Guest Author: Pastor Jimmy Seibert
I recently shared a message called, “Clarity and Compassion.” The purpose was to be Biblically clear about gender identity according to God’s word and create a compassionate environment to work towards wholeness.
In Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:21-24 we see God’s outline for mankind. God is the One who created us and decided we would be male and female. God is the One who initiated how we would relate to one another physically, mentally and emotionally in the purity of marriage and the uniqueness of our gender.
In Genesis 3:1 when Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, the enemy asked, “Has God really said…?”, beginning the temptation that would eventually bring sin into the world and blind us from God’s purity, purpose, and plan.
Today, that question, “Has God really said…?” is brought up daily. As we move forward during these challenging days we, as pastors and leaders, must be clear on what the Bible says about who we really are. With great compassion, we can draw people back to the scriptures and to God’s original design. Through Jesus we have not only been forgiven of our sins, but also brought back into the wholeness that Adam and Eve had before sin entered the world.
I have spent years meditating on Genesis 1:1-3 because I believe with all my heart that if you can fully absorb God’s original intent and understand the power of sin, you will be well-equipped to navigate the issues of the day, specifically related to gender, marriage, and family.
At Antioch Community Church, we are on a journey to help people through the confusion of our culture. When we deal specifically with the issue of homosexuality, I realize there are three categories of people we are communicating with:
Category 1: Those who know homosexuality is sin and desperately want help. It is our responsibility to offer help with great compassion. At Antioch, we offer a program called Living Waters, an eight week in-depth approach to healing sexual brokenness and clarifying identity. We also have specific counseling services as well. But the core of who we are is our small groups, which we call Lifegroups, where we offer discipleship and community. The sense of belonging that comes from those relationships is really the make or break for someone coming out of any addiction, especially sexual addiction.
Category 2: Those who are not sure if homosexuality is right or wrong. I have found that those 30 years of age and younger are Biblically illiterate and culturally immersed. When we are speaking to that group, they are not necessarily resistant to God’s word, it is just that they don’t know what God’s word says. For those who have honest hearts and honest questions, we offer clarity on where we stand in written form, spoken communication and books and resources offered. We also offer discipleship to answer those in-depth questions such as, “How do I deal with a friend or family member?” and “How do I deal with my own struggles?” By realizing we are re-educating a generation, we can better understand where to go and what is needed.
Category 3: Those who believe homosexuality is who they are and it is their lifestyle of choice despite any loving insight from the Bible or other believers. This is what the Bible calls rebellion. Psalm 68:5- 6 says God is a Father to the fatherless and gives a home to the lonely. The passage ends with the phrase, “only the rebellious live in a parched land.” After 25 years of ministering to people, not just with sexual brokenness but all kinds of sin issues, I find God is willing to heal and restore anyone, unless they are willfully rebellious to God, His word and His people. That rebellion ultimately keeps them from what they need.
The way I describe it to people who choose to walk another way but still want to be a part of the church, is that the church is not simply a civic organization or a social gathering. The church is a group of people gathered around Jesus Christ and the scriptures who are trying to live life according to His way and not their own. In our by-laws we have a clear doctrinal statement that clarifies what we believe about marriage and about how we live our lives. To be a member of Antioch, one must sign off on that doctrinal statement and on a Matthew 18 discipline process for those who choose sin and rebellion. There is a rare occasion where someone will go all the way through a discipline process because they obviously can choose in a voluntary organization to walk away whenever they like. What needs to be clear, though, is what God’s Word says and where we stand for discipline through the journey.
Throughout American history, and actually world history, revival has always come when we have realized our sin and brought people back to God and the scriptures. In the midst of the brokenness of our society, we need a revival; a returning to God and His ways. As pastors and leaders, we do it with compassion, but we also do it with such clarity that people truly can come face to face with who God is, how their sin breaks God’s heart, and also destroys their own lives. When we do that, no matter what the challenges are, we can trust that God will use us to set men and women free. And isn’t that we are called to do? To be the rescued who in turn rescue others so God might be glorified and people might be helped.