One of the truly life-changing things I've learned in thelast two or three years of my ministry is that my tendency to scold sinners rather than speak and act redemptively (hard to believe I would approach culture like that as an SBC'r, isn't it) is the wrong approach. As someone once said, it's hard to get someone to smell a rose right after you've cut the nose off their face. And scolding is not the God-ordained means by which sinners will realize they are sinners and run to Christ. The only people Jesus would scold are religious leaders bent on torquing God's ways.
With this I have realized how important it is for the church to stop saying they "love the sinner" without lifting a finger to express love to them. This is particularly true with homosexuals, and we as the Church need to repent of how we have at times scolded them and refused to love them actively. (There are many out there who aren't guilty of this and have been in gracious ministry to homosexuals, but I don't see these courageous saints as the norm.)
And while I desire this change in evangelicalism and my own life, it appears that Brian McLaren has failed to even comprehend what to do now.
Read McLaren's "pastoral response" on the issue of homosexuality, which quite honestly is hardly pastoral and not much of a response. I realize that those who have needed grace from Christians haven't received it. I realize that too quickly answering the "homosexual question" (which is, What does your church think about homosexuality?) sometimes can close the door to answering more important questions first, like Who is Jesus?
But what about conviction? What about Peter (Acts 2) preaching to the crowds and saying YOU crucified this Jesus, and they were cut to the heart and responded, What shall we do? Maybe many homosexuals aren't asking What shall we do? because they aren't cut to the heart. And maybe they aren't cut to the heart because we have equated being non-committal with being "pastoral."
The most pastoral thing we can do for someone who run with down the avenue of homosexuality (just like any sin) is help them be cut to the heart in a God-intended way, through the truth of their sin in comparison with truth of God's law.
McLaren and I have similar issues with evangelicalism. We are both concerned to 'cut' sinners through our own "rightness" which will tend to run homosexuals off and keep them from hearing about grace. But I cannot go down McLaren's path of choosing to not know the answer to the "homosexual question." Being pastoral in our responses, and getting to more important questions is a great and important thing, but there is no excuse for not even knowing the answer to the "homosexual question." McLaren said...
Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us." That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.
I find no space for nuanced arguments on homosexuality. In Scripture I find direct answers with direct implications for ministry, and our pastoral job is to realize where we have failed to speak and act with love toward those who need to be cut to the heart deep enough to see the hole that only the cross can fill.
McLaren then says...
Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.
I'm disturbed that McLaren doesn't think that thousands of years since the destruction of cities and the teachings of Jesus and Paul and others isn't enough, and that maybe 5 more will do it. If not, let's go 5 more.
Something is terribly wrong with McLaren's lack of clarity on what Scripture teaches. The answer for "emerging leaders" is not a moratorium on deciding, but boldness to take the Scriptures at face value and to approach sinners with a firm kindness that will lead them to repentance.
Worth checking out on the issue: