Approved, April 2005.
EEA Public Policy Authorisation Team
We believe that our calling is to present our case to fellow sinners with grace, rather than in judgement. We are equally keen to demonstrate God’s pattern for society in other areas of life. We are called to be His ambassadors. We seek to represent His full character as best we can and want to avoid unwittingly implying that the sexually immoral are beyond God’s mercy.
1 Peter 2 v12. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.”
1 Peter 3 v15. “If you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
The need to respond to a changing world
Changes are likely to continue to move further away from the biblical pattern of monogamous, heterosexual marriage for life as the unique setting for sexual relationships.
While a majority of marriages last and while studies clearly show the health and other benefits of marriage for the couple, children and wider society, perceptions in many media and political circles are different. Laws on civil partnerships, rights for homosexual “families” etc are now beginning to support the attitudinal changes. Those who speak up for the biblical pattern are often viewed as hopelessly old-fashioned or judgemental bigots.
How should Evangelical Christians respond? Clearly, while others might walk away from the biblical principles, that is not an option for us. Any sexual activity outside the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is sinful. Without repentance, there can be no salvation.
Beyond upholding and supporting Christian marriage and family within the Church, how should we react to the changes in the rest of society? Opinions vary. The EEA offers this paper to help its members to reflect on how to respond. Our conviction is that we should respond in the following ways.
1. Our responses will cause a reaction that should not be avoided. God is holy. We are called to be holy. Salt must remain salty. The light is to be on the lamp stand. (Matthew 5 13-16) This implies that our presence will cause a reaction that should not be avoided through compromise. 2 Timothy 3 v12 makes it clear that living a godly life will lead to persecution. At times we need to speak prophetically, knowing that some sections of society will not want to listen.
2. Our goal must be to seek to represent all that has been revealed of Him. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5 v20). We are to represent Him, declare His message of reconciliation and demonstrate His character & values to the world. While Christ is beyond our understanding, our goal must be to seek to represent all that has been revealed of Him, reflecting all of His characteristics, raising all of His concerns and, most importantly, communicating His offered free gift of salvation.
Ways to respond to a changing world
1. Communicating his holiness and hatred of sin but also his mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness and love. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether our words, tone and actions connected with our defence of biblical sexual ethics always reflect this balance? Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to stop sinning, but he did not stone her. He invited anyone without sin to throw stones – there was no one who could do so. (John 8 1-11). Do we resist homophobia – the fear and hatred of homosexuals? Do those who fail our perception of God’s standard in sexual ethics nevertheless hear us communicating God’s love for them? Does society see our good works and thus praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5 v16)?
2. Being equally concerned about all sin. The lists in 1 Corinthians 6 9-10, 1 Timothy 1 9-10 and Romans 1 include sexual immorality but also many other things that perhaps we neglect, e.g. greed, gossip, lying, arrogance, swindling and ruthlessness. Sin condemns all. Are we concerned about all these sins within the Church and have we considered how to promote a society that resists these sins? Paul told the Corinthians to be concerned about morality within the Church, not to judge people outside of it (1 Corinthians 5 v12). Have we got safeguards in place to ensure that any campaigning on sexual ethics could not be interpreted simply as judgement?
3. Advocating a balance between seeking laws that protect people from the harm of sin and that promote Shalom but also not seeking simply to compel people to be good through the law. Finding that balance is hard but are we even trying to find it? God has made men and women responsible for their own lives, allowing us to make a mess of our lives though He pleads with us again and again to ‘choose life’. Do we ourselves really understand that God’s law is for our best interest?
4. Remembering that sexual immorality is not what condemns someone to an eternity without God. Sin condemns us all. The offer of salvation to those who repent and turn to God through Jesus is made to all (1 Timothy 2 v4). Are we communicating this Gospel message in ways that those who have not yet responded would want to stop and hear? Are we Good News People?