Rev. Andy Stanley (pastor of reputed Atlanta megachurch North Point Ministries; son of famous conservative pastor Charles Stanley) is seriously misguided in a number of his comments on homosexuality. He comes across as someone who supports homosexual unions but can't come out and say it directly for fear of losing members. If Stanley can't clearly support Jesus' teaching on the male-female matrix for human sexuality, it is time for members of his church to consider a different church home.
(1) He finds it "offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas [religious freedom] law." He said, "Serving people we don't see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn't see eye to eye.... Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Stanley confuses baking a generic cake (which Christian bakers have not refused to do) with producing a "gay wedding" cake, replete with lettering (which Christian bakers have rightly refused as immoral). The fact that Jesus died for a sinful world in no way suggests that Jesus would produce goods and services that directly celebrate immorality. "Repent" was a staple of Jesus' message, as were judgment warnings for those who did not (for example, the warnings against Galilean cities in Matt 11:20-24; Luke 10:10-15). By Stanley's reasoning, Jesus would have carved a wooden plaque for the adulterous woman, inscribed with the words "We support your adultery."
Yes, Jesus regarded remarriage after divorce as a form of adultery (probably a weakened form since there is no evidence that he told divorced-and-remarried persons in his audience to separate). Yet his position on remarriage after divorce is extrapolated secondarily from a foundational male-female requirement for sexual relations, which foundation is directly overturned in the acceptance of homosexual unions. Stanley is adopting an approach that an action taken in a lesser offense would apply equally to a greater offense, which is bad logic. The closest parallel to homosexual practice in terms of severity would be a case of adult-consensual incest, not remarriage after divorce. Does Stanley believe that Jesus or Paul would have lettered a celebratory cake for an incestuous union between a man and his mother? How ridiculous.
Michael Brown nicely states: "The issue here is not one of serving a gay couple but of participating in something that causes us to violate our conscience, like a Christian photographer asking two men to pose in a romantic kiss for their "wedding" pictures, or that same photographer doing a porn shoot in order to serve the world, or that same photographer shooting a fund raiser for a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic."
(2) Stanley also thinks that Christians should "take a break" for one year from the culture wars. Oddly enough, though, Jesus did not "take a break" from speaking out against material exploitation of the poor and sexual sin (what little there was in first-century Jewish Palestine) when he reached out to exploitative tax collectors and sexual sinners. He rather ratcheted up God's demand, removing any existing loopholes.
Again, Michael Brown has a good response: "Would this include our fighting for the lives of the unborn? Or combatting human trafficking? Our seeking to improve the education system? Or is it only issues having to do with homosexuality, in which case we should sit idly by if the Supreme Court makes a disastrous decision on marriage in June, or when our kids come home from school crying because of the latest gay indoctrination assembly they had to sit through, or when yet another believer is fired from his or her job for having a politically incorrect viewpoint? Take a year off? Perhaps the same counsel could have been given to Christians fighting against other social ills in the past, including slavery and segregation?"
(3) Stanley infers that it is not proper for him to take a clear stand on homosexual practice in view of the absence of "consensus" in his church, as though poll-taking rather than Scripture were the basis for morality. He says: "There is not consensus in this room when it comes to same-sex attraction; there is not consensus in this room when it comes to gay marriage." Would he decline to take a stance against racism and anti-Semitism, incest and polyamory, rape and domestic violence, if he lacked a consensus in his congregation?
Stanley adds: "We just can't continue to look into the filter of our politics at our spirituality. It's got to be the other way around — and specifically when it comes to this issue." Yet it is Stanley who is inserting his politics into his spirituality by letting his politics of civil support for homosexual unions alter what Scripture says. Brown is right: "The reason we stand against the redefining of marriage and the normalizing of homosexuality is not because we are bringing our politics into our spirituality but because we are bringing our spirituality into every area of life."
(4) Stanley states that regardless of one's views on homosexual relations we can all agree that the church should be a "safe place" for persons who identify as "gay." "We just need to decide from now on in our churches when a Middle School kid comes out to his small group leader or a high school young lady comes out to her parents. We just need to decide, regardless of what you think about this topic — no more students are going to feel like they have to leave the local church because they're same-sex attracted or because they're gay. That ends with us." I fully agree that no one should be made to feel out of place in the church for the mere experience of same-sex attractions. Yet, as with everything else, it is a matter of what one does with what one feels.
Does Stanley think that Paul created a "safe place" for the unrepentant incestuous man in 1 Cor 5? Paul didn't create a circumstance where the incestuous man felt that he had to leave; rather, he insisted that the offender be put aside of the community so as to bring him to his senses. A person engaged in egregious sexual immorality, in a serial-unrepentant manner that celebrates the behavior, should of course be safe from violence or genuine verbal abuse but should not be given a complete pass from gentle correction and, if need be, admonition and rebuke. The reaction of the church should be conditioned by particular circumstances: for example, whether the offender is a professed believer or not, is struggling with sin or self-affirming of the sin.
Let's get one thing clear: Jesus' call to discipleship was never "safe." It demands that we take up our cross, deny ourselves, and lose our lives. Jesus included rebuke and church discipline among the acts of love in which the community of believers ought to engage, as well as a certain 'holy gullibility' about the genuineness of a confession of repentance after numerous offenses (Luke 17:3-4; Matt 18:15-35; in Lev 19:17-18 the command to love one's neighbor includes reproof of neighbor who is doing harm to his relationship with God or with others). If I am struggling with sin, I want fellow believers neither to dismiss me as hopelessly reprobate nor to make me feel comfortable in the continuance of my sin. C. S. Lewis got it right about Christ-image of the lion Aslan: “'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver; 'Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”