An article in the Los Angeles Times, written by Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, argued this past weekend that since evangelicals have conceded with divorce and remarriage that it’s high time they do the same with homosexuality. It’s not a new argument, and from time to time it gets trotted out as evidence of evangelical hypocrisy. Why, the left asks, do you extend grace and mercy to those who are divorced and yet refuse to do the same to those who are homosexual? After all, they continue, Jesus was very clear about the sinfulness of divorce while saying nothing about homosexuality.
Laying aside, at least here, that at the foundation of this sort of reasoning is this idea that since we excuse one sin we should excuse another, I want to share one way in which I hope Balmer is right, and that those of us who are conservative evangelicals will learn from the ways we evolved over time in our views of divorce and apply the same to homosexuality.
But first, for a great explanation on why divorce and homosexuality are not equivalent, please refer to Russell Moore’s article HERE. He explains why grace is and ought to be offered to the repentant person who has gone through divorce and how this is different from celebrating a person who sees nothing wrong with pursuing a same-sex sexual relationship. Even where divorce is accepted it is not celebrated. No one marches in Divorce Pride parades, and for good reason.
But there is a way in which I hope our response to the sin of homosexuality will mirror our response to the sin of divorce among evangelical circles. As Balmer points out, where divorce at one time was seen as the unpardonable sin and carried with it so much shame and guilt, today those who are divorced or facing divorce are less afraid to share their pain and struggle. Today, many churches rightly offer divorce support groups. Today churches routinely hear members bear witness to how God has healed their past relational brokenness and how their past mistakes serve as lessons for their current relationships.
We recognize how even David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba – where a child was conceived out of wedlock and a murder was committed to cover up the scandal, enabling David to marry his pregnant mistress – God blessed this marriage after David repented of his sin (2 Sam. 12:24-25). Grace and mercy are always available to the person who repents, no matter how sinful their deed. Restoration is always God’s desire for us, and it’s available to all who call upon the name of the Lord, surrendering control of their own life to the will of God.
So, overtime, the church has rightly seen fit to offer the same grace and mercy to those who have gone through divorce, even if that divorce was for reasons other than scripture’s permitted one’s. Likewise, evangelical churches ought to follow suit with regards to homosexuality. Hopefully one day it won’t be seen as a bigger sin than others. Hopefully we will provide more and more support for those who confess to same-sex attraction and strive to surrender those desires to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Hopefully the stigma of shame and guilt surrounding homosexuality will dissipate, replaced with environments full of grace and truth, where those struggling can find mutual accountability, love and acceptance. Just like divorcees experience today.
We are more sensitive to the needs of divorcees today and must become as sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters struggling with same-sex desire. We can do this by repenting of our idealization of marriage as the cure for loneliness and begin preaching and teaching about the virtue of singleness and the joy that can come through a surrendered life to Jesus as our all-in-all over and above a person of either gender. We can begin to offer support for those who choose faithfulness to God’s word on marriage over the culture’s, and in so doing become a more robust family of God who walks with, eats with, shares with, prays with and bears with our brothers and sisters choosing celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage as prescribed by God’s original design.
May all of our evangelical churches be seen as hospitals for the broken, where people from all walks of life, with all sorts of struggles, can feel safe to confess those before God and others and be extended the hand of fellowship as we all strive to grow together in holiness, whether divorced, single, married or otherwise.