In a recent article, Barnabas Piper criticizes Christians for the manner in which they confront the sin of homosexuality. The problem with these confrontations, argues Piper, is that they are not equally distributed over other sins. What about the sin of fornication? Or divorce? Why do these not get equal attention?
This is certainly one of the most common objections to Christians who confront homosexuality. But, I think there are a number of problems with it. Let me mention just a few:
1. This objection can be a distraction from the real issue. When someone is confronted with sin, one of the most common defenses is to “accuse the accuser.” Maybe they weren’t compassionate enough. Maybe they weren’t gentle enough. Maybe the confrontation wasn’t executed precisely right.
While these reverse accusations might even be true, they are often made in order to deflect attention from the main issue, namely the sin in a person’s life. There is no better way to avoid repentance than to say to one’s accuser, “Oh, yeah? Well you sin too.” The best defense is a good offense.
It would be like complaining to the police officer about getting a speeding ticket simply because he didn’t give everyone in your lane a speeding ticket.
Thus, when Christians have the courage to confront a sin like homosexuality in our culture (and yes, it does take courage), I am not sure the main focus needs to be on how poorly they confront other sins.
2. This objection is not entirely accurate. I think it is substantially misleading to suggest that Christians are not busy confronting sins like divorce, adultery, and fornication. Sure, there are plenty of churches out there that are unwilling to address these issues (just like there are many churches that don’t even preach the gospel). But, for the most part, evangelical churches are quite willing to speak out on these matters. Youth groups encourage sexual chastity, church’s offer sexual addiction seminars, and ministries offer help to save troubled marriages that are headed for divorce.
These sorts of things are missed because they are not as public. The reason that Christians are speaking out against homosexuality publicly is because they are being forced to do so by the aggressive homosexual agenda in this country. Christians are simply responding to the issue incessantly raised by the media and by popular culture. If the media kept pounding away on the issue of adultery, I am confident Christians would respond to that issue as well.
3. This objection is theologically misinformed. Piper’s concern that Christians prosecute all sins equally is based on the fact that he sees all sins as the same. He states, “What we fail to recognize is that every sin from the mildest gossip to the wildest orgy is a mark of the fall, proof of sins twisting God’s good creation.” Yes, every sin is a mark of the fall. And any sin is worthy of God’s eternal condemnation. But, and this is key, that does not mean every sin is equally heinous.
Missing in Piper’s analysis is a careful discussion about how some sins are more grievous than others and therefore warrant a more vigorous Christian response. I appreciate Robert Gagnon’s fine response to this problem:
Some sins, by virtue of being more foundational violations of God’s ethical standards, are more severe than others. Saying this does not excuse any sin nor justify hateful reactions to those who commit greater sins. It simply underscores the absurdity of claiming that all sin is equal in all respects before God. Cutting in line is not the moral equivalent of Hitler’s killing of 6 million Jews, and anyone who argues that it is has lost his or her moral compass. Having sex with one’s mother is worse than gluttony or slight gossip. Is this not obvious?
Homosexual practice is a direct violation of what Jesus understood to be the foundation for all intra-human sexual ethics—“male and female he [God] created them” (Genesis 1:27).
If the sin of homosexuality hits at the core of what it means to be human, and thus hits at the core of our being made in the image of God, and is the very issue being raised perpetually in our culture, then Christians ought not to be chided for challenging it more than other sins.