The internet has been abuzz the last few days over the Nashville Statement, delivered from a joint conference between the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The statement succinctly lays out a case for the sexual ethics expressed in Scripture and believed by the church since the dawn of it’s inception.
Given the contemporary mood regarding sexual identity and orientation, it’s no surprise that vitriol against the statement has splattered all over the internet in repudiation of what the statement expresses. No surprise either from those in the progressive camp that claim both Christianity and endorsement of homosexuality and transgenderism (as if the two can co-exist), a renouncement with the claim that the statement does harm to the LGBTQ community. What’s a bit more surprising is the pushback from those who for the most part affirm what the statement endorses but quibble with the impact it will have for ministering to those who claim this identity. There are other reasons cited but for the purpose of this post, I’m honing in on this particular line of reasoning.
In other words, a common thread I’ve seen from both the progressive camp and the ones who affirm the statement but have reservations is this: it will hurt the feelings of those with this identity. Put another way, being sensitive to the concerns of those who feel themselves oriented in certain directions is a pastoral concern at least, and in more unfortunate cases, a license to release people from feeling bludgeoned over their particular orientations. They should be free to live without condemnation.
Now, I get that we do need to be cognizant of struggles of same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. As Christians committed to the sexual ethics and gender identity sourced in God’s creative mandate, we do want to take a firm stand of what the church has rightfully recognized but at the same time be compassionate towards those who find contradictory tendencies within themselves when they are confronted with this reality. We don’t want to be insensitive jerks and lack compassion towards those who have to reconcile inordinate affections with what Scripture commands. I surely understand the need for pastoral care and tending towards those who at least want to do the right thing but struggle.
But there is something else going on here that I find actually transcends this particular issue and one that pervades our contemporary landscape. It’s this idea that somehow God’s commands must not upset our emotional sensibilities or confront us with inordinate affections, not just regarding sexual ethics but a range of desires. It’s where we judge the truth of Christian precepts according to the ease by which we accept Christianity’s truths.
The reality is that in the course of the Christian life, the Bible will hurt our feelings. It will assault us with those tendencies in which we want to cleave and drive a wedge between those desires and what God has revealed in his holy word according to what he has purposed through the Son through the dawn of creation.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
When God calls those out of darkness into the light of his dear Son, we don’t come in this neatly prepackaged submission ready posture. All of us to varying degrees, will encounter a rub between what our natural desires from the flow of Adam’s veins and the desires and dictates of the 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ if in fact, he has adopted us in his family through the sealing work of the Holy Spirit.
The rub of this tension will create conflict. It is not uncommon to read narrative accounts (especially in the OT) and the commands for righteousness sourced in the righteousness that comes from Christ, to be discomforted and even agitated as Scripture pierces our souls with its truths. Where we might have particular areas of lust, as James tells (James 1:14), you can bet that it will upset our little applecarts. We may even indict God with accusations of “how could you.” But as I wrote in So You Think You’re a Christian, the absence of conflict is probably a sure sign that you belong to the first Adam, but not the second. In which case, hurt feelings will be a sign of opposition to Christ himself as enemies of God (Rom. 8:9).
But if we claim Christ as Lord, we can’t let that impede upon the truth telling our souls so desperately need. And particularly when it comes to corporate statements with clear declarations of what is vs. what is not a clear Christian precept, the presence of hurt feelings matters far less than the presence of pronouncements especially in a culture that increasingly grows hostile to it.