This is a guest article by Charles Premkumar Joseph
Yes! This has been an arduous effort and if you’re at part 3 of this series you’re indeed a champ!
Since the issue at hand is a complex one, I followed a three pronged approach - (i) bridging the knowledge gap, (ii) deepening our understanding and (iii) working the angles of wisdom to break it down for effective consumption. Through this third and final part, we are attempting to work the angles on wisdom!
Here’s a simple-yet-profound framework to help us navigate through this complex issue, preserving Biblical conviction and yet extending charity and grace.
Straddling Truth & Grace - Jesus style!
The gospels record Jesus as one who was full of grace and full of truth (John 1:14). Truth and grace are virtues that don’t seem to readily and naturally blend. Do they?!
Truth calls a spade - a spade! Typically, it doesn’t mince words. It’s often in the face. Candid. Ruthless and at times leaves one bruised and battered. Brutal. At the very least - it’s offensive. Offensive, albeit to the one, who’s not on its side. That’s the way truth works as we employ it!
Grace on the other hand is undeserved. Unmerited favour. Undeserved mercy. Overwhelmingly kind. Incomprehensible. Unfathomable. Hard to wrap our heads around! Now Jesus, the holy of holies, came enfleshed with grace and truth - a coalescence of contrarieties!
We, who are works in progress, are struggling to process this alien blend, leave alone emulate it! But we ought to! When one closely studies Jesus’ personal encounters with various people - we see a clear pattern emerging. Hard to miss. Whenever Jesus ministered with the ‘sinners and tax-collectors’ he seemed to take an approach that primarily majored on ‘saving’ them forever and impacting them for eternity.
Think - Zacchaeus, think - the woman at the well, think - the woman caught in the act of adultery, think - anyone that was so steeped in sin and depraved - his approach and conversation - his words and deeds, majored on extending grace. Grace, that was so overwhelming. Grace that was so unfathomable. Grace that seeped into the deep dark recesses of their hearts. Grace that mysteriously and mystically broke them down - in a real guttural way! Grace that prepared them for the Truth, that they’d have cringed to hear otherwise!
So in our efforts to winsomely engage with people, it’s not just important to know, right from wrong. If the right things are not said in the right ways, at the right times, to the right people, in the right measure - we could end up chasing people away from truth, more often than not - counterproductive encounters!
Jesus is truth personified. If there ever is one that was, is and will be supremely passionate, concerned and zealous about truth, it clearly can’t be any other than Jesus! Yet, in his engagement with the ones that apparently needed truth the most (as we’d think) he extends grace first. How counter-intuitive!
Interestingly to the ones that claimed they knew God - experts in the law, scribes, pharisees and sadducees, the initiated and religious elite, pontificating morals - yet far from living them out in their own private lives - Jesus wastes no opportunity exposing their hypocrisy using the choicest of scathing words in calling a spade a spade.
Truth trumps grace here with the conceited in heart. Grace precedes truth there with the poor in spirit. Truth was then winsomely planted in a timely fashion when the heart was ambient and attempting to fathom the incomprehensible grace extended!
A model to mull over!
Here’s a suggestion worth thinking through;
If the person in question claims and strives to be a Christian disciple, a Christ follower, then the issue without attempting any semantic gymnastics is plainly - sexual sin!
More importantly, if the person in question is not a Christian yet - not a Christ follower, not a disciple, the primary issue then is - salvation!
We (the Church) often get this so mixed up. We are so congenial, accommodating, charitable, extending compassion and grace to ourselves and our own, the ones that claim to be a part of the body of Christ, representatives, ambassadors and image bearers. Now this is the community to whom much has been given and much has to be expected from. This is the community that has to be ‘bashed with the Bible’ if there ever was such a thing. You brood of vipers, you white-washed tombs is the kind of language Jesus used for such, back in the day when he walked the earth in flesh and blood.
Today, we bash the uninitiated with the Bible, before we extend grace. When they don’t even believe in the God of the Bible, how are we to expect them to believe in the bible of that God? Please don’t hear what I’m not saying! God surely and miraculously can use the scriptures in illuminating the darkened mind of those that haven’t encountered his love yet. However, that’s not the norm as we see in Jesus’ personal ministry to the uninitiated.
There sure are exceptions to this norm and we would be wiser if we do spot them.
If the Spirit of God helps us discern on a case-by-case basis that a member from the LGBTQ community is broken and poor in spirit on the inside, perhaps presenting themselves as defiant on the outside, then extending grace as a precursor to truth would be a worthy and winsome way of engagement. The same is true of a Christian that needs to be walked towards truth (if he’s already unaware) in grace.
Proverbs 20:5 speaks of ‘the purpose in a man's heart as deep waters, but a man of understanding drawing it out.’ Oftentimes the Church fails to be this ‘man of understanding but are quick and keen to unburden ourselves by often unleashing our moral platitudes on others outside and bask in a false sense of having fulfilled our missional obligations. Sure, but not in the messianic way modelled for us!
Foster communion with Christ
If the person in question is not a Christian yet - not a Christ follower, not a disciple, the primary issue then is - salvation!
Teach them to talk to Jesus Christ. Teach them to feed on His Word. Teach them to hear from Him. Teach them to confide in Him. Teach them to trust Him. Teach them to heal in His love. Teach them to be overcomers through Him!
The uniqueness of Jesus that leaves me at a loss for words is his persona that drew the most unlikeliest toward him. When we generally come across people to whom we attribute a tall spiritual stature in our minds, we often hesitate to approach them freely. Their spirituality sometimes can be intimidating and we tend to stay in the periphery (atleast I do). Though Jesus is the Holy of Holies enfleshed, his spirituality doesn’t drive us away and cause us to linger in the peripheries. It’s not off-putting but inviting. It’s magnetic. It’s marvellous. It’s mysterious. It’s charismatic. It’s cathartic. It’s winsome. At the same time, it’s also convicting, cleansing and transformative!
May we, his transformed, have this transformative influence on the ones that need this the most - the uninitiated and the initiated alike. May we be ambassadors that are full of grace and full of truth, leading all men into truth which alone is liberating in its fullest and truest sense!
May God help us!
Endnotes (Parts 1 - 3):
- Toni Tucci
- Homosexuality: The Biblical-Christian View
- Wayne Grudem
- The Bible and Homosexuality, reprinted in World Magazine with permission from Crossway. Original article is from the ESV Study Bible. http://www.worldmag.com/2013/04/the_bible_and_homosexuality
- Stanton Jones
- Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality. Text version: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/Hot-Topics PDF Download: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/CACE-Print-Resources/Articles
- Sue Bohlin
- Homosexuality: Questions and Answers, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-questions-and-answers.
- Can Homosexuals Change?, http://bible.org/article/can-homosexuals-change
- Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth, https://bible.org/article/answers-questions-most-asked-gay-identifying-youth
- When Someone in Your Congregation Says “I’m Gay”, http://bible.org/article/when-someone-your-congregation-says-im-gay
- Keys to Recovery from Same-Sex Attractions, http://bible.org/article/keys-recovery-same-sex-attractions
- Bob Deffinbaugh
- Israel’s Sodom and Gomorrah (Judges 19-21) http://bible.org/seriespage/israel%E2%80%99s-sodom-and-gomorrah-judges-19-21
- Daniel Wallace
- Review of Mel White’s ‘What the Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say—about Homosexuality’ (deals with Romans 1:26-27), http://bible.org/article/review-mel-white%E2%80%99s-what-bible-says%E2%80%94and-doesn%E2%80%99t-say%E2%80%94about-homosexuality
- Matt Slick
- On "There is nothing wrong with two homosexuals getting married if they love each other", http://carm.org/love-homosexual-marriage
- Greg Koukl
- Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality, http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality
- Homosexuality Is Unnatural: An Is-Ought Fallacy?, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy
- Homosexuality: Giving Your Point of View, http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5302
- Alan Shlemon
- Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak it with Compassion, http://www.str.org/site/News2?id=8779
- John Hare
- “Hermaphrodites, Eunuchs, and Intersex People: The Witness of Medical Science in Biblical Times and Today,” in Intersex, Theology and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text, and Society, Palgrave, 2015
Charles Joseph earned a post-professional master's in cardiopulmonary physical therapy from the Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, India, where he then served as a clinician, lecturer, and researcher. Curious to explore and understand mind-body interactions, he went on to complete a Master's in psychology as well. After a two-year stint with Reasons to Believe, Asia Pacific (RTB-APaC) as Consultant-Director (Apologetics & Research), Charles Joseph is now an RTB Scholar (Medicine) and is a freelance apologetics coach/consultant and works in association with several ministries and churches in India and elsewhere. His teaching content can be accessed at thinkchristapologetics