1 - Lens

A Pastoral Lens for Shifting Sexual Norms

Our culture has experienced significant social change in recent years, especially as it relates to the norms of sexuality. One of the more prominent topics facing the church today is that of same-sex marriage. To a large degree, the Christian response has dealt with the theological problems associated with homosexuality, while neglecting a more personalized pastoral treatment. 

What would it look like for pastors to grow in their ability to minister to the people in their pews who struggle with same-sex attraction? In the first part of this course, Bruce Miller surveys some of the difficulties posed by the reality of gay marriage, and endeavors to provide a lens for the church to approach those engaged in same-sex relationships.

As Bruce pointed out, homosexuality poses significant difficulties for pastoral practice. It's one thing to have theological convictions on topics related to the Christian life. It's quite another to wisely communicate those convictions in ways that reflect the grace and truth of Christ to our audience.

What are some of the ways you have had to confront the issue of homosexuality? Is there anything you wish you had done differently? If so, what?
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Bruce highlighted a number of questions that prove crucial in constructing our response to the subject of homosexuality. Can you relate to any of the issues he raised in your current context? What kinds of questions have you had to confront regarding homosexuality? Are there any issues you've had to face in addition to those Bruce mentioned? If so, what are they?
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The Apostle John describes Jesus as being "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Yet, most of the time, Christians tend to emphasize one or the other—especially when dealing with the subject of homosexuality. Do you tend to emphasize one of these qualities over the other? If so, how have you seen this tendency in practice? What would it look like for you to respond full of grace and truth?
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If we are to minister to people on a personal level, we cannot underemphasize the importance of patience and listening in our interactions. Is there room for you to grow in these skills? If so, how? What difference would it make in your interactions with members of the gay community?
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In our efforts to draw people to the good news of Jesus Christ, we cannot afford to make the mistake of pitting love and truth against one another. While the ways in which we communicate truth should be seasoned with grace and compassion, we must be bold enough to love others by sharing with them God's creative design for sexuality. To this end, Bruce offers a lens for pastors to use in their approach to those engaged in same-sex relationships.  

Bruce shared three principles that will help with having more God-honoring conversations with same-sex individuals:

  1. Log: What are my own sins/motives?
  2. Love: How do I walk well with this person?
  3. Gospel: How can I share the gospel most effectively?
Each of these helps to refine our focus to see others as more than a target for our theological positions, but a person in need of Christ. 

Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)

3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How do you practice the discipline of confession? What practical effect does it have on the way you interact with people who differ from you in their thinking? Can you identify ways in which an ongoing practice of self-examination would change your approach to conversations with same-sex individuals? If so, what are they?
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As you reflect on your past, can you identify some times when you walked lovingly with individuals engaged in same-sex relationships? What did you do well? What could you have done differently? How would you like to improve?
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1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (ESV)

22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The gospel principle means surrendering our claim to be the controlling authority in the life of another. Many times, it will mean doing or saying things that are outside of our comfort zones, but all for the sake of displaying the good news of Jesus. 

Can you identify any comforts God is calling you to surrender in your ministry to those struggling with same-sex attraction? How would this kind of surrender change your service to them? Who can you ask for accountability as you seek to offer these comforts up to God?
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Many see our culture's trend towards making homosexuality normative as a threatening affront to the church of Christ, but it presents Christians with a profound gospel opportunity. Engaging in a same-sex lifestyle cannot fill the God-shaped hole inside the human heart, which means that people will find themselves in need of something more than their sexual pursuits can provide. Dedicate yourself to growing in the grace and truth of Christ. Ask God to give you a patient heart towards those dealing with same-sex attraction, one committed to bearing their burdens in love.