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O Homossexualismo na Visão Bíblico-Cristã

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I. Introdução

O homossexualismo é um assunto polêmico em muitas sociedades. Para alguns, é uma questão de direitos iguais para que o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo seja legalizado. Para muitos é também uma questão moral e religiosa, pois é tratada na Bíblia. Debates, discussões, altercações e, infelizmente, até violência tem ocorrido por causa desse assunto.

Para algumas pessoas, a perspectiva bíblica sobre a questão da homossexualidade é apenas de interesse acadêmico. Estas pessoas talvez não sejam nem cristãs, nem homossexuais. O problema pode não afetá-las pessoalmente, mas já que está na moda, deve ser interessante. Para outras, a questão é muito pessoal. Talvez estas se identifiquem como cristãs, homossexuais ou cristãs homossexuais. Seja como for, este estudo tem a intenção de ser um recurso gracioso, terno e confiável para todos. Sendo assim, o artigo vai expor em detalhes a visão bíblico-cristã sobre o homossexualismo1.

O leitor logo irá perceber que o rumo tomado pelo estudo o levará à conclusão de que homossexualismo é pecado. Por isso, duas coisas precisam ficar claras, a fim de se evitar qualquer mal-entendido:

1. Este autor, todos os cristãos e todos os não cristãos pecaram e são pecadores. Infelizmente, esta é uma situação na qual todos estão igualmente envolvidos. Não é um caso particular.

2. O artigo apresenta conclusões lógicas sobre como os cristãos devem reagir ao ensino bíblico a respeito da homossexualidade. Embora não trate de todos os casos, o estudo mostra a atitude e o sentimento dos quais devem emergir todas as respostas: graça e amor. Não há espaço para qualquer tipo de violência, insulto ou agressão por parte de cristãos a outras pessoas. A matéria foi escrita com verdadeiro amor e carinho por todos os seres humanos.

Desta forma, vamos examinar a questão do homossexualismo no Antigo e no Novo Testamento, e o ensino de Jesus sobre sexualidade, antes de concluir com algumas observações pessoais. Cada tópico terá sua própria conclusão. Uma seção adicional de perguntas e respostas pode ser encontrada no final do texto principal. Além disso, na parte final também são fornecidas outras fontes para pesquisa. Use o índice abaixo para ir rapidamente a uma seção específica.

I. Introdução

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade – Meu Passado

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

VII. Fontes

VIII. Índice Detalhado

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

Há quatro passagens do Antigo Testamento onde o homossexualismo é discutido mais explicitamente. Duas delas são proibições da lei contra a prática homossexual. As outras duas são registros históricos: Sodoma e Gomorra e Gibeá. Não vamos tentar responder a todas as perguntas que possam surgir sobre cada texto. Isso já foi feito em várias das fontes que iremos citar. No entanto, vamos gastar algum tempo estabelecendo claramente o ponto de vista bíblico e, assim, a opinião que deve ser defendida pelos cristãos. Em nossa argumentação, começaremos examinando o tratamento dispensado pela lei à prática homossexual. Em seguida, veremos as duas narrativas.

A. Levítico 18:22, A Proibição da Lei

Lv. 18:22 – Com homem não te deitarás, como se fosse mulher; é abominação.

Esta lei proíbe diretamente o ato homossexual. Ela não faz distinção se o ato é, ou não, consensual. A ordenança vem no meio de uma seção de leis relativas a relações sexuais. Em cada verso, nenhuma lei tem consequência individual, mas todas elas se referem a coisas que não deveriam ser feitas. Todos os itens da lista são apresentados como “contaminação” (Lv. 18:24) e são chamados de “abominação” (Lv. 18: 27, 30). Todos eles têm o mesmo peso e o homossexualismo não é destacado dos demais pecados sexuais (os quais por si só se distinguem), mas está entre eles. E, da mesma forma, quem quebrasse qualquer uma dessas leis deveria ser “eliminado do seu povo” (Lv. 18:29). Estas atividades sexuais são as mesmas que trouxeram o julgamento de Deus sobre os antigos habitantes da terra (Lv. 18:24). Portanto, na lei, o homossexualismo era uma ofensa contra Deus. Esse pecado, junto com os outros pecados sexuais, não deveria, de forma alguma, existir em Israel.

B. Levítico 20:13, A Pena da Lei

Lv. 20:13 – Se também um homem se deitar com outro homem, como se fosse mulher, ambos praticaram coisa abominável; serão mortos; o seu sangue cairá sobre eles.

Esta lei mostra claramente as consequências para os atos homossexuais praticados sob o governo teocrático de Israel. Ela vem no meio de uma lista detalhada de crimes e castigos. A seção em particular trata das ofensas sexuais e suas punições. A pena para o ato homossexual deveria ser a morte de ambos os participantes. Parece que isso esclarece o significado de ser “eliminado do seu povo” no tópico anterior sobre os pecados sexuais de Levítico 18. Portanto, na lei, o homossexualismo era um pecado contra Deus que devia ser punido com a pena capital2.

C. Gênesis 19:1-11, Sodoma e Gomorra

Em Gênesis 18:20-21, Deus disse que iria destruir Sodoma e Gomorra, porque o “clamor ... e o seu pecado se tem agravado muito”. Quando dois anjos foram ver “se eles eram tão perversos quanto o clamor sugeria”, ambos foram tratados com total falta de hospitalidade pelos habitantes do lugar, à exceção de Ló. Na realidade, todos os homens da cidade tentaram desesperadamente abusar deles. Muitos esforços têm sido feitos no sentido de ver o pecado daqueles homens apenas como uma questão de falta de hospitalidade ou de relação antinatural com anjos. No entanto, o texto não mostra em lugar algum que alguém na cidade soubesse que se tratava de anjos – muito pelo contrário, ambos são chamados de “homens” tanto pelo povo quanto por Ló (Gn. 19:5 e 19:8, respectivamente). Da mesma forma, a leitura ao pé da letra de que o pecado de Sodoma e Gomorra inclui não só a falta de hospitalidade como também a atividade homossexual é a melhor interpretação da passagem3. Isso é corroborado pelo texto de Judas 1:7:

Judas 1:7 – como Sodoma, e Gomorra, e as cidades circunvizinhas, que, havendo-se entregado à prostituição como aqueles, seguindo após outra carne, são postas para exemplo do fogo eterno, sofrendo punição.

Embora alguns aspectos deste versículo (desejos antinaturais semelhantes aos dos anjos) possam levantar algumas questões, o texto definitivamente vai da conduta pecaminosa da falta de hospitalidade à imoralidade sexual4. E a única imoralidade sexual conhecida de Sodoma e Gomorra é a tentativa de abuso homossexual contra os anjos (na realidade, os homens daquela cidade escarneceram da tentativa de Ló, de acalmá-los com a oferta de imoralidade heterossexual – Gn. 19:9).

Portanto, antes da promulgação da lei, Deus considerou esta tentativa de abuso homossexual – que continuou mesmo depois dos homens terem ficado cegos – como parte da grande perversidade que resultou na destruição total das duas cidades.

D. Juízes 19:22 e ss, Gibeá

Em Juízes 19 temos outro exemplo de falta de hospitalidade e tentativa de abuso homossexual. Neste caso, não foram todos os homens da cidade que estiveram envolvidos, só “os filhos de Belial”. Aqui, no entanto, eles foram apaziguados com a concubina do viajante que foi enviada em seu lugar. Ela morreu, depois do que eles lhe fizeram.

Estes acontecimentos levaram à primeira guerra civil da história de Israel, e quase à extinção da tribo de Benjamim. A guerra foi sancionada pela aprovação de Deus, após Gibeá ter recusado entregar os ofensores para julgamento (Juízes 20:18; 20:23; 20:28; 20:35).

Como muitos problemas reais da vida atual, o pecado que resultou nessa confusão toda parece ter sido uma série de ações. Primeiramente, aqueles homens tentaram fazer “mal” ao viajante e “conhecê-lo” sexualmente (19:22-23a)5. Segundo, somado a isso, houve a tentativa contra uma pessoa que estava sob o teto de outra – uma “loucura” (Juízes 19:23b). Terceiro, eles estupraram e abusaram da concubina do homem a noite toda e causaram sua morte (Juízes 19:25-30). Quarto, o restante da tribo de Benjamim se recusou a entregar aqueles homens para serem punidos (Juízes 20:13).

A breve recapitulação da história para as tribos (Juízes 20:5) não menciona o lado sexual do atentado contra o viajante, como faz o relato original (Juízes 19:22-24). A segunda narrativa parece se concentrar mais nas verdadeiras ofensas do que nas intenções. No entanto, o atentado é incluído no registro mais longo dos acontecimentos e é claramente indicado como algo errado. Logo, é bastante apropriado ver o atentado homossexual como parte dos acontecimentos que estão sendo julgados. Para uma análise mais aprofundada do assunto, ver o estudo de Bob Deffinbaugh sobre esta passagem6.

Portanto, depois da promulgação da lei, a tentativa de abuso homossexual foi parte do pecado que resultou na guerra civil sancionada por Deus.

O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento ― Conclusão

Tanto antes como depois da promulgação da lei, o homossexualismo era considerado como pecado por israelitas e não israelitas. O mesmo valia para casos consensuais e não consensuais. A homossexualidade resultava no julgamento de Deus e na morte.

No entanto, antes da lei, este não foi o único caso de conduta pecaminosa julgado diretamente por Deus em grande escala (um caso muito maior foi o do dilúvio de Gênesis 6 – o qual, por acaso, não menciona a prática homossexual). Do mesmo modo, depois da lei, os julgamentos de Deus ocorreram devido a outros pecados (como, por exemplo, pecados relacionados à idolatria de Israel em 2 Reis 17, dos assírios em 2 Reis 19, e de Judá em 2 Reis 24 e 25).

Longe de minimizar (ou maximizar) qualquer pecado em particular, isso mostra que Deus não só declara muitas coisas como pecado, mas também pune a todas elas. Não há injustiça da parte de Deus. Seu juízo não se restringe a determinado pecado, e muitos outros exemplos do Antigo Testamento podem ser citados para mostrar como Deus trata dessa questão. A ênfase no julgamento da idolatria, da homossexualidade e de outros pecados não deveria nos surpreender, já que o propósito da lei era revelar o pecado como pecado e o padrão de justiça de Deus como fator determinante (Rm. 7:7-14). É possível, no entanto, que os diversos tipos de pecados sexuais, e sua subsequente ligação com idolatria, possam ter sido punidos com maior rigor e houvesse mais advertências contra eles (cf. Lv. 18:24-30 e os julgamentos acima relacionados).

Entretanto, a história no Antigo Testamento não termina aqui. Muitos exemplos podem ser igualmente citados sobre a graça de Deus: Noé e sua família, Ló e sua família, Abraão, Isaque, Jacó, José, Moisés e Arão, Davi (um excelente exemplo da graça derramada sobre alguém cujos pecados, de acordo com a lei, mereciam a morte), os remanescentes de Israel e Judá, a instituição do sistema sacrificial, Jonas e Nínive, etc. Embora o padrão de justiça de Deus seja rigoroso, Sua graciosa providência é contínua.

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

No Novo Testamento, muitos textos, de modo geral, proíbem a “imoralidade sexual” (cf. Atos 15:20; 15:29; 1 Ts. 4:3; Hb. 13:4; Ap. 21:8; 22:15). Esses mandamentos incluem o homossexualismo. No entanto, a questão é discutida com mais clareza em três passagens. Na primeira delas, é discutida em detalhes; nas outras duas, numa lista de pecados. Assim como nas passagens do Antigo Testamento, esta seção também não tentará analisar cada problema que possa emergir dos textos. O objetivo será expressar a visão bíblico-cristã sobre o assunto ensinada nesses versículos. Como anteriormente, outras fontes serão citadas para quem desejar se aprofundar na matéria.

A. Romanos 1:20-32

Rm. 1:20-25 – Porque os atributos invisíveis de Deus, assim o seu eterno poder, como também a sua própria divindade, claramente se reconhecem, desde o princípio do mundo, sendo percebidos por meio das coisas que foram criadas. Tais homens são, por isso, indesculpáveis; 1.21 porquanto, tendo conhecimento de Deus, não o glorificaram como Deus, nem lhe deram graças; antes, se tornaram nulos em seus próprios raciocínios, obscurecendo-se-lhes o coração insensato. 1.22 Inculcando-se por sábios, tornaram-se loucos 1.23 e mudaram a glória do Deus incorruptível em semelhança da imagem de homem corruptível, bem como de aves, quadrúpedes e répteis. 1.24 Por isso, Deus entregou tais homens à imundícia, pelas concupiscências de seu próprio coração, para desonrarem o seu corpo entre si; 1.25 pois eles mudaram a verdade de Deus em mentira, adorando e servindo a criatura em lugar do Criador, o qual é bendito eternamente. Amém!

1.26 Por causa disso, os entregou Deus a paixões infames; porque até as mulheres mudaram o modo natural de suas relações íntimas por outro, contrário à natureza; 1.27 semelhantemente, os homens também, deixando o contato natural da mulher, se inflamaram mutuamente em sua sensualidade, cometendo torpeza, homens com homens, e recebendo, em si mesmos, a merecida punição do seu erro. 1.28 E, por haverem desprezado o conhecimento de Deus, o próprio Deus os entregou a uma disposição mental reprovável, para praticarem coisas inconvenientes, 1.29 cheios de toda injustiça, malícia, avareza e maldade; possuídos de inveja, homicídio, contenda, dolo e malignidade; sendo difamadores, 1.30 caluniadores, aborrecidos de Deus, insolentes, soberbos, presunçosos, inventores de males, desobedientes aos pais, 1.31 insensatos, pérfidos, sem afeição natural e sem misericórdia. 1.32 Ora, conhecendo eles a sentença de Deus, de que são passíveis de morte os que tais coisas praticam, não somente as fazem, mas também aprovam os que assim procedem.

Este texto, mais do que qualquer outro do Novo Testamento, fala extensivamente sobre a homossexualidade. No entanto, não é este o tema principal da passagem. O que Paulo deseja, é explicar claramente o evangelho. Mas, para isso, é preciso mostrar que todas as pessoas estão debaixo do juízo e da condenação de Deus – e, portanto, carecem do evangelho. Ele começa dizendo que, sendo o testemunho de Deus visível na própria natureza, todas as pessoas são indesculpáveis por se rebelarem contra Ele. A justa ira de Deus está sobre toda a impiedade (Rm. 1). A seguir, ele mostra que, quando julgamos o pecado dos outros, na verdade, estamos condenando a nós mesmos (Rm. 2). Desta forma, até mesmo o povo judeu, com a lei, ainda estava inteiramente debaixo da condenação de Deus devido aos seus pecados. Além do mais, eles não podiam remediar a própria situação (Rm. 2 e 3). Portanto, não importa se alguém está sem lei ou sob a lei. Todos, sem distinção, estão condenados. Isso abre o caminho para explicar a graça de Deus em Jesus – que é a boa nova do evangelho. Há, de fato, um jeito de resolver o problema.

Assim sendo, este trecho sobre homossexualismo faz parte da passagem que mostra a razão da ira de Deus estar sobre os homens, e como todos os seres humanos são indesculpáveis diante dEle. Antes de passar para o lado negativo do assunto, Paulo começa pelo lado positivo, ou seja, as boas novas que pretende compartilhar. A justiça de Deus é revelada no evangelho que é recebido pela fé (Rm. 1:17). Em contrapartida, a ira de Deus se revela do céu contra toda a impiedade e perversidade dos homens (Rm. 1:18). Onde a impiedade e a perversidade podem ser vistas? Onde a supressão da verdade pode ser vista? Na indesculpável idolatria do ser humano. Os atributos invisíveis de Deus, assim como Seu eterno poder e Sua natureza divina, claramente podem ser vistos por todas as pessoas na Sua Criação (Rm. 1:19-20). No entanto, ao invés de adorar o verdadeiro Criador, a humanidade se voltou para a idolatria e passou a adorar as coisas criadas (Rm. 1:23-25). A própria existência da natureza requer um Arquiteto. Esta verdade é suprimida e transformada em adoração de si mesmo ou de alguma outra coisa criada. Um dos julgamentos de Deus para esse tipo de coisa é entregar a humanidade aos seus próprios desejos pecaminosos (Rm. 1:24). Isso inclui especialmente o homossexualismo (Rm. 1:26-28). Inclui também toda uma lista de outros pecados, os quais são mencionados brevemente (Rm. 1:29-32).

Algumas pessoas levantam objeções contra a discussão deste texto, dizendo que ele se refere somente a heterossexuais que cometem atos homossexuais (ou “abuso” da homossexualidade) e não se aplica se for um desejo “natural” por uma pessoa do mesmo sexo e feito dentro de uma relação monogâmica (ou algum tipo de “casamento”). Não há sustentação para esse tipo de argumento quando examinamos o texto. Paulo não está falando sobre o que é ou se tornou um desejo “natural”. Ele está falando sobre função. Deus fez o homem e a mulher com funções distintas. De acordo com a passagem, essas funções se rebelam por meio de atos homossexuais7.

Pelo texto, então, vemos que o homossexualismo é um exemplo de como Deus entrega as pessoas às consequências da sua rebelião contra Ele. Este não é o único pecado listado, mas é o mais enfatizado. Parece que o exemplo é dado porque a homossexualidade é diametralmente oposta ao claro desígnio de Deus. Deus nos fez à Sua imagem (Gn. 1:27), com uma constituição que se completa na união do homem com a mulher (Gn. 2:22-25). Agir em clara oposição ao plano de Deus no nível natural declara, de forma inconfundível, a realidade da rebelião. Declara ainda que o próprio plano e propósito de Deus estão errados e são inadequados. Conforme o texto, o homossexualismo e os demais pecados relacionados são parte do julgamento imediato (mas não final) de Deus. O próprio pecado em si mesmo já é um julgamento – no sentido de se colher o que se planta8. Ademais, a deliberada mudança da verdade de Deus em mentira tem como consequência Deus entregar as pessoas a uma mente depravada. A capacidade de raciocínio ou de ver as coisas pela perspectiva moral correta pode ser gravemente prejudicada (Rm. 1:28).

No entanto, para que ninguém se vanglorie em si mesmo, Paulo imediatamente prossegue, mostrando que todos estão condenados sob o pecado. De fato, quando alguém julga o pecado do outro, a si mesmo se condena (Rm. 2:1-5). A única razão pela qual Paulo pode compartilhar estas coisas de forma digna é porque ele não confia na sua própria justiça. Ele confia na justiça de Deus. Esta justiça lhe foi imputada em Cristo Jesus, pela graça de Deus. O próprio Paulo foi perdoado. A questão não era condenar os outros para justificar a si mesmo. A questão era deixar clara a existência do pecado de cada um, a fim de que a graça de Deus que o havia resgatado fosse compartilhada com os outros seres humanos carentes de libertação, assim como ele fora um dia.

A mesma ênfase e o mesmo objetivo de Paulo na carta aos Romanos devem ser compartilhados pelos cristãos atuais. Todos nós somos pecadores. Todos estamos debaixo da imensurável ira de Deus. Eu também sou um pecador condenado por estas verdades. Pela graça de Deus, podemos ser perdoados. No entanto, mesmo debaixo dessa graça, em nós mesmos, não somos melhores do que os outros. Não temos nada do que nos vangloriar. Isso demonstra o quão maravilhosa é graça de Deus. O fato de Ele nos ter amado enquanto ainda éramos Seus inimigos, em profunda rebelião contra Ele, é quase incompreensível. Essa mesma graça que mudou, e ainda muda a nossa vida, e que nos dará a vida eterna com Deus numa existência perfeita, está disponível a todo mundo. Ninguém está excluído desta oferta, seja qual for seu sexo, raça, nacionalidade, etnia, classe ou qualquer outra classificação. Esta é graça que os cristãos devem oferecer, pois é a verdadeira graça de Deus.

B. 1 Coríntios 6:9-11, Herdando o Reino de Deus

1 Co. 6:9-11 – Ou não sabeis que os injustos não herdarão o reino de Deus? Não vos enganeis: nem impuros, nem idólatras, nem adúlteros, nem efeminados, nem sodomitas, nem ladrões, nem avarentos, nem bêbados, nem maldizentes, nem roubadores herdarão o reino de Deus. Tais fostes alguns de vós; mas vós vos lavastes, mas fostes santificados, mas fostes justificados em o nome do Senhor Jesus Cristo e no Espírito do nosso Deus.

Algumas pessoas levantam dúvidas quanto às duas palavras gregas usadas para a atividade homossexual neste texto. Elas as interpretam como se referindo apenas a fraqueza moral (μαλακος) e prostituição masculina (αρσενοκοιτης). No entanto, esse tipo de tradução está em desacordo com o principal Léxico de Grego Bíblico (BDAG)9. Além do mais, está em desacordo, principalmente, com a maioria dos outros dicionários de inglês padrão (se não com todos) e não é uma boa tradução para as palavras deste texto10. Portanto, dentro do contexto, essas palavras se referem a dois papéis diferentes na relação homossexual.

Assim, sem qualquer equívoco, a afirmação de Paulo é muito forte e definitiva a respeito do pecado e suas consequências, bem como sobre a única forma de ser resgatado disso. Nesse contexto, ele relembra com grande ênfase à igreja de Corinto que tais práticas não são compatíveis com o reino de Deus. Nesta parte da carta, ele está tratando de uma série de problemas éticos e comportamentais que assolavam aquela igreja. As práticas antigas estavam influenciando a nova vida daquelas pessoas de maneira totalmente errada. Aparentemente, as coisas estavam tão ruins que Paulo até os desafia, na carta seguinte, a examinarem a si mesmos para ver se realmente tinham se tornado crentes (2 Co. 13:5).

Os pecados mencionados por Paulo, em si mesmos, não eram algo que pudesse afastar os coríntios de realmente aceitar a graça de Deus e se tornar Seus filhos. No entanto, continuar vivendo daquele modo11 seria uma indicação de que eles não eram verdadeiros crentes e não herdariam o reino de Deus (cf. 1 João 3). Essa afirmação explícita de que alguns coríntios tinham se tornado crentes sem mudar seu comportamento é muito útil para nós. Isso nos leva a pelo menos duas conclusões:

1. Como outros pecados, a prática homossexual pode ser perdoada. A graça de Deus não se restringe a este ou àquele pecado. Como está escrito em Romanos 5:20-21:

Sobreveio a lei para que avultasse a ofensa; mas onde abundou o pecado, superabundou a graça, a fim de que, como o pecado reinou pela morte, assim também reinasse a graça pela justiça para a vida eterna, mediante Jesus Cristo, nosso Senhor. (ARA)

2. Uma vez livres do pecado, os cristãos devem ser os mais desejosos de compartilhar o amor de Deus com outras pessoas. Como está em 2 Coríntios 5:17-21:

E, assim, se alguém está em Cristo, é nova criatura; as coisas antigas já passaram; eis que se fizeram novas. 5.18 Ora, tudo provém de Deus, que nos reconciliou consigo mesmo por meio de Cristo e nos deu o ministério da reconciliação, 5.19 a saber, que Deus estava em Cristo reconciliando consigo o mundo, não imputando aos homens as suas transgressões, e nos confiou a palavra da reconciliação. 5.20 De sorte que somos embaixadores em nome de Cristo, como se Deus exortasse por nosso intermédio. Em nome de Cristo, pois, rogamos que vos reconcilieis com Deus. 5.21 Aquele que não conheceu pecado, ele o fez pecado por nós; para que, nele, fôssemos feitos justiça de Deus. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada).

C. 1 Timóteo 1:8-15, O Principal Pecador — Paulo

1 Tim. 1:8-15 – Sabemos, porém, que a lei é boa, se alguém dela se utiliza de modo legítimo, 1.9 tendo em vista que não se promulga lei para quem é justo, mas para transgressores e rebeldes, irreverentes e pecadores, ímpios e profanos, parricidas e matricidas, homicidas, 1.10 impuros, sodomitas, raptores de homens, mentirosos, perjuros e para tudo quanto se opõe à sã doutrina,

1.11 segundo o evangelho da glória do Deus bendito, do qual fui encarregado. 1.12 Sou grato para com aquele que me fortaleceu, Cristo Jesus, nosso Senhor, que me considerou fiel, designando-me para o ministério, 1.13 a mim, que, noutro tempo, era blasfemo, e perseguidor, e insolente. Mas obtive misericórdia, pois o fiz na ignorância, na incredulidade. 1.14 Transbordou, porém, a graça de nosso Senhor com a fé e o amor que há em Cristo Jesus. 1.15 Fiel é a palavra e digna de toda aceitação: que Cristo Jesus veio ao mundo para salvar os pecadores, dos quais eu sou o principal.

Nesta lista, Paulo mostra a finalidade da lei em comparação com a visão daqueles que faziam mau uso dela (1 Tm. 1:6-7). A lei revela o pecado e a necessidade de “salvação”. Assim, nos exemplos fornecidos por ele, a homossexualidade está nitidamente incluída como injustiça12. Quanto ao suposto “justo” do verso 9, é preciso observar que Jesus foi o único verdadeiramente justo (Hb. 4:15; Rm. 3:10-24).

Algumas pessoas tentam parecer justas. No entanto, isso não pode ser confundido com ser verdadeiramente justo. Tais pessoas receberão o julgamento divino, pois o cordel de medir é o padrão de santidade de Deus. A única coisa que elas conseguirão com seus esforços será afastar mentalmente a Sua oferta de graça. Como a graça pode ser aplicada a alguém que não reconhece a própria necessidade?

Esta lista de práticas pecaminosas inclui o homossexualismo e muitos pecados que as pessoas podem considerar os “piores” de todos: parricídio, imoralidade sexual, rapto, blasfêmia e oposição à lei. O mais interesse é Paulo dizer, no final da lista, que a coisa mais importante é Jesus ter vindo ao mundo para salvar pecadores, dos quais ele (Paulo) é o principal. Pelo que sabemos por outras passagens das Escrituras, Paulo era irrepreensível quanto à justiça que havia na lei (Fp. 3:6)13. Talvez ele não tenha cometido certos pecados, os quais, para outras pessoas e para a dureza da lei, seriam abomináveis. No entanto, ele sabia que, diante de Deus, seus pecados eram ainda mais odiosos. Sem dúvida, também sou o pior dos pecadores. Mas graças a Deus que, por meio do Senhor Jesus, nEle não tenho mais nenhuma condenação. Nem você precisa ter.

O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento — Conclusão

O homossexualismo é realmente pecado. Ele não é bom. Não é moral. E, junto com todos os outros pecados, colhe o juízo de Deus. As Escrituras confirmam isso. Contudo, não pára por aí. Não devemos discutir a visão bíblica sobre a homossexualidade. A Bíblia diz que o homossexualismo é errado, mas a graça de Deus — assim como fez conosco — oferece a liberdade do pecado a todas as pessoas. A graça de Deus pode dar uma nova vida e ajudar em cada passo do caminho. Como Jesus disse quando veio à terra:

João 3:16-21 – Porque Deus amou ao mundo de tal maneira que deu o seu Filho unigênito, para que todo o que nele crê não pereça, mas tenha a vida eterna. 3.17 Porquanto Deus enviou o seu Filho ao mundo, não para que julgasse o mundo, mas para que o mundo fosse salvo por ele. 3.18 Quem nele crê não é julgado; o que não crê já está julgado, porquanto não crê no nome do unigênito Filho de Deus. 3.19 O julgamento é este: que a luz veio ao mundo, e os homens amaram mais as trevas do que a luz; porque as suas obras eram más. 3.20 Pois todo aquele que pratica o mal aborrece a luz e não se chega para a luz, a fim de não serem argüidas as suas obras. 3.21 Quem pratica a verdade aproxima-se da luz, a fim de que as suas obras sejam manifestas, porque feitas em Deus. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada)

Tão logo compreendi o poder do pecado na minha vida, quando vejo as Escrituras dizendo que alguma coisa é pecado ou abominação, ou que as pessoas que fazem certas coisas não herdarão o reino de Deus, imediatamente faço a relação. Meu pecado também é uma abominação para Deus:

Provérbios 6:16-19 – Seis coisas o SENHOR aborrece, e a sétima a sua alma abomina: 6.17 olhos altivos, língua mentirosa, mãos que derramam sangue inocente, 6.18 coração que trama projetos iníquos, pés que se apressam a correr para o mal, 6.19 testemunha falsa que profere mentiras e o que semeia contendas entre irmãos. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada)

Lembro-me da dor, da angústia, do vazio e do desespero que eu sentia14. Não posso deixar de desejar que todas as pessoas nas mesmas circunstâncias conheçam a graça e o amor de Deus que mudaram tanto a minha vida. Desejo essa liberdade a você também.

Jesus passou pelas lutas desta vida. Ele pode realmente Se compadecer das nossas fraquezas — em tudo Ele foi tentado, à nossa semelhança, mas sem pecado (Hb. 4:15). Só Ele tem o poder de vencer o pecado e andar junto conosco. Embora, é claro, eu não tenha passado por todo tipo de situação, tenho visto o suficiente do pecado em minha própria vida para desejar três coisas:

  1. Que ninguém mais sinta a dor e as consequências do pecado que já senti.
  2. Que todas as pessoas experimentem a graça, o amor e o perdão de Jesus, pelos quais recebemos uma nova vida, e eterna.
  3. Que eu continue a crescer na semelhança com Jesus pela Sua capacitação. Só isso me fará expressar a Sua verdade em amor — tanto em palavras como em ações.

Quer me acompanhar nesta caminhada?

E, se você já recebeu essa graça, vai falar dela com amor e vivê-la?

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

Quando discussões sobre Jesus e o homossexualismo ou LGBT15 vêm à tona, muitas pessoas tentam afirmar que Ele nunca tratou deste assunto. No entanto, não é exatamente assim. Jesus, como Deus, foi um professor único. Ele sempre tratava com autoridade dos princípios que estavam por trás não só de uma única ação, mas de uma série de possibilidades. Ele julgava o coração e a intenção das pessoas, e expunha tanto o coração pecaminoso quanto o Seu padrão de santidade. Os dois exemplos a seguir mostram claramente como todos nós estamos destituídos da graça de Deus e carecemos dela.

A. Mateus 5:27-28, A Definição Máxima de Pecado

Mat. 5:27-28 – Ouvistes que foi dito: Não adulterarás. Eu, porém, vos digo: qualquer que olhar para uma mulher com intenção impura, no coração, já adulterou com ela.

Jesus deixou claro que o padrão de Deus para certo e errado não é só deixar de fazer alguma coisa, mas inclui também pensar e sentir. Até mesmo ter fantasias imorais é errado16.

Este texto trata mais diretamente das pessoas casadas e do pecado de adultério, tanto físico como mental. No entanto, as coisas vão mais além quando se compreende o princípio ensinado por Jesus. Ele estava mostrando aos líderes religiosos e à sociedade que o pecado era bem maior do que apenas fazer aquilo que eles se permitam pensar e imaginar. Na passagem imediatamente anterior a esta (Mt. 5:21-26), quando fala sobre assassinato, Jesus mostra que ficar irado com um irmão ou insultá-lo também traz o juízo de Deus — não só o ato de matar. O padrão estabelecido por Deus é muito mais abrangente do que simples ações, e claramente (ao contrário da visão hipócrita daqueles líderes religiosos) impossível de ser mantido. Este é um dos objetivos principais da lei: revelar o nosso pecado — para, então, nos levar à fé em Deus e à providência da Sua graça.

Os pecados sexuais extrapolam o adultério ou ato físico. A ira e os relacionamentos rompidos são muito maiores que uma simples ofensa entre irmãos. Estes são exemplos e casos específicos em que o pecado vai além da mera “letra da lei.” As pessoas podem tentar restringir a aplicabilidade da lei para se passar por santas e justas. Não obstante, Deus não Se deixa enganar. Seja a minimização da mentira, do engano, do roubo, da inveja, da cobiça, do adultério, da feitiçaria, da pornografia, da fraude, da embriaguez, do homossexualismo ou de qualquer outra injustiça, Jesus mostra propositalmente que Ele não concorda com esse tipo de manipulação da Palavra de Deus. Na verdade, Sua definição desses pecados é muito mais abrangente do que gostamos de pensar. Portanto, a ética de Jesus também se aplicava claramente ao homossexualismo como parte da lei (Lv. 18:22, 20:13), a qual não podia ser anulada (Lucas 16:17).

B. Mateus 19:3-9, A Definição Específica de Casamento

Mat. 19.3 – Vieram a ele alguns fariseus e o experimentavam, perguntando: É lícito ao marido repudiar a sua mulher por qualquer motivo? 19.4 Então, respondeu ele: Não tendes lido que o Criador, desde o princípio, os fez homem e mulher 19.5 e que disse: Por esta causa deixará o homem pai e mãe e se unirá a sua mulher, tornando-se os dois uma só carne? 19.6 De modo que já não são mais dois, porém uma só carne. Portanto, o que Deus ajuntou não o separe o homem. 19.7 Replicaram-lhe: Por que mandou, então, Moisés dar carta de divórcio e repudiar? 19.8 Respondeu-lhes Jesus: Por causa da dureza do vosso coração é que Moisés vos permitiu repudiar vossa mulher; entretanto, não foi assim desde o princípio. 19.9 Eu, porém, vos digo: quem repudiar sua mulher, não sendo por causa de relações sexuais ilícitas, e casar com outra comete adultério [e o que casar com a repudiada comete adultério].

Neste ponto, Jesus é bastante específico quanto ao propósito de Deus para homens e mulheres e o casamento. O fundamento da Sua resposta sobre a questão dos relacionamentos volta ao plano original de Deus. Esse plano foi desvirtuado e distorcido de todas as formas possíveis pelo nosso pecado e pela dureza do nosso coração. Neste caso específico, a questão é o divórcio, a imoralidade e o adultério. No entanto, todos os outros desvios do intento original de Deus são igualmente contra o Seu plano — o qual é reiterado por Jesus nesta passagem. Ratificando o propósito original de Deus, Jesus está destruindo, invalidando e rejeitando qualquer ato contrário a ele. A exceção feita ao divórcio parece estar à luz da suspensão da punição teocrática de morte para os adúlteros (o que deixaria livre a parte inocente)17. A imoralidade, como o divórcio, declara que a providência e o desígnio de Deus são insuficientes. O mesmo ocorre com o homossexualismo.

Na maioria das sociedades, o padrão de certo e errado tem mais a ver (em números absolutos) com pessoas envolvidas com imoralidade em geral, concubinato, sexo casual, adultério, divórcio, abuso de menores, pornografia, etc, do que com pessoas da comunidade LGBT. Contudo, os padrões de Deus e Sua Palavra para nós não podem ser comparados com o comportamento de outras pessoas. Todas essas coisas são erradas diante de Deus. Na verdade, todos esses casos precisam ser tratados com cuidado e amor. Todos são contrários ao plano original designado por Deus. Todos merecem o Seu julgamento. Todos nós deixamos de manter o padrão de Deus. Todos falhamos, seja em pensamento, seja em ação. O bom dessa declaração de Jesus é que posso reconhecer, como já fiz (e continuo fazendo), que sou vil, estou desesperado, sou incapaz de resolver minha situação e estou perdido. Portanto, devemos deixar que a nossa incapacidade nos leve à maravilhosa graça de Deus, ao amor, perdão e poder transformador de Jesus Cristo. Só pela fé na Sua obra, que carregou na cruz a nossa culpa, pode haver nova vida (João 10:9-11).

Jesus e a Sexualidade — Conclusão

Pelas palavras de Jesus, vemos que nenhum de nós escapa ao Seu ensino sobre os padrões de Deus de sexualidade e casamento. O próprio Jesus ensinou uma ética sexual e conjugal que ressalta e enfatiza o plano original de Deus para uma relação heterossexual pura e monogâmica. Nada mais tem valor — nem mesmo pensamentos lascivos em qualquer direção.

Para quem tem qualquer tipo de relacionamento hetero ou homossexual fora do casamento homem/mulher, estas verdades têm implicações muito abrangentes. A declaração de Jesus é que tais relações não têm valor e são pecado.

Mesmo para quem não está mais envolvido em tais práticas, essas verdades ainda têm muitas implicações. O fato é que você e eu, de uma forma ou de outra, ainda lutamos contra elas dentro de nós e, provavelmente, lutaremos até a nossa morte. Tenho tido conversas bastante reveladoras com pessoas lúcidas na casa dos 90 anos para saber que algumas coisas não mudam enquanto ainda estamos nestes corpos corrompidos pelo pecado. Se nós, como cristãos, dependemos da graça de Deus todos os dias, então vamos tentar fala dela para outras pessoas. Se não dependemos da graça de Deus, logo, estamos vivendo uma mentira, e estamos fingindo ser mais santos do que realmente somos. A única santidade que possuímos é aquela recebida de Jesus Cristo, a qual Ele opera dentro de nós. Não dá para ter orgulho ou se gabar disso.

Não importa se o nosso pecado é externo ou interno, se é hetero ou homossexual por natureza, se pode ou não ser visto. Se persistirmos na sua prática, o resultado é que, lenta, mas seguramente, ele destruirá a nossa vida. Não podemos viver à altura do padrão e do plano de Deus com tais hábitos. A graça de Deus em Jesus Cristo é a única solução (Atos 4:12, Tito 3:3-7).

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade — Meu Passado

A Bíblia é realista quanto à natureza humana. Ela nos diz que não podemos atingir o padrão de justiça estabelecido por Deus e, por isso, ninguém é justo diante dEle (Romanos 3:10-23). Todas as outras religiões, de alguma forma, dão esperança de que o céu pode ser alcançado por esforço próprio. A Bíblia, não. Pelo contrário, a Bíblia nos dá um padrão humanamente impossível de ser alcançado.

Eu18, pessoalmente, acho esses padrões impossíveis de serem seguidos, por isso, acabei tendo o pior período da minha vida. Eu estava no início da adolescência e tinha crescido ouvindo os ensinamentos bíblicos. Já tinha pedido a Jesus para me livrar dos meus pecados por Sua obra substitutiva na cruz. Contudo, à medida que ficava mais velho, deixei o orgulho e a autossuficiência tomarem conta de mim. Comecei a lutar intensamente contra um determinado pecado. Eu sabia que era errado. Eu conhecia o que a Bíblia diz. Meu trabalho na escola começou a ser afetado. Eu sabia não haver nada mais importante do que meu relacionamento com meu Criador. No entanto, meu coração estava frio demais para qualquer coisa além de orações vazias. Conforme o tempo passava, a única razão para eu não ter me suicidado foi por saber que isso também era pecado. O vazio e o desespero dessa época foram a pior experiência da minha vida. O pecado tomou controle de mim. Eu sabia que estava vazio e destrutivo. Sabia que havia algo melhor. Mas não conseguia dar um jeito nos meus pensamentos. Não conseguia parar de pecar. Durante algum tempo, tentei ignorar o problema, mas os pensamentos e a realidade viviam me perseguindo. A verdade era que eu não mantinha os padrões de Deus. Eu não era santo. Eu não merecia nada, só o juízo de Deus.

Mas, então, Deus interveio. Embora fosse impossível para mim eu resolver o problema, não era impossível para Deus. Ele usou a combinação da Sua Palavra e as mensagens que eu ouvia pelo rádio para abrir os meus olhos a toda verdade.

Os registros do meu diário nessa época vão dos contínuos fracassos diários, do meu coração tão endurecido contra Deus, da luta angustiante, da realidade do meu pecado, do conhecimento da necessidade de arrependimento apesar da frieza do meu coração — ao repentino e entusiástico agradecimento a Deus por Seu amor maravilhoso.

O que aconteceu? Com o tempo, percebi a terrível realidade autodestrutiva do meu pecado. Compreendi minha total incapacidade. Eu não podia me endireitar sozinho. Não podia alcançar o amor, a aprovação e o perdão de Deus. Em meu orgulho e autossuficiência, precisei ver a realidade da minha situação antes de poder me humilhar o suficiente para me lançar inteiramente sobre a graça de Deus. No entanto, quando compreendi essa realidade e me rendi a Ele, Ele abriu os meus olhos para realmente conhecer o Seu amor e a Sua graça.

A graça, a misericórdia e o auxílio de Deus se estenderam para além da simples experiência infantil à realidade diária na vida de um jovem. Somente pela capacitação e pela graça de Deus eu pude ser salvo do meu pecado de uma vez para sempre. Da mesma forma, só pelo contínuo andar nessa graça eu pude viver dia após dia da maneira desejada por Deus. Essa é a natureza radical do poder transformador da obra de Deus. Só ela pôde transformar o mal, o orgulho, a vida de pecado que havia em mim em algo que pudesse refletir cada vez mais o modo de vida “impossível” de Jesus.

Desde aquela época tenho sentido um forte desejo de compartilhar minha história com outras pessoas. Não quero que ninguém mais passe pelo que passei naqueles dias tortuosos de angústia e desespero, quando andava na escravidão do pecado. Não “fiz” nada para merecer ou receber o amor de Deus. Não tenho nenhuma fórmula mágica. De alguma forma, Ele me ajudou a ver o meu pecado como ele realmente era; de alguma forma, eu realmente admiti isso diante dEle; e, de alguma forma, recebi o Seu amor, a Sua graça e o Seu perdão irresistíveis, e o Seu auxílio para vencer o pecado. Eu já conhecia o problema. Mas, nessa época, Deus o trouxe à realidade no meu coração e na minha vida. Eu abandonei o pecado e, pela fé sincera, confiei minha vida ao Senhor. Assim como Jesus venceu o pecado na Sua morte e ressurreição, Ele venceu o meu pecado. Daquele momento em diante eu soube que havia vitória para mim. Eu ficaria bem. Ele seria comigo e me ajudaria nas minhas lutas diárias. Enquanto eu continuasse a depender dEle, Ele seria fiel. E foi.

E o que isso tem a ver com a visão bíblica ou cristã sobre homossexualismo? Assim como meu pecado inicialmente me afastou do reino de Deus, e assim como meu pecado e orgulho me escravizaram e quase destruíram minha vida quando continuamente eu voltava a ele, todo e qualquer pecado fará o mesmo com você.

Desde o início da minha luta, pelas Escrituras, eu conhecia o meu pecado. Talvez este não seja o seu caso. Talvez ainda haja dúvidas na sua mente. As fontes mencionadas nas notas de rodapé e no final deste artigo podem ser muito úteis para sua reflexão.

Para quem conhece as verdades do ensino bíblico sobre este e outros pecados, talvez a melhor coisa a fazer seja ler os evangelhos (a carta aos Romanos também pode ser útil para uma orientação mais detalhada). Lá você verá o que Cristo fez para nos libertar do pecado. Que o amor de Deus, que mudou a minha vida, mude a sua também.

Para quem acha que a homossexualidade é apenas uma discussão acadêmica sobre o que diz a Bíblia, lembre-se: o pecado escraviza e o torna digno da justa condenação de Deus, assim como fez comigo. Não há pecado socialmente aceitável diante de Deus. Há, no entanto, perdão, redenção e libertação em Jesus Cristo.

Seja qual for a sua situação, gostaria de lhe dizer: Jesus Cristo lhe oferece a mesma liberdade que não pude conquistar e que fui orgulhoso demais para, durante muito tempo, aceitar. Por favor, não se torture como eu me torturei. Por favor, não espere até ser tarde demais. Se Deus pôde ressuscitar Jesus de entre os mortos, perdoar o meu pecado, vencer a minha luta, e se Ele me ajuda todos os dias, Ele também pode libertá-lo. Nele, a nossa condenação por causa do pecado foi removida (Romanos 8).

Finalmente, para quem é crente em Jesus Cristo, gostaria de lhe dizer para pensar neste assunto com os olhos da Palavra de Deus. Então, siga o Mestre todos os dias, deixando que Ele trate do seu pecado e transforme a sua vida. Fazendo isso, estaremos preparados para andar com nosso Senhor e alcançar outras pessoas que estão sofrendo com a mesma situação de pecado. Para mais informações sobre este assunto, consulte o artigo: “https://bible.org/article/homosexuality-and-church (A Homossexualidade e a Igreja).

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

P1. O que é homossexualismo?

Homossexualismo é a expressão da sexualidade dirigida a uma pessoa do mesmo sexo.

P2. Como se determina se a prática homossexual é certa ou errada?

Para se determinar se uma coisa é certa ou errada é preciso ter um padrão pelo qual o ato controverso seja avaliado. A única pessoa com plena autoridade para estabelecer tal padrão é o soberano criador de todas as coisas. Uma vez que Deus deu à humanidade a Sua Palavra por meio da Bíblia, esta é a fonte para se determinar se alguma coisa, inclusive a homossexualidade, é moralmente certa ou errada. As preferências pessoais e culturais variam, mas o padrão do Criador de todas as coisas, não.

P3. O que, explicitamente, a Bíblia ensina sobre a homossexualidade?

A Bíblia ensina de modo explícito que o homossexualismo é pecado, tanto no Antigo quanto no Novo Testamento. Ela também ensina claramente que Deus oferece a Sua graça para redimir e reconciliar qualquer pecador Consigo mesmo, às Suas próprias custas, por meio da morte e ressurreição de Jesus Cristo. A conclusão da seção sobre o ensino do Novo Testamento afirma, de forma sucinta: “A visão bíblica e cristã sobre a homossexualidade é que essa prática é errada, mas que a graça de Deus, assim como fez conosco, oferece a todas as pessoas a libertação do pecado” (ver a seção em questão para mais detalhes).

P4. É verdade que todas as vezes que o homossexualismo é citado na Bíblia, ele está ligado a falsa adoração, estupro, prostituição ou abuso? E essa combinação é que era o problema/pecado diante de Deus?

É verdade que as principais referências ao homossexualismo na Bíblia realmente fazem menção a outros pecados em seu contexto imediato (ler as passagens já discutidas tornará isso facilmente perceptível). No entanto, quanto ao restante da afirmação de que a prática homossexual misturada com outras atividades pecaminosas é que a torna um pecado, isso não tem qualquer fundamento. Pela simples leitura das passagens que falam a respeito do homossexualismo, pode-se perceber claramente que essa prática específica é descrita como sendo errada. Por exemplo, em Romanos 1, as “relações naturais” são mudadas e abandonadas (Rm 1:26-27). “Atos vergonhosos” são cometidos (Rm 1:27). O homossexualismo é contrário à concepção criadora de Deus. Uma vez que todo pecado é idolatria e rebelião contra Deus, não deve ser nenhuma surpresa que tais elementos sejam vistos nesse contexto. Veja as fontes citadas nas notas de rodapé da seção sobre Romanos 1 deste artigo para uma discussão mais aprofundada do assunto. Veja especialmente o artigo de Guenther Haas, intitulado “Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice” (Questões Hermenêuticas no Uso da Bíblia para Justificar a Aceitação da Prática Homossexual), Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php.

P5. Praticar o ato homossexual, automaticamente, manda alguém para o inferno?

Não. Jesus suportou sobre Si o castigo pelos nossos pecados e oferece perdão a todo aquele que crê na Sua obra salvífica. Quem realmente crê em Jesus Cristo não vai para o inferno. Desta forma, o homossexualismo é um pecado como outro qualquer: pode ser perdoado. Por outro lado, como qualquer outro pecado, ele precisa ser perdoado e precisa também ser vencido pela graça de Deus. Veja a discussão bíblica acima para maiores detalhes.

P6. Na Bíblia, os atos homossexuais são piores que os outros pecados?

As Escrituras não fazem uma “classificação” clara de pecados. Por isso, a questão não é fácil de ser respondida. Por um lado, Jesus disse que se os milagres feitos em Cafarnaum tivessem sido feitos em Sodoma, esta teria permanecido até hoje (a cidade não teria sido julgada porque teria se arrependido). Além disso, Ele disse que, no dia do juízo, haveria menos rigor para Sodoma do que para Cafarnaum (Mateus 11:23-24). Isso parece indicar que a severidade do julgamento de Deus vai variar dependendo do conhecimento e do testemunho a Seu respeito: quem O conhece “melhor” será julgado com maior rigor. Por outro lado, Romanos 1 aponta especificamente para a homossexualidade como exemplo de rebelião contumaz contra Deus e exemplo do Seu julgamento. O mais interessante nessa passagem é que parece haver um conhecimento muito forte dessas pessoas sobre a pecaminosidade dos seus atos. A despeito do seu conhecimento e do juízo de Deus, elas continuam fazendo a mesma coisa e ainda incentivam os outros a fazer o mesmo. Por esses exemplos, podemos perceber que as Escrituras não respondem diretamente à questão. No entanto, isso parece indicar que, quanto mais deliberado é o pecado, pior será o julgamento de Deus — sem levar em consideração qual é esse pecado. Ainda mais claro que isso, porém, e mais importante, é que as Escrituras respondem uma outra pergunta sobre o homossexualismo. A pergunta é se a graça de Deus é, ou não, suficiente para resgatar e livrar alguém desse pecado. A resposta é sim, ela é suficiente.

P7. Como explicar as cerimônias de casamento onde duas pessoas do mesmo sexo são unidas por um religioso ou por um juiz de paz?

Governantes de uma porção de lugares já legalizaram essa prática e oficialmente reconhecem tais uniões como casamento. Isso dá a elas autoridade legal e, para muitos, dá também aparência de sanção moral. No entanto, só Deus pode dar a verdadeira aprovação moral. Ele já declarou o homossexualismo como pecado. Os cristãos devem reagir a isso como devem reagir a todos os outros pecados: com verdade e amor. Alguns religiosos e algumas denominações que se dizem cristãs permitem o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo. Seus atos não têm sanção da Bíblia ou de Deus. Isso pode ser facilmente percebido pelas contradições entre o que fazem e a verdade das Escrituras vistas neste artigo.

P8. Por que duas pessoas que se amam sinceramente não podem se casar só porque são do mesmo sexo?

Em muitos círculos atuais, tanto políticos quanto religiosos, a resposta a esta pergunta é polêmica. A resposta sucinta parece se resumir à própria definição de amor, casamento e visão moral de uma pessoa. O verdadeiro amor faz aquilo que é melhor para o outro, sem levar em consideração o custo para si mesmo. De acordo com o propósito de Deus para a humanidade, o casamento devia ser entre um homem e uma mulher (Gn. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). A mulher foi a companheira dada por Deus que era adequada ao homem. Os padrões morais são determinados por Deus e aquilo que Ele estabelece como certo e errado. Por tais definições, então, não seria a coisa mais amorosa se casar com alguém quando isso viola os padrões morais de Deus, quando o casamento não é o que deveria ser e quando a pessoa não é o tipo mais apropriado de parceiro.

Como a maioria dos não crentes não reconhece os padrões morais de Deus ou Seus desígnios, este ponto de vista para eles é totalmente irrelevante. Para os cristãos, no entanto, questões de “dever” e de moral são prescritas por Aquele que determina o certo e o errado. Na verdade, não só pelos cristãos, mas por todos aqueles que falam sobre “direitos”, isso deve ser levado em conta. “Direitos” só existem se os padrões morais atribuídos pelo Criador na criação são reconhecidos. Um sistema naturalista não tem lugar para direitos19.

Politicamente, nos Estados Unidos da América, outros sistemas de crenças com um criador podem ter um código diferente de moralidade que poderia ser seguido como base para redefinir o conceito de casamento para além da sua definição tradicional. No entanto, buscar um sistema religioso incomum ou inovador com base nesse critério parece um exemplo de inversão de valores e não de verdadeira convicção moral.

Tentar definir casamento pelo termo vago “amor”, usado frequentemente, não é uma forma segura de ampliar sua definição20. De fato, as pessoas “amam” todo tipo de coisa. Isso não significa que esse amor seja necessário ou correto para todos os tipos de conduta. Nem significa que os governantes devam incentivar todo tipo de comportamento. Da mesma forma, uma vez que o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo é realmente diferente do casamento entre pessoas de sexo oposto, o problema não é uma questão de igualdade21.

P9. A homossexualidade é genética? Se é genética ou “natural”, isso não a torna moralmente aceitável?

Esta é uma pergunta interessante. Devido a natureza variável dos estudos científicos e a complexidade do tema, este estudo logo ficaria desatualizado se a discussão fosse entrar em maiores detalhes. Para quem estiver interessado, até 2013, nenhum DNA ou vínculo genético com a homossexualidade foi encontrado22. No entanto, é preciso ressaltar que, seja ou não genético, não significa que este é um fator decisivo para ser ou não moral. Teoricamente, uma pessoa pode ter predisposição para o uso de drogas, para o alcoolismo, para a mentira23 ou para a cleptomania. Essa predisposição não muda a moralidade desses problemas.

Dois artigos de Greg Koukl são muitos úteis na discussão da questão sobre se aquilo que é “natural” é também, necessariamente, moral. O primeiro aborda o problema do ponto de vista lógico e filosófico: Homosexuality Is Unnatural: The Is-Ought Fallacy? (Homossexualismo é Antinatural: A Falácia do É-Deve ser?) http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy O segundo aborda a questão mais diretamente, examinando o ensino das Escrituras: Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality (Paulo, Romanos e o Homossexualismo), http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality. Se alguma coisa é ou não genética, não implica que seja natural (indicação de propósito). Da mesma forma, mesmo se alguma coisa é natural não implica que seja, necessariamente, moral (A falácia do é/deve ser de David Hume).

P10. Existem fatores que contribuem para a homossexualidade, pelos quais um homossexual possa não ser responsável?

Todos temos fatores que contribuem para as diferentes atividades em que estamos envolvidos. Esses fatores, com certeza, tornam mais fácil perceber como alguém poderá agir de determinada forma. No entanto, precisamos ser responsáveis por nossos atos. Podemos não ser responsáveis pelas coisas que fazem a nós, mas somos responsáveis pelas nossas escolhas.

Todos nós temos propensão ou queda para alguns pecados específicos. A pergunta para todos é: o que faremos com eles?24 Durante muito tempo também tive meus problemas quanto a isso. Para ser totalmente honesto, todos os dias ainda sou tentado a voltar aos velhos hábitos. Às vezes, novos pecados afloram. Isso é, e sempre será, um aprendizado da nova identidade em Cristo: crescer resistindo às tentações e andando na verdade. Não posso vencer meu pecado. A fé em Jesus é que vence o pecado e o mundo (1 João 3:2-3; 5:4). Com lutas tão intensas não dá para menosprezar a luta dos outros. Com a universalidade do pecado não dá para olhar o outro com desprezo.

Há uma sensação de urgência para “acabar logo com isso” em que precisamos reconhecer o pecado como pecado e começar a fazer o que é certo pela graça e providência de Deus. No entanto, este é apenas o começo. Precisamos manter a nossa caminhada diária uns com os outros e nos ajudar mutuamente para colocar em prática a nova identidade em Cristo. Então, a questão é “continuar na graça”. Portanto, vamos “resolver isso” pela graça de Deus, e então “continuar” na Sua graça! Sem a graça de Deus, nada vai acontecer.

P11. Como os cristãos devem tratar as pessoas que se relacionam com pessoas do mesmo sexo?

Devemos tratá-las com o mesmo amor e graça demonstrados por Deus a nós. Todos somos pecadores. Nossos pecados podem variar, mas todos são rebelião contra Deus. Fomos e somos resgatados do pecado. Isso deve permitir que nós, entre todas as pessoas, sejamos capazes de nos relacionar com compaixão e cuidado verdadeiro. O amor de Jesus não abandonou as pessoas onde elas estavam, mas foi ao encontro delas.

Os cristãos não devem esperar que quem não crê em Jesus viva como se fosse Seu seguidor (1 Co. 5:9-11). Embora não possamos fechar os olhos para o pecado ou nos envolver com ele (seja ou não sexual), devemos nos relacionar com todas as pessoas como Cristo se relacionou. Não há lugar para parcialidade, desdém, desrespeito ou grosseria. Mas há lugar de sobra para demonstrar a mesma graça que recebemos de Deus.

Devemos ajudar os crentes a viver como seguidores de Cristo. Crescimento é um processo que dura a vida toda. Os problemas com os quais os crentes têm de lidar variam de pessoa para pessoa e surgem em diferentes épocas da vida. Além disso, devemos estar sempre disponíveis para ajudar, discipular, incentivar, aconselhar, desafiar e repreender quando necessário. Isso deve acontecer durante toda a nossa vida e no envolvimento de uns com os outros. Para quem se diz cristão, mas ainda persiste em viver em pecado, deve ser aplicado o processo normal de disciplina eclesiástica (Mateus 18:15-22). Nesse sentido, o homossexualismo não é diferente de qualquer outro pecado renitente. Em tudo, no entanto, devemos agir com humildade e amor (Gálatas 6:1).

Aqueles que lutam com o mesmo pecado devem ter cautela em qualquer relacionamento. A bondade e a graça de Deus sempre devem ser demonstradas. No entanto, eles precisam tomar cuidado para não se envolver, eles próprios, no pecado.

P12. Como podemos ajudar os cristãos que se envolveram na prática homossexual? Ou que se tornaram cristãos e ainda têm esse tipo de experiência? Ou, ainda, que sentem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo?

Os vícios reprogramam o cérebro, seja pornografia, álcool ou fumo. As pessoas adquirem padrões e hábitos difíceis de quebrar, que causam um abalo profundo e permanente. As atividades sexuais têm impacto duradouro sobre quem nós somos. A graça de Deus perdoa e purifica. No entanto, ser discípulo de Jesus é uma busca contínua. Todos viemos de mundos diferentes e temos lutas diferentes. Sejam quais forem essas lutas, os cristãos devem se comprometer com um ministério mútuo durante toda a vida.

Ser fiel mental e moralmente ao cônjuge é uma batalha deliberada e constante para os heterossexuais. As questões sexuais são profundas, pois vão ao cerne do ser humano. Por que, então, esperar que as coisas sejam diferentes para quem tem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo? Algumas pessoas conseguem vitória imediata sobre o problema. Mas a maioria, provavelmente, é como você e eu. Conseguem vencer as tentações dia após dia pela graça de Deus. A vitória vem à medida que crescemos na compreensão da nossa identidade em Cristo. Não é só uma questão de tentar administrar o pecado, mas uma caminhada no conhecimento e na semelhança de Cristo.

VII. Fontes

(livres, salvo disposição em contrário)

A. Fontes em Áudio

Seminário Teológico de Dallas (áudio + vídeo)

Homosexuality in the Context of Christian Sexual Ethics, Podcast, http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/discussing-homosexuality-sexuality-together/

Controversial Same-Sex Texts In The Bible, Podcast, http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/queen-james-passages-old-testament/

Greg Koukl (áudio para aquisição)

Setting the Record Straight: The Bible and Homosexuality https://secure2.convio.net/str/site/Ecommerce/1202380276?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=3981&store_id=1161

John MacArthur (áudio + textos)

Answering Key Questions About Homosexuality, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/GTY89/answering-key-questions-about-homosexuality

Homosexuality and the Bible (Selected Scriptures, 2 messages), http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/12

God’s Plan for the Gay Agenda, http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A170/Gods-Plan-for-the-Gay-Agenda

John Piper (áudio + textos + alguns vídeos)

Why is Homosexuality Wrong?, (Some gracious thoughts on the brokenness of us all) http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-is-homosexuality-wrong

Discerning the Will of God Concerning Homosexuality and Marriage (Romans 12:1-2), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/discerning-the-will-of-god-concerning-homosexuality-and-marriage

The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 1 (Romans 1:24-28), (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-1

The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 2 (Romans 1:24-28), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-2

Bethlehem’s Position on Homosexuality (a sample of a church’s attempt to practically live out a Biblical view of homosexuality), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/bethlehems-position-on-homosexuality

Frank Turek
March 16th podcast from his radio show dealing with same sex marriage issues, equality, and reason: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/feelings-or-reason-march-16/id337782458?i=136358756&mt=2

B. Artigos

Wayne Grudem, The Bible and Homosexuality, reprinted in World Magazine with permission from Crossway. Original article is from the ESV Study Bible. http://www.worldmag.com/2013/04/the_bible_and_homosexuality

Stanton Jones, Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality. Text version: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/Hot-Topics PDF Download: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/CACE-Print-Resources/Articles

Artigos da Bible.org:

Sue Bohlin, Homosexuality: Questions and Answers, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-questions-and-answers

Can Homosexuals Change?, http://bible.org/article/can-homosexuals-change

Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth, Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth, https://bible.org/article/answers-questions-most-asked-gay-identifying-youth

When Someone in Your Congregation Says “I’m Gay”, http://bible.org/article/when-someone-your-congregation-says-im-gay
Keys to Recovery from Same-Sex Attractions, http://bible.org/article/keys-recovery-same-sex-attractions

Bob Deffinbaugh, Israel’s Sodom and Gomorrah (Judges 19-21) http://bible.org/seriespage/israel%E2%80%99s-sodom-and-gomorrah-judges-19-21

Daniel Wallace, Review of Mel White’s ‘What the Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say—about Homosexuality’ (deals with Romans 1:26-27), http://bible.org/article/review-mel-white%E2%80%99s-what-bible-says%E2%80%94and-doesn%E2%80%99t-say%E2%80%94about-homosexuality

Artigos do Christian Apologetics Research Ministry: http://carm.org/homosexuality

Matt Slick, On “There is nothing wrong with two homosexuals getting married if they love each other”, http://carm.org/love-homosexual-marriage

Artigos da Stand To Reason: http://www.str.org

Greg Koukl, Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality, http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality

Homosexuality Is Unnatural: An Is-Ought Fallacy?, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy

Homosexuality: Giving Your Point of View, http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5302

Alen Shlemon, Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak it with Compassion, http://www.str.org/site/News2?id=8779

Artigos da Cross Examined: www.crossexamined.org

Frank Turek (Articles + Radio show podcast)

The Case Against “Equality” Part 1 and 2 (Deals with the political issue of marriage and the claim of inequality in its not being applied to homosexual relationships.) http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/02/28/the-case-against-equality-n1521881/page/full/ and http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/

C. Revistas Teológicas (Todas podem ser acessadas mediante pagamento de uma taxa mensal ou adquiridas na Biblioteca de Revistas Teológicas http://www.galaxie.com//)

Gary R. Gromacki

Why Be Concerned about Same-Sex Marriage? Journal of Ministry and Theology, 09:2 (Fall/05)

Guenther Haas

Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php

David E. Malick

The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Bibliotheca Sacra, 150:600 (10/93)

Mark McGinniss

The Church’s Response To The Homosexual, Journal of Ministry and Theology, 14:2 (Fall/10)

P. Michael Ukleja

Homosexuality and the Old Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83)

The Bible and Homosexuality Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:560 (10/83)

D. Blogs

Darrell Bock

http://blogs.bible.org/search/apachesolr_search/homosexuality?filters=tid%3A2789

Tim Challies

http://www.challies.com/search/google?cx=006311167884800022839%3Ajcs6rz6z3lw&cof=FORID%3A11&query=homosexuality&op=Search&form_build_id=form-acb816b66500dbffbe20717127db5612&form_id=google_cse_searchbox_form

Michael Patton

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/03/is-limiting-marriage-to-unions-of-a-man-and-a-woman-discrimination/

E. Ministérios

Living Hope Ministries http://livehope.org/

Outpost Ministries http://www.outpostministries.org/home.htm

VIII. Índice Detalhado

I. Introdução

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

A. Levítico 18:22, A Proibição da Lei
B. Levítico 20:13, A Pena da Lei
C. Gênesis 19:1-11, Sodoma e Gomorra
D. Juízes 19:22 e ss, Gibeá
O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento ― Conclusão

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

A. Romanos 1:20-32
B. 1 Coríntios 6:9-11, Herdando o Reino de Deus
C. 1 Timóteo 1:8-15, O Principal Pecador — Paulo
O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento — Conclusão

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

A. Mateus 5:27-28, A Definição Máxima de Pecado
B. Mateus 19:3-9, A Definição Específica de Casamento
Jesus e a Sexualidade — Conclusão

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade — Meu Passado

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

P1. O que é homossexualismo?
P2. Como se determina se a prática homossexual é certa ou errada?
P3. O que, explicitamente, a Bíblia ensina sobre a homossexualidade?
P4. É verdade que todas as vezes que o homossexualismo é citado na Bíblia, ele está ligado a falsa adoração, estupro, prostituição ou abuso? E essa combinação é que era o problema/pecado diante de Deus?
P5. Praticar o ato homossexual, automaticamente, manda alguém para o inferno?
P6. Na Bíblia, os atos homossexuais são piores que os outros pecados?
P7. Como explicar as cerimônias de casamento onde duas pessoas do mesmo sexo são unidas por um religioso ou por um juiz de paz?
P8. Por que duas pessoas que se amam sinceramente não podem se casar só porque são do mesmo sexo?
P9. A homossexualidade é genética? Se é genética ou “natural”, isso não a torna moralmente aceitável?
P10. Existem fatores que contribuem para a homossexualidade, pelos quais um homossexual possa não ser responsável?
P11. Como os cristãos devem tratar as pessoas que se relacionam com pessoas do mesmo sexo?
P12. Como podemos ajudar os cristãos que se envolveram na prática homossexual? Ou que se tornaram cristãos e ainda têm esse tipo de experiência? Ou, ainda, que sentem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo?

VII. Fontes

A. Fontes em Áudio
B. Artigos
C. Revistas Teológicas
D. Blogs
E. Ministérios

VIII. Índice Detalhado


1 O artigo tem três objetivos:

1. Mostrar, com amor, o ensino bíblico das Escrituras a respeito da homossexualidade;

2. Edificar a igreja: a) mostrando claramente a graça de Deus; b) incentivando os cristãos a amar sinceramente quem se identifica como LGBT (lésbicas, gays, bissexuais e transexuais); e, c) eliminando os conceitos errados sobre a Bíblia, Jesus e a Igreja.

3. Oferecer recursos para outros estudos: a) sobre textos das Escrituras a respeito de homossexualismo; e também, b) sobre como os cristãos podem expressar melhor a verdade, com amor, na medida em que tentam realmente viver como Cristo viveu.

2 Para discussão destes textos da lei como proibições morais, não só como questões religiosas (que podem ser desconsideradas), ver P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83).  Esse artigo também termina com uma discussão muito útil sobre a relevância da lei para os cristãos atuais.

3 ver P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83)

4 Ver as notas da NET Bible sobre Judas 1:7, assim como o artigo citado na primeira nota de rodapé, para outros esclarecimentos sobre todos os aspectos da interpretação desse versículo, e sua relação com o relato de Gênesis.

5 Para maiores esclarecimentos sobre o termo “conhecer” e seu significado nesta passagem, ver a seção de discussão em P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83).  Note também que, pelo contexto, eles não queriam só se familiarizar com o homem. O dono da casa sabia disso (Juízes 19:23). E a forma como eles tratam a concubina do viajante é um indicador muito claro de suas intenções. Portanto, conclui-se que as intenções sexuais deles era de homem com homem.

6 Bob Deffinbaugh, Sodoma e Gomorra de Israel (Juízes 19-21) http://bible.org/seriespage/israel%E2%80%99s-sodom-and-gomorrah-judges-19-21.

7 Para uma discussão mais detalhada sobre este assunto e sua falta de sustentabilidade, ver Greg Koukl, Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality, http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality, and Homosexuality Is Unnatural: An Is-Ought Fallacy?, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy.

De uma perspectiva mais hermenêutica, ver Guenther Haas, Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php e P. Michael Ukleja, The Bible and Homosexuality Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:560 (10/83).

E para uma perspectiva mais expositiva do texto, ver John Piper, The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 1 (Romans 1:24-28) (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-1 and The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 2 (Romans 1:24-28), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-2.

8Isso nem sempre é reconhecido, mas é apontado com muita perspicácia por Bob Deffinbaugh na série de estudos: Romanos: A Justiça de Deus. http://bible.org/seriespage/present-wrath-god-romans-115-32

9 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 135, and 613.

10 P. Michael Ukleja, A Bíblia e o Homossexualismo - Parte 2: Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento. Biblioteca Sacra, 140.560 (10/83). Para uma discussão maior dessas palavras, e outros assuntos, como pederastia, ver David E. Malick, A Condenação do Homossexualismo em 1 Coríntios 6:9, Biblioteca Sacra, 150.600 (10/93). As notas da NET Bible sobre 1 Coríntios 6:9 também são de grande ajuda. Elas podem ser acessadas livremente no endereço: https://net.bible.org/#!bible/1+Corinthians+6

11 Aqui não estamos falando da nossa luta diária — a qual todo mundo tem por viver num mundo e num corpo pecaminoso. Nessa luta podemos ser vencedores pela fé e por meio de Cristo (1 João 5:3-5).

12 Para discussão da palavra específica utilizada aqui, veja as fontes citadas em referência a 1 Coríntios 6:9-11. A mesma palavra, αρσενοκοιτης, é usada tanto no texto de 1 Coríntios quanto em 1 Timóteo 1:10.

13 Com o que Paulo diz nesta passagem, mais os ensinos de Jesus que veremos mais abaixo neste artigo, ele deve ter reconhecido sua enorme culpabilidade diante de Deus (cf. o que ele diz de si mesmo em Romanos 7:7-25).

14 Ver a conclusão sobre a minha própria experiência.

15 Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Transgêneros

16 Para uma discussão melhor deste texto ver Bob Deffinbaugh: http://bible.org/seriespage/avoiding-sin-adultery-matthew-527-30

17 Para outras discussões sobre este texto e os demais pontos salientados, ver os argumentos de William F. Luck, Sr. sobre o livro em Bible.org: http://bible.org/series/divorce-and-re-marriage-recovering-biblical-view

18 O autor trabalha para a Bible.org e possui Mestrado em Teologia pelo Seminário Teológico de Dallas. Ele pode ser contatado pelo site.

19 Ver Greg Khoul, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy (Homossexualidade-antinatural-dever-engano), para uma discussão melhor sobre o que é dever-engano e a relação dos argumentos teleológicos aos direitos. Ver também o 2º ponto da coluna de Fred Turek, http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/ e http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/. Essas colunas tratam de questões políticas sobre o casamento e da falsa alegação de sua desigualdade não ser aplicável aos relacionamentos homossexuais. Para  ouvir o arquivo em áudio, ver a gravação do programa do dia 16 de março, https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/feelings-or-reason-march-16/id337782458?i=136358756&mt=2.

20 Veja o artigo de Matt Slick sobre amor e casamento homossexual para uma breve discussão deste tópico em Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: http://carm.org/love-homosexual-marriage.

21 Veja as fontes citadas na nota 17 sobre o trabalho de Fred Turek. O livro do Dr. Turek sobre esse tópico, sem dúvida, também seria muito útil para quem deseja investigar o assunto mais a fundo: Correct, NOT Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone (Correto, NÃO Politicamente Correto: Como o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo afeta todo mundo)

22 De acordo com artigo da Time online de dezembro de 2012, “apesar de exaustivas investigações”, até agora, os cientistas não conseguiram encontrar o “gene gay”. Um dos pesquisadores citados no artigo, diz enfaticamente: “A orientação sexual não é genética. Não há relação com DNA. Não é parte do DNA. É epigenética.” Sua afirmação faz parte de uma nova teoria desenvolvida por ele, que diz que a orientação sexual está ligada a marcadores epigenéticos relacionados aos hormônios no útero. Assim, até aqui, nada ainda foi cientificamente provado — a não ser que não se encontrou relação genética ou DNA ligados à orientação sexual. Teorias continuam surgindo. Esse artigo foi acessado em 5/4/13: http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/13/new-insight-into-the-epigenetic-roots-of-homosexuality/ Esses dados, é claro, ficarão desatualizados dentro de poucos anos; contudo, o mais importante é reiterar que, mesmo sendo genético, não se pode, logicamente, presumir que seja moral. Veja outros artigos citados no corpo principal dessa questão para uma discussão mais completa.

O Dr. Staton Jones também faz uma análise bastante útil sobre os últimos estudos científicos no artigo intitulado “Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality” (Orientação Sexual e Razão: Implicações das Falsas Crenças Sobre a Homossexualidade). Versão texto:  http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/Hot-Topics PDF Download: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/CACE-Print-Resources/Articles (acesso em 15/4/13).

23 Se há uma ligação genética para a mentira talvez não seja determinado, mas há realmente algumas diferenças no cérebro de mentirosos inveterados. Veja See http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/187/4/320.abstract (acesso em 16/4/2013).

24 Veja breve ensaio / vídeo de John Piper sobre “Por que homossexualidade é pecado?” Para um lembrete gentil dessas verdades. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-is-homosexuality-wrong

Related Topics: Cultural Issues, Discipleship, Ecclesiology (The Church), Engage, Equip, Ethics, Evangelism, Fellowship, Forgiveness, Grace, Hamartiology (Sin), Heaven, Hell, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Love, Marriage, Sanctification, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life, Temptation, Worldview

Lesson 51: The Light of the World in Action (John 9:1-12)

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April 6, 2014

I once heard comedian Bill Cosby tell how he was staying in the same hotel as the blind singer, Ray Charles. He decided to stop by Ray’s room and say hello. He knocked and then entered as Ray yelled, “Come in.” Cosby walked in the door and heard Ray shaving with an electric razor. There were no lights on and the room was pitch black. Without thinking, Cosby blurted out, “Hey, Ray! Why are you shaving in the dark?”

Then it hit him and Cosby thought, “Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!” Ray good-naturedly replied, “I do everything in the dark, brother!”

I heard that story decades ago and it has always stuck with me because I’m often like Bill Cosby on that occasion. I forget that unbelievers are spiritually blind and that they live every day in that dark world. And so I relate to them as if they can see.

As we’ve seen in our studies in this Gospel, John was fond of symbolism. He often uses the imagery of light and darkness. In 1:4-5, he refers to Jesus as “the Light of men” that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” In 3:19, he said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” Then in 8:12, in connection with the Jewish ceremony of lighting bright torches at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Now, in 9:5, as Jesus and the disciples encounter this man who had been born blind, He proclaims, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (See, also, 12:35, 36, 46.) Then the Light of the world proceeds to give sight to this man who has lived in total darkness all his life. But by way of contrast, at the end of the chapter the proud Pharisees, who thought that they could see, are left in their spiritual blindness.

A. W. Pink (Exposition of the Gospel of John, on monergism.com) points out a number of contrasts between John 8 & 9. In John 8, we see Christ as the Light exposing the darkness; but in John 9 He imparts sight (both physically and later spiritually) to one in darkness. In John 8, the Light is despised and rejected; in John 9, He is believed in and worshiped. In John 8, the Jews stoop to pick up stones to kill the Light; in John 9, the Light stoops to make clay to bring light to the eyes of the blind man. In John 8, Jesus hides Himself from the Jews; in John 9, He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8:37, Jesus’ word has no place in the Jews; in John 9:7, the blind man responds obediently to Jesus’ word. In John 8, Jesus is called a demoniac; in John 9, He is worshiped as Lord. In John 9:1-12, the message is:

Since Jesus is the almighty Savior who can open blind eyes for God’s glory, we should labor to point people to Him.

We see four things here: the great need; the great Savior; the great purpose; and, the great urgency.

1. The great need: The world is spiritually blind from birth.

This blind man is a picture of the condition of everyone since the fall: everyone is born spiritually blind. This man lacked the ability to see Jesus physically, just as unbelievers lack the ability to see Jesus spiritually. The apostle Paul put it this way (2 Cor. 4:3-6):

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Lost people don’t need just a little more information so that they can make an informed decision to get saved. Rather, they need the miracle of spiritual sight that only God can give.

The disciples viewed this man as an interesting theological case study (9:2): “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Since blind people usually have an acute sense of hearing, it was insensitive and cruel of the disciples to say this within earshot of this poor beggar. Behind their question was the common Jewish view that there was always a direct correlation between sin and suffering. That was the view of Job’s “comforters”: if Job was suffering, it must be because he had sinned. It’s true that all suffering in the world can be traced back to Adam and Eve’s original sin. And sometimes there is a direct correlation between sin and suffering (John 5:14; 1 John 5:16). But the Bible is clear that often even the righteous suffer apart from any specific wrong that they have done.

But the disciples bought into the popular view. Since this man had been born blind, either he or his parents must have sinned to result in this difficult trial. As to how they believed that the man could have sinned, there are a couple of possibilities. Based on the account of Jacob and Esau struggling in the womb, some rabbis taught that babies could sin in the womb. Also, many Jews bought into the ancient error that the soul preexists birth. Some even held to reincarnation, the view that we can come back in different lives (see Matt. 16:13-14). But Jesus replied that this man had not sinned as the direct cause of his blindness.

The Bible does teach that children can suffer on account of their parents’ sins (Exod. 34:7; Jer. 32:18). We see this principle all around us. Kids born to a drug-addicted or alcoholic mother, or to a mother with AIDS, suffer physical and mental impairment. Children whose parents are verbally, physically, or sexually abusive suffer terrible trauma. The examples are endless.

But in this case, Jesus said, this blind man was not suffering because of his own or his parents’ sins. But he was still very needy. He pictures all who are born in sin and spiritual darkness. We need to see all people who do not know Christ, even those who present an image of being successful and happy, as being spiritually blind and needy. For all such people, there is only one solution:

2. The great Savior: Jesus is the almighty Savior who can open blind eyes.

This blind beggar did not take the initiative to cry out to Jesus for healing (in contrast to Mark 10:47-48). Rather, Jesus saw Him, and although John does not say it, I’m sure that He saw him as He saw all hurting people, with compassion. Since He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), He reached out to this helpless man and granted him the gift of sight. Think of how this man must have felt: He began the day as he had begun every other day of his dark existence, making his way to a busy thoroughfare where he could beg for alms. We don’t know how the disciples knew that he had been born blind, but it’s likely that to garner sympathy the man cried out all day, “I was born blind; please help!” But he ended that day seeing for the first time in his life!

Why did Jesus heal the man in this unusual way, by spitting and making mud, applying it to the man’s eyes, and telling him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam? Why didn’t Jesus just speak the word, as He did with the man at the Pool of Bethesda or at Lazarus’ tomb? John doesn’t tell us, so we don’t know for sure. Some early church fathers speculated that the mention of clay made from the ground recalls Genesis 2:7, where God formed man out of the dust of the ground. Thus this miracle would illustrate John 1:3, that Jesus is the Creator (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], pp. 480-481). Other suggestions have been made.

It seems that John wants us to see some symbolic significance in the name of the pool, since he translates it for his Greek readers (9:7, “Sent”). As we’ve seen (e.g., 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42), John puts a big emphasis on the fact that Jesus was sent by the Father. As we’ve also seen, at the Feast of Tabernacles the priest would get water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out at the base of the altar in commemoration of God’s providing water from the rock when Israel was in the wilderness. That water also pictured the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the all-sufficiency of Christ (7:37-39). So this blind man had to wash in the Sent Pool to gain his sight. If the spiritually blind wash in the One sent by God, they will receive their sight.

The unique way that Jesus performed this miracle also teaches us that each person is an individual and therefore requires an individual approach with regard to how we deal with them spiritually (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:136-137). There’s nothing wrong with using means or methods in presenting the gospel. Jesus here used the clay and the pool as a means toward healing. But Jesus never used the same means or method twice. While it’s helpful to memorize a basic presentation of the gospel, be sensitive to tailor it to each person.

But there is another reason that Jesus performed this miracle in this manner. We read in 9:14, “Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” By doing this, Jesus deliberately violated several of the manmade additions to the Law of Moses that the Jews had invented (Morris, p. 480, note 17). Making clay was a breach of a prohibition of kneading on the Sabbath. Placing the clay on his eyes violated a regulation about prohibited anointings. Healing on the Sabbath was forbidden unless it was to save one’s life. So I think that Jesus made clay, anointed the man’s eyes, and instructed him to go and wash on the Sabbath deliberately to poke His finger in the eyes of the legalistic Pharisees. They cared more about keeping their rules than they did about this poor, blind beggar receiving his sight.

As we’ll see, they got into an argument about whether Jesus was sent from God or a sinner because He broke their Sabbath rules (9:16, 24)! They should have instantly recognized that opening the eyes of the blind was a Messianic activity.

In the Old Testament, there are no stories of sight being restored to the blind. But there are numerous verses that show that only the Lord can cause the blind to see and that the Messiah, who is the Lord, would do this. Psalm 146:8 proclaims, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” Isaiah 29:18 states, “On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” In Isaiah 35:5, after saying that God will come to save His people, the prophet says, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.”

When John the Baptist was languishing in prison, he began to wonder, “If Jesus is the Messiah, then why am I, His messenger, in this dungeon?” So he sent messengers to Jesus to ask (Matt. 11:3), “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered (11:4-5), “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Jesus was referring to Isaiah 35, which He fulfilled.

Also, in Isaiah 42:6-7, God is speaking to His Servant (42:1), the Messiah: “And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes ….” It’s interesting that of all the recorded miracles that Jesus performed, giving sight to the blind has more than any other category. The Jewish leaders, who knew the Old Testament, should have concluded, “Jesus is the promised Messiah.”

But the point is, it takes a great Savior to open blind eyes physically. But the great physical miracle points to the greater spiritual miracle. He opens spiritually blind eyes through the gospel as God shines “in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). If you get an opportunity to share the gospel with someone, keep the focus on Jesus. People will try to divert the conversation to all sorts of peripheral issues, like evolution or why God allows suffering or whatever. While you may need to respond briefly to those issues, steer things back to who Jesus is. He is the mighty Savior who can open their blind eyes. And, as you’re sharing, pray that He will do that with the person you’re talking to.

So this story shows us the great need: the world is born into spiritual blindness. But we also see the great Savior who can open blind eyes.

3. The great purpose: The primary aim of the gospel is to display the glory of God.

In response to the disciples’ theological question, Jesus answers (9:3), “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Some have a problem with the view that God would allow this man to be born blind and suffer all these years just so that his healing would display the works of God. But I think that those people have too big a view of man and too little a view of God. If our suffering can bring glory to God and display His infinite worth to others, then it takes on ultimate meaning and significance. Paul put it like this (2 Cor. 4:17), “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

Jonathan Edwards argued that God created the world for His own glory (“The End for Which God Created the World,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:94-121; see John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory [Crossway Books]). Since He is infinitely glorious, it would be wrong for Him not to seek His own glory. Also, as Edwards argues, there is no disparity between God’s seeking His own glory and at the same time seeking our ultimate happiness. As John Piper has pointed out, we glorify God the most when we are most satisfied in Him. God may be glorified in us through physical healing (as with this blind man) or through our experiencing the sufficiency of God’s grace through our suffering, as was the case with Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

But the healing of the blind man pictures what happens whenever God saves a soul through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6). He gets the glory and we get the blessing. Our happiness in what He has done for us contributes to His glory. But my point is, the gospel isn’t mainly about how Jesus can give you a happy life for your own sake. It’s about how He can give you a happy life so that you can proclaim His excellencies as you tell others how He called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

This blind man did that. He was obviously a changed man. In fact, some of his neighbors thought that he must be someone else who looked like the blind man (9:9). But he kept saying, “I am the one.” So then they wanted to know how it happened. He didn’t know much at this point. He refers to Jesus as “the man who is called Jesus.” Remember, he still hasn’t even seen Jesus and he doesn’t know where He’s at. He will argue with the Pharisees that Jesus is a prophet (9:17). Later, when he sees Jesus, he will believe in Him and worship Him as Lord (9:38). But his obviously changed life and his simple witness brought glory to God (9:24). So should our changed lives and our verbal witness. That leads to the last point:

4. The great urgency: We should labor to point people to Jesus for God’s glory while we still have time.

The best manuscripts of John 9:4 read, “We [not I] must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus includes the disciples among those who must work God’s works. That includes all of us who have put our trust in Christ. This is the harvest mindset that we saw Jesus emphasizing with the disciples back in chapter 4, when He was talking with the woman at the well. Their focus was on getting Jesus to eat His lunch so that they could get on the road. His focus was on doing the Father’s will and accomplishing His work (4:34). And that should be the focus of all who follow Him.

Note the little word “must” in 9:4. It’s a word of divine necessity. We saw it back in 4:4, where it says, “And He had to pass through Samaria.” “Had” is the same word in Greek: It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria so that He could give living water to the immoral woman and to her entire village. Here, although the Pharisees were threatening to kill Jesus and His death was just months ahead, He must work the works of the Father who sent Him.

Do you sense that necessity in your life? It’s not just that the Lord would like to use you to accomplish His works if you’ve got some spare time and don’t have anything better to do. Serving the Lord is not only for the super-dedicated. It’s a necessity for all who have been bought with the blood of the Lamb. If you belong to Jesus, you’re a member of His body and every part has a necessary function for the proper working of the whole body. And if you think, “Well, I’m not a very important part,” remember the parable of the talents. It was the guy who was given just one talent who buried it and didn’t use it for his master’s purposes. The master had some rather frightening things to say to him (Matt. 25:26-30)!

But note, also, the urgency of doing the Lord’s work: Jesus says (9:4), “Night is coming when no one can work.” He was referring to death. His “night” was coming soon, when He would be betrayed into the hands of sinners (13:30). But night is coming soon for all of us. None of us are guaranteed of even another day. But even if we live a long life, it goes by all too quickly. As James 4:14 says, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Paul says (Eph. 5:15-16), “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” “Making the most of your time” could be translated, “Buying up the opportunities.”

My parents had a familiar plaque on the wall when I was growing up: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Are you looking for and taking advantage of the opportunities that the Lord gives you to point people to Jesus and to help them grow in Him?

Conclusion

When he was twelve, Robert Louis Stevenson was looking out into the dark from his upstairs window, watching a man light the street lanterns. His governess came into the room and asked what he was doing. He replied, “I am watching a man cut holes in the darkness.”

That’s our task in this dark world. Point blind people to the Light of the world who can open their eyes for God’s glory. Tell them what Jesus has done for you. He can use you to do His works before night comes, when no one can work.

Application Questions

  1. Why is it important to understand that people are born spiritually blind? What practical implications does this have when you present the gospel?
  2. Some argue that salvation is a joint effort: God does His part, but sinners must do their part (repent and believe). While there is some truth in this, there is also a fallacy. What is it? Why is it important?
  3. Discuss: All Christians are in the ministry, but only some get their living from the ministry. How would viewing yourself as being in the ministry change your weekly schedule?
  4. How can we know whether it is God’s will to heal (physically) or to be glorified as we trust Him in our affliction?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christology, Glory, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Lesson 52: How Do You Know? (John 9:13-34)

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April 13, 2014

Every college philosophy major has to take epistemology, which deals with the questions, “How do you know what you know? How can we be sure about what we think we know?”

One day one of my philosophy professors pontificated, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” she was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” Or, perhaps you’ve heard a professor state, “We know, of course, that evolution is a fact.”

When anyone authoritatively states, “We know,” the obvious question is, “How do you know?” Often, when you examine the evidence, you discover that there are knowledgeable people on both sides of the issue. So the obvious question remains, “How do you know what you think you know?”

When it comes to spiritual truth, the common view today is that there is no such thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm, and so any spiritual views that you hold are just a matter of your subjective opinion or personal experience. But there isn’t universal, absolute spiritual truth. If you claim that you know the truth and that all other views are wrong, you’ll be labeled as a narrow-minded bigot. Tolerance and open-mindedness, especially on spiritual matters, are the prevailing values of our day.

In the story of Jesus’ healing the man born blind, there are a number of comments about what the various characters claimed to know or not know. When the Pharisees called in the man’s parents to try to discredit the account of his healing, they answer (9:20-21a), “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know.” John explains (9:22) that their evasive answer stemmed from their fear of the Jewish leaders, who had threatened to excommunicate anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ.

In 9:24, the Jewish leaders state, “We know that this man is a sinner.” The healed blind man dodges that issue for the moment and replies (9:25), “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” In 9:29, the leaders come back with, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” The former blind man retorts (9:31), “We know that God does not hear sinners….” He concludes (9:33), “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” At this point, the exasperated leaders have heard enough. They throw the man out of the temple.

But the dialogue raises the question, “How do you know what you know, especially in the spiritual realm?” We learn that…

True spiritual knowledge is founded on Jesus Christ opening our eyes, but sin hinders us from true spiritual knowledge.

When it comes to knowing God, there is only one sure basis, namely, His choosing to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is just speculation. For example, we could sit around and speculate on whether men from Mars have blue eyes. But we wouldn’t have any basis for knowing. We’re just stating our subjective opinions. But if a man from Mars came to earth and revealed himself to us, then we could say with some certainty, “I met a man from Mars and he had blue eyes.”

Jesus claimed (Luke 10:22), “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. In 1:18, John stated, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” In 14:9, Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. So true spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.

But sin hinders us from true spiritual knowledge. This is illustrated in this story both by the former blind man’s parents and by the Pharisees:

1. Those in spiritual darkness think that they know spiritual truth, but sin blinds them to the fact that they do not know God.

We sometimes hear, “If I could just see a miracle, I’d believe in Jesus!” But these Pharisees saw all sorts of miracles and yet hardened their hearts against Jesus. The blind man’s parents had just seen their prayers answered, in that their blind son had been miraculously healed. And yet they were afraid openly to confess Jesus as Lord. The Pharisees and the blind man’s parents reveal four factors, which are either sinful in themselves or they stem from sin, that keep unbelievers from true spiritual knowledge. These factors also can hinder growing in spiritual knowledge among us who do believe in Jesus.

A. The fear of men hinders true spiritual knowledge.

In the context, “they” (9:13) seems to refer to the man’s neighbors. We’re not told why they brought him to the Pharisees, but here’s my guess: In that culture, the religious leaders exercised control over the people through intimidation. We read (9:22), “For the Jews [the religious leaders] had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” In a culture of fear, people keep their distance from anything that would get them in trouble with the authorities. That’s how Communist regimes operate. If you know that your neighbor is criticizing the government and you don’t report him, the authorities will come after you. If you do report him, you’ll get extra credit for supporting the state. So the neighbors hear that Jesus, whom the religious leaders were trying to get rid of, has healed this beggar. They think, “We need to take him to the Pharisees so that we don’t get into trouble!”

The Pharisees ask him how he received his sight and he tells them how Jesus applied clay to his eyes, he washed, and he now sees (9:15). This sparks a debate among the Pharisees (which we’ll look at more in a moment), but in frustration they turn again to the blind man and ask for his opinion about this Sabbath-breaker, Jesus, hoping that he may have changed his mind or his story. But he ups the ante by replying (9:17), “He is a prophet.”

At this point, they wonder if this is a hoax. So they call the man’s parents and ask (9:19), “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” They reply (9:20-21), “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” Their answer was not truthful. It’s inconceivable that their son had not told them what he had told the neighbors, namely, that Jesus had healed him and how He had healed him. But John explains (9:22) that they replied as they did because they feared the Jews, who had threatened to put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed Jesus as the Christ.

There were different levels of excommunication, and we can’t be sure which level is indicated here (see Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans], 2:183-184). But being excommunicated at any level was a serious penalty in that tight-knit, religious community. Eventually it would have meant being cut off socially from your neighbors, who would also be kicked out of the synagogue if they associated with you or helped you in any way. You couldn’t buy or sell, because if your neighbors engaged in business with you, they would get into trouble. You couldn’t escape by moving to the next town, because the rabbis there would enforce the Sanhedrin’s ban. For a poor family, being excommunicated would result in social and financial devastation.

So while we can understand the intense pressure on the man’s parents, it’s too bad that they feared these spiritual bullies more than they feared God. They could have let the facts speak for themselves by saying, “Jesus opened the eyes of our son, who has been blind from birth.” But instead, they dodged the issue.

It’s a problem that has plagued many down to our day: People fear what others will think more than they fear what God thinks. Perhaps a family member has met Jesus and is obviously changed. But it embarrasses or threatens the other members of the family. They’d rather not talk about it. Or, if it comes up and Jesus is named as the cause of their loved one’s change, they downplay it by saying, “Yes, that seems to work for him!” Then they change the subject. They’ve received a powerful testimony of the power of Christ, but as long as they fear what others think, they will not experience Christ’s power in their own lives. The fear of men hinders true spiritual knowledge.

B. Wrong presuppositions based on religious rules hinder true spiritual knowledge.

Here we move from the parents to the religious leaders, whom John calls “the Jews.” John almost offhandedly mentions the crux of the problem (9:14), “Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” As I mentioned last time, this violated at least three rabbinic Sabbath regulations: (1) You could not knead on the Sabbath, but Jesus kneaded the saliva and dirt into clay; (2) there were rules against anointing on the Sabbath; (3) you could not heal on the Sabbath, unless it was to save a life. These rules were not in the Law of Moses, but had been added by the religious leaders.

Their wrong presupposition was: “Our rules are equal to God’s law.” The minor premise was, “Jesus violated our rules.” Their conclusion was, “Thus Jesus violated God’s law, and He is a sinner.” But their presupposition was faulty.

Some of the Pharisees disagreed with this reasoning, so a debate ensued among them (9:16). This may have been Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, both of whom were on the Council, but later took bold action to provide for Jesus’ burial. Earlier (3:2) Nicodemus had admitted to Jesus, “No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” So, here they register disagreement by asking (9:16), “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” But their view did not prevail.

It’s easy to confuse religious traditions or rules with biblical mandates to the point where you assume that your traditions or rules are equal with Scripture. But you can end up denying a miracle, even if he’s standing right in front of you! Back in the hippie era, when most people dressed up in their nicest clothes to go to church, many older church members could not accept that a bearded, long-haired guy in tattered jeans, a T-shirt, and bare feet had really been converted. Why doesn’t he look like us and dress like us? But they never stopped to question what the Bible says about how a Christian should look and dress. Wrong presuppositions based on religious rules hinder true spiritual knowledge.

C. Always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have hinders true spiritual knowledge.

The Pharisees had the evidence of the neighbors, the parents, and the man himself that he had been born blind and that Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath. But they still wanted more evidence, or more truthfully, they wanted evidence that would refute the evidence that they had been given, which they didn’t like. So, they called the man a second time and said (9:24), “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.”

What they’re saying is, “Come on, your story must be wrong! Tell us the truth! We know for a fact that this man is a sinner!” (See Josh. 7:19 for the expression, “Give glory to God,” meaning, “Tell the truth.”) But John wants us to see that the man really is glorifying God by testifying to the truth about Jesus. He won’t change his story. So, they ask him again (9:26), “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” They aren’t looking for more evidence so that they can believe. Rather, they’re trying to find something to discredit the evidence that they have.

Now the man reveals both his sense of humor and his fortitude to stand up to these feared religious leaders. He says (9:27), “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” They revile him and take their stand as disciples of Moses. They state what they know (9:29): “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” Back in 7:27, they had written off Jesus by claiming that they did know where He was from, namely, from Nazareth. But here they’re discrediting Jesus as a religious upstart from who-knows-where. I love the former blind man’s reply (9:31-33):

We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

At this point, the Pharisees are so beside themselves that they put the man down and then put him out (9:34). They weren’t genuinely seeking evidence to clear up their doubts. Rather, they were just looking for ways to discredit the evidence that they already had been given. They would not come to know the truth. Always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have hinders true spiritual knowledge.

D. Pride hinders true spiritual knowledge.

The Pharisees put down this man’s testimony (9:34), “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” They held to the view that the disciples reflected (9:2), that either the man or his parents must have sinned for him to be born blind. But they prided themselves on their spiritual knowledge because they thought that they knew the Scriptures. So how could this former blind beggar, who was probably illiterate, teach them anything? Again, John is using irony: He couldn’t teach them anything and neither could Jesus, because of their spiritual pride.

In 9:40, these Pharisees challenge Jesus by asking, “We are not blind, too, are we?” Jesus replies (9:41), “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” He means, “If you would admit your spiritual blindness, I would forgive and heal you. But because you arrogantly insist that you can see, you remain in your sins.” Spiritual pride is one of the main reasons people do not come to Christ. They think that their good works will commend them to God, so they don’t see their need for the Savior. But the starting point for true spiritual knowledge is to admit that you’re a sinner and need Jesus to save you.

So, the fear of men, wrong presuppositions based on religious tradition, always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have, and spiritual pride, will hinder true spiritual knowledge.

2. The foundation for true spiritual knowledge is for Christ to open your eyes.

Unlike his parents and the Pharisees, who both begin by claiming certain knowledge, the man begins by admitting that there is much that he doesn’t know. He didn’t know where Jesus was when his neighbors asked him (9:12). He didn’t know much about Jesus at the point of his healing, although he soon came to surmise that He was a prophet. He didn’t know enough to comment on the theological debate about whether Jesus was a sinner or not because He had broken the Sabbath (9:25). But there was one thing he knew for certain, and it was a glorious fact (9:25): “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

In this, the man is a type of everyone who truly knows Jesus. A new believer doesn’t know much. He probably can’t state the biblical doctrine of the trinity. He won’t understand how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility tie together. He may not be able clearly to articulate the two natures of Christ. There are many theological controversies that he is clueless about. But one thing he knows truly: I was blind, but now I see!

To put it another way, when God causes you to be born again, He changes your heart and you know it. He changes your desires. Formerly, the Bible was both confusing and boring if you ever tried to read it. But now, it’s food for your soul. You long for it like a newborn baby longs for his mother’s milk (1 Pet. 2:2). Before, you shrugged off sin as no big deal. Many sins you didn’t even recognize as sin. “Everybody does that! Every guy looks at porn sometimes! Everyone loses his temper! Everyone uses swear words at times! Everyone cheats on his taxes!” Etc.

But after God opens your eyes and you begin to feed on the Word, the Holy Spirit begins to convict you of things that you formerly did without a twinge of conscience: “The way you just spoke to your wife was not loving. The way you looked at that woman was lustful. The way you covered your tracks was not truthful.” So you begin to call sin what it is and to walk in daily repentance. You begin to want to know Christ more deeply. The foundation for this new desire for spiritual knowledge is that Christ opened your eyes to your own sin, to God’s absolute holiness, and to the provision that Christ made for you at the cross.

3. From the foundation of Christ opening your eyes you grow in spiritual knowledge.

The man begins by only knowing Jesus as “the man who is called Jesus” (9:11). He progresses to calling Him a prophet (9:17). Later he acknowledges Him as one worthy of being followed (“disciples,” 9:27-28). He moves on to argue that Jesus had to come from God (9:33). And finally, when he sees Jesus for the first time, he believes in Him and worships Him as Lord (9:38).

The Bible pictures the Christian life as a growth process from birth (John 3:3) to infancy (1 Cor. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:2), childhood, young adulthood, to spiritual fatherhood (1 John 2:12-14). But time alone does not insure spiritual growth. We have to be actively engaged in the process. Daily we need a healthy diet of spiritual food from the Word. We need to talk with our Heavenly Father and take all our cares to Him in prayer (1 Pet. 5:7). We need to spend time with our brothers and sisters in the family of God, helping each other to grow. We need to be judging and turning from the sins that hinder spiritual growth.

When it comes to true spiritual knowledge, we still need to be careful. As Paul warned (1 Cor. 8:1, my translation), “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Or (1 Tim. 1:5), “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Conclusion

Billy Graham told the story of an English actor who was honored with a banquet. In the course of the evening, he was asked to give a reading, and he chose Psalm 23. He read it in a moving way that brought out the beauty of the Psalm. His friends applauded. Later in the evening, an aged pastor was asked to speak. He too quoted Psalm 23. His voice rang with assurance and was vibrant with love. When he concluded, there was no applause, but there were not many dry eyes in the room. The actor stepped over to the pastor, grasped his hand, and said, “Sir, I know the Psalm—but you know the Shepherd!”

So what do you know? I hope that you know the Shepherd and that He has opened your eyes to the truth of who He is. I also hope that you want to know Him more. Let’s press on to know our risen Savior (Phil. 3:8-14)!

Application Questions

  1. Of the four hindrances to spiritual knowledge mentioned in our text, which gives you the most trouble? How can you fight it?
  2. Give some modern examples of religious rules that often take on a status equal to Scripture. Are all such rules bad? Why/why not?
  3. What are some specific ways that we as evangelicals are prone to fall into spiritual pride?
  4. In what sense does God not hear sinners (John 9:31) when they pray and in what sense does He hear sinners (Rom. 10:13)? Cite other Scriptures on both sides of this matter.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Hamartiology (Sin), Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Easter [2014]: Good News for Everyone (John 20 and 21)

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April 20, 2014

Special Easter Message

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you’ve experienced a time when you wondered if the Christian faith is really true. Perhaps your struggle came after some huge disappointment or unanswered prayer. Things just didn’t go the way that you had hoped and prayed. Perhaps your doubts came after you heard or read an articulate atheist attack the faith. Or, maybe your Christian experience just didn’t measure up to the “abundant” life that others testify to, so you wondered why the abundant life didn’t seem to be true for you. You thought, “Maybe it isn’t true at all.”

We live in a time when the concept of “truth” has been squeezed into a relativistic framework. Thus Buddhism may be “true” for some people, Christianity is “true” for others, and Baha’i is “true” for yet others. Even though the teachings of these different faiths contradict each other, they can still all be “true” in a personal, experiential sense. For example, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote (Who Needs God [Simon & Schuster], p. 196):

If religious claims to truth were statements of fact, then when they differed, at most only one of them could be true…. But religious claims can be true at levels other than the factual one. Religious claims can be true the way a great novel is true. It teaches us something valid about the human condition, even though the characters in the novel never really existed and the events never took place….

As an example, Kushner used Jesus’ resurrection (p. 197): “If believing in the resurrection makes my Christian neighbor a better person, more loving and generous, better able to cope with misfortune and disappointment, then that is a true belief, whether historically true or not.”

I agree that believing in Jesus’ resurrection should make us better people. But, does it matter whether it was historically true or not? The apostles would loudly reply, “Yes! It matters greatly! Everything about the Christian faith depends on the historical fact that Jesus died for our sins and was raised bodily on the third day.” The apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15:14, 17), “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” He concluded (15:19), “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

The apostle John would agree. He brings his Gospel to a climax by showing multiple evidences of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, along with some practical ways that the truth of His resurrection should impact our lives. Since we’re in the midst of working our way through John’s Gospel, I thought it would be helpful to jump ahead and look at how John treats this watershed fact of all history. We can sum it up:

Because Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of history, there is good news for everyone.

In the middle of John’s treatment of Jesus’ resurrection, he breaks in with his purpose for writing the entire Gospel (John 20:30-31): “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” For John, everything depends on who Jesus is. John wants us to join him in affirming that Jesus is the promised Messiah (the Christ) and the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh (1:1-18). He came as the Lamb of God to die for the sins of all who will believe in Him (1:29; 3:16). But if Jesus did not actually rise from the dead, then He would not be the Christ, the eternal Son of God. That would mean that believing in Him would be to believe in a nice myth. For John that was unthinkable! Thus he labors to show:

1. Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of history.

We can see at least five lines of evidence that John sets forth:

A. The stone rolled away and the empty tomb are evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

John begins his account (20:1) with Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early, while it was still dark, where she saw that the stone had been taken away. This was a large stone that was rolled in front of the tomb to secure it from grave robbers. Matthew (27:63-66) reports how the Jewish leaders feared that someone would come and steal Jesus’ body and claim that He was risen. So they went to Pilate and got a Roman guard to secure the tomb. They set a seal on the stone and were there guarding the tomb when an angel came and rolled away the stone (Matt. 28:1-4). The Jewish leaders later gave the guards a large sum of money and told them to tell anyone who asked that the disciples came at night and stole Jesus’ body while the guards slept (Matt. 28:11-15).

The problem with that story is that all the disciples were too depressed and fearful to pull off a grave robbery under the noses of a squad of Roman soldiers. And even if they had succeeded, they wouldn’t have then endured persecution, hardship, and eventual martyrdom to promote what they knew to be a hoax.

In addition to the stone being rolled away, there was the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene was not expecting the resurrection, but when she saw that the tomb was empty, she assumed that somebody had taken Jesus’ body. She immediately ran to the disciples to report (John 20:2), “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Her report caused Peter and John to run to the tomb and see for themselves. They both went into the tomb and confirmed that Jesus’ body was not there. If any of Jesus’ enemies had taken His body, they would have produced it the instant that the apostles began proclaiming the resurrection. So the stone rolled away and the empty tomb both bear witness to Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.

B. The presence and arrangement of the linen wrappings are evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

When Peter and John ran to the tomb, John got there first, stood at the entrance, and saw the linen wrappings, but he did not go in. Peter, in his usual blustery manner, went right in and saw (20:6, Greek = “to gaze upon”) the grave clothes. Then John entered, saw (Greek = “to see with understanding”) the same thing, and believed (20:8).

The presence of the linen wrappings proves that the body was not stolen. In their haste, grave robbers would have taken the body, grave clothes and all. If for some reason they had wanted to strip the body, they would have left the clothes strewn all over the tomb. But Peter and John saw them left in an orderly fashion, as if Jesus had passed right through them. Remember, these weren’t men who wished so much for a resurrection that they perhaps saw what they wanted to see. These were men who did not understand or believe at first (20:9). The evidence convinced them, and their testimony of the evidence should convince us.

C. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are evidence for the resurrection.

John cites four post-resurrection appearances of Jesus: To Mary Magdalene (20:11-18); to the disciples except Thomas (20:19-23); to the disciples, including Thomas (20:24-31); and, to seven of the disciples, by the Sea of Galilee (21:1-25). Paul mentions several other appearances, including one to over 500 people at one time (1 Cor. 15:6-8). The varied circumstances of the appearances and the different personalities of the witnesses militate against hallucinations or visions. Even Thomas, who at first was skeptical, became convinced when he saw the risen Lord (John 20:27). Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are a strong evidence of His resurrection.

D. The changed lives of the doubting disciples is evidence for the resurrection.

John shows that none of the witnesses was expecting a resurrection. Mary Magdalene thought that someone had taken Jesus’ body (20:2, 15). Neither John nor Peter at first understood the Scripture that Jesus must rise again from the dead (20:9). All the disciples were fearful and confused. Thomas was depressed and doubting. But all were transformed into the bold witnesses of the Book of Acts because they became convinced that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. They were so convinced that the resurrection was true that many of them went on to die as martyrs.

E. The unique person of Jesus Christ is evidence for His resurrection.

Study the Gospel accounts of who Jesus was, what He taught, His astounding claims, the miracles He performed, and the prophecies He fulfilled. On more than one occasion He predicted His own death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21; Luke 9:22; John 2:19-22; 16:16-20, 28). His encounter with doubting Thomas shows that His purpose was to bring Thomas into a place of full faith in His deity (20:27). When Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus did not rebuke or correct him for overstating things. Rather, Jesus commended Thomas’ correct perception and faith (20:28-29). A merely good teacher, especially a devout Jewish rabbi, would never accept such worship from a follower.

Everything in the Gospel accounts about Jesus’ person and teaching militates against His being a charlatan or lunatic. The only sensible option is that He is who He claimed to be: the eternal Son of God in human flesh, the Messiah of Israel. He offered Himself for our sins and God raised Him bodily from the dead. He wants those of us who have not seen Him to believe in Him (20:29).

I realize that it is impossible to prove any historical event in an absolute sense. But the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection is strong: (1) The stone rolled away and the empty tomb; (2) the linen wrappings; (3) Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances; (4) the changed lives of the witnesses; and (5) the unique person of Jesus Christ, including His many astounding claims. All these evidences support the historical truth of the resurrection.

Oxford history Professor and author Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) wrote (cited in Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict [Campus Crusade for Christ], 1:198):

The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be, and often has been, shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece, as carefully as every judge summing up on a most important cause. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.

J. Gresham Machen (Christianity and Liberalism [Eerdmans], pp. 28-29) wrote, “The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened. It was the message, ‘He is risen.’”

So I want to counter Rabbi Kushner’s contention that the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t matter, as long as it affects how we live. It matters greatly because it establishes who Jesus is. He is not a fictional character or just a great man whose legend was embellished by His followers. He is the Christ, the Son of God. You should believe in Him even if so doing results in suffering and martyrdom. But, John’s Gospel also shows that the historical resurrection of Jesus does affect how we live:

2. Jesus’ resurrection provides good news for everyone.

A. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for women.

While women generally had a place of honor and respect in Old Testament Israel (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life [Eerdmans, pp. 139-160), in Jesus’ time some Jewish leaders belittled women. They taught that it was at best a waste of time to talk with a woman, even with your own wife, and at worst a diversion from the study of the Torah that could possibly lead one to hell (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 227)! They thought that it was better to burn the words of the law than to give them to women (William Barclay, The Gospel of John [Westminster], rev. ed., 1:162). To speak with a woman in public, even with your own wife, could lead to gossip and should be avoided. And, the Jews disregarded the testimony of a woman in court.

But Jesus affirmed and elevated women, both during His ministry and by the fact that they were the first witnesses of His resurrection. John (20:11-18) contains the encounter of Jesus with Mary Magdalene in the Garden after His resurrection. She was the first to see the risen Lord and to tell the disciples of her encounter. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that Mary had been an immoral woman prior to her conversion. Scripture states that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her and she apparently had sufficient means to help contribute to the support of Jesus and the disciples (Luke 8:2). But the point is, Jesus chose her as the first witness of His resurrection. Her experience shows that the Lord welcomes women as His followers and He uses them greatly.

B. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those lacking or weak in faith.

The disciples did not yet understand that Jesus must rise from the dead (20:9), in spite of Jesus’ repeatedly telling them this before His death. They just didn’t get it at first. As I said, this is actually an evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, because they had to be convinced against their fears and doubts. But the Lord graciously worked with them to build their faith.

John is the only Gospel to mention Thomas’ doubts before he saw the risen Lord. John uses that incident as the climax of his Gospel. When Jesus invited Thomas to touch the scars on Jesus’ hands and side, Thomas exclaimed (20:28), “My Lord and my God!” Rather than rebuking Thomas for calling Him “Lord and God,” Jesus affirmed his testimony by replying (20:29), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed.” Then John gives us his purpose for writing: he wants each of us to join Thomas in believing in Jesus as “my Lord and my God.”

The point is, Jesus wants you to move from no faith or weak faith to strong faith. But, note how He did this with Thomas: He appeared to the disciples when He knew that Thomas was absent. For a week, Thomas had to struggle with missing that crucial appearance. Think of how you would have felt! “Everyone else saw the risen Lord, but I missed it!” He probably thought that it was grossly unfair that Jesus appeared to them when he wasn’t there. But when Jesus did meet with the disciples again with Thomas present and showed His omniscience by repeating back to Thomas the doubts that he had expressed earlier, Thomas gave a much deeper confession than he would have a week earlier. The lesson is that the risen Lord doesn’t reject us or cast us off when we’re lacking or weak in faith. Rather, He takes each of us through different trials and difficulties tailored to our doubts to help us grow in faith.

C. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those who feel aimless or inadequate.

This is one lesson from Jesus’ appearance to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee. They had gone fishing, worked all night, but caught nothing. From the shore, Jesus called to them, pointed out their lack of fish, and directed them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, they instantly caught a large haul of fish. Then, when they got to the shore, Jesus already had a fire going with fish on it, along with bread. The incident would have reminded them of the miraculous catch of fish early in their relationship with Jesus, when He told them that they would be catching men (Luke 5:1-11). So this incident would have re-focused them on their calling as Jesus’ ambassadors.

And, the bread and fish would have reminded them of the feeding of the 5,000, when the Lord used them to distribute the food to the hungry multitude. The lesson there was that when they yielded their insufficient resources to the Lord, they became sufficient in His hands to meet overwhelming needs. Now, as the risen Lord, He could and would do the same as they took the good news to the world’s spiritually hungry multitudes.

The same lessons apply to us. If you know Christ, you’re His ambassador to lost people in your world. And if you feel inadequate for the task, that’s exactly the kind of people He uses: inadequate people who yield everything they have to Him to bless and use as He pleases! That breakfast on the shore also pictures the fellowship that our Lord wants to have with us. Our daily fellowship with the risen Lord is the foundation for serving Him. The conversation that took place around that breakfast meeting provides a final lesson:

D. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those who have failed.

The final section of John’s Gospel shows how the Lord restored Peter to ministry after his three denials of Jesus on the night He was betrayed. Three times Jesus asked Peter whether he loved Him. Three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Each time, Jesus replied, “Tend My lambs…. Shepherd My sheep…. Tend My sheep.” The Lord was letting both Peter and the other disciples know that even though Peter had failed miserably, the Lord still had a ministry for him to fulfill.

The final exchange in John’s Gospel (21:20-24) mentions the different futures that the Lord had for Peter and for John. It shows that He is the sovereign Lord who has a unique plan for each of our futures as we serve Him. My focus needs to be on doing what He has called me to do, not on what He may have called others to do. But the good news is, if you love the Lord, no matter how badly you may have failed Him in the past, He is gracious to restore you and use you in His service. Keep your love for Jesus burning brightly. He loved you enough to die for your sins so that you can spend eternity with Him in the glory of heaven. His resurrection is good news for all who have failed.

Conclusion

After Thomas’ confession of Jesus as his Lord and God, Jesus replied (20:29), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Does that include you? Jesus promises to bless you if you will believe in Him as your Lord and God, who died for your sins and was raised from the dead. His resurrection from the dead is historically true, whether you believe it or not. But it’s through believing in Him as the crucified and risen Lord that He blesses you.

His blessing does not mean that you will be spared from struggles and trials. History indicates that almost all of the disciples were persecuted and finally suffered martyrs’ deaths. But when they died, they were welcomed into the eternal joy of their Master in heaven. Because His resurrection is historically true, He offers the same good news to all who will believe in Him.

Application Questions

  1. Rabbi Kushner argues that the factual truth of the resurrection doesn’t matter if it teaches us to be better people. Why is this both inadequate and fallacious?
  2. Can a person believe that Jesus is risen and yet not be born again? What is the difference? Why does it matter?
  3. What was the difference between Judas’ betrayal of Christ and Peter’s denials of Christ? Why was Peter restored while Judas was lost?
  4. Do certain sins (e.g., sexual sins) disqualify a man from leadership in the church? Support your answer with Scripture.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Easter, Resurrection, Soteriology (Salvation)

Is God Real? The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design Inference

Of all the arguments related to the existence of God, the argument from the appearance of design is perhaps the most intuitive and visual. As we examine and observe the complexity (and inter-connectivity) of biological systems, we can’t help but come away with the impression these organisms and cellular micro-machines have been carefully crafted by a master artist. One such complex micro-machine has been heralded above all others in teleological arguments for the existence of God. Bacterial flagella remain a mystery to scientists who recognize them as a marvel of machine-like precision. Harvard biophysicist, Howard Berg, has publicly described the bacterial flagellum as “the most efficient machine in the universe.” Is God real? The bacterial flagellum is best explained by God’s existence as the Intelligent Designer of biological systems.

The Bacterial Flagellum as visualized in Michael Behe’s book,
Darwin’s Black Box

This small cellular micro-motor powers its bacterial host by whipping a long filament in rotary fashion. Nestled within the cellular wall, it operates efficiently as a rotary motor. The iconic status of the bacterial flagellum results primarily from the ease with which even casual detectives can identify characteristics of design and intelligent interaction. I’m currently writing a book in which I’m investigating eight characteristics of design in flagella, but for purposes of this short blog, one feature is obvious (and critical) in determining the intelligent source of flagella.

The natural mechanisms available in strict evolutionary processes are insufficient to explain the flagellum for an important reason: natural laws, unguided chance mutations and natural selection cannot account for irreducibly complex micro-machines. Natural selection offers a very specific pathway to the kind of complexity we see in the flagellum. Darwinian evolution proposes a gradual and incremental pathway to any finished micro-machine. Like complex LEGO structures built from the incremental addition of one brick after another, sophisticated micro-machines, if assembled through an additive process of natural selection, must also come into existence incrementally. Even Richard Dawkins, committed as he is to the creative power of natural selection, understands the necessity of gradualism and incrementalism in explaining the existence of micro-machines (such as the bacterial flagellum): “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes [or bacterial flagellum]. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation.”

Dawkins recognizes the power irreducible complexity has to falsify naturalistic explanations (like any combination of chance, natural law, or natural selection). Charles Darwin also recognized this dilemma when he wrote On the Origin of Species: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”. When we observe a machine that cannot function unless multiple pieces are in place simultaneously, the best inference is the presence of a designer who defeats the improbability of such an accidental assembly by intervening intelligently to accomplish the goal.

The flagellum has over 40 necessary, interactive, inter-reliant pieces. With just one less part, the flagellum fails to operate as the effective motor it needs to be to successfully mobilize the bacterium. The irreducible complexity of this large collection of pieces means the finished design of the flagellum must be assembled in one sweeping step; it cannot be assembled over time gradually, unless the prior intermediate micro-machines also offer some advantage to the bacterium. If they don’t offer an advantage, and are instead a misshapen liability, natural selection will not favor the organism. In other words, natural selection will not retain the “intermediates” to allow for further additions. Irreducibly complex structures beg for an intelligent designer. William Dembski author of The Design Inference puts it this way: “Once intelligence is out of the picture, evolution, as Darwin notes… has to be gradual. You can’t just magically materialize completely new structures out of nowhere. There has to be a path-dependence. You have to get there by some gradual route from something that already exists.”

In a similar way, only intelligent causation can account for the irreducibly complex nature of the bacterial flagellum, and alternative explanations relying on some evolutionary combination of chance, natural law or natural selection cannot. To be fair, many naturalists have proposed a pathway to the flagellum without the intervention of an intelligent designer. While my next book will examine all of the alternatives, this limited post will focus on the most popular naturalistic explanation. In an effort to nullify the powerful design inference from the irreducible complexity of the flagellum, some have offered a way to arrive at the final design without building it piece by piece. Philosopher Robert T. Pennock, rejects the need to assemble the flagellum additively over time and suggests there is a better way to arrive at the finished micro-machine: “…it’s a common theme of evolutionary biology that constituents of a cell, a tissue, or an organism, are put to new uses because of some modification of the genotype. So maybe the immediate precursor of the proud possessor of the flagellum is a bacterium in which all the protein constituents were already present, but in which some other feature of the cell chemistry interferes with the reaction that builds the flagellum.” In other words, maybe the complex flagellum can be constructed by borrowing a less complex micro-machine within the cell and building from there. In fact, some have suggested Type III secretion systems (T3SS) as the evolutionary precursor.

Electron-microscope image of isolated T3SS needle complexes
(Schraidt et al., 2010)

T3SS are needle-like sensory probes used by bacteria. They detect the presence of target organisms and secrete proteins necessary to aid the bacterial infection. T3SS share many common proteins and are constructed similarly to bacterial flagella. They’ve been offered in an effort to jump the divide from a single protein to the complexity of flagellum. If cellular organisms could borrow T3SS, they’d have a have a significant head start in their flagella construction. This approach is problematic, however:

The Borrowed Micro-Machine is Also Irreducibly Complex

T3SS are just as remarkably irreducible as their flagella cousins. The T3SS is constructed from approximately 30 different proteins; it’s one of the most complex secretion systems observed in biology today. Like the flagellum, T3SS requires the minimal configuration of these proteins to function. It cannot be offered as an explanation for the flagellum because it too requires an explanation. William Dembski describes it this way: “…what you have here is not a fully articulated path but an island (the Type III secretory system) and a huge jump to the next island (namely, the flagellum). If evolution is going to try to explain how you can island-hop from Los Angeles to Tokyo, basically what the evolutionist has found is the Hawaiian Islands and nothing else. What the evolutionist has not found is the entire archipelago that will take you across.”

The Pathway To and From the Borrowed Micro-Machine is Evidentially Unsupported

Dembski has correctly identified the problem facing those who deny the design inference from irreducible complexity. As Dawkins described earlier, evolution, “…if it is not gradual in these cases… ceases to have any explanatory power at all.” There is no evidence to elucidate gradual evolutionary progression to the T3SS, nor any evidence to explain the gradual evolutionary progress from the T3SS (to the flagellum). The TS33 accounts for only a handful of the proteins used by flagella, leaving approximately thirty unaccounted for, and these other thirty proteins are not present in any other living system.

The Borrowed Micro-Machine May Not Even Be Available for Borrowing

Even naturalistic evolutionists are now skeptical of the alleged evolutionary order of TS33 related to flagella. Many scientists have concluded the T3SS is not an evolutionary precursor to flagella, but is more reasonably a product of the decay and devolution of the flagellum. Research such as this demonstrates the frustration in trying to arrive at either irreducibly complex micro-machine from naturalistic explanations.

There is, of course, a more reasonable way to account for the bacterial flagellum without having to concoct “just so,” evidentially unsupported, evolutionary tales. When we see something we recognize as an irreducibly complex micro-motor, resembling other motors designed by intelligent beings, the most reasonable inference is the existence of an intelligent micro-motor designer. Is God real? He is the one Intelligent Designer capable of creating the bacterial flagellum, and He is still the most reasonable inference.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Cultural Issues

1 Peter: Suffering Precedes Glory

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This sermon series on the book of 1 Peter was preached by Jeff Miller at Trinity Bible Church in 2014. Click on an individual sermon for an abstract of the message and to access both audio and video of the message.

Related Topics: Glory, Spiritual Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

1. We Don't Belong Here (1 Peter 1:1-2)

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1 Peter: Suffering Precedes Glory (part one)

Following Christ is harder than it seems. Perhaps you were misled to believe that Christianity would make life happy and easy. Or maybe you knew it would have its challenges, but you couldn't predict the extent or direction of the difficulties. The Apostle Peter had similar experiences. He wrote a letter to disillusioned Christians who had grown aware that Christianity is harder than they expected. Peter reminds us that we are strangers in a hostile land. To survive this temporary journey, we must maintain an eternal perspective. Glory awaits us in heaven, but this life is filled with hardship for Christ's followers. Suffering precedes glory. If you didn't expect this, you should have looked more carefully at the life of Christ before following Him.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Glory, Spiritual Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

The 5 C’s of Small Group Leadership

Welcome to small group ministry! Small groups provide a great opportunity for women to grow in their faith and to experience authentic, loving relationships with other Christians. Your role as a small group leader is to maximize both opportunities for all participants, including yourself.

This handbook is a resource that any small group ministry can use to train its leaders in the “how-to’s” of ministry to others—not just for leading Bible studies but also for all other small group communities within your organization. It covers 5 aspects of leading a small group: Character of the leader, Connection with fellow leaders, building Community within a group, the Commitment of leadership, and the Commission of being a disciple-maker.

“Equip small group leaders for effective ministry & for disciple-making”

Related Topics: Christian Education, Discipleship, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership, Women's Articles

How to Use This Handbook

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Welcome to small group ministry! Small groups provide a great opportunity for women to grow in their faith and to experience authentic, loving relationships with other Christians. Your role as a leader of a small group is to maximize both opportunities for all participants, including yourself.

Women are best equipped for small group ministry through regular training and resources in the “how-to’s” of ministry to other believers and in how to use their unique personalities, spiritual gifts and calling to enrich the ministry within the Body. This handbook is a resource that any small group ministry can use to train its leaders—not just for leading Bible studies but also for all other small group communities within your organization.

The 5C’s of Small Group Leadership handbook contains valuable information presented in a teaching format followed by “Think About It” questions for reflection and practical application. The most effective way to use this guide is for each new small group leader (or those who have not already been through this handbook) to read through and reflect on the “Think About It” questions in advance of a designated “small group leader training” day. Consider the “small group leader training” day as a gathering time for all leaders (new and experienced) to discuss what they’ve learned from each section, to ask questions, and to brainstorm solutions to any anticipated challenges.

Since participants in small groups might be new Christians, long-time Christians who have never been discipled, or those who have not trusted in Jesus yet, be certain to include training for your small group leaders in how to share the gospel and how to disciple young believers in the basics of the Christian faith. This information is included in the “Commission” section. 

What Are the 5 C’s?

Character — This section covers the role and character qualities of a servant leader in Christ’s kingdom, the handling of doctrinal differences, and incorporating one’s unique personality, spiritual gifts and behavioral style in a ministry setting.  

Connection — This section covers how a small group leader effectively connects and works with other members of her ministry team.

Community — This section covers the advantages of small group participation and ways to build and maintain community within a group.

Commitment — This section covers the ongoing commitment to the “nuts and bolts” of small group leadership including preparation, managing the time, and directing the discussion. It also includes managing crisis situations.

Commission — This section covers the role of the small group leader who is commissioned by Jesus to be a disciple-maker, encouraging the members of her group to follow Jesus as His disciple and to live for Jesus as disciple-makers in their sphere of influence.

The Joy of Small Group Leadership

Being part of a small group can be a most enjoyable experience for a Christ follower. The ideas in this handbook have been developed by those who have spent years being women’s small group leaders. Women of all ages enjoy community and benefit from it when it works well. We hope that you will take to heart these suggestions and become the best small group leader you can be. Enjoy serving Jesus through serving the women in your small group!

Melanie Newton

1. Character

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Character of a leader

Acts 2:42-47 describes the Christian life applied in a small group setting—house churches meeting in Jerusalem led by the apostles. What each of those men brought to their small groups was their faith in Jesus Christ, their character, and the way they were uniquely gifted. Likewise, every small group leader in Christ’s Church brings to the small group those same things—faith, character, and uniqueness. Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” The health of the small group is no doubt impacted by the character of the person leading it, character springing from your faith walk with Jesus Christ and expressed through your unique giftedness.

Think About It:

Thinking back on your own experience with small group leaders through the years, what character qualities in your small group leader did you find essential for a healthy, functioning group?

“Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)

Jesus contrasted the world’s concept of leader with what he wanted for his Church. Leaders in Christ’s Church (which includes elders, deacons, and small group leaders) are to be servant-minded. The phrase “servant-leader” best describes this role and heart attitude.

Think About It:

Describe a servant-leader you have known. What made you think of that person? Be specific.

Several Bible passages describe character qualities of servant leaders. Please read each passage below and the associated character descriptions.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 —

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

  • Humble & teachable: Servant-leaders are to be humble and teachable. You don’t need to know all the answers, but you do need to be committed to your own faith walk with Jesus—living by faith and dependence on Him.
  • Christ-focused: As a servant-leader, your role and privilege are to point the women to Jesus, encouraging them in their relationship with Him above all else. Your goal is to help them learn to place their dependence more upon Christ and less upon you as their leader.

John 13:34-35 —

“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

  • Love: A servant-leader commits to love the women in her group as well as those on her ministry team.

Think About It:

Why would humility, teachability, and love be important qualities in a small group leader?

1 Timothy 3:11 —

“(Women) likewise are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” (NIV)

Note: Paul outlines the qualifications for the office of “deacon” in 1 Timothy 3:8-13; verse 11 particularly addresses women (the Greek term gune denotes a woman, married or unmarried). The term deacon (from the Greek meaning “servant”) is used in the New Testament for both men and women, although this is not always clear in many English translations. The early church had both male and female deacons who were servant-leaders in their churches.

  • Worthy of respect: those who know her best recognize this. A respectful woman willingly submits to the authority structures in her life, including the authority of scripture. She strives to live a life worthy of her calling as she considers the well being of others.
  • Not malicious talkers: Women in leadership must guard the confidences shared within her small group setting or ministry team. She must keep in mind how her words may affect others and be careful not to share sensitive information (personal and/or confidential) in inappropriate settings (with those who don’t need to know that information). Use discretion when dealing with ministry concerns by only talking with those directly responsible for the solution.
  • Temperate: Although some associate the word “temperate” with abstaining from alcohol, the character quality “temperate” means to be self-controlled. From 2 Timothy 2:23-25, we get a good working definition of temperate: kind, patient, and gentle. All of these are likewise fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). A temperate woman yields to the Holy Spirit’s control of her behavior, attitude and emotions. She chooses unity over personal preference so is known as one who is cooperative and more interested in the goals of the ministry than her own.
  • Trustworthy in everything: Being faithful as Jesus describes it, “faithful in the little things.” The oversight and teaching of the church are to be entrusted to those who have proven themselves to be faithful. Leaders are held to a greater accountability; therefore, we must be diligent in pursuing and abiding in biblical truth.

Think About It:

Why would being respected, trustworthy, and disciplined in speech and behavior be important qualities in a small group leader?

Titus 2:3-5 —

“Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.”

Note: The term “older” can refer to age or spiritual maturity. Mentoring is someone older in the Lord helping someone younger in the Lord understand and apply biblical truth to every day life.

Think About It:

Who has effectively modeled the daily Christian life for you? How?

  • Exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy: Don’t let this phrase scare you. The Greek word used here referred to the work of a priestess serving in the temple of her God. For us as Christ’s women, all that we do should be done “as unto the Lord.” Our daily life in all its aspects is continual ministry before God as we serve and represent him before others.
  • Teaching what is good: knowing what is good comes from knowing Jesus Christ and the Scriptures as your source of truth.
  • Role models: We want to draw women to God’s Word and truth rather than pushing them away from it. Women look to their leaders as examples to follow so no matter where we are in our own personal faith walk with Jesus, they need to see our desire to allow God to change us and grow us in our daily lives and roles as women.

Think About It:

What are some of your fears about being a small group leader?

For most small group ministries, the leaders generally come from various church backgrounds. Each small group leader is also learning and growing in her faith walk with Jesus. Your ministry probably has a statement of faith associated with it. Some parts of that statement may be considered “non-negotiable,” that is, all leaders are expected to not only agree with those doctrines but also support those positions should they come up in small group. Some examples of non-negotiable doctrines might be:

  • The Bible is the inspired Word of God
  • God is a Trinity: three persons in one
  • Jesus is God: not just a human religious teacher.

Think About It:

What are the Non- Negotiable Doctrines for your church or group?

Procure a copy of your ministry’s statement of faith and read through it. As you read, make note of anything you need to clarify or further discuss with your ministry team leader. After you read through it, do the “Think About It” activity below.

Think About It:

Is there anything in the Statement of Faith with which you dont fully agree or about which you have further questions?

Based on the list you wrote in the previous Think About It box, is it a non-negotiable?

  • No, it is not on the non-negotiable list. It’s probably okay for you not to intellectually hold the same position as your ministry on those, but be sure to ask your questions to your ministry director for your own growth.
  • Yes, it is on the non-negotiable list. Please make an appointment with your ministry team leader to discuss that issue.
  • Usually if anyone in leadership should have varying degrees of agreement on the “non-negotiable” doctrines, the assumption of the ministry leadership is that she will verbally support the ministry position or refrain from discussion. And that, if she cannot agree when faced with defending the ministry’s position, she will direct individuals to the proper authority who can explain and defend the ministry’s position scripturally.

If you do not hold the exact position as your church or ministry on a non-negotiable doctrine, what are some gracious ways you can support that non-negotiable issue if it arises in your small group? See also Community for other ways to handle controversial doctrines in a group discussion.

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

  • Why do I act the way I do?
  • Why doesn’t he or she do things the way I do them?
  • Why can’t I seem to connect with that person?

What you are really addressing is BEHAVIOR.

1. Observing behavior is historical.

From ancient times, people have been observing people. Centuries before Christ, the Greeks recognized 4 basic categories of human behavior, using the terms “Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic” to identify each. Other systems of classification have since been used.

2. Behavior is how you naturally tend to react to the environment around you.

This affects how you communicate with others and also how you receive their communication. Behavior can change over time. Your behavioral tendencies today may be somewhat different from what they were 20 years ago due to the many circumstances and life phases you have experienced.

3. Behavior is not personality.

Personality is a complex issue that deals with emotions and usually falls under the realm of psychology. Behavior doesn’t deal with whether you are happy or sad, nervous or depressed, angry or calm. A visual used to describe the difference between behavior and personality is a tree. Personality is like the tree roots—unseen but developed long before the tree grew tall. Behavior is the visible part—the trunk and branches.

4. Behavioral variety is good.

When God created Adam and Eve, He placed in them genes that would give variety to the human race in hair color, eye color, body shape, size and also in behavior. Since God made Adam and Eve to complement one another, we can assume they were different in their behavioral tendencies. But, together they made a team. It is a mistake to think that as we are conformed to the image of Christ, we will be cookie cutter images. That is not biblical thinking.

We know that one behavior type is not better than another. One strength is not better than another. Some are just more suited to specific tasks. All are needed in a society and definitely in the body of Christ.

5. Recognition of behavioral strengths and weaknesses is beneficial.

Everyone has behavioral weaknesses. The challenge for us is to be willing for God to grow us in those areas and to appreciate others who are strong in the areas where we are weak.

We know we are not perfect but are being perfected by the Perfect One whose power is sufficient for our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) In fact, when our tendency to self-sufficiency is overcome, we best recognize our need for Him. The main value of recognizing behavioral strength and weaknesses is to help you understand yourself better as well as those closest to you. You become more aware of what you bring to your ministry team and to your small group.

6. Behavior can be assessed through the DISC dimensions of behavior.

Many different approaches to human behavioral differences have been made through the centuries. In recent years, the one assessment tool used most often in ministry settings utilizes the DISC dimensions of behavior.

Developed in the early 1900’s, this tool has been widely used by businesses and Christian ministries because it helps to enhance teamwork. The DISC dimensions of behavior are based on behavioral tendencies—not personality. Assessments incorporating these dimensions have been developed that you can do on yourself. One such assessment is found in the next section. It’s simply a tool that will help you to understand yourself better, get along better with those around you, recognize and develop your strengths, and help you to develop teamwork with your co-leader or ministry partners.

Think About It:

How would being aware of your behavioral strengths and weaknesses enhance your ministry as a small group leader?

Discover Your DISC Dimensions of Behavior

According to the researchers who first outlined these dimensions of behavior, people fall into four basic categories (or, dimensions) of behavior as described by the diagram below. The measure is based upon whether one is:

  • Fast-paced or slow-paced in reacting to one’s environment
  • Task-oriented or people-oriented by nature

Examine the diagram below. Mark where you think you fit.

Take the assessment online at http://www.123test.com/disc-personality-test/ to get a more accurate description.

As you take the assessment, remember:

  • This is not a test. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers, no “pass” or “fail.” There are no “good” or “bad” behavior profiles or patterns.
  • Rank your choices as honestly as possible from your point of view, not someone else’s perception of you (husband, mother, friend…). You are the only expert on you.
  • Go with your first impressions. Avoid the temptation to analyze or dwell on each word.
  • Choose to focus on how you behave in a specific environment such as your home or ministry.
  • The goal is to give you information to help you become more aware of yourself and others.

Once you complete the assessment, write your primary and secondary tendencies below.

Think About It:

Primary behavior dimension: _______________ Key words that describe me (see next sections):

Secondary behavior dimension (if applicable): _______________ Key words that describe me (see next sections):

How would understanding behavioral tendencies have helped you to relate to a past ministry partner or small group member?

A description of each behavioral dimension is located in the following section of this handbook. Read yours carefully. (NOTE: If nothing seems to match “you,” it’s possible you took the assessment incorrectly. Retake the assessment.)

You can use this assessment to enable you to communicate and work well with others so as to encourage them to reach their potential as well. As you read through the various descriptions below, notice how the information can help to enhance communication and teamwork as well as help you to resolve conflict with others.

How You Tend to Behave if You Are a… “D”

  • Fast-Paced and Task-Oriented = Dominant, Direct and Active.
  • Key word: RESULTS.

The “D” behavior tendency describes those whose emphasis is shaping their environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results.

  • D’s are comfortable at solving problems, making quick decisions, and accepting challenges.
  • D’s struggle with impatience, overlooking cautions, and being demanding of others.
  • Motivate a “D” by emphasizing goals and results and soliciting their help to accomplish them. Let them have control of something. Get in their face and challenge them. “I bet you can’t do…” often works.
  • Resolve conflict with a “D” by being direct, ask what is necessary for a “win-win” solution while avoiding “who’s right or wrong” debates.
  • Biblical characters who seemed to have “D” behavior patterns: Paul (combo D and C) and Joshua.

How You Tend to Behave if You Are an… “I”

  • Fast-Paced and People-Oriented = Influence, Interested and Lively.
  • Key word: RECOGNITION.

The “I” behavior tendency describes those whose emphasis is shaping their environment by influencing or persuading others.

  • I’s usually speak with ease so are valuable as lecturers, greeters, and making people feel very comfortable.
  • I’s struggle with sensitive feelings, being unorganized, and telling long stories.
  • Motivate an “I” by appreciating their efforts in front of others, letting them have fun, and putting them in a position of influence over others.
  • Resolve conflict with an “I” by assuring her of your love and relationship, dealing with the issues without personal criticism, and caring about her feelings.
  • Biblical characters who seemed to have “I” behavior patterns: Moses, David (combo I and C), Peter, and Abigail.

How You Tend to Behave if You Are a… “S”

  • Slow-Paced and People-Oriented = Steady and Cooperative.
  • Key word: RELATIONSHIP.

The “S” behavior tendency describes those whose emphasis is on cooperating with others to carry out the task.

  • S’s are dependable team players, will do a job consistently week after week, and are good listeners.
  • S’s struggle with resisting change, soft-heartedness, and procrastination.
  • Motivate an “S” by emphasizing the need of the group, minimizing conflict, and doing things together.
  • Resolve Conflict with an “S” by emphasizing what is best for the group or team, being calm and friendly, and offering a comfortable solution.
  • Biblical characters who seemed to have “S” behavior patterns: Abraham, Hannah, and Dorcas.

How You Tend to Behave if You Are a… “C”

  • Slow-Paced and Task-Oriented = Conscientious and Correct.
  • Key word: RIGHT.

The “C” behavior tendency describes those whose emphasis is on working conscientiously within existing circumstances to ensure quality and accuracy.

  • C’s are valuable at organizing information, problem solving, and maintaining accuracy.
  • C’s struggle with getting bogged down in detail, hesitancy to reveal true feelings, and taking a long time to make decisions.
  • Motivate a “C” by emphasizing quality in a task, giving her time to do things right, and working closely with her so she knows her work will be approved.
  • Resolve conflict with a “C” by stating the issue calmly and logically; ask what is necessary for a “win-win” solution, and giving her time to think about the situation. Be sure to schedule a follow-up discussion.
  • Biblical characters who seemed to have “C” behavior patterns: Luke, Mary, and Ruth.

Using DISC Behavior Tendencies To Improve Communication

How to relate to a D: Be Direct

  • Start with results or benefits first, then provide details only as needed
  • Show how you can help the “D” get those results done
  • Talk to her in terms of the benefits
  • Be quick, to the point

How to lead/motivate a D: Emphasize Goals, Results

  • Give her the what; let her determine the how
  • Let her have control, be in charge of something
  • Use laissez-faire leadership, give her as much free rein as possible to do the job
  • Get in her face and challenge her

Resolving conflict with a D: Tends to Be Direct, Aggressive

  • Avoid “right/wrong” debates by stating differences without judgment
  • Ask what is necessary for a win/win solution
  • Use open-ended questions to get to the real issues
  • Wrap up discussion by stating what each person has committed to do to resolve the conflict

____________________

How to relate to an I: Be Enthusiastic

  • Be positive, friendly
  • Provide praise
  • Validate her self-worth
  • Give her the feeling of “I need you”
  • Give the “I” the opportunity to express her opinion
  • Talk to her in terms of who else has done this

How to lead/motivate an I: Emphasize Group, Recognition

  • Consult with her about ideas, projects, people
  • Recognize her efforts in front of others
  • Let her have fun
  • Use participatory leadership, give her ownership of the leadership process
  • Put her in a position of influence over others

Resolving conflict with an I: Avoids Direct, Open Conflict

  • Recognize her discomfort with loss of approval
  • State the issue factually without criticism of her as a person
  • Limit her attempts to minimize the problem or sidetrack the discussion
  • Wrap up the discussion with a clear statement of what is going to happen, by when, and affirm your relationship with her

____________________

How to relate to an S: Be Relational

  • Be friendly, easygoing, low key on objectives
  • Don’t push; let her respond at her own pace
  • Talk in terms of how the team will be affected
  • Let the “S” know that you value her personally
  • Talk to her about why you want things changed

How to lead/motivate an S: Emphasize Group, Community

  • Doing things together is important
  • Always maintain the relationship
  • Let her have peace; minimize conflict
  • Use any leadership style, but maintain variety
  • Reassure her she is part of a team, is appreciated

Resolving conflict with a S: Tends to Avoid Hostility & Conflict

  • State the need to resolve the conflict in order to maintain stability and harmony in the relationship
  • Draw out uncomfortable issues by asking open-ended questions
  • Ask her what she would need to resolve the issue in a way that is reasonable and effective
  • Be calm and friendly

____________________

How to relate to a C: Be Analytical

  • Present clear facts and objective ideas
  • Don’t rush
  • Be specific and thorough
  • Speak to the “C” in terms of quality
  • Focus on the details
  • Talk to her about how to do what is to be done

How to lead/motivate a C: Emphasize Goals, Quality

  • Be available to work closely with her
  • Let her have time to do things right
  • Use relaxed leadership if it is competent leadership
  • Assign tasks that play to her strengths of quality & accuracy; doing it the best way

Resolving conflict with a C: Tends to Withdraw & Get Defensive

  • State the issue calmly, logically, factually, citing specific behavior
  • Ask what she would need to resolve this conflict on a “win-win” basis
  • Recognize her need to think about the situation before responding by scheduling a time to have a follow-up discussion

Think About It:

What did you learn from these lists that will help you relate to someone whose behavioral tendencies are opposite of yours?

Not only are you uniquely designed in your behavior, you have also been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the Body of Christ. A spiritual gift is a supernatural capacity for service to God in the Body of Christ.

All believers receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit but individually receive spiritual gifts that differ, according to the will of God, to be used for the common good.

Although opinions differ on the actual number of spiritual gifts, the Bible clearly indicates a variety of gifts understood from such key passages as Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. Listed below are some of the gifts and how they are beneficial to the Body of Christ, especially the local church body.

The following list is adapted from “The Gifts of the Spirit” by Kenneth Boa accessed at https://bible.org/article/gifts-spirit.

  • Administration (1 Corinthians 12:28) — The ability to steer a ministry toward the accomplishment of God-given goals and directives by planning, organizing, and implementing what is needed to accomplish the goal including supervising others. A person may have the gift of leadership without the gift of administration.
  • Discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) — The ability to clearly discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (cf. 1 John 4:6). With this gift, one can distinguish reality versus counterfeits, the divine versus the demonic, true versus false teaching, and in some cases, spiritual versus carnal motives.
  • Evangelism (Ephesians 4:11) — The ability to be an unusually effective instrument in leading unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ. Some with this gift are most effective in personal evangelism, while others may be used by God in group evangelism or cross-cultural evangelism.
  • Exhortation (Romans 12:8) — The ability to motivate others to respond to the truth by providing timely words of counsel, encouragement, and consolation. When this gift is exercised, believers are challenged to stimulate their faith by putting God’s truth to the test in their lives.
  • Faith (1 Corinthians 12:9) — The ability to have a vision for what God wants to be done and to confidently believe that it will be accomplished in spite of circumstances and appearances to the contrary. The gift of faith transforms vision into reality.
  • Giving (Romans 12:8) — The ability to contribute material resources with generosity and cheerfulness for the benefit of others and the glory of God. Christians with this spiritual gift need not be wealthy.
  • Helps (1 Corinthians 12:28) — The ability to enhance the effectiveness of the ministry of other members of the body. Some suggest that while the gift of service is more group-oriented, the gift of helps is more person-oriented.
  • Leadership (Romans 12:8) — The ability to discern God’s purpose for a group, set and communicate appropriate goals, and motivate others to work together to fulfill them in the service of God. A person with this gift is effective at delegating tasks to followers without manipulation or coercion.
  • Mercy (Romans 12:8) — The ability to deeply empathize and engage in compassionate acts on behalf of people who are suffering physical, mental, or emotional distress. Those with this gift manifest concern and kindness to people who are often overlooked.
  • Service (Romans 12:7) — The ability to identify and care for the physical needs of the body through a variety of means.
  • Shepherd or pastor (Ephesians 4:11) — A person with this spiritual gift has the ability to personally lead, nourish, protect, and care for the needs of a group of believers. Many with this gift do not have or need the office of pastor to be useful to the body.
  • Teaching (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11) — The ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truths of God’s Word so that others will learn. This requires the capacity to accurately interpret Scripture, engage in necessary research, and organize the results in a way that is easily communicated.
  • Wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)--The ability to apply the principles of the Word of God in a practical way to specific situations and to recommend the best course of action at the best time. The exercise of this gift skillfully distills insight and discernment into excellent advice.

Discover Your Spiritual Giftedness

Various spiritual gift assessments are available to further help you understand how you have been gifted. We recommend the online spiritual gifts analysis freely provided by “Ephesians Four Ministries” of the Church Growth Institute at the following website: http://www.churchgrowth.org.

Please take this assessment (or any other assessment you have available to you). Be sure to allow yourself at least 15 minutes to answer the questions for this analysis. At the end, you will receive a detailed description of what may be your main spiritual gift. Often, a second gift is evident, and that description will be displayed as well. If possible, print these descriptions for future reference.

Think About It:

Primary gift: __________________ Brief description of this gift:

Secondary gift (if applicable): __________________ Brief description of this gift:

What did you discover about yourself regarding your spiritual gift(s) and how they could benefit your ministry as a small group leader?

Ministry Team Value

Please let your ministry team coordinator know the results of both your DISC Dimensions of Behavior and the Spiritual Gifts Analysis. Your coordinator and your ministry team will benefit by knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and spiritual gifts.

The purpose in doing these assessments is to:

  • Help you gain a better understanding of yourself, to recognize your innate weaknesses, and to appreciate your own God-given strengths
  • Help you better understand those closest to you
  • Enable you to better communicate with others
  • Enable you to better encourage others to reach their potential

Celebrate your unique design and giftedness by bringing Jesus Christ glory as you use your gifts in the Body of Christ. And, although you are gifted with many strengths, even in using those natural strengths and spiritual gifts be ever mindful that you need to continually depend on His power to use them for his purposes and for his glory. Ask Jesus to show you how to use your strengths. And, pray for him to be working through you in both your strengths and your weaknesses.

“For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)

Related Topics: Christian Education, Women

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