Dynamic tension, that pull between two opposing forces, is a principle that pops up frequently in Christian faith. It's like the "already-but-not-yet" aspect of our sanctification: The Father sees us as completely, already made into the image of Jesus since He's looking through the covering of Jesus' blood and righteousness upon us. Yet what we see and experience on this side of heaven is quite different: We know the work isn't complete, but in process throughout this life.
The dynamic tension in sanctification isn't that taxing upon us; rather, reflecting upon it causes us to worship Him more. Other instances of dynamic tension have greater pull, sometimes even quite uncomfortably so.
The tension between the two extremes of grace and truth is one that, as we work to be true to both, we definitely feel the pull. It's challenging. How do I remain filled with grace toward people who are steeped in sin around me? How do I "love them as myself"? (Matthew 22:37-39; Galatians 5:14). Confronted by their sinfulness, even urged on to join them in their sin and then mocked when we don't, how do I continue to act with grace and Christ-likeness toward them?
In these situations we're often tempted to withdraw behind the shield of truth, like a bulwark against a flood. Over that wall of protection, we wield the sword of truth and fire away arrows of truth to fight back, defend truth, and cut down their untruths.
But there's a problem. We don't have a shield of truth. Nor a sword of truth. Nor arrows of truth. We have a shield of faith against the flaming darts of the enemy and a belt of truth to gird up our own loins (joined with the breastplate of righteousness, these two protect all our vulnerable abdomen). Even the sword of the Spirit isn't a big broadsword, but a short sword for close up work in face to face against the enemy. Notice that in Ephesians 6, the armour of God isn't for attacking people outside the Church. No, it's for our defence against attacks from the enemy. But I digress off into another area ... let me come back to pursuing my main thesis.
Yesterday I used the illustration of two chairs tied together on opposite sides of the platform, one representing truth, the other grace. On each chair was a water glass of rocks of various sizes and colours. The rocks represent people. The rope represents the invisible bond and dynamic tension between truth and grace which we often don't see. When we pull to one side resisting the other, we tip the chair, overturning it and the people camped there. We end up denying both Biblical truth that we're supposed to uphold, and damage people on that side. It doesn't matter which side we're on: If we're polarized and pulling away, we're both sacrificing people and the Word. Not good. Damaging. Unbalanced.
As I look around all of Western Christianity today, I see a polarization on moral issues, similar to the polarization we see in politics. Within and adjacent to the Church, believers and movements are polarizing over the issue of same-sex attraction (SSA) and the question: Is it permissible and not sinful to engage SSA? How do we respond to both believers and non-believers who have differing opinions and theological arguments on this topic?
For those interested, the Bible speaks directly about same-sex attraction in five passages, two in the Old and three in the New Testament: Genesis 19; Leviticus 18 & 20; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-10. The context of each is quite plain and clear. It is not ambiguous in any way, though it is painful to acknowledge that plainly because - as I said yesterday - I know that that truth causes pain for many. Trying to speak with as much grace as possible, I must also remain true to what Scripture says: Only by radically reinterpreting each passage and context, thus violating all commonly accepted Biblical hermeneutic principles, can they be reworked so as to justify indulging SSA. Such as Mel White has done in his 24-page paper titled "What the Bible Says - and Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality." Please don't be mislead by the title, though, and go read his paper without serious critical thinking on your part. Rather, here are two solid rebuttals by those trained and experienced in serious Biblical critical thinking:
Dr Stanton Jones, Wheaton College
Dr Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary
Additionally, Stan Jones wrote a "pastoral conversation" that's a summary of his many interactions with those confessing and struggling with SSA. This piece is instructive to see how we can lovingly discuss with both grace and truth the issues with the person in front of us.
Further, if you or someone you love is struggling with SSA and are looking for good, solid, loving and Biblically grounded advice, consult and follow Sam Allbery and the site LivingOut.org.
But what about when we're being attacked for our stand on what the Bible does clearly say about SSA? What do we do then?
Here are two more things that will help:
First, remember that Jesus said we will be reviled for His name's sake, that we will be persecuted by the world just as it rejected and persecuted Him. And that in the midst of all that, He is with us. We must be true to him. Knowing this helps.
Second, practice some basic apologetics. Yes, "defending our faith" (i.e. apologetics) is both Biblical and highly needed in our very post-Christian Western culture. I won't get into more details on all this here, but rather provide again some helpful links:
Consult Greg Koukl's ministry site Stand to Reason to learn more about apologetics.
And here's a specific response by David Robertson to the claim that Christians are bigots relative to this topic. Warning: He comes at this with that cheeky British humour!
Video & Text article.
I'm trusting that, as we come with humility together before the Lord and His Word, we will be full of the Spirit, remain true to both grace and truth, loving one another as we journey - yes, struggle together - through this process of sanctification that is going on in each of us, no matter where we land on the theological, ideological or experiential scale regarding SSA. May we each continue to grow in the image of Jesus together.
To exercise the grace side of this issue as much as the truth side, I invite those of DCC and our Danforth community with this: Should we start a group for all who are affected by this issue? If you're touched by this issue as one struggling, or a family member struggling, please contact me and let's talk.