The phone rang yesterday; an automatic message played. It was talking about a matter of conscience and religious conviction, how a woman doing what was right could very well cost her by the loss of her job, and how their group – the Family Foundation of our state would support her by holding peaceful rally on the courthouse steps in the state capital a few days from now. I imagine the entire state received that phone call. I sincerely doubted that they would have bothered were the shoe on the other foot – were LGBTQ Christians at risk of losing their jobs for taking a stand because of what their conscience tells them what was right. Truth is, most televangelists and mega-church pastors all agree that there’s no such thing as LGBTQ christian so there’s really nothing wrong with seeing the lot of them as lost sinners and treating them as such.
I had just read one well-known advocate for traditional families appeal to the story of the immoral brother in 1st Corinthians as an example of the treatment that ‘they’ are to expect from ‘us’. So let’s take a look at that story and what that means in our modern application:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. (1 Cor. 5:1)
Modern Christianity elevates heterosexuality to the degree that conservative teachers tend to preach that homosexuality is the worst sin of them all. Yet for all the sexual immorality in ancient Corinth, the worst of the sinners was acting out his Oedipus complex.
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:4-5)
So Paul suggests that the church takes action, but he goes on to say:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. (1 Cor. 5:9-11)
One big problem with modern Christianity is that we have our ethics based off a misunderstanding of Scripture. On the one hand, we gladly cast out LGBTQ Christians but on the other hand we ignore the sexual immorality committed by heterosexual Christians.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13)
Paul affirms the punishment by suggesting a course of action – and it just so happens to be a quote referring to a number of passages in Deuteronomy. And so, the aforementioned advocate declared that it was our Biblical responsibility to expel LGBTQ ‘Christians’ from the church, hand them over to Satan, and loving pray that they ‘turn’ from the error of their ways; after all, it’s their sin that we hate, but we love the sinner. But he’s totally ignoring the rest of the story:
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Cor. 2:6-8)
Christians excel at expelling their brothers and sisters, but they don’t get very high marks for forgiving them and they do even worse at comforting them.
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Cor. 2:10-11)
You’ll notice that there’s not a directive that looks something like this: “I affirm that once the immoral brother has shown fruit in keeping with repentance that he must be forgiven.” No, the Corinthians are instructed not to wait for some sign that he’s earned to be forgiven; they are to forgive him completely and immediately.
Remember how I said that most televangelists are agreed that there’s no such thing as a LGBTQ Christian? They error by ignoring Paul’s command to not judge the worldly LGBTQ community and they error again by doubly punishing Christians with LGBTQ tendencies while ignoring the sexual immorality that happens in a heterosexual context.
Then again, if we were to really expel the sexually immoral heterosexual Christians, churches would scramble to fill the open positions to keep their services running. Smaller ones likely wouldn’t be able to given the broadness of what sexual immorality could be. This is just sexual sins – the other sins like gluttony, pride, and selfishness are usually not seen as severe enough to warrant such a punishment.
To anyone else, this unequal treatment of two groups of believers would seem like favoritism. To anyone else, the tendency for heterosexual Christians to be forgiven more quickly and pretty much never expelled from church while LGBTQ Christians are hardly ever forgiven and usually expelled from the church would look like a marked preference for the first group. But Christian know that God doesn’t choose favorites, and they assume that his church doesn’t show favoritism either.