Should the Church Apologize to Sinners?|
Today (June 21, 2013), I read a news story by the Associated Press entitled "Christian ministry Exodus International apologizes to gays, will close." The story explains that Exodus International is an organization that was formed thirty-seven years ago "to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer." The founder of this organization, "who is married to a woman but has spoken openly about his own sexual attraction to men," has issued an apology to homosexuals and announced the closure of his ministry. He not only apologized for the work of his own ministry, but he also commented on the church's teachings about homosexuality, saying, "The church has waged the culture war, and it's time to put the weapons down."
As I read this story, a question came to mind: For what exactly was Exodus International apologizing? The story mentioned that the apology was posted on the organization's website, so I read it for myself. The apology is lengthy, but it is summarized in the organization's own words as an expression of regret toward homosexuals "for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole." According to the apology, this "undue suffering and judgment" of homosexuals basically consists of hurt feelings and broken relationships.
I don't know anything about how Exodus International has operated, what exactly it has taught, or what tactics it has used, but I do know how the Lord's church reaches out to sinners, including homosexuals. The apology issued by Exodus International presumes to speak for the church, but this man-made organization has no right and no authority to do so. While I am certain there are local churches and denominations that have not complied with God's will in their dealings with homosexuals, the Lord's church has no need to apologize for teaching about the sinfulness of homosexuality according to the Scriptures even if homosexuals are offended. The church is "the pillar and support of the truth" (1Tim. 3:15), and the truth about homosexuality must be upheld by the church. That truth is stated plainly in passages such as Romans 1:26-27 and 1Corinthians 6:9-11, which clearly teach that homosexuality is sinful and will prevent those who practice it from inheriting the kingdom of God. Furthermore, homosexuality is in the broader category of sexual immorality or fornication, which is likewise condemned in passages such as 1Corinthians 6:12-20, Ephesians 5:3-5, and 1Thessalonians 4:3-5, among others.
The purpose of teaching the truth about homosexuality or any other sin is to cause sinners to turn to Christ for forgiveness of their sin, stop their practice of sin, and be saved. It is to spare them of "the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2Thess. 1:9). It is to lead them to forgiveness through faith in Christ and righteousness in Him so that they may receive eternal life (Rom. 2:4-10; 6:22-23). Should the church apologize for reaching out to sinners for such purposes as these?
If the church is to apologize to homosexuals for having taught from the Scriptures, then should it also apologize to all other sinners as well? For example, if the church must apologize to unrepentant homosexuals because it has taught that they will not inherit the kingdom of God according to 1Corinthians 6:9-10, then should it also apologize to all unrepentant fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, covetous persons, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, who are also listed in that passage? What about murderers, liars, or other sinners? Should Jesus have apologized to the adulterous woman because He told her, "From now on sin no more" (John 8:11)? Certainly not!
These questions demonstrate the ridiculousness of anyone suggesting that the church should apologize for teaching the Scriptural truth about sin. Such ideas do not arise from Biblical teachings, but rather they come from the wisdom of man, which is foolishness to God (Rom. 1:22). The AP story noted that "Exodus had seen its influence wane in recent years as mainstream associations representing psychiatrists and psychologists rejected its approach." Indeed, it seems that this organization's apology is based more on the "mainstream associations" of men than it is on God's word. Even so, Exodus International may apologize for whatever its leaders choose, but it has no right to apologize on behalf of the Lord's church. The church, "the pillar and support of the truth," should never be ashamed of teaching sinners to repent according to Christ's gospel. Likewise, it should never put down its God-given weapon, which is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17).
Stacey E. Durham
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