All Are Welcome
June 15, 2015
I recently read a publically posted message from a fellow PCA pastor wherein he graciously welcomes all kinds of folks to attend the church he serves as pastor. He invites the young and old, male and female, married and single, white and black. You get the picture. It’s the right message particularly if that welcome is backed up by action. The church must offer a generous welcome to those on the outside as a reflection of the gracious offer God has made to us in Jesus Christ. Hospitality from the church is the fruit of the hospitality God has extended to us through the Lord Jesus.
But there is a glaring problem with the welcome that was posted. Among the many different categories of people to which this brother pastor extends a welcome are those who are “gay and straight.” And in this I believe he stumbles rather badly.
Don’t misunderstand. I firmly believe we need to welcome, enthusiastically, the unregenerate. The doors of our churches ought to fling open wide for those who do not yet know Jesus; to those who have not yet repented of their sins. And in this welcome we must be ready to receive those who struggle with all manner of sin including homosexuality and drunkenness and greed.
The problem with the publically posted welcome is that there was only one sin mentioned (and it is not identified as a sin) among the different types of people listed. Being white or black, male or female, a walker or driver, young or old are all perfectly ethical designations. “Gay” is listed as just one option like being female or young. It would have helped had he welcomed sinners of all sorts – adulterers, liars, swindlers, drunkards, and the greedy. But they receive no welcome. I hope you can see the problem with this. The pastor would probably be very careful in welcoming adulterers and liars and the greedy without including some sort of qualification. He would probably want to make it clear, however gently, that these sinners would be welcomed and called to a better and holy way of living. Of course this is speculation because all other manner of sinners did not receive a public welcome.
The pastor commits an error concerning homosexuality that is running rampant in the church. He gives away too much ontological real estate to the culture. He grants the culture’s category of “gay” rather than the biblical category of “homosexual offender.” He also accepts the culture’s category of personal identity – that being “gay” is on par with being old or male or black. But "gay and straight" are not synonyms for biblical language. They are cultuaral categories which stand in direct opposition to biblical revelation concerning personshood and sin. In the Bible there is "natural" and "unnatural" (Romans 1:18ff). There are no "gay" or "straight" persons. Once we abandon the categories God has given us for personhood and sin then we have already lost.
Of course my fellow pastor may not have intended any of this. I hope he did not. But you can see the problem I trust. His statement is at best confusing at a time when, for the sake of sinners, the church must be exceedingly clear. Students especially, having been nurtured in a system that condemns as intolerant and bigoted God’s standards of personhood and sexual ethics, need clarity from the church. What a tragedy it is that, for many of them, their churches have failed to guide them into God’s truth and in some cases actually added to the error.
Clarity on the issue of homosexuality is vital. It is a sin that marks the lower rung of man's degradation and self-worship. It is a profoundly damaging sin destroying both body and soul. Our culture has never been so confused and openly rebellious as it is today against God’s clear commands regarding sexual ethics and holiness. And sadly, too many Christians are adding to the confusion rather than bringing biblical light. Ironically, it is called gracious to be unclear to homosexuals about their sin and its consequences. However, clouding the truth that God has made clear is nothing less than spiritual violence.
Perhaps the chief reason why those pastors erring on this issue are not corrected or held accountable is because so many of them are nice fellows. They are kind. They are compassionate. They are well motivated. They are the sorts of men who will rush to meet you in the hospital room when you are sick. They excel in many pastoral graces. But in the current storm over homosexuality they are wrong. And their error is serious. Most heresies are generated by a desire to remove obstacles to belief. Many of the pastors who were on the wrong side of the Presbyterian conflict in the early part of the 20th century were nice men. But that did not change that fact that they were leading their churches into apostasy.
So churches, let us make a sincere, generous, and broad welcome to our community. Let us say “Welcome!” to those who do not yet believe, to those who do not yet know Jesus or his saving benefits. Let us embrace those who are still trapped in the clutches of sin. Let them hear from us the good news of a Savior who died to redeem sinners. But they must also hear that the Jesus who removes the curse of sin also breaks the power of sin.
On the Monday evening prior to the PCA’s General Assembly there was a gathering called “An Evening of Confessional Concern and Prayer.” I would encourage you to listen to the audio HERE. Listen especially to David Strain’s address on homosexuality. It is clear and compassionate and steeped in truth and pastoral grace.