Monday, October 20, 2014

A Case for Third-Way

Seward, James. Who Will Love Him More. 2006. Canvas. N.p.

Third-way is an approach that is recently emerged in response to the LGBT issues that American churches are facing. It is a plea for American churches to extend the grace for differences and dialogue for disagreements, which the heterosexual Christians are allowed, to the LGBT Christians. In response to the plea for Third-way, the churches and denominations that hold the traditional view contend that, in the words of Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "But, there is no third way. A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them."

Further analysis of this response leads me to believe that one of the major underlying issues that the traditionalists have of Third-way is a fear that this approach seeks to take away the Church’s right and freedom to preach against homosexuality. I have to say that I do understand the concern of the traditionalists. I would not want the Church to stop preaching against premarital sex, extramarital relationship, greed and alcohol abuse just as much. But is it really the aim of Third-way to take away the Church’s right and freedom to preach the truth?

Before I could answer the question, let me first ask you this – how is your church doing with its evangelism ministry to the LGBT community? How effective is your long held traditional approach in dealing with the homosexual issue whether inside or outside of the church? Have you been able to preach the gay away from the faithful believers who struggle with their sexual identities, or have you simply preached the gay people away from the church?

The reluctance to bring the evangelism ministry to the LGBT community may indicate yet another unvoiced belief deep rooted in the traditionalists’ minds – LGBT people are undeserving of the love and salvation of Jesus Christ and His Body, unless if they first rid themselves of their homosexuality. However, not only is this prerequisite that the Church places on the LGBT people uncalled for, but also that it has become a hindrance to the effectiveness of the gospel.

In Romans, Paul makes it clear that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Yet “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In Jesus’ own words, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). For one to be saved, whether straight or gay, it is always by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone. There is nothing anyone can do to earn God’s grace and acceptance.

But if you believe that LGBT people are in need of God as much as everyone else, and that LGBT people deserve (or undeserve) God as much as everyone else, and the traditional approach has proven to be ineffective, then why is it that you are unwilling to go to great lengths to meet the LGBT people where they are, and to build a bridge across the differences so that they may come to Jesus Christ?

If you knew that today within your congregation, there is a closeted LGBT Christian among you, who is secretly struggling with severe depression because of her sexual orientation, and your sermon may be the last straw to confirm her perceived rejection, and send her to that bottle of sleeping pills or that rope she is going to hang herself with, wouldn’t you go to great lengths to bring comfort to her? If you knew that today outside of your church, there is a LGBT youth who is about to close his heart against God, because he believes that he could never be loved by God as who he is, wouldn’t you build a bridge so that he may experience God’s love through you?

In Mark 3:1-6, it was the account of Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, in which Jesus asks, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” It is Jesus challenging the Pharisees of their legalistic mentality, “What is your priority in doing the works of the Kingdom of God?” And it is Jesus going to great lengths to bring healing to the sick. Matter of fact, Jesus has always gone to great lengths to gather the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to the Kingdom of God. That is how much Jesus values and cares about each person made in the image of God.

This, then, is the plea of Third-way in my own understand – it is a plea for us all to sit down and to have communion with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners (namely, EVERYONE, including you and me, him and her, straight and gay), just like Jesus did, and to withhold the pointing fingers at each other. It is, therefore, a plea for the Church to live out its Christlikeness. To prioritize our ministries the same way Jesus does. The aim of Third-way, then, is to build a bridge, to establish a common ground, and to go to great lengths to bring all the sinners, straight or gay alike, to the Great Physician Himself. Third-way is not about whether you condemn or affirm same-sex behaviors and relationships, it is about the Christlike priority.

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