Sermon Crumbs from Revelation 14
We’ve spent three Sunday mornings in Revelation 14 and it’s time to move on. But there’s one verse I did not preach but is still worth commenting on: Revelation 14:4 says that the followers of the Lamb keep themselves sexually pure. Is that relevant for the church in our day or not?
Pastor Kevin Miller recently wrote a thoughtful piece for Leadership, “Consistent Sexual Sacrifice.” The article begins with his conversation with a woman who thinks his is one of those churches that hates gays:
I said, “No, in our church, we have many people who feel same-sex attraction.”
“Oh,” she said, looking puzzled. “What do you do with them?”
“We walk alongside them,” I said. They’ve come to us and said, ‘Help me walk the way of Jesus.’ And they know that for many of them their longings will remain, and that means a life of celibacy.”
“But what you’re asking of them—isn’t that unfair?”
I said, “It is hard. I don’t minimize that. But the way of Jesus is hard for everyone. We tell our heterosexual singles, ‘You’ve got to stop sleeping with your girlfriend or your boyfriend.’ We tell a married man, ‘I don’t care how alive you feel around that new person at work; you’ve got to stay faithful to your wife.’ We tell our folks caught up in pornography, ‘Come to our support group, where you’ll admit to other people how much power this has over you.’ ”
She thought about that for a moment, and her expression softened slightly, from contempt to consternation. I’d moved up one click on her dial, from a loathsome bigot, targeting gay people out of irrational animus, to a perplexing oddity, like an Amish man with beard and buggy on the streets of Manhattan. The difference was this: consistent sexual sacrifice. She now faced a community whose life she cannot fathom but whose internal coherence she can acknowledge and even, in her most tolerant moments, marvel at.
As a pastor, I do not try to foster consistent sexual sacrifice in the church in order to convince people outside. Consistent sexual sacrifice is not primarily for the culture, but for the church—not to convince others, but to keep them from convincing us. It is not to save them, but to save ourselves.
A twenty-something guy from my church came to see me; let’s call him Reggie. Reggie had known of, and struggled with, his gay longings since boyhood. Now, he told me, “I’ve decided to start dating”—guys. He knew where our church stood, so he explained his choice: “Jesus spoke clearly on divorce, and yet churches give a pass to people to get a divorce, but he didn’t say a word about homosexuality, and churches get all up-tight about that.” The Inconsistency Defense.
Reggie’s Inconsistency Defense reminds me that as a pastor, I have only two options to deal with the tension of asking someone feeling gay longings to do something as difficult as pursue celibacy:
- Give him and everyone else a pass for cross-less Christianity, what Bonhoeffer called “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
- Call everyone to bear the cross in the area of his or her sexuality.
Our church has chosen this second path. This is demanding, and it starts with me and with my heterosexual parishioners. Most of the work is here.
I think this is right on. How about you?
The whole article can be found here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/fall/consistent-sexual-sacrifice.html.
Questions? Comments? Email Senior Pastor Ken Langley at email@example.com.