What I Said and How I Said It

“Pastor, I don’t know what to think. A loving God can’t possibly think this about me, can He?”

The voice on the recording belonged to a young woman who described herself as bisexual (attracted to men and women). She had been building trust with our community over the last few months and had even begun to read her Bible. But that morning, she had read Romans 1 in her devotional time; one of the famous “clobber” passages concerning same-sex relationships. And she had, indeed, felt clobbered. I immediately called back and set up a coffee meeting for the next day. What would I say?

I knew my “position” on the issue. I knew that God had clearly revealed in the Scriptures (including Romans 1) a true, good, and beautiful vision of human sexuality. I knew this vision was often twisted by our choices, the choices of others, and the continued brokenness of our bodies and minds. I knew the statistics relating to same-sex attraction, the best research on how those attractions form, and the latest guidance on how to counsel those wrestling with the issue. I knew plenty of ways to express my position. But how would I say it?

Jesus was famous—even infamous—for welcoming those who did not fit the strict Jewish moral code of His day. Although He stood apart from the promiscuity of prostitutes, the greed of tax collectors, and the brutality of Roman soldiers, he nevertheless opened His arms to welcome them into fellowship. Perhaps the most famous example comes in John 8, where Jesus acknowledges the sin of a woman caught in adultery. However, He counsels those pious souls preparing to stone her that the person who has no sin should throw the first rock. Jesus’ position towards sin was MORE radical than the would-be stone-throwers’ (sin was even in them!), but His posture was far more gracious.

Following Jesus is not just about what we say but how say it. Following Jesus into this combination of position and posture is certainly not natural, but the very Scriptures we mediate on and memorize often show us the way.

The next morning, as I sat with the young lady, I explained the context of Romans 1. The church in Rome was filled with Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) embroiled in a culture war for control of the church. The Gentiles were famous for their “loose” morality, and in Romans 1, Paul clarifies that this new life in Christ implies a release of the old way s of living. His position on their prior sexuality was clear (despite efforts in our own day to reinterpret the plain sense of the text). The Jews, who championed a far stricter morality, would have rubbed their hands in glee as they read this: Paul was showing THEM!

But Paul turns to those same Jews in Romans 2: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself!” Paul makes the exact same move as Jesus with the adulterous woman! The appropriate posture comes as we realize we all fall short of God’s intentions. None of us are able to live fully into God’s intentions for an abundant life. None of us can meet God’s standards. That’s why Romans 1 and 2 flow together into Romans 3: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace.”

That morning, I shared the gospel with that young lady and myself. I explained that both she and I fell short of God’s design and that both she and I needed His grace to be made right. My position was clear, but so was my posture. It was not an easy conversation, but she left wondering curiosity at this gospel she had never heard, and I left newly thankful for Jesus’ posture—toward both of us.

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