Discussing homosexuality is no longer taboo in many churches. And Pastor Andy Stanley seems energized by the momentum he sees taking place today. While speaking recently at the Catalyst West conference in Irvine, California, Pastor Stanley told thousands of Christian leaders that churches should be the "safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction."
Talking to students about same-sex attraction obviously includes talking about homosexuality. And while this is not an easy discussion, it nevertheless is one that followers of Christ must carefully and lovingly undertake.
Stanley's message at the conference covered more than just one type of sexual temptation however. He pointed out the need for professing Christians to "quit looking at porn... quit having premarital sex.... quit committing adultery." In other words, God expects His children to say "no" to the destructive sins of lust and sexual immorality. (see Titus 2:11,12)
As the senior pastor of one of America's largest churches, Andy recognizes that sexual temptations are among the toughest to resist. And yet, the body of a believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Christians don't have the right to use their bodies or their minds to indulge in porn, premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual behavior.
God's Word states, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Based upon the clear teaching of Scripture, Pastor Stanley specifically identified the life-altering sins of porn, premarital sex, and adultery. Andy wants followers of Christ to commit themselves to the One who paid for their sins at the cross. After all, there is little joy in the heart of a believer who dabbles with sexual sin.
Some sexual sins tend to be portrayed as "worse" than others. But Pastor Stanley recognizes that no one who steps into a church should be made to feel like a second-class sinner. We are all flawed and in need of God's grace. We are all broken by sin, and in need of a Redeemer. Thankfully, Jesus died for all sinners and He loves each one of us.
Andy Stanley has been told his entire life that God made marriage for a man and a woman, and that homosexual behavior is against God's will. Therefore, Andy understands why church must be a "safe place" where people with same-sex attraction can discuss their desires with someone who cares. It's a good idea, especially since same-sex desires can produce overwhelming feelings of guilt and confusion.
Thankfully, Jesus graciously meets us at the point of our temptations, and all of His followers are called to do the same.
Andy serves in a church where people are taught to repent of their sin and believe the good news. Biblical repentance includes turning away from porn, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual behavior. While there are far more people who are tempted to engage in porn and premarital sex than in homosexual activity, Christians must be willing and prepared to minister to people individually regardless of their particular struggle. This is how we demonstrate the love of Christ.
While some Christian leaders in recent years have publicly expressed a desire for Andy Stanley to articulate his personal beliefs about homosexuality, (i.e. Albert Mohler / http://www.christianpost.com/news/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism-74152/) there is no doubt that Andy wants all sinners to feel welcome at church. And that element within Andy's message on sexuality is something which followers of Christ can wholeheartedly embrace.
I hope you have the benefit of attending a church where God's Word is faithfully proclaimed and where all sinners are welcome. And I hope the message at your church is filled with grace and truth; compassion and clarity; repentance and faith; forgiveness and salvation. That's how God's message is presented in the New Testament, both from Jesus, as well as the apostle Paul.
Pastor Stanley is correct about the need for churches to be a safe place to discuss same-sex attraction. While turning away from any type of sexual temptation is rarely easy, it is part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
And by regularly addressing the more prevalent sexual sins of porn, premarital sex, and adultery, every pastor has the challenge and responsibility to teach about sexuality in a spirit of compassion and truth.
After all, no one should be made to feel like a second-class sinner, regardless of their particular temptations.