Last Tuesday, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released the Nashville Statement, a series of affirmations and denials from top evangelical leaders regarding human sexuality, gender, marriage, and LGBT issues.
Why is the Nashville Statement Necessary?
The short answer is that certain assumptions about gender and sexuality that people once took for granted in both religious and nonreligious circles are no longer being accepted. Norms and standards about what it means to be male and female and what the purpose and definition of marriage is are all being challenged by our culture.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. While I don’t agree with the direction that the culture wants to head in, the challenge brought by the culture will force both the church and society to come to a more robust defense of these issues rather than simply taking for granted what sexuality is or what gender is. Several decades from now, I think the church will be better off from having had these kinds of discussions.
Moving Beyond Theory
I Agree with the Nashville Statement. Inherently, such a statement cannot address all relevant facets of such big issues, but at the very least, it gives a general outline for what the biblical standards are regarding these subjects. But the church cannot simply be content with these statements and move on.
One of the most important points I think the church can learn from these discussions is that this cannot remain a high-minded philosophical debate as it has in the past. There are real people both in and out of the church who struggle with these issues in a very deep and fundamental way. Questions about identity, morality, and happiness all loom large in someone’s mind when they have to struggle with these issues personally. (For those who know me and my testimony, they know that I am living proof of this and have a personal stake in the outcomes of such discussions.)
The church must not only be able to define and defend Biblical definitions of sex, gender, and marriage, but it must also develop ways of discipling those who struggle with these issues. Does God love someone like me? What does it mean to live a life pleasing to God in holiness but yet have desires that feel like, at the very core of my being, tell me to do something contrary to what is revealed in Scripture? Am I going to feel lonely, unhappy, or unfulfilled the rest of my life? These are the kinds of questions the church must have answers for and not merely have answers for questions like how the Bible defines marriage or gender.
Part of that discipleship process must be not only telling those of us who struggle with these issues what not to do, but what positive things we can do and to cast a vision for how we fit into the body of Christ. How can God use our struggles to glorify him? If I am truly called to celibacy, what opportunities of ministry does that open up for me that aren’t available to those who are married? How can we fully delight in God despite what our feelings may drive us to do?
The other part of that discipleship process must be directed to those in the church who don’t have such struggles. Far too often, in the church, we are designated as “otherly” in the minds of other believers because of our struggles. This doesn’t go unnoticed by us and can make us feel unwanted or rejected. What does it mean for the church body to love and support those who wrestle with these feelings?
Out of a warped view of love, the culture will be (and has been) pushing toward unequivocal acceptance and affirmation of these feelings. The church must respond with the true love found in Jesus, a love that neither condemns the person, nor affirms what is wrong (John 8:11, 1 Corinthians 13:6), but calls us to bear one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Love and concern for the truth must be equally matched by our love and concern for the person with whom we want to share the truth.