There is a third way

Published 10:12 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

By Chris Surber

On June 2 president of The Southern Baptist Seminary, Al Mohler, published an article on his conservative blog making the case that there is no third way on gay rights.

Mohler wrote: “There is no third way on this issue…. A church will recognize same-sex relationships, or it will not…. Ministers will perform same-sex ceremonies, or they will not.”

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He’s basically correct. At some point every congregation will have to give a concrete answer.

A few years ago, a gay couple asked me to marry them. I told them I could not do so. I teach the Bible, which rather explicitly prohibits it.

What astounded me about their question was not that they had asked a pastor but that they had asked this pastor. I am unashamedly conservative, biblically speaking. As it turned out, a mutual friend had recommended me because, though I was known to be conservative, I was also known to be compassionate.

There is no honest third way on the gay marriage issue. But there is a third way when it comes to how Christians think and act about this issue, because it’s not an issue. It’s a person. It’s a group of people. It’s your cousin. They are your brother or aunt. They are the broken people in the world who are often more authentic about their brokenness than we pious, religious people.

Ted Haggard was busy having sex with a gay prostitute in private while championing the conservative Christianity publicly. It’s funny; I’ve yet to hear about a person championing gay rights while secretly having a “Leave it to Beaver” home life.

There is a third way in how we live out our conservative Christianity.

If we take the Bible seriously we won’t support gay marriage but we’ll be the most honest, authentic, loving, compassionate, and real people around.

I’d rather hang out with the gay people I know than most of the religious people in my life. I’d rather have their sin all up in my face than have fake righteousness shoved down my throat. That’s what Jesus preferred, too.

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” (Matthew 2:15)

Wait a minute! I thought you couldn’t be gay and follow Jesus? No. Everybody who follows Jesus is a sinner. The difference is that Jesus makes a difference. You can’t follow Jesus and stay as sinful as you were when you showed up.

If you couldn’t be a sinner and follow Jesus, then nobody could follow Jesus.

There is no third way on gay marriage, it’s true. But there is a third way when it comes to how we think about and treat sinners. Jesus ate with them. His message attracted them. Our message tells them to stay away.

I think I’d rather be more like Jesus on this one. Truth doesn’t negate compassion. It elevates it and gives it meaning.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.