by James A. Wilson
Any operation as big and as successful as Bethel Church of Redding, California, is going to ignite controversy from time to time – and sometimes all the time. A recent dust-up for the mega church is over one of their ministries called Changed, an outreach to gays and lesbians who struggle with their sexuality. There are many such ministries and some are quite effective at helping people re-orient while others are downright abusive. Inasmuch as I know one of the two founders of Changed I can say confidently this is one of the good-guy outreaches.
The complication comes from some posts appearing on the church’s Facebook page. The accusation is that this church has now become politically correct instead of Biblically orthodox in its approach to this hot button – especially in California.
I am not going to speak for or quote these posts; interested readers can go to the page and see for themselves what has been said. My issue is not with or against Bethel Church, but with the many who so slavishly worship the church itself – instead of the God who creates and redeems churches and persons – on the one hand, and with those zealots who worship their self-appointed calling to cleanse us of all error by attacking successful ministries on the other.
The issue is not whether Bethel Church gets it right, but whether the rest of us worship and serve God – accountable to His revealed words – or some variant of the idols I describe above.
What does God actually say about homosexuality and homosexual people?
First off, God has no use for homosexuality, any more than He has love for pornography, drugs, bullying, or any other form of idolatry. He has, however, given His life – through the death and resurrection of the Son – for each and every homosexual person, as well as for every pornography maker and addict, indeed everyone in bondage to drugs, alcohol, bullies, and others imprisoned in a lesser life than what He intends.
God hates nothing and no one He has made; He desires abundant life for all. His rejection of addictions like homosexuality is grounded entirely in their deadly impact on those they hold in bondage. Jesus says He came to set the captives free…all of us.
The best analogy I can imagine is the image of God writing each of us a check for our salvation, no matter what the cost. The check is good; His money is in the account, but that same check is of no value to anyone who declines to cash it at the First Bank of Abundant Life in Christ.
Another way to express the truth is to point out God gave each of us unlimited access to Himself and His life over the weekend Jesus died and rose – this access is available to us whether or not we believe; He says He came for all mankind and if He be lifted up – on the Cross – He will lift all mankind to Himself. The point is reiterated when Paul declares Jesus desires the death of not a single sinner; Jesus Himself says He came to set the captives – not the condemned – free. However, salvation is not a function of our access to God; it is dependent on the access we give Him.
There is no universal salvation depicted in Scripture, only universal availability. The same condition – giving Him access to us is where the rubber meets the road – restricts all of us to an obligation of obedience. What does that mean for gays? It means the same for them as for the rest of us in the straight world. Romans 10:9 states clearly that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus is the necessary Lord of our lives we will live with and in Him. Romans 14:4 cautions those of us who think one sin – or sinner – worse than another that we dare not judge the servant of another; that other would be Jesus Himself.
That said, God does hate all lifestyles and behavior that injure and kill those who practice them; that certainly includes homosexuality. He hates the lifestyle because He loves those addicted to it. He has set free untold thousands from that lifestyle – including the leaders of the Changed ministry of Bethel Church and the leaders of virtually every other ministry to gays that is of any good – and He will not rest until He has rescued them all. But – and this is crucial – a passion to save does not equal a passion to condemn those who have not surrendered to His love. All He asks of any of us is a confession from our lips and a belief in our hearts that He is the only game in town – and a commitment from us to not judge as we have not been judged. He calls us to leave the rest to Him and we do well to obey.
That means spending more time developing our relationship with Him and a lot less worrying about those we think less worthy than ourselves.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org