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Home > Issues > 2012 > Summer > When Clean and Unclean Touch

Recently, a young couple started coming to our church. They're very likable. They married a few years ago on the other side of the country, then migrated west to our town, and visited several churches until they ended up in ours. Both take their faith seriously. Both are seeking a place where they can worship, serve, grow. They want a loving and Christ-centered environment in which to raise their daughters in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Both are women. Linda and Rita are lesbians.

My first question to them: "Why us?" There are two or three churches nearby that have no theological issue at all with same-sex marriages: they perform them, celebrate them, welcome those in them. Our church is not one of these churches. We're firmly embedded in our evangelical heritage: a strong emphasis on the Bible, on personal holiness, on evangelism and activism.

And strong feelings about homosexuality. Very strong feelings.

Linda and Rita actually grew up in this kind of a church, and that was part of their answer to "Why us?" The other part of their answer was intriguing: they see life and joy in our church, and they want in on it.

We didn't know what to do with them. I lost more sleep over this than almost anything else in my 20 years of pastoral ministry. My heritage told me to give them the heave-ho. My theology told me they were living in defiance of God. But a stirring inside me, which I can only describe as the Spirit of God, told me something else: that God himself had drawn these women here. He was doing something deep in Linda and Rita, and he was entrusting our church to join him in his work.

But let me back up.

Biblical values in tension

Our church embraces two values with equal vigor, and as in this case, those two values are in almost constant tension.

The first value is the truth and trustworthiness of the Bible. As good Baptists, we teach, believe, and try to live out that the Bible is "our one true guide for life and godliness." We are under the Word of God, and though our understanding of it is often patchwork and our obedience to it halting, we have no right to impose on the Bible our own meanings or agendas. If we have done our best interpretive work with the Good Book and have concluded that it teaches a particular truth, then we are beholden to that truth no matter how costly or awkward or unpopular it might be.

That's one value.

The other value is that Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them. He did this, and then asked you and me to keep up, on his behalf, this work.

Jesus—we all know this—shocked, angered, and offended the religious community in his day by his easy rapport with disreputable people. He not only liked them; he sought them, welcomed them, invited himself to their houses, enjoyed meals with them, and let them off the hook, with scarcely a reprimand, for big-ticket sin items like adultery and thievery and shacking up.

God is doing something deep here, in Zachaeus and Mary Magdalene, in the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery and the woman who washes his feet with her tears. In all these "sinners and tax collectors," God is revealing, convicting, wooing.

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Mark Buchanan is pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada.

From Issue:Transformation, Summer 2012 | Posted: August 27, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 90 comments

Rob Watson (UK)

March 12, 2013  5:45am

As always this is an interesting debate between the character of Christ, his accepting, visiting, preaching and inviting and then the next stage. The common factor of the Zacchaeus(s) and Mary Magdalene(s) of this world is the fact that God’s touch changes their lives and they become willing to see that change happen (leaving a life of sin). The problem for us in the 21st C West is that we often see in our consumerist society that people are reticent to see a cost of self discipline and self denial, to accept change - to be repentant, moving from sin and back to God and his ways.

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January 13, 2013  6:03pm

My first thought is that the Lesbians are foolish to attend a church that sees homosexuality as sinful. Until the church progresses further they'll never truly be part of the community; their love relationship never honoured as legitimate. But I get it - Evangelicals (even Baptists), unlike typical mainline churches, know how to worship with enthusiasm. And they're better at powerpoint. So perhaps God has them there because they connect with him there. What's the harm in that? (Paul had lots of hangups, let's not get carried away with Pauline quotes.) And maybe God has the lesbians there to help the process of the church discovering more of God's truth. It wasn't that long ago women couldn't be on church boards; divorced people didn't belong; owning a slave was optional. Heck, women couldn't cut their hair or wear pants. Whatever the case, fear not, fundies: biblical interpretation is constantly evolving, truth is slowly winning.

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yvette moore

December 15, 2012  12:28pm

Does this couple know their church considers them unclean?

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yvette moore

December 15, 2012  12:26pm

I'm just curious: does this couple know you think of them as unclean?

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Oun Kwon

December 14, 2012  6:44pm

As to problems with homosexuality - we are facing a serious and deadly issue in history, not just of Christianity, but of our society and world. We have to be clear what is the issue. Does a pastor, a lay, a church know? Is it homosexuality sin? Homosexuality is as much sin as humanity is. It is homosexualism that is sin. Their behavior, conduct, life style and gay culture, agenda, politics and ideology - these are Satan's, just like any culture, agenda, politics and ideology of other domains. Should we think God punished Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuals? No, it was because no one spoke out against it. Why were they destroyed long ago? It's because everyone was silent - they kept their mouths shout and went along with the flow and did not speak out against unrighteousness. "Don't be silent. The most important thing is for you to not be silent!" Sergei Udaltsov, Russian Dissident http://ow.ly/eGH03 BTW, we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we all are sinners.

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