Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Sean McDowell: Well, I'm glad you're with me tonight. I was told the Wednesday night crowd was lively. [cheers and applause] All right, good. We're actually jumping into a pretty sensitive, pretty sensitive subject. I teach at Biola University in a graduate program in apologetics, and before that for ten years full-time I taught high school. And I'll never remember---this is at a Christian school---a student came in during lunch and he looked really troubled and bothered. He said, "Mr. McDowell, can we talk?" I said, "No. It's my lunch break. Come back . . . ." No, I didn't say that. I'm kidding. [laughter] I said, "Yeah, what's going on?" He sat down. He looked at me. He was a sophomore, so he wasn't in my class, but I had him as a freshman. And he looked at me with trouble in his eyes. He was a Christian kid.
He said, "I think I'm losing my faith." I said, "Well, what's going on?" He said, "Last night I was fishing around on the Internet and I came across this atheist website, got into a conversation with somebody, was invited on their radio show. And this national radio show host basically used me as a punching bag to raise all his challenges for an hour. I couldn't answer any of it. I don't even know if I believe this anymore." I said, "Well, take at a step back. I'm happy to help you with this." And actually what happened for the next six months, he'd come in at lunch, in the morning, during seventh period, and we'd just talk---how do we know the Bible is true? how do we know God exists? what about evolution?---and then he stopped coming.
So I went and I found him at lunch and I said, "Hey, we were having this great conversation. You stopped coming. What's going on?" He said, "You answered all my questions. I'm good to go." I thought, "Awesome. Check it up, you know, this is fantastic." Well, fast-forward two years to his senior year. We're at a retreat up in the mountains. It was outside. There's a fire and the pastor was talking about forgiveness. He let people leave, but he said, "You can stay around if you want and just pray and connect with God." Well, most students left and I see this student sitting there. So I went up to him and I noticed he was crying, but this was an intense, just troubled cry. I came up to him, I said, "Hey, what's going on? What's bothering you?"
He looked at me, he said, "Mr. McDowell, do you remember a couple of years ago when I came in and asked you these questions?" I said, "Of course." He said, "I was actually hoping you couldn't answer my questions." That took me by surprise. I said, "Why did you hope I couldn't answer them?" He looked at me, he says, "Because I think I'm gay." And then he said something to me I will never forget. He said, "I can't keep living because my life is a living hell, and I can't die because think I will go to hell." Friends, I sat there, I thought, "Oh my goodness, the trouble and despair that this seventeen-year-old young person was feeling." It hit me more than ever that so many people in the church and outside the church in our culture with same-sex attraction feel out of place. They feel rejected. They feel alienated.
And many of them feel like they're uniquely condemned by God. Proverbs 18:13 says, "If one gives an answer the before he hears, it is his folly and shame." Friends, as Christians, we've often had quick answers and sometimes simplistic ones, but on this issue we need to be willing to be compassionate and empathetic and try to understand as profoundly as we can. There's a writer by the name of Andrew Marin. And he moved his family into Boystown, Chicago. Now, why Boystown, Chicago? It was voted last year as the "Most Gay-friendly City in America," higher than San Francisco. He wanted to move his family in there to build bridges with what he described as the gay community. He said, "I want to talk about Jesus. I want to reach out to them. I want to build relationship."
So he moved his family right in there and started getting to know many people that lived there. In his book Love Is an Orientation he said this, he said: "Unless you have been sexually attracted to someone of the same sex you can never fully grasp, as a heterosexual Christian, what that means." And in reading his book he asked a few questions that I started to reflect upon and think for myself. He said, for example, "How would your life change if you had same-sex attraction?" Maybe some of you do. But for those who don't, how would your life change if you found that you had same-sex attraction? Second, how would it affect your relationships? Third, how would it affect your future? And, fourth, how would it affect your faith?
I simply ask these questions because when we try to understand, it helps us have more compassion and more empathy for those who have same-sex attraction. Now, why pick on this issue, right? I mean, as soon as I'm on a radio show or as soon as I meet somebody and they find out I wrote a book on this, the first question is: "Well, why are you picking on this issue, aren't all sins equal?" Right? Isn't that what we tend to think on this issue: "Aren't all sins equal?" Christians are picking this one and beating people up over it. Well, I wrote a book a few years ago called Is God Just a Human Invention? And it was a response to a lot of the New Atheist critiques of Christianity. And Christians were reading it and I thought, "How can I get atheists and skeptics to read it and have conversations about it?"
So I called up the largest skeptical group of Orange County where I live in Southern California. I said: "My name is Sean McDowell. I wrote this book. I'd be happy to come to your group, just sit in the hot seat for a couple hours, bring everybody a free copy of the book, and just answer whatever questions you'd like to ask a Christian." You know, I don't know about you, but that actually sounds like a lot of fun to me. [laughter] I don't pretend I have all the answers. I'm well aware that I don't, but that wasn't my goal. And they asked me all sorts of interesting questions. At the end I said, "Could I have fifteen minutes to just ask you questions?" And I could have said, "You don't believe in God, how do you get morality without God?" I couldn't have said, "Where does the universe come from if it doesn't come from God?"
I could have said, "How do you explain the resurrection?" But instead I said, "I'm a Christian. I think Christianity is true, and I'd like to persuade skeptics that it's true. But what bad impressions do Christians leave that prevent us from even being heard?" And I remember one guy in the back. He said, "Stop the atheist jokes." I thought, "Man, I've got some good ones." [laughter] Actually, he said, "Stop slandering atheist." He said he would go to a church somewhat frequently and just watch from the back. And he said regularly he would hear cheap shots against Christians or some other non-Christian group. Another guy raised his hand. He said, "Stop the hypocrisy." I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "I have a friend who goes out and gets drunk, but then he always rails against the immorality of homosexuality."
And they're right. They're right. It's not lost on many people in our culture that we don't have rallies at DC against gossip. The Bible has some strong things to say about homosexual behavior, but it also has strong things to say about divorce. It has strong things to say about idolatry and lust and greed. The Bible speaks on these. David Kinnaman who is the president of Barna Research Group, he wrote a book called unChristian, and he studied nonbelievers how they view Christians. He said, "Outsiders say our hostility toward gays---not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals---has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith." Friends, how did this happen? And he's right. I teach at a university, but I still teach one high school class.
And I got tired of seeing my students graduate, go into the university, and then have a professor pick apart their faith. So I get together with a friend of mine. I said, "We need to take our students the most godless, secular place we can think, and bring in atheists, agnostics, let them speak to our students." So this past February I took a group of twenty-two high school students to Berkeley. [laughter] And we brought in some atheists, some agnostics, and we brought in a friend of mine who is in his eighties, just the most kind, just grandfatherly soul you would ever meet. And for six decades he described himself as a "gay activist." And I invited him to speak to my students and help us understand his story and where they're coming from and allow us to ask questions.
I said, "I'm curious, you've been doing this a lot longer than I've been alive. How would you and your friends describe Christians?" He looked at me and spoke two words I'll never forget. He said, "The enemy." And I just stopped, I thought, "Now, wait a minute, Jesus said to "love your enemies." Jesus was "a friend of sinners." And, yet, somehow in our culture if you say you're a Bible-believing Christian, in the minds of the majority of people, you're hateful, bigoted, intolerant, homophobic, and as one guy called me, "Talibanic," for holding that view. So the question is: Why on earth would I speak on this and why on earth would I write a book on same-sex marriage? The answer simple: I just wanted to make lot of friends. [laughter]
Actually, before I started to speak on this and to write a book on it, my wife and I had a long conversation. I said, "Do I really want to talk about this issue publicly? Do I want to write about this and go on radio shows and have debates?" It's a lot easier not to, isn't it? And I kept coming back to a passage in Acts when I looked at the apostles, because the apostles saw Jesus in person, and they were willing to die for proclaiming the name of Jesus. You look at the beginning of Acts and what happens, they're threatened, they're thrown into prison, they're beaten, and they're told: "Just stop talking about Jesus and we'll let you go." In Acts 5:29 Peter says, we can't because "We must obey God rather than men." Friends, I fear God more than I fear men.
We have to speak compassionately and carefully and thoughtfully, but we must speak truth. So are all sins equal? I asked my ten-year-old son, I said, "Son, do you think all sins are equal?" He looked at me, he said, "Well," he goes, "I don't think so. Lying to my friend is not the same as murdering my friend." I actually agree with him. All sins aren't equal. The Bible doesn't teach that. All sins are not equal. In fact, it says in John, chapter 19, Jesus said to Pilate, "Therefore he who delivered me over to you has committed the greater sin." In Matthew 23, Jesus said the Pharisees had "neglected the weightier matters of the law." Degrees of punishment in hell and the words of heaven show that sins and righteousness acts are not equal.
In fact, it says in First Corinthians 6 that sexual immorality is the one sin you commit "against your own body." Friends, sins are not equal. Now there is a sense in which sin is equal, and it's that any sin can eternally separate us from a loving and a holy God. In that sense, sins are equal. In fact, in James 2:10 James the brother of Jesus said, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." That's a sobering word. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." One the reasons I think we Christians are sometimes harsh and judgmental on this particular issue is because we think we're more righteous and we think we're better than other people.
I think if we were truly in touch with our own sinfulness, our own fallenness, our own desperate need for God, and our brokenness, we would have a lot more compassion and sympathy for all nonbelievers. Amen? [applause] At a press conference Billy Graham said: "I'm going to quote the Bible now, not myself, but it [homosexuality]," referring to behavior, "is a sin. But there are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin as though it's the greatest sin? The greatest sin in the Bible is idolatry. Jealousy is a sin. Pride is a sin. All of these are sin. But homosexuality is also a sin and needs to be dealt with and needs to be forgiven. That's why Christ came and died on the cross." And he's absolutely right. Now, so you might sitting there going, "Oh man, why is this such a big issue? Why can't we just agree to disagree on this issue?
"Maybe we disagree on the age of the earth. Maybe we disagree on the mode of baptism. Maybe we disagree on the role of women in the church. Why can't this issue be one of those that we just disagree on?" There's a very popular book and a movement and a conference called the Gay Christian Network. And this author by the name of Justin Lee has written a very thoughtful book. It's called Torn. He's a self-described "gay Christian" who grew up in the evangelical church. And then he started this movement because he now believes that God blesses same-sex unions if they're monogamous and faithful to each other. In his book he said this, he said, "I wanted to model for the church and the world that it is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements."
Now I love his heart in this. We have to get over dying on secondary issues and agree on the essentials. Right? But there's a certain assumption in what he says, that issues of sexual morality are secondary issues we can just disagree on and go on our way. Is that something that we can do? Now he's right, there's clearly issues that Christians can disagree on. Paul talks about this in Romans 14. In verse 2 he says, "One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person only eats vegetables. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike." He's saying Christians can disagree on certain issues. The question is: Is this topic one of them? Well, when I read the writings of Paul in First Corinthians 6.
And he says, "Or do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [porneia], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Paul ties this issue of homosexual behavior to those who enter the kingdom of God. That's a serious issue. Now in case you're sitting here going, "Oh, this isn't my issue. I don't have sex with men like it's says here." Well, maybe you didn't read the rest of passage. It also puts it with idolatry and adultery and stealing and being greedy and being drunk. So if you say, "Whew, I'm not like those people," but you get drunk, you're missing the whole point that Paul is making.
Friends, this passage condemns all of us as sinners before God. So what does the Bible teach on this? When I started researching this subject, I felt such a sense of gravity to get this right. Because it says in Isaiah 5 verse 20, "Beware of those who call good evil and those who call evil good." Friends, I've said to some of my friends who think that God is totally fine with same-sex relationships, I said, "If you are right, then I am calling something good evil. But if I'm right, you're calling something evil good." See, the question is: Has God spoken on this issue? Has God spoken and revealed a will, revealed a design for how we're supposed to live? That's the question. So a while ago I needed help with my Internet access, so I called up those nice operators from India who talk like this. Have you met these nice folks? [laughter]
And he answered my question and I was about to hang up. I thought, "You know what? This guy's job is to answer questions. You gotta think he gets some pretty stupid questions." I mean have you ever had somebody say to you: "There's no such thing as a stupid question." That's a lie. [laughter] I taught freshmen for nine years. [laughter] Well, I was about to hang up, I said: "Can you tell me honestly the craziest questions you've ever received about working a computer?" He goes, "Sure." He said, "I had a---I had a lady call up and she was frustrated, confused, needed some help." He said, "What's the matter, ma'am?" She said, "For crying out loud, my foot pedal doesn't work." Any guesses? [laughter] Yeah, she thought the mouse went underneath the desk like when you sew and is a foot pedal. [laughter]
He said, "I also had a guy call up, same thing." "I'm frustrated, I'm confused, I need some help." And he says, "What's the matter sir?" He says, "My cup holder's not big enough to fit my favorite mug." CD ROM drive or disc drive, exactly. [laughter] And then this last one happened to someone very close to me. I can't say who it is because I would never want to embarrass the woman who birthed me. [laughter] Well, my mom's come a long way. She now follows me on Twitter, which is-which is weird and cool, but---no, it's cool. A while ago she got a new computer and decided---she's one of those people that's very technologically handicapped---decided to set up her own e-mail account. Well, one of the first instructions said, "Close all the windows." [laughter]
My mom got up from her chair, walked around the house, and closed all the windows physically in the house. [laughter] Now you're laughing because you know a little something about computers. You know the mouse is not designed to be used as a foot pedal. You know the CD ROM drive is not meant to hold your Calvary Albuquerque mug. And you know that when the computer screen says "Close the windows," it doesn't mean the physical windows in your house. You see, a computer has been designed by somebody very smart to function a certain way. And when we don't know that truth or we miss that truth, what happens? Confusion, frustration, embarrassment, and loss. But when we know the truth of the design and we live according to it, we're actually set free.
That's why Jesus said, "You shall know truth and the truth shall." What? "Shall set you free." Friends, one of the biggest lies in our culture is over the nature of freedom. If there is no God, then you and I essentially are (lower case) god, and you're only free if you get to do whatever you want to do. But if there is a God, and he's designed us male and female, and he's created the world to operate a certain way, then it's only when we live within those boundaries that we will experience true freedom. Friends, when I read through the Scriptures, I told my wife, I said, "Look, I'm going to be honest, I'm going to read both sides. I have books in my bag on all sides of this issue right now reading on the airport in here this afternoon.
I told my wife, I said, "I teach at Biola University, and if I change my views on this subject, I would lose my job, but it's more important we get this subject right, than I have a job." We have to get this right as a church. And as I read through the Scriptures, I notice a few things. Number one, there's not a single passage in the Old Testament or New Testament that supports homosexual behavior---not one. Second, until the middle of the twentieth century not a single church leader, Christian or Jew, affirmed homosexual behavior as being right. Third, every regulation in the Bible just assumes male-female sex. That's just the assumption. Fourth, every proverb in the Bible assumes heterosexuality. Fifth, even the Ten Commandments assume heterosexuality: "Honor your father and mother," "Do not commit adultery," and then tenth, "Do not covet your neighbor's wife."
Let's look just quickly at three passages that I think lay out a biblical perspective on this issue. And number one is right in the garden in Genesis, chapter 2. God has designed sexual expression for all people. It says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Right at the beginning of the Scriptures we see God's design, we see God's intent that a man and a woman leave their parents, who are a mom and a dad, they cleave to each other and they become one. Now, some critics look in this and they say, "Well, this chapter is just describing how it happened, but it doesn't apply to how we're supposed to live today." Well, the interesting thing is Jesus commented on this passage. Jesus was asked about the marriage issue in particular in relation to divorce.
And in Matthew 19 he said, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not men separate." But then you fast-forward into the book of Leviticus and you see another passage on this. Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." Now notice it doesn't say the one who does this (gays) are an abomination. It doesn't say that. It says the act itself is an abomination. Now, Justin Lee in his book Torn, he said, "So scholars on both sides of the argument agreed that this probably had something to do with cult prostitution. That made sense to me."
In other words, he's saying this passage doesn't really have to do with homosexual behavior per se, but in that culture homosexual behavior was experienced through cult prostitution. So he was condemning the form of it today, not the way it's practiced in our culture in the present. Well, let me ask you a question. This same passage in Leviticus also condemns adultery, child sacrifice. Are those okay if we remove them from cult prostitution? No. Those are still wrong regardless of whether it's cult prostitution or not, right? In fact, Robert Gagnon who studied this, probably---he's probably the foremost conservative expert.
He said, "When the biblical writers rejected homosexual cult prostitution, they were in effect rejecting the whole phenomena of homosexual practice. They were repudiating a form of homosexual intercourse that was the most palatable in their cultural context." And I think he's right. You see, when the biblical authors wanted to condemn cult prostitution, they did it clearly. In Deuteronomy 23:17 it says, "None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute." Friends, Leviticus has a very powerful passage about this. But, third, let's go to the New Testament. What about the book of Romans where Paul talks about this?
In Romans 1, a very powerful passage, Paul says, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving themselves the due penalty for their error." Now this describes homosexual behavior is not natural. And powerful words like "shameless," those are strong words that Paul used. Now, the key to understanding this verse is looking at the larger context of what Paul is doing in Romans 1.
See, if you look at the verse three verses right before in Romans 1:18, Paul says: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation, in the things have been made. So they are without excuse." What's Paul saying? Paul is condemning the whole human race. He's saying, because God has made himself evident in nature, we know God is powerful, we know God is good, we know God is self-existent. And then he points to the design between male and female and says similarly we know there's a biological design, but people reject it.
Now one common objection to this is people will say, "Well, Paul was speaking of pederasty." Now pederasty is a very disturbing practice that was common in the Roman culture at this time. Basically, a man would take a young boy, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old and quote "mentor" him, which meant he would show him certain things in life to be successful, but he would also use him to have anal sex. These boys, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old, they were used that way by the men, and it was common, accepted in that culture. So I just read a pastor who wrote a letter to his congregation last week, and he said that Paul was not talking about homosexual relations as we have them today, he was talking about pederasty or cult prostitution.
But the problem is when you read the passage, what does it say? It says "men committing shameless acts with men." This is not about pederasty, friends. And besides, there was no lesbian equivalent of pederasty in ancient Rome. Friends, as I read the Scriptures, and I look back as church fathers have dealt with the Scriptures, this issue is clear. But I've also found this: if we want to find a way around what the Bible teaches, there's always a way to do it. In fact, some of the attention paid to reenvisioning some of these passages reminds me of Genesis, chapter 3. "Did God really say . . .?" So what do we do about this? In a minute---I asked if we could take questions live, and you're going to bring up some microphones. You're going to have a chance to ask questions of clarification, challenges.
However I can help you through this issue, I will do my best. But let me humbly offer just a few things as a church, ways I think we can respond healthy. Number one: speak with tenderness on this issue. Friends, speak with tenderness. There are so many hurting and so many wounded people out there, especially on this issue. A couple years ago I had a friend who texted me. He goes, "Oh, McDowell, you better see this tweet that was sent out about you." I thought, "Oh, great." So I pull up this tweet and the tweet said something to the effect of "Josh McDowell's son teaches kids how to love." Now in case you didn't figure it out, my dad's been here a bunch of times, my dad is Josh McDowell. In fact, last week we just separated---separate?---celebrated [laughter]. You meant what I knew. [laughter]
We celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday. [applause] I told my dad, I said, "Man, Dad, you're old. [laughter] When God said, 'Let there be light,' you flipped on the switch." [laughter] But some guy sends out this tweet: "Josh McDowell's son teaches kids how to love." So I click on it and I was in 2008 on this panel in California at a huge church in San Diego when the whole Proposition 8 issue was unfolding. You probably remember that. And I was asked a question live in front of probably 5,000 people. And I answered with a story and then I explained the story. Well, a friend of mine took the story and sent it out to thousands of youth pastors all around the country, but he snipped my explanation of the story. Well, he loved the story and he meant well, but without my explanation I could have been saying a lot of different things.
So this guy on his blog just rips me---I am hateful. I am bigoted. There's dozens of comments and people just ripping me in a way. I'm used to somewhat a public life getting criticized, but this was deeper than ever. And I've learned that when I'm upset like that, if I respond immediately, I'm just going is to say something un-Christlike that I regret. So, I take a deep breath, try to have a prayerful attitude about it. I wait a whole day. [laughter]. And then somebody sends in the whole video. And what's amazing is how many people, including Christians, crucified me without even having the context, which convinces me that many Christians don't even care about truth. But then it shows the whole context. Half of them are like, "Oh that makes sense. I'm with him." The other half are like, "It's even worse. We hate this guy." [laughter]
So the next day I decide I'm going to write a letter to this blogger. And I wrote him a letter. I went out of the way to find common ground, to be gracious, to be kind. I showed it to a family member of mine, not my dad, and this family member said, "You need to be more firm and call him out for his wrong behavior." I said, "You know what? It's not my job to correct somebody's behavior. Only God can convict somebody of sin. I'm going to speak lovingly but truthfully." He got my letter. He liked it so much he put it on his blog---without my permission, but that's a separate issue. [laughter] And he said, "I disagree with this guy, but when somebody responds tenderly and kindly, we should take note." It hit me, I thought, "My goodness," because I haven't always responded that way, that's for sure.
Don't believe me? Just ask my wife. [laughter] But I'm working on it and God's transforming me. But on this issue, friends, me must speak with tenderness. Second, do not allow gay jokes or comments. Don't do it. It needs to stop. In fact, if any of us in this room have told gay jokes, we need to repent of it now. I have a young person I talked to recently, and he said he found out he had same-sex attraction when he was about twelve. And he said, "I never told anybody for years, because my youth pastor, my friends would talk about gays and they would laugh about them. And that told me I'm not welcome here, and if I share my struggle, they're going to mock me." I was at the Olympics in 1996 and---in Atlanta, and I had a chance to work in a T-shirt stand, and we were selling T-shirts.
And if you've ever been to an Olympics, it's amazing the people from all over, all different parts of the world. I mean, people come from the most faraway places, from China, from India, from Africa, from Texas. [laughter] And people wear flags of where they're from because they're proud of it. And I was sitting here selling T-shirts and this guy, I don't remember, maybe forty, forty-five comes walking up and he had a huge rainbow flag just blazing across this sweatshirt. And I knew what that meant, but I don't think of a better way to get in a conversation. Give me grace, this is eighteen years ago. I said, "Hey, that's an interesting flag. What country are you from?" [laughter] That's all I could think of. This man looks at me in the eyes and he says, this is his quote, he says, "Oh, it's a queer thing."
I said, "Oh, so you wear that so people know that you're gay?" He said, "That's right. That's what the rainbow means." I said, "You mind if I you ask you a question?" He said, "No." I said, "You wear this publicly so people see it. Do people walking by sometimes make insults at you and degrade you because of this?" He looked at me and said, "Yes, it actually happens somewhat frequently." And I just looked at him in the eyes, I said, "Sir, I am so sorry that people would treat you that way. That's not right. I'm sorry." Have you ever looked at somebody and felt like their eyes were truly a window to the soul? I remember, this guy was twice my age, and I remember seeing this sadness. And he looked to me, he just paused. He said, "Thank you."
He said, "You're the nicest person I've met at the whole Olympics. Do you mind if I take a picture with you?" I said, "Of course." And you know why? Because I thought, "Maybe he's going take this picture, put it on his fridge, and someone's going to see it and say, "Oh, don't you know who that is? That's a Christian. They're 'the enemy.' "And he'll say, "No, no. He was kind to me. He was loving to me." Now, was I saying, "Hey, whatever choices you want to make is great, whatever floats your boat"? No, I wasn't saying that. I was basically saying, "You're a human being, and we don't treat human beings like dirt." It doesn't matter your race or your gender or your social economic status or your age or your sexual orientation, human beings are made in the image of God and deserve respect as image-bearers. [applause]
That's why Paul says, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving." Third, preach the gospel, because change is possible. Friends, I want to read you this passage I read earlier, but what I left out was the end. In First Corinthians 6:9 through 11 it says, "Or do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Friends, when I say change is possible, I'm not saying whether somebody's born that way or not, or that God will change your sexual orientation. The Bible doesn't promise that'll change somebody's sexual orientation. In fact, I think when we look at the evidence of whether somebody's born that way or not, I think we have to say the evidence to a degree is ambiguous. It's probably some degree of nature and nurture. But I happen to believe my Christian and non-Christian friends who have same-sex attraction, when they look at me and they say, "I didn't ask for this. I didn't want this," I believe them in that. But the question is: What does the Bible call us to? It doesn't call homosexuals to become straight; it calls all of us to leave our sin behind and become holy. [applause] Friends, Paul said change is possible.
And, last, before we take questions, and I've left a good amount of time, is if you're going to lovingly and compassionately speak truth on this subject, be prepared to suffer. It might cost you something. In fact, not too long ago Joel Olsteen, pastor of the megachurch in Houston, and I have some issues with his theology to say to at least, but Joel Olsteen is a nice guy. I think he really believes it. I think he's just misguided in terms of Scripture. Well, he was on CNN and he was being interviewed maybe two or three years ago. And it had nothing to do with this subject. And the host says, "Well, what do you think about homosexuality?" And I about fell out of my seat because Joel Olsteen says, "Well, as Christians sometimes we pick certain sins and we hammer them more than others. The Bible says it's a sin, but we're all sinners and need to turn to God."
I thought, "Holy cow! That's a pretty good answer." Now my expectations were low, but it was still a pretty good answer. And then the host turns back. He says, "Wait a minute, you're calling that a sin? Who are you to judge?" He said, "I'm not judging. It's what Jesus spoke." He said, "No. You're judging," and he starts attacking him. And finally he says, he goes, "Well, what would you say if Elton John was here. What would you say to Elton John?" Joel says, "Well, I'd say I like your music." [laughter] And I sat there, I thought, "My goodness, we are called to be tender, we are called to be compassionate, but we're reaching a point in culture where it no longer is our nation Christian, if it really ever was Christian, no longer does it just tolerate Christianity, but now if you believe a Christian ethic, you are the bad guy. You're the evil one.
And it doesn't matter how lovingly you say it and kindly and how nice you are, because Joel Olsteen is really nice, there are certain people that want to silence you. That's why I wrote in the book Same-Sex Marriage, I said, "The goal of the gay movement is not to get marriage, it's to silence dissent." and you stand in the way of that dissent. Should we be surprised by this? No. Peter, First Peter 3:17 says, "For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." There's Christians in your state, you know the stories, florists, bakers, photographers, lovingly just trying to stand on Christian principles persecuted for their beliefs. Friends, we cannot stay silent on this issue. In whatever way God has given us, some bigger platform, some smaller, but the Scriptures are clear.
And if what Jesus and Paul and the Scriptures teach is true, and we believe it is, it's actually us who teach that truth and who try to model it appropriately who are doing the loving thing despite what our culture says. Amen? [applause] Well, let's do this. I know this might not be what you normally do on a Wednesday, but I'd like to open it up for questions, questions for me, challenges. I don't pretend I have all the answers. We have a couple pastors up front, and if you raise your hand, and particularly if you hold money up, they will find you that much more quickly. [laughter] But could I ask this: time is going to go fast, there may be a lot of questions, will you state your question as succinctly and to the point as possible, so we can allow as people to ask questions, and I will do my best to respond.
So throw your hand up if you would like to ask a question, and we'll see where this goes. I think they're going to have you walk down the aisle and meet in the front, and then when this side's talking, the other side will be finding someone else.
Sean McDowell: Yeah?
Female: So, Josh, I have a family member who is a homosexual living with a man, and he has prayed the sinner's prayer and asked Jesus to come into his heart. So, he wants to do the right thing and---spiritually, but the whole flesh, you know, being weak is---seems to be his major problem. And he's always really worried about dying and hell and, you know, going to hell. And so, you know, he-he---I don't always know what to say when he calls me to talk about that.
Sean McDowell: He calls you to talk about this issue?
Female speaker: Oh, we talk about the Lord all the time.
Sean McDowell: About---he talks about his attractions and his ---
Female: ---his attractions, his faith ---
Sean McDowell: ---all the time with you?
Female: ---how he wants to live for God, you know, and---but he's still in this relationship.
Sean McDowell: Okay. Well, I would say the first thing is I'm glad that he feels the freedom to talk to you. I mean, that's huge. A lot of people who have the attractions that he has feels like they're going to be rejected and they bury and it down inside. So, he's taken the right step. I would shower and just err on the side of grace: listen, love, pray with him, support him. Affirm that he's not the only one who's gone through this, that all of us in effect are born with a sinful nature and have desires we didn't ask for. So, I would do everything you can to keep that relationship going. Two other things: number one is I would try to find some kind of support group for other men, not women, but other men kind of young and old who find that they have same-sex attraction as well.
And sometimes--- I'm glad he's talking to you---but having other people with this same kind of burden that they can connect, they can understand, they can relate to each other and strengthen each other just gives a certain kind of soul satisfaction and support that you and I probably couldn't bring. Third, I'd actually recommend that he read a book called Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. Wesley Hill grew up in a Christian home. He was not sexually abused. He doesn't fit any of stereotypes that a lot of people say cause homosexual behavior. He goes, "I have a good relationship with my dad." But he found that he had same-sex attraction, and he said, "What do I do about it?"
And he talks about his journey and kind of this struggle and how he fits in with the church and just so moving, so eye-opening, such a powerful way to, you know, for him to read of another person who's probably in his shoes. He says, "I want to follow God. Here's my struggles," I think would really encourage him. So keep the relationship going, pour grace and love on him. Second, see if there's a group. I don't know if they have one at this church or not. I mean---he's saying yes, they do. Get him plugged in. That would be helpful. And, third, check out the book by Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting, I think would really, really encourage him.
Female: Thank you.
Sean McDowell: So, thank you.
Male: How would you suggest to talk to Christians who show more of a hate toward homosexuals?
Sean McDowell: How would I talk to Christians who show more of a hate to homosexuals? The first thing I would do is I would pray for that Christian, because I think it's a spiritual battle that's going on and their heart is not broken. Second, I would just---I would find an example and I would talk to them. I'd say, "Man, you seem really hateful about these people. Where does this come from? What's the root of this? Why do you hate them and not others? The Bible says we are all sinners before God." And I would---I mean, if somebody wants to hate and doesn't want to change, there's nothing you can do to change that person. Right? Even some people walked away from an encounter with Jesus, like the rich young ruler. So if this person wants to hate them, we sometimes see the Westboro Baptists, I mean, clearly I think that's a hateful approach.
How to do you talk to them? Well, they don't want to listen. They don't want to have a conversation. Pray for them and try to clean up the mess of the damage that they cause. So I'd pray for this person. I'd try to build a relationship. And I would just try to have conversations in so far as you can get to the heart of what's driving this hate. And even if you know people who have the same-sex attraction, say, "Gosh, here you seem so hateful. I have friends who really wrestle with this. And it's actually this attitude that harms them from being able to come and feel like they belong at church and feel like God loves them. Do you care about all Christians?" I mean, I would try to just push back and see what's at the root of it? So, thank you. I hope that helps a little bit.
Male: Yes, I have a young relative in high school who's developed a friendship with a boy who self-identifies as gay. He's becoming a family friend because he lives in the neighborhood. And, you know, he and this relative of mine are in high school together and share some classes together. So, he comes around and he seems like a very pleasant young man, but he self-identifies as gay, and I want to witness to him. I'm thinking of challenging his self-identification and just telling him, "I think maybe you're just at an age of exploration, you're young, maybe you're more comfortable with the same sex than the opposite sex, but I don't think you need to get locked into a gay identity at this age in your life."
Sean McDowell: Now first off, I think everything you're saying is true. The question is: Would this young person listen and really take it to heart? And in my experience it's when that relationship is really there, and the person knows that we care about them, that they're willing to have these kind of conversations. So I would really first and focus---focus on helping this young person as you would any young person feel like they belong, like you care about them, you're building a relationship with them, they matter, they're important to you. And then through time there may be time---through time there may be the opportunity to have kind of those in-depth conversations.
For me, if somebody's not a believer, and it sounds like this person is, I wouldn't make homosexuality and their identity the core issue that they need to overcome before they can get to the cross. I would talk about: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? Do you believe in God? Now, if he brings up that issue, I'm not saying skirt it and don't address it, but I want to get to the heart issue. If this person's not a believer, they need to know who Jesus is, why Jesus died, and then when they have the Spirit inside of them, God transforms us from the inside out.
Male: Okay, thank you.
Sean McDowell: So, thank you.
Female: We've actually been invited to a wedding now in October, my entire family. Like, do we go? Do we support? Do we take the kids? Do we explain before we go? I don't know, we're kind of confused.
Sean McDowell: This is a great question. I'm so glad you asked this. In a---let me just give you some context for this. A month ago I wrote a book on same-sex marriage, and what we found is I was getting asked these kinds of questions everywhere. So other questions like: "What if I have somebody I work with and that person is married to a same-sex partner and they're having a baby shower, 'Come have a piece of cake, because we adopted,' do you go?" I mean, there are endless kind of scenarios that we find ourselves in. How do we answer these? So we put in the end like fifteen or twenty scenarios, this one included, to try to anticipate ahead of time before we're in that circumstance, so we can respond as lovingly and graciously as we can. Now, here's the deal: I think on some issues there's clear out-of-bounds for a Christian.
I really do. But there's a whole lot of issues like this in which Christians can disagree and try to operate on their understanding of Scripture and on their conscience. So I have a friend I talked to, he said, "I had a same-sex couple that got married. They invited me to their wedding. I don't agree with it. I think it's wrong. I think my friend knows that, but I want to keep the relationship going. I have prayed about it and feel I have a clear conscience to go." I look at him and I say, "Okay, that's between you and that's between God. For me, I couldn't go. I wouldn't go." Why? Do you think I could really stand there and---or sit there and be silent when the pastor at the very end before he announces the new couple says, "All right, if there's anybody who has issues, speak now." [laughter]
And it's not fair to go and speak up in the middle of a wedding. I think that's even more wrong. So, I couldn't, because what is a wedding? A wedding is a public celebration of a certain kind of union before God. Even people who aren't Christians are still made male and female would desire of this institution called marriage, which is a God-ordained institution. I couldn't go. And I also start to think, "What kind of message does this send to my kids when they ask me someday, to other believers in the church, and to the body of Christ?" Now, what some of you might be thinking is, "Oh, man, you've destroyed that relationship." And I think, you know what?
I think if we err on the side of really building loving relationships, then people who know us and know where we're coming from, when we get invited, the response is: "Thank you so much for inviting me to this special day. I know this probably is going to be one of the most special memorable days in your life, that you would include me is touching. Now, you know that I'm a Christian. We've had these conversations before, and we have some difference. I don't honestly think that I can go and celebrate this, but please know that I care about you as a person, and I really hope that we can continue this relationship." And if that relationship is really there and that person knows it, I think chances are you're going to be okay and they're going to respect that. [applause]
Female: How do you respond to someone when they said, "Well, I was born this way." I mean, what's a good way to answer to that?
Sean McDowell: How do I respond?
Sean McDowell: I basically look at them and I go, I go, "Okay, how do you know that?" I'm serious. How does somebody know that they were born that way? Now they might say, "Because from the earliest memories I have when I was two or three or four, I remember having these kind of attractions. I didn't choose this." But that still doesn't mean that they were made that way. In the past---or born that way. In the past few years one of the things we've learned about child development is just the power of even our experiences in the womb, moms talking to their kids. Even the health of the dad. There's a recent book that talks about the health of the dad shapes the future, believes in health and brain development in the kids. So there's no way scientifically someone could prove that out.
So I would just simply say, "Wow, how do you know that? Which is your study in which you show that this is true?" And in my book Ethix, E-T-H-I-X, I have a whole chapter on this. And I walk through the brain study by their scientist named LeVay. There's a study by Dean Hamer. There's twin studies. There's multiple studies attempting to find a biological root that somebody was born this way, and all the studies are ambiguous. It doesn't prove that. Okay, but the question would be, all right: If somebody is born that way---in fact, I might ask---I might say first, "How do you know that's true." Second, "Let me make sure I understand. Are you implying that any desires we have that we are born with are morally okay? Is that what you're saying?"
Because I have some desires I've always had to hurt people. And I don't have big issues with this. [laughter] It's like, don't worry. [laughter] But, right? We've all been mad, like in a game, and thought, "Man, I just want to hit that person," right? Okay, don't read too much into that. [laughter] I've had desires to take things that aren't mine, to tell lies. Right? You don't learn this stuff. Some people say kids are naturally good. Well, they're just not parents. [laughter] Right? I mean, I would really say this precisely. Number one, how do you know it? Number two, are you really implying that if somebody is born with certain inclinations or desires that that is necessarily okay and moral?
Because there's a lot of things that scientist will say some people are born with an inclination towards anger, some people are born with an inclination toward alcoholism. Does that imply that it's okay? And there's even a lot of "gay activists," and this is a term they use. And even Justin Lee in his book Torn he says the evidence is ambiguous, it's probably some kind of nature and nurture. And then he says but even if we were born this way, it wouldn't tell us whether that behavior is right or whether that behavior is wrong.
Female: Okay, thank you. [applause]
Sean McDowell: Here's an interesting point, though: almost all Christians whenever I do this want to ask "Are they born that way?" Almost every time I get to interact with gays who are non-Christian, their question is different. They say, "Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?" That's just a different question based upon where we're coming from that seems to be very central for people.
Yeah, go ahead, my friend.
Male: Hi. I'm the leader of Identity Quest at Calvary, which is a group of---support group for men that are struggling with same-sex attractions. I had a long struggle with homosexuality and been free from it for several years now. And---
Sean McDowell: Praise the Lord. Tell---Dennis, did you say? What---[applause]
Male: ---Mike. We also have a group here for women that is led by Joyce Toler and we're actually---[applause]---we're actually starting tomorrow night. So---
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Mike: My question to you is that for years I've had this class and I barely have one or two people show up at the most each time. And I don't know how---I believe there is a greater need out there for people that are struggling with this and they want help. And I don't know why people don't come. I don't know why they're afraid to step forward. And what would you suggest as a way to try to get people to come? We have like 16,000 people that attend this church in all the different services, and I know there's gotta be more people struggling with it.
Sean McDowell: Call each one of them personally. No. I'm just kidding. [laughter] First off, thank you, number one, for your ministry and for sharing that. My---[applause]--- Praise the Lord for your example and for your heart. And, second, thank you for having the courage to stand and to go with this. Sometimes there's probably voices in your head that say, "Do I want people to know? Am I going to be treated differently?" And I can tell by your voice that you know the gospel's bigger than that. So let me ask a question: How many of you did not know this support group existed? Let me see your hands. Okay, put your hands down. How many of you now know that this support group exists? [laughter]
Problem solved. Well, of course, it's not quite that simple. But some of it is just getting the word out. I promise you, I know a handful of people here I've met from the past in different places, but I guarantee you there's people sitting here right now that also have stories like yours. There's probably some people sitting here right now saying, "I've never shared this with anybody." And they feel ashamed. They've buried it inside. They don't know how God can help them. They don't know what to do. They're afraid. So why don't you do this, and then I know the church will come after me and help address this in a more formal way: tell us again how they can get a hold of you or get plugged into this specific ministry.
Mike: Well, it starts tomorrow. It's going to be at 6:15 and it's over in the Plex. You could also get on the Calvary website calvaryabq.org and look under Identity Quest and it will give the information about the group. Also, we have in the foyer for the last few weeks we've been having a stand out there that gives information about the group.
Sean McDowell: Praise the Lord.
Mike: And I would just like to see more people come, because I know that it is a long struggle. And I do believe I have been delivered, not only from the sin, but I also have attraction toward women now. And the sin didn't take long to be able to be free from, because the Lord frees you from that just like he does any other sin. But getting the attractions is the thing that takes a long, long time, because it's things you have to work on and it's a long struggle. It takes many years. But that is possible as well. So, it's not just that, you know, you can be saved and you can be saved from the sin, but you can also change, and that is a possibility. I'm not saying God's going snap and you're changed right away, there's a lot of work that you have to do to change that, but you can be redeemed right away and be saved, you know, by the---
Sean McDowell: ---And your life testifies to that. Thank you for having the courage to share that and God bless on your ministry.
Well, it is that time. I apologize. I would love to keep taking more, but I promised them I would wrap up on time. But here's what I'll do. I will sneak out to my book table, say hi, sign a book if you're interested, try to answer more questions. Help you any way I can. This is the one I was referring to simply called Same-Sex Marriage. It's half the length of a normal book. It's a quick, just---because we're busy, right?---a quick response to this issue. How do we lovingly and truthfully respond? And I found that Christians, we're afraid of this issue. Islam and this issue of same-sex marriage scares a lot of Christians. Those are the two. Friends, we have nothing to be afraid of. No matter what happens politically on this issue, Jesus has still risen from the grave. Amen? [cheers and applause]
I'm going to sneak out there. Would love to sign one if that helps. And then another I brought for students of partakers called the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. I brought this in the past. And this issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage is one of them, including other ethical issues, apologetics issues, how do we help young people answer these tough questions? And it has 120 questions in there, including my favorite one: "If God made everything, then why is it wrong to smoke pot?" [laughter] That's a great question. Now you're curious, you're going to have to pick up a copy. God bless you guys. [applause]
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.