Recently a firestorm was ignited by comments made by the pastor of Hillsong, Brian Houston, and quoted in the New York Times. The Times wrote: "The comments by Brian Houston, the senior pastor of Hillsong, immediately attracted concern from the right and applause from the left..." (The full article here).
I'm not going to comment on the article itself but rather Brian's comments about his comments at the Hillsong website here. Brian believes himself misunderstood and misquoted (something that media outlets are prone to do from time to time) and he aims to set the record straight. Unfortunately he fails in his goals. In what seems to be the trend these days, Brian attempts to clarify his and his church's stand on homosexuality by making vague statements about his position.
One comment he makes which, on the surface, appear to clarify his position but in the end really doesn't:
"My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject."
Considering the comments that follow and what appears in the Times article it would have been important for Brian to clearly state what he sees as these "traditionally held Christian views" and what he actually believes Paul to have said on the subject. Am I being too nit-picky? No, I don't believe so. Considering the fact that homosexuals not only attend his church but also have positions within the fellowship it would have been vitally important for Brian to clearly state what he means by staying relevant. Brian writes:
"I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ."
It is this sort of statement that makes me wonder how far Brian is willing to go in order to stay relevant and to not be ostracized by the world? Apparently encouraging homosexuals to be a part of the congregation isn't too far. Why is this a problem?
First, the Bible makes it clear that we will in fact be ostracized by the world if we follow Jesus:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."
(John 15:18-21 ESV)
Second, although I welcome anyone to come and hear the message of the gospel and the preaching of the Word of God, we must preach the full council of God and that means preaching for righteousness and against sin. No one living in sin should feel comfortable in our churches. Do some remain in our churches, even in leadership positions, living in secret sin? Of course, we cannot judge the secret thoughts of the heart. But when sin is out in the open, when it is clear and unobstructed by secrecy, should these people remain active participants in our fellowships without challenge? Absolutely not!
What is Paul's teaching on homosexuality (and not just homosexuality)?
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)
It isn't love that allows people in our churches to remain living in sin without hearing and knowing what God has to say about their sin and their destination should they not repent. It is the complete opposite. This isn't a time for pastors to make vague statements about their stance concerning sin. It is vital that we are honest and, like Scripture, to the point for the sake of the sinner.
But Brian's response isn't new. Over two years ago Pastor Andy Stanley got into similar hot water when he gave a sermon illustration that raised not a few eyebrows in the conservative church. Andy's response was similarly vague and dodgy. And to this day I do not think he has clarified it.
For some odd reason these pastors appear to believe it to be unloving and unbiblical to take a clear stand against this particular sin, even though the bible they claim to adhere to takes a solid and unflinching stand. Why? I cannot pretend to judge their motives, but I would encourage every pastor everywhere to truly show their love for their Savior and for their neighbor by taking that stand before it is too late. To do anything less is to shirk our responsibilities as leaders. To quote Paul one last time:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
(Acts 20:26-30 ESV)