Jen Hatmaker: Hermeneutics, Hurt, and Human Affection Part II

In yesterday’s post  we looked at what can be a dry topic – hermeneutics – and applied it to what’s definitely a hot topic: Jen Hatmaker’s recent announcement that she believes homosexual unions can be holy, and that the church needs to not only welcome lesbians and gays, but offer approval and support for their relationships as well.hatmaker

How Jen arrived at her position speaks to hermeneutics, the discipline of interpreting and approaching the Bible. So yesterday I thought we should look at her conclusions about scripture and homosexuality, then offer a response.

But she reached some other conclusions as well, conclusions you’re likely to hear from a growing number of leaders and laypeople who’ve have a change of heart on this topic. Often, that change of heart on homosexuality  (“I used to think it’s a sin; now I know it’s of God”) is accompanied by a belief that the Church, and its members, cause real damage to lesbians and gays when we teach the
traditional view.

“I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church,” Hatmaker said in a recent interview with Religion News, adding, “the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

Her husband Brandon agrees, writing on his Facebook page:  “We’ve seen so much pain among the LGBTQ community: Suicidal teenagers. Divided families. Split churches. So. Much. Pain.”

This isn’t a new argument. Author Brian McLaren, commenting on his own change of heart regarding homosexuality, said “— just as the Western Church had been wrong on slavery, wrong on colonialism, wrong on environmental plunder, wrong on subordinating women, wrong on segregation and apartheid — we had been wrong on this issue.”

Christian ethicist David Gushee agrees, acknowledging his change of views on homosexuality and declaring that eventually “99% of all reasonable Christian human beings will do the same.”

Statements like that carry weight. If saying that homosexuality is wrong actually hurts homosexual people, causing them emotional damage and encouraging others to harm them as well, then it’s no longer homosexuality that’s on trial. It’s the belief that God condemns it.

Is the Defendant guilty? Believe me, the jury’s deliberating as we speak. You will surely be asked, at some point, to consider the evidence.

The Hurt that Harms —

I would argue that believing homosexuality’s a sin, because it falls short of God’s intention, is a belief which harms no one. But when a belief is wrongly expressed or applied, then harm can be done. But it’s a harm caused by the wrong expression or application, not the belief.

So, for example, if I believe parents should discipline their children (a belief I hold without apology) that alone harms no one. If a parent misapplies that belief by physically abusing their child, or uses that belief to justify his evil behavior, then the application, not the belief, is the problem.

Likewise, the belief that Jesus is the only way to the Father is anything but harmful. Yet at times some have mishandled that belief by attempting to force conversions on people, persecuting the people they were allegedly trying to convert. Again, the approach, not the belief, was the problem.

The right position, expressed or applied wrongly, can cause harm. I should know.

In 1984 I repented of homosexual behavior, renounced my identity as a member and activist within the gay community, relocated to a new county, and started at ground zero.

Vulnerable and craving fellowship, I went for the first time to a solid Bible believing church, led by a pastor I’d admired for years. At the beginning of the service – mind you, just a few days after I’d turned my life upside down and was feeling like a newborn – the Pastor I was eager to be fed by opened his message by announcing that a new gay rights law was being considered by our governor, that homosexuals were in fact child molesters, that he knew first hand that they violated children, and that if they ever touched his grandchildren he’d beat them up.

Then the entire congregation broke into thunderous, enthusiastic applause.

Welcome home. I knew, in that moment, that this pastor and virtually all his flock would assume I’d been molesting children if they knew where I’d been and what I’d repented of.

So I get it. I know what it feels like to be wrongly accused, viewed with contempt, stereotyped and maligned, all because someone not only thinks homosexuality’s a sin, but also holds that belief in all the wrong ways.

That hurts, and it’s a hurt which, without question, causes harm. It happened a few times to me – not often, thankfully – and it’s happened to quite a few people I’ve known.

— and the Hurt that can Heal

But there’s another kind of hurt I experienced during my years within the gay community. Not often, but memorable. It came upon me when a Christian would cross my path, strike up conversation, and question me about my sexuality.

Gently, even respectfully, he or she would ask me if I’d really searched the scriptures out on the subject, really prayed for truth, really been honest with myself, studying the matter like a disciple wanting to follow rather than a human wanting to self-justify.

Without exception, these believers were kind, fair, never pushy, always gracious. Yet walking away from them I felt like I’d just been sucker-punched.

My gut would turn cold, their words would echo mercilessly, my discomfort would grow, and more often than not I’d turn the volume down with a six pack of beer. It hurt, but I know – and I think you do, too – what the hurt was all about.

I will always revere these people who had real affection for me but, as love dictates, refused to allow their human affection to override divine truth. Their words troubled me, but it was a troubling that finally awakened my soul, rather than a pain which harmed it.

In fairness, many lesbian women and gay men seem perfectly comfortable with their identities and behavior, and plenty of them have no objection to people holding a different view then theirs. They may roll their eyes at someone holding the traditional view, or laugh at them, or just ignore them. But they’re not thrown off by someone else’s disagreement with them.

But when a homosexual person claims that hearing someone disagree with them is actually damaging, or that experiencing someone’s disapproval is destructive, I can’t help but wonder if they really do feel confident in their position.

Generally, when you feel right about yourself, you can live with someone else’s disagreement or disapproval. You may not like them saying you’re wrong, but you don’t feel a need to prevent them from doing so.

All of which makes it hard to believe that saying something is wrong equates harming a person. Were that the case, Jesus Himself, who often said many things were wrong and, in fact, pulled no punches when rebuking sin, would have been guilty of damaging the people He critiqued.

But conviction of sin, however uncomfortable, produces far more life than approval of sin.

“We have to do better,” Hatmaker admonishes, and there we agree. We can always be kinder, more respectful, more servant-like in attitude and action.

But always in a Christ-like way, employing His balance of grace and truth. When Jesus forgave an adulterous woman, He in one fell swoop rebuked the hypocrisy of her accusers, extended her grace, and called her sin “sin” without apology. (John 8:3-11) We who say we follow Him should go and do likewise.

If this subject is of interest to you, then you might consider ordering a copy of my latest book
“Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity.”
You can get your copy through here.


Christina Howell | Nov 6, 2016

Quick typo, " In fairness, may..." I think you meant, "In fairness, many..." (not may)
Great article, Thank you!

Bart McNeely | Nov 7, 2016

Fantastic article!
I return again and again to Paul's anguish,
grief, and tears over his writing of
1st Corinthians over the man who was....
bragging about having sex with his step-mom.....
and bragging about it in church!

It was c.53AD and Paul knew this couldn't be tolerated, or sin like this would spread.

Several things can be gathered from 1st and 2nd Corinthians:
1) Some were former pagans
2) Some were former homosexuals
3) It is clear from chapter 1st Corinthians chapter 6 that they were once thieves, drunks, adulterers, swindlers, men who use and let themselves be used sexually by other men, but that they were washed, justified, cleansed from sin in the name of Jesus Christ from their former ways.
4) We could infer that pagans were ok with homosexuality, but this "sex with stepmom" thing was over the top.... something most cultures would agree is "not ok".

So how were they to deal with it?

A problem with the church today, I believe, is that we haven't connected this situation in 1st Corinthians, to its conclusion in 2nd Corinthians. I just can't summarize it better than Paul said it, so......It all starts out harsh, but ends with love.

=============1st Corinthians Chapter 5 (NIV)====
It is actually reported
that there is sexual immorality among you,
and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate:
A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.

And you are proud!
Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning
and have put out of your fellowship
the man who has been doing this?

3 For my part, even though
I am not physically present,
I am with you in spirit.

As one who is present with you in this way,
I have already passed judgment
in the name of our Lord Jesus
on the one who has been doing this.

So when you are assembled
and I am with you in spirit,
and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,

hand this man over to Satan
for the destruction of the flesh,
so that his spirit may be saved
on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good.
Don’t you know
that a little yeast
leavens the whole batch of dough?

Get rid of the old yeast,
so that you may be
a new unleavened batch
—as you really are.

For Christ, our Passover lamb,
has been sacrificed.

Therefore let us keep the Festival,
not with the old bread leavened
with malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter
not to associate
with sexually immoral people—

not at all meaning the people
of this world who are immoral,
or the greedy
and swindlers,
or idolaters.

In that case you would have to leave this world.

But now I am writing to you
that you must not associate
with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister
but is sexually immoral or greedy,
an idolater or slanderer,
a drunkard or swindler.

Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine
to judge those outside the church?
Are you not to judge those inside?

13 God will judge those outside.

“Expel the wicked person from among you.”


And the conclusion to the story:

=====2nd Corinthians Chapter 2==============
For I wrote you out of great distress
and anguish of heart
and with many tears,
not to grieve you
but to let you know
the depth of my love for you.

If anyone has caused grief,
he has not so much grieved me
as he has grieved all of you to some extent—
not to put it too severely.

The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him,
so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

There is so much that can be drawn from this and the rest of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, but I'm going to let it speak for itself, and encourage anyone to read the rest on their own.

Then, keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans next, prior to his journey with Luke, Aristarchus & others to Jerusalem and then onto Rome where Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts.

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