Last week, I attended the regional conference of The Fellowship. Sam Allberry, of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, spoke in four sessions on, “Jesus, Sexuality and The Good News of the Gospel.” About the same time that he began to investigate Jesus and the Bible, Sam began to realize that he was attracted to men. He ended up trusting Jesus and developed deeply held biblical convictions that led him to a life of celibacy. Now an Oxford-trained pastor and author of “Is God Anti-Gay?” he is often invited to speak at conferences and universities on issues related to Christian sexuality. Regularly speaking in front of people from the LGBT community, Sam has learned to not only articulate Scripture, but to do so with love, compassion and sensitivity. Let me share some of what I learned.
1. Listen more than you speak.
Sam encouraged us to learn from the example of Jesus in engaging our culture. Jesus asked questions 294 times in the gospels and it wasn’t because He lacked knowledge. Before we can answer people, we need to really hear them. Listening shows that we care and that we’re not trying to bully anyone. Listening helps us to discern whether a person’s questions come from a place of intellectualism or pain. He reminded us of the wisdom of Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Listening helps us to be patient and gracious in responding to people. He said that his two goals in a conversation were (1) to have a second conversation, and (2) to remove at least one common misconception about Christians. Often we reinforce people’s misconceptions about Christians by listening too little and trying to force too much in a single conversation.
2. Don’t say something to someone that you can’t say to everyone.
Often Christians get dragged into conversations about LGBT issues where no matter how we answer, we sound prejudicial. The LGBT community is constantly looking for ways that they’re treated differently and discriminated against – and that’s not our intention. He encourages us to take conversations about restrictions on homosexuality, for instance, to restrictions about sexual practice in general. When it comes to sexual sin, we all need to repent; we all need to sacrifice; we all need to submit ourselves. He encourages us to take conversations about biblical punishments for homosexuality to biblical punishments for sin in general. When we can identify our own struggles to walk in obedience to God’s good restrictions and our own recognition of God’s just punishment for sin, then we can talk about the hope that there is in Jesus Christ.
3. Don’t just show that the Bible is true; show that it’s good.
Sam spoke about our culture’s moral intuition. People have a subjective sense of right and wrong guided by three questions: Is it safe or harmful? Is it liberating or oppressive? It is fair or discriminatory? Various narratives that we have heard repeated again and again in conversations and the media have led many people, even within the church, to assume this basis of right and wrong. If something isn’t seen to be harmful, it feels wrong to forbid it. If something is seen to be restrictive, we have a bias against it. If a particular group seems to be unfairly singled out, our sense of justice is awakened. The swaying of public opinion in favour of gay marriage has largely taken place on the basis of this shift in moral intuition. Gay marriage doesn’t harm anyone, they argue, so why should it be restricted? Restricting gay marriage is viewed as oppressive and discriminatory, by many, so the laws against gay marriage failed in the court of public opinion on all three counts. Sam argued that instead of just explaining how the Bible addresses homosexuality, there’s a need to also explain how the biblical response is good. He encourages an awareness and challenge of people’s moral intuition. Adam’s sin, for instance, didn’t “harm” anyone; it killed everyone! Similarly, restrictions are often necessary to make freedom possible. He encouraged us to show the good that the negative prohibitions are seeking to protect.
Perhaps most encouraging was his appeal to Paul’s three “I am” statements in Romans 1:
· “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians” (v. 14)
· “I am eager to preach the gospel to you” (v. 15)
· “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (v. 16)
What God has done in setting us free and forgiving our sins gives us an obligation to share that message with all people. And we should do so eagerly. Sharing our faith in Canada in 2018 isn’t as hard as it was in first century Rome. We need not be ashamed of the gospel. It’s the power of God for salvation!
I highly recommend Sam’s talks. You can listen to them on-line at the following link:
In awe of Him,