Roughly two years ago, I spoke at a national conference. Another speaker described biblical theology on homosexuality as a tough call between two good views. He shared how one can go about reading both viewpoints to arrive at a personal decision on what to believe. The one thing he did not do is clarify his own beliefs. It was ambiguity painted beautifully to perfection.
I walked away from this experience with new passion. I decided: for the sake of the Gospel – specifically, not pushing LGBT+ people away from Jesus – I am going to go ambiguous! I never actually experienced ambiguity in my own biblical convictions – I simply decided to avoid theological questions in order to focus on effective relational witness to LGBT+ people. This was an important decision, because LGBT+ people are in every audience I encounter. My job would now be…easier!
At my next speaking event, I carefully pushed away the theology questions and stressed the importance of getting our reflection of Jesus right. I followed the pattern that I had witnessed, dodging theological clarity with mental agility. I was excited about all this until the ministry leader contacted me a short while later: “Bill, you were more than a bit vague and unresponsive to what I consider to be very direct questions.” He kindly asked: “Why is that?”
Immediately, I was humbled. I never want to leave my audience with the impression that I am evasive or unwilling to answer difficult questions. I had given my best shot at passionate ambiguity, and the experiment miserably failed. Thankfully, this leader gave me an opportunity to submit written answers to the most controversial questions asked that evening. I responded with concise and clear answers. He and his ministry team extended grace and gratitude for my willingness to clean-up my own mess.
The trouble for me? I was now committed to giving clear answers to the most difficult questions no matter where I speak. Yikes! That is at odds with what is now a growing movement within evangelicalism to pioneer a new acceptance for theological uncertainty. The basic tenet of this new approach is as follows: “the texts are too difficult to understand” – or “there are too many valid interpretations of the biblical texts – so many that we no longer know what to believe.”
Another branch of this movement is more deceptive: “we all know what the bible really says about homosexuality, but let’s be quiet and not talk about it because it really ticks gay people off.” That is no criticism of LGBT+ people who get frustrated. In deciding to be clear about my beliefs in a world that is increasingly rewarding uncertainty, I never once felt less respectful of my LGBT+ friends. To the contrary, this situation – that initially felt like a trap – forced me to face the most difficult questions surrounding how I can be a good spiritual friend to those who hold beliefs different than my own.
The result was revolutionary. I found that the Gospel has so much more power when it is honest and clear, but cut-to-the-heart real and compassionate and tolerant and respectful. This freedom propelled me into establishing much deeper and authentic spiritual relationships with my LGBT+ friends and those who stumble across my ministry. My fears and hang-ups about our differences melted away.
This discovery honed my message to evangelicals: the onus is on us to prove that we can radically love LGBT+ family and friends. There is no longer any excuse for an un-level playing field at the foot of the Cross. Jesus died for all of us, and those who need the covering of his blood are in absolutely no position to determine who is in – and who is out.
New doors opened for my ministry. I began consulting pastoral teams and training licensed Christian counseling teams on effective care of both those who experience SSA and those who identify as LGBT+. One thing became clear: their stories no longer have to be pitted against one another. These two groups come to different conclusions, but we share so many common personal experiences.
I will never trade the joy of discovering that biblical orthodoxy never denigrates the value of people; and attributing value to people never has to lead to theological collapse. It may not be hip and cool, but my passionate ambiguity has been transformed into a passionate certainty in both the reliability of God’s truth and the palpable reality of His great love for all people.
Join me again next time as I share more insights about this discovery. As I mentioned in my prior post, I will not name names or blame others. I will share the lessons I have learned from my own mistakes. I enthusiastically invite you to share your feedback below, but please do not use my blog to trash or criticize others. Trash me if you need to – that is perfectly acceptable. Until next time, may Christ’s love reign and conquer our whole hearts into holy surrender. Amen.
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