’ve got to start somewhere! Fathers, have you started here? Have you embraced your son(s)?

From an early age, sons love climbing on Dad, wrestling with Dad, and being embraced by Dad. It’s our first taste of comraderie and belonging—to come up against Dad and know that we are like he is and we’re becoming hims like him. In my own sons it appears to be a biological need—if the boy is having an off day, the solution is often to take him down in a wrestling match. Afterward the results are evident. He gets along better with the rest of the family, becomes more cheerful, and performs his work better. Physical contact with Dad is an appetite. So yes, in the family we need physical relationships with men. Who could argue with that?

But now, check this out: 

And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him… (Acts 20:37)

These are the elders saying goodbye to their founding pastor. No blood relation. No childhood friendships, even. Grown men who’ve known each other for a few short years are weeping, embracing, kissing Paul.

Well, they’d been through a lot together. Paul gave a great parting speech. Everybody was moved. It was an emotional moment. They weren’t going to see each other again. But this isn’t necessarily an example for us, is it? We shouldn’t imitate everything in the book of Acts, right?

We should at least imitate the things the apostles tell us to imitate.

The apostles tell men to be close.

Physically close.

Really close.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:16)

All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1Corinthians 16:20)

Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2Corinthians 13:12)

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. (1Thessalonians 5:26)

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ. (1Peter 5:14)

And so, as it turns out, in the midst of their emotional response to Paul’s farewell sermon, the Ephesian elders just did what they were used to doing.

We might object that this was a cultural thing: back then, over there, people did that. But now… well… we should do the cultural equivalent. Like the NLT “translates” Romans 16:16: "Greet one another in Christian love." And in my neck of the woods that means you nod at each other across the room and call out, “How’s your mom and them?”

The Holy Spirit meets this objection when He writes imperatives without expiration dates. Ceremonial laws were marked with an expiration date (Acts 10:15). The holy kiss has not expired, though, and so it should become part of our culture as the Church.


Because men need the help of other men. We need other men present with us, speaking to us, about us. And we need it more when times are against us. We live in an evil day and, when we are faithful, we should feel the bond that comes to those allied in a fight worth fighting.

Recently, I read through a couple of Lincoln biographies. Our sixteenth President went through some tragic losses and depression, eventually marrying a woman he himself described as insane. Oh, and he had to deal with (some would say he dealt) the Civil War. Did I mention he struggled with depression? How did someone with depression survive all that difficulty?

There are hints throughout the biographies about whether he was a Christian, but there's no clear verdict. But we do see, however, that he had a couple of strong friendships. As a single man starting out on his own, he shared a bed with Joshua Speed for four years. Later, when he was President, he spent more evenings in the home of his Secretary of State, William Seward, than he did in the White House with his wife. The friendship, comraderie, and counsel of other men gave him the stability and resilience to stay steady throughout his administration. Men need other men. (If it helps, here’s a bonus article showing that everyone knows this—they’ve proven it with macaques. Science!)

So how shall we resist the sexual perversions of our age?

By hearing the true words of God who tells us that one man sharpens another, that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

So let’s keep preaching against the sins wreaking havoc in the news, in the courts, and in our churches. Let’s keep preaching against the sins lurking in the dark confines of our hearts. And through it all, let us one another openly and fervently.

Andy Halsey is the pastor of Charleston First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Charleston, MS.