Pastor: Help Your Congregation Navigate Gay Pride Month
Yesterday I dropped off a congressional staffer friend at work. If you have stepped into one of the House or Senate office buildings, you know that every congressman and senator’s office posts a U.S. flag and a state flag outside its doors. This month many have added a rainbow flag to the lineup, my friend told me.
Within minutes of dropping off my staffer friend, a pastor friend texted me and asked whether he should post a tweet calling for prayer for Christians during Pride month. I encouraged him to do so. I explained what I just learned about the flags in the congressional office buildings and then remarked, “It would be so helpful for Christian congressman to speak in truth and love on this topic right now. It would help carve out a place for regular folk to continue standing. And if I wish congressmen would, how much more do pastors need to do this!”
That’s the moral of my story: pastor, consider how you might equip your church members to stand in truth and love during this month. As the neo-paganism of LGBTQ+ increasingly defines our nation’s public religion, more of our members will be taking it on the jaw at school and work. We should prepare them for these occasions if nothing else than by setting the example of speaking publicly ourselves.
Another pastor friend did so by sharing six of the following biblical texts with his congregation on a recent Sunday evening (I added one to his list). He recognized that we, as pastors, cannot anticipate every dilemma our members will encounter. Plus, only some dilemmas offer a clear path forward. Yet we can equip them with the biblical understanding that will guide them into all love and righteousness, so that the Spirit can lead them in wisdom, even when we cannot.
1. IN EVERYTHING YOU DO, LOVE—Mark 12:29–31
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
For starters, don’t take love for granted. That’s easy to do when fear dominates us.
Therefore, remind your members that loving God and loving our neighbor should animate everything we say and do this month. We stand up for truth for love’s sake. We swim upstream for love’s sake. We share the gospel for love’s sake. We say, “No, I can’t do that” at work for love’s sake. We turn the right cheek to those who strike us on the left for love’s sake.
We, as pastors, can’t tell them everything they will need to say at any given moment at work or school. But we can tell them they must always love—both God and their neighbor.
2. DISTINGUISH GOD’S LOVE FROM THE WORLD’S LOVE—John 14:15, 21, 23, 24
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. . . Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
Just as quickly as you encourage your church to act in love, pastor, remind that that love, in the Bible, always works together with righteousness, obedience, and truth. Love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth,” Paul remarks elsewhere (1 Cor. 13:6).
You have to say this because today's culture has completely swallowed hell’s view of love: love means whatever you want it to mean. People might use the words, “God is love,” but what they really mean is, “Love is God.” That is, our views of love, whatever they happen to be, define all reality and morality.
Yet that’s not real love. It’s a fake and a liar. Real love always points people to the God who is love, and anything that draws people away from this righteous and holy God is not love but is a deceiver.
So encourage your members to love, but also teach them what love is. Help them not to be fooled.
3. NEVER LIE—Exodus 20:16
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Many situations at school or work will place your members into situations where lying might seem like the easy road out of a dilemma. Remind them that Christians should not lie. Short-term gains never outweigh long-term compromises. Scripture’s positive command to speak the truth in love doesn’t mean we have to speak up at every moment in which we could. Sometimes silence is acceptable. Yet Christians must never lie.
4 & 5. NEVER AFFIRM EVIL—Ephesians 5:11 & Romans 1:32
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (Eph. 5:11).
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:32).
An everyday rationale Christians offer for going with the cultural flow is, “Well, not everyone here is a Christian, and we shouldn’t impose our morality on them.” That counsel can be correct sometimes. Yet just as you should never lie, so you should never participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, and you should never give approval to anything that provokes God’s judgment.
Just because your classmates or colleagues decided to approve sin doesn’t mean you should put your hand to doing the same. Abstain. Pull back. Keep your hands off anything that might commend sin and provoke God’s end-time judgment.
Once again, it may be challenging to know where the line is between abstaining and commending, as well as when to actively “expose” what’s sin. Still, our first task as pastors is to teach these basic principles.
6. REMEMBER WHAT YOU WERE BUT ARE NO LONGER BY THE GOSPEL—1 Corinthians 6:9–11
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. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Sometimes our moral compasses get a little wobbly. For all of us “wobblers,” Paul’s words here set the record straight and put steel in our spines. It draws clear moral lines for our members, and also reminds them of the gospel.
Remember, your members still struggle with the temptations to do the very things listed here, such as sexual immorality, greed, or reviling others. Some will struggle with feelings of attraction toward the same sex, or even like they’re in the wrong body. For this latter group, put yourself in their shoes for a second: if they would only tweak their theology, they could be hailed as heroes by our culture.
Instead, we must hail them as heroes, since they’re exercising extreme faith to follow Christ. Remind everyone of God’s law, but also remind them of the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. We’re no better than anyone on the outside because we’re all here by mercy and grace. Our worth and value and righteousness and hope is vicarious, imputed from Christ. What a gracious and loving Savior he is!
7. DO NOT PASS JUDGMENT ON ONE ANOTHER—Romans 14:13
Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
We must consider three kinds of judging during times like Pride month. First, we don’t want to wrongly judge what’s right and wrong, as with the false prophets who said, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11).
Second, which is another version of the first, we don’t want to overlook our own sins while condemning others, as with the Pharisee in Luke 18 who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” In that regard, check out Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins.
Third, we don’t want to wrongly condemn our brothers and sisters when our consciences draw different conclusions amidst some of these tough situational dilemmas. So often, the path to apostacy is not denial of the faith per se, but a fracturing of church unity under pressure that slowly erodes faith.
Some convictional disagreements between Christians should split churches. But pick carefully. Paul lists “sexual immorality” and “idolatry” in his list of “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5. Yet he also includes “dissensions” and “divisions” in that list.
In the month of June, pastor, encourage your members to reach out to an elder if they find themselves in a brutal dilemma at work or school for which they need wisdom. Yet also teach them how to expect some differences of opinion at church regarding how to navigate a culture enamored with the LGBT+ agenda. Teach them to do this in the unity of the gospel, lest any of us “destroy the one for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15).
When the challenging work or school dilemmas come, it won’t always be clear how all of the above texts apply. And sometimes, it might feel like one text commends one path while another text commends another path. Choosing the best course of action will require much wisdom as we study the Scriptures and discuss our dilemmas together.
Thanks be to the God who promises wisdom when we ask (James 1:5).
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Update: For another example of how I have sought to help my own church think through Pride month, here is my sermon from this Sunday, June 4, on Ephesians 2. In an unusually long sermon introduction–12 minutes–I outlined Carl Trueman's argument about expressive individualism and identity politics, and then explained that I wanted this to serve as the backdrop against which we could set Paul's version of the new "me" and "we" in Ephesians 2.