Pharisees and Homosexual Advocacy

March 28, 2013

It is frequently suggested that the clash between religious people and homosexual culture is Pharisaic in nature. The Pharisees were always judging others, after all.

There is indeed truth in the notion that this is about Pharisaism, but not in the way usually thought. While it is true that far too many Christians have acted self-righteously and mercilessly toward homosexuals (which is deplorable and casts a black shadow upon the name of Christ), at the center of the public debate is the Pharisaic nature of homosexual advocates themselves.

Over against Jesus, the Pharisees sought to justify themselves. Jesus said to them in John 9:41, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore, your sin remains.” Because the Pharisees assumed they were righteous and would not heed Jesus’ assessment and remedy for their sin, their sin remained.

In days past, it was expected that Christians were to hate the sin and love the sinner. Whenever they became harsh and seemed to care more about the sinner’s condemnation than his repentance and recovery, they were rightly castigated as judgmental and unchristian.

In the new atmosphere, however, Christians are not expected to love the sinner.

They are expected to deny he is a sinner altogether.

This is the situation across all fronts, at least politically correct ones. It is unloving and unjust to consider homosexuality a sin, as well as heterosexual extramarital sexual activity and all sorts of other things that the Bible is in no way unclear about. The solution to sin is not grace, but redefining it as righteousness.

But that is not the way Jesus dealt with sin, either in His own ministry or in what He required of others such as the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were not denounced by Jesus merely because they recognized the sins of others. Jesus Himself recognized the sins of others, and addressed them forthrightly. Frankly, He dealt with sin more forthrightly than the Pharisees did.

Nor did He take the Pharisees to task, while pretending away or making light of the sins of others. He told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more, after all. He taught rigorously and counter-culturally against easy divorce. He was no wanly tolerant postmodern.

Thus, Jesus’ own example teaches us that identification of sin is nothing peculiar to the Pharisees, and is not in fact a fault.

So what was their fault?

The fault of the Pharisees was that they despised others rather than seeking them as Jesus did, and at the same time, they were oblivious to their own sins, having confidence in their own righteousness (Luke 18:9). They rejected the balm of grace, because they thought they didn’t need it.

All too often Christians have imitated the Pharisees in that, and where that is the case, we need to do serious repentance, because we have turned aside from the way of Jesus.

But what if Christians are not looking down on others? What if they do recognize their own sins, and seek Christ’s grace?

Are they still Pharisees if they hate the sin, and love the sinner?

Certainly not. They are imitating their Master.

The “gay marriage” conflict illustrates that advocates of homosexuality do not want Christians to love sinners. The crux of the conflict, rather, rests upon this: the justification of a sinful action rather than the justification of sinners. They want Christians to love them as the righteous, and specifically, the righteous in connection with their defining sin.

Being insistent that homosexual partnerships be called “marriage” is demonstration of this. They recognize that real marriage is a positive good, and identifying their lifestyle as “marriage” means its justification.

But we cannot simply redefine sin as righteousness without giving up the gospel. It would be like Jesus telling the Pharisees that they were fine without His grace.

Indeed, it would be like telling Jesus Himself that He should not have told the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more,” because after all, adultery is not sin.

Despite the misleading rhetoric used by some who are purportedly Christian, it is not “gracious” to pretend that homosexuality is not a great evil. Grace entails opening blind eyes and leading sinners to repentance. It is not loving or gracious to tell homosexuals that their activity is good or normal, any more than it is loving or gracious to tell a thief, a drunkard, an adulterer, or an idolater that their deeds are fine. The Bible says otherwise; that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The loving and gracious thing is not to reassure the man about to back over a cliff that he in fact is safe. The loving and gracious thing is to pull him away from his present direction.