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So if the hot social issue of the day is gay marriage, how do we as missionaries respond?

Some of us will have family, neighbors and colleagues who either struggle with same sex attraction, or perhaps even strongly advocate in favor of homosexual marriage, and so naturally we want to love these friends in a manner that genuinely reflects the heart of God. After all, Jesus is so full of compassion, and we are fully aware that some Christians have too often chosen to cast the first stone at the temptation or sin with which they never have had to personally wrestle, thereby crushing any openness to walking with Jesus in the heart of that bruised soul.

redeeming sexToo many Christians seem to model their disciple-making posture on that of Jonah: either we try to run away altogether, or we do the bare minimum and then sit outside the city, stewing in our righteous anger at all the sin, failing to engage with the tender compassion and mercy of God towards those over whom we are looking down in judgment. That is not a missional mindset.

People Of The Word

Yet neither is it being a missional disciple maker to simply leave unchallenged whatever our culture baptizes into acceptability. To follow God means that we are the people of the Word, and the Bible not only conveys His inordinate love for every person but also His call to repentance for the sin in our lives. Specifically on this topic, the Bible is pretty clear that sexual intercourse is a beautiful, mysterious and spiritual thing, but is designed to be a gift within the marriage covenant that unites a woman with a man.

We may not like that, but part of following Jesus is the realization that what we know about God and His ways is due to His self-revelation. In other words, sometimes we just have to accept and submit to how He says things are, even if it doesn’t make sense or we wouldn’t do it like that if we were in charge. That is simply part of the deal of receiving faith in Jesus and honoring His rule in every area of our life.

Thus we circle back round again, trying to discern how we can live in a way that balances grace and truth — not just in theory, but in practice as well, with real people with real lives about whom we genuinely care, and amongst whom we are tasked with representing Jesus holistically. Jesus is so incredibly relational in how He operates, pulling off this incredible mixture of invitation and challenge, and so we want to model ourselves upon Him in our disciple making.

Into this mix comes Deb Hirsch’s new book Redeeming Sex. And it is a fantastic read.

redeeming sexRedeeming Sex

With her own compelling background story woven through the text (in young adulthood Deb was an active lesbian), we have a smart big sister, a seasoned guide, a sherpa of sexuality, to steer us through the variety of research, conversation, opinions and experiences that are being broadcast all around us. That she does so in a manner that is gracious and yet challenging, candid and yet not dominated by her own life journey, humorous and yet appropriately modest, is hugely impressive.

Some of the other books I’ve read on this topic have gripping narrative, yet use that as an excuse to ride roughshod over any more balancing opinion or push back. Other material from a more traditional view can end up feeling like pure logic and exegesis, but missing out on the emotional intelligence to recognize how this would feel to a young person who is genuinely struggling with their sexuality.

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Why God Made Sexuality

One of the things I love about Redeeming Sex is that the conversations about sex and marriage and so on are set within the broader context of our sexuality (“a longing to know and be known by other people, on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels”), which of course includes the physical act of sexual intercourse, but is far more besides. There is some great material on the nature of sexuality, which does a good job of digesting a lot of the academic research, as well as the more pastorally reflective work, that is available. While you might want to jump ahead to the juicier subjects, this is important groundwork to think through.

The Church And Homosexuality

The bulk of the application in the book does relate to homosexuality, and how the church should respond not just to gay marriage, but also to the homosexual community. Hirsch writes in a way that will deeply challenge those who are, like me, heterosexual and married (guilt-free sex!), to start from a posture of grace, love and compassion with our gay and lesbian friends. We are called to live on mission not just with those whose lives are neat and tidy and look like ours, and that begins with a heart seasoned with humility and mercy. Put another way, it is all very well to have a vision of the Kingdom, but to fail to share it in accord with the values of the Kingdom will be truly self-defeating (even if we then theologize our ineptness away with misappropriated proof texts).

At the same time, this book is also a challenge to those who are committed to following Jesus and yet think there are no moral issues with an active homosexual lifestyle. To sweep all discussion away in the name of true love is not actually the most loving thing to do, if we are not accurately reflecting the tender yet clear challenge of Jesus to the LBGT community. Deb’s own incredible story of experiencing the transforming power of Jesus is one that will be a genuine pause-and-ponder experience, as is her view of how to handle what the Bible has to say about sex and sexuality.

Again, I encourage you to read this book for yourself, for it is an engaging and enjoyable read. There is a sharpness of challenge, built upon Deb’s authenticity and clear love — both for Jesus and for those who, by nature of their homosexual desires, feel far from Jesus’ church — that will be good for every one of us, whatever our opinion on this important subject.

Finally, a disclaimer: I do know Alan and Deb Hirsch personally, but I bought this book myself, and if I thought it was no good I probably would have done something a bit sadly passive aggressive and simply not written a review (sorry). And because it is a good book, Hannah and I will be sharing it with others (including our older teenagers), and so with that in mind, I do recommend it to you.

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How can you choose to better balance grace and truth in your response to homosexual marriage?

Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences – please make sure you bring lots of grace into what you write, this is a sensitive topic upon which we won’t all agree!

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