Live and let die

Last week World Vision’s president, Richard Stearns, announced a policy change that would permit the Christian organization to hire “someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ.” And two days later World Vision reversed the decision when it became apparent that the organization stood to lose millions of dollars from their sponsors.

For many this was just the latest sign that conservative evangelicals would rather wage war than offer compassion.

An exasperated Jen Hatmaker chastised those who just can’t come to grips with the fact that the church will never have consensus on homosexuality. Rachel Held Evans asked whether the “‘victory’ against gay marriage” was worth the ensuing losses and submitted her resignation from evangelicalism.

Not surprising but still noteworthy was a contention shared by Stearns, Hatmaker, & Evans — namely that the church’s debate over homosexuality should be treated like the church’s debates over divorce/remarriage, modes of baptism, etc.

Agree to disagree. Live and let live.

But the debate over homosexuality is not like these other debates.

First, Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality enjoys a clarity & consistency the other issues lack. Homosexuality (along with all other sexual immorality) is explicitly condemned & prohibited every time it’s addressed. No exceptions. No “problem passages.” No arguments from silence.

Second, the consequences for getting it wrong on homosexuality are fatal. Practice what you will when it comes to baptism—infants or believers, sprinkle or dunk—you have no word spoken against you. But those who practice sexually immorality (regardless of orientation) are said to be barred from entering God’s kingdom (1Cor 6:9-10).

So which is the greater danger: promising peace when there is no peace or promising grace for all who would repent?

For my part I can’t see the love in subscribing to a live-and-let-live theology that offers cultural comfort for eternal death (Rom 1:32).

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

3 thoughts on “Live and let die”

  1. Well, Jesus is pretty clear on divorce in Mark. Matthew made the addition to Mark: like other additions and emendations Matthew made.

    Where the debate about gays in the church is like the debate about baptism is that we should respect those who take living well seriously. Quakers have no outward, visible sign of baptism, no sprinkling of water, because we believe the Spirit enters the human heart without that particular human action. We take baptism seriously. It is not that we can’t be bothered having a font. In the same way, we celebrate gay marriages because we take marriage seriously as a moral commitment of two people to love each other.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Clare.

      The difference between Matthew & Mark on divorce/remarriage goes to my point. Matthew has an “exception clause” concerning divorce (i.e. no divorce except for immorality) but Mark doesn’t. We have to reconcile these two passages in our interpretation which is why the church debates the issue. On the issue of homosexuality, however, we have no exception clauses or apparent contradictions for us to disagree about.

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