On Chick-Fil-A, Being Gay, and Judgment Day
Plenty of folks were lauding Chick-Fil-A and denouncing the pro-gay community when I checked my Facebook news feed on Friday. While I agreed with those who support Chick-Fil-A’s freedom of speech and view of marriage, I thought it might be helpful to add a complementary perspective into the mix. So I posted the following remark, “I’m not a prophet, but I suspect that it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for many who patronized Chick-Fil-A on August 1st.”
Being “Straight” Is Not Enough
I was basing my comment on Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 where he upbraids people who are otherwise “morally conservative” and “religious” but who reject him and the gospel:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’… And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (vv. 5-7, 14-15).
From Christ’s words we can deduce the following principle: those who are exposed to much gospel revelation and reject Jesus are more culpable than those who are exposed to less gospel revelation and reject it (see also Luke 12:35-48). What’s more, we learn that while God opposes homosexuality (one of the main sins of Sodom),1 he feels greater detestation toward those know biblical truth and have a form of true religion but who, in reality, reject Christ and the gospel (see also Matt 11:20-24; 23:13-36; Luke 18:9-14; Rom 2:1-5).2
Hence, it’s not enough to be “straight” and support heterosexual marriage. Standing up for the First Amendment and morality is good and well. But what’s ultimately important is not where you stood (or stand) on “Chick-Fil-A Day” but where you’ll stand in relation to Jesus on Judgment Day.
Gays Need Jesus And So Do We
Another take away from Jesus’ words is the obvious fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and, therefore, everyone needs the gospel (John 3:16). Christ didn’t limit his disciples’ gospel-mission to the homosexual community or other “down-and-outers.” He sent them (at least initially) to the outwardly moral and formally religious folk.
Make no mistake, homosexuality is definitely a sin. The apostle Paul underscores this in Romans 1:24-27.3 But sometimes those who wish to portray the sin of homosexuality as the most debased of sins stop at verse 27. That’s not where Paul stops. He continues,
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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 1:28-32).
Paul doesn’t just single out homosexuals for censure. He censures the entire human race (see 2:1-5; 3:9-20). Can any of us escape Paul’s sweeping indictment? Haven’t we all been guilty of one or more of these sins?
So gays need Jesus, but so do those who made a special point to patronize Chick-Fil-A on August 1st. Even those of us who have trusted in Christ for salvation still need the gospel because of all the sin that still remains within our heart (1 John 1:8–2:2). Accordingly, as Christians we shouldn’t just “push back” against the gay agenda, but we should “reach out” to gays as fellow sinners in need of the same grace that we rely on every day.
Granted, “reaching out” to gays will entail addressing their sin so that they feel their need for God’s grace. But sometimes I wonder if our opposition to homosexuality and advocacy of Christian values doesn’t come across primarily as a misguided attempt to create a “Christian nation” rather than a humble endeavor to win our fellow non-Christian Americans to the kingdom that is “not of this world.” In the words of Joel Rainey, who actually went to Chick-Fil-A on August 3rd in an effort to reach out to gays,
When I read about Jesus’ words and actions in Scripture, I see a Savior who aggressively pursues relationships with people who are far from God, and who simultaneously displays a strong reticence toward fighting over the control of temporary kingdoms. His mission was, and is, much larger!4
To the Point
My point wasn’t to criticize everyone and anyone who chose to patronize the restaurant on “Chick-Fil-A Day.”5 I made no absolute or necessary connection between sinful self-righteousness and supporting Chick-Fil-A. I just wanted to remind folks–whether believers or non-believers–that the ultimate issue isn’t what one does with the First Amendment or marriage but what one does with Jesus and the gospel. And in doing so, I hoped to prod my fellow believers to think not only in terms of preserving the moral fiber of our country but also (and more importantly) of promoting the gospel by means of declaring the fact that, as one of my good friends puts it, “we’re all in this sinful mess together.”6
- Some modern writers have attempted to avoid this text’s negative portrayal of the sin of homosexuality. A few, like Brian Doyle, have argued that the sin of the Sodomites has nothing to do with sexuality but rather with a proud demand to “know” God in one’s own terms. “The Sin of Sodom: yäda`, yäda`, yäda`? A Reading of the Mamre-Sodom Narrative of Genesis 18–19.” Theology & Sexuality 9 (1998): 84–100. This interpretation not only conflicts with Lot’s understanding of their intentions (see 19:7–8), but it also contradicts the NT’s own assessment of their action as “sexual immorality” and the pursuit of “unnatural desire,” i.e., homosexuality (Jude 7; see also Rom 1:26–27). Others have alleged that the text condemns non-consensual homosexuality (i.e., rape) rather than homosexuality per se. See Daniel Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (San Francisco: Alamo Square Press, 1994), 45–47. The fact that the Sodomite’s sin was intended nonconsensual homosexuality, however, does not in itself condone consensual homosexual acts, which the original Israelite reader knew were explicitly condemned by God (Lev 18:22; 20:13). Still others try to draw attention away from the sexual nature of Sodom’s sin by focusing on its sin of “inhospitality.” John Boswell, for example, asserts, “A sexual element, if at all present, was probably intended only as the concrete expression of the Sodomites’ lack of hospitality.” Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 97. Jerald Janzen likewise avers, “It is clear from a comparison of 19:1–3 with 18:1–8 that the test of Sodom turns on the question of hospitality.” Abraham and All the Families of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 61. But one may acknowledge a lack of hospitality while still noting that the depth of Sodom’s degeneracy is expressed in a combination of sexual immorality and violent aggression, both of which are evils that the primeval narrative has already highlighted (Gen 4:19, 23–24; 6:1–2, 5, 11, 13). [↩]
- Matthew Henry remarks, “The condemnation of those that reject the gospel, will in that day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 7. But that vengeance will come with an aggravation upon those that despise the great salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Gen. xiii. 13), and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they received not the angels that were sent to them, but abused them (Gen. xix. 4, 5), and hearkened not to their words, v. 14. And yet it will be more tolerable for them than for those who receive not Christ’s ministers and hearken not to their words. God’s wrath against them will be more flaming, and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting. Son, remember I will sound most dreadfully in the ears of such as had a fair offer made them of eternal life, and chose death rather. The iniquity of Israel, when God sent them his servants the prophets, is represented as, upon that account, more heinous than the iniquity of Sodom (Ezek. xvi. 48, 49), much more now he sent them his Son, the great Prophet.” Commentary on the Whole Bible, in loc. [↩]
- For a comprehensive treatment of the biblical view of homosexuality as treated in Genesis and elsewhere in Scripture, see Greg Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View ((Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978 [↩]
- Cited from his post, “Why I’m Joining the Gay Community at Chick fil A This Friday” (accessed August 4, 2012). [↩]
- For what it’s worth, I regularly patronize Chick-Fil-A and will continue to do so. [↩]
- For a similar concerns, see Stephen Altrogge’s post, “Why I Did NOT Eat at Chick-Fil-A Yesterday,” and his follow up “Do We Really Want to Defend the First Amendment by Buying Chicken Sandwiches?” (accessed August 4, 2012), as well as Barnabas Piper’s article, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day: A Bold Mistake,” published in World Magazine (accessed August 4, 2012). [↩]