Weeks after leaving some Christians wondering about his stance on homosexuality, Pastor Andy Stanley avoided explicitly addressing the issue on Sunday during his weekend message.
In his final message of an 8-part sermon series on what it means to be Christian, Stanley, who leads North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., did not use the words "gay" or "homosexuality," but reminded the audience what he mentioned at the beginning of the series – that Christians had a "branding problem." Christians, he said, are viewed as being "judgmental, homophobic, moralists" who think they are the only ones going to heaven and who "secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell."
Stanley had caused some to question his stance on homosexuality when in an April 15 sermon he told the story of a divorced couple who formerly attended North Point together. They separated after the husband began a same-sex relationship with another man, who was still married to a woman.
The man and his partner wanted to serve as volunteers at the church, but Stanley explained that the two men were committing adultery since one of them did not finalize his divorce yet and thus could not serve as volunteers. The "messy" story, as Stanley described it, ended with the gay couple, the first man's ex-wife and their child, as well as her new boyfriend and his child from another relationship, all coming to worship together at a service in the church. Christians, he said, are called not only to hold on to the truth, but also to grace, which includes forgiveness and love.
Stanley had pointed The Christian Post to his message series when asked Wednesday for clarification on his views on homosexuality, and added that he might issue a statement to CP in the near future about the topic.
Referring to one of the last times Jesus spoke to his disciples, as found in John 13:1-17:35, Stanley quoted Jesus as saying, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." He stressed the words, "By this everyone will know…"
The pastor said today's Christians have lost sight of this.
Every time we pick up Scripture to find a law or a command or an instruction on anything – and there are hundreds of them in the Bible – remember that Jesus asked us to make sure that we "look at all of that through the filter of" the two greatest commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments," he preached.
God, Stanley added, does not want us to use His law "to unnecessarily hurt and disenfranchise people."
There are two categories of people who have influenced us to make us what we are today, he explained. And their influence had little to do with what they said they believed or whether they were Christians or not. The two categories are: those "who hurt you deeply and those who loved you profoundly," the pastor said. Regrettably, he added, many a times we find that those who have hurt us are the ones who are right in their theology.
Jesus' movement was all about "how you love," but over time it became "what you believe," he said. "If we would simply do what Jesus did … instead of arguing about what he said, the world would change, the reputation of Christ's followers would change, the influence of the church would change. This is easy. This requires nothing … just a brand new worldview."
Stanley explained that sometimes we don't like someone because of his behavior or attitude, but then we hear their stories and everything changes. "Jesus interacted with people with their stories in mind."
The pastor encouraged the audience to always ask the question, "What does love require of me?" Don't do anything that would hurt anyone, he said. And don't even hurt yourself, he added. "There's nothing between you and you … because you are loved… Your Heavenly Father loves you, and love requires that you respond to His love by taking care of you."
Don't even be mastered by anything, Stanley added, because that will keep you from loving someone.
People around Christians, the pastor suggested, should not feel condemned, and that would give leverage to us which we have lost. Change cannot be brought about by preaching and legislation, he emphasized. Change comes when people see something; "it's so attractive, almost irresistible."