Shortly after I completed college, a friend introduced me to the music of a young Christian musician named Jennifer Knapp. I immediately fell in love with her songs, largely drawn from Scripture, and somehow able to simultaneously capture both the joys and challenges of walking with Christ.
To my chagrin, Knapp virtually disappeared in 2002, taking what ultimately proved to be a seven-year hiatus. Rumors abounded as to her whereabouts and lifestyle, but nobody seemed to really know what had happened to her. Late last year she reemerged, announcing her decision to return to music, but giving few details of her time away. Until this past week.
In an interview with Christianity Today Knapp confirmed that she is a lesbian who has been in a relationship with her partner for the past eight years. She still insists that she remains committed to Christianity, and that her lifestyle is not incompatible with the nature and love of God. However, she is not currently involved in any church community.
Perhaps more surprising to some has been the support she has received from an unlikely ally, Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon’s Call, another of my favorite bands from college). Webb will be touring with her this year, and has publicly issued statements to the effect that he feels more empathy toward the gay Christian movement than toward more conservative segments of Christianity. This morning he posted this link on his own website.
What are we to believe about those who apparently seek to preserve their Christian identity while embracing a self-identity as homosexual? For a fuller discussion of this subject, I would refer you to my recent sermon on the subject, but allow me to offer a few thoughts in this format as well:
-First, it is clear that this issue has produced a great deal of pain in the lives of quite a few. Clearly, Knapp herself feels deeply in need of the love of Jesus. We can affirm unhesitatingly that the love of Jesus extends to all men and women, despite the fact that we are broken and sinful. Pick up your Bible and read Romans 5:6-10 if you doubt God’s love for every sinner. To those who believe Him, He will provide eternal life freely and irrevocably. For this reason, there is no biblical warrant for anybody to persecute or abuse men and women who self-identify as homosexual; instead we are called to share with them the genuine love of Jesus.
-Second, the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Numerous attempts have been made to reinterpret the biblical statements regarding homosexuality. For example, Knapp argues that this issue is comparable to a Christian eating shellfish or wearing garments of several types of thread. A close and thorough reading of the Scripture simply does not support such claims. For a fuller exposition of these passages, listen to my sermon, but also go read Romans 1:18-32 and see how homosexuality fits into Paul’s train of thought.
-Third, we must begin to actively communicate to the world that one’s identity is not permanently and intrinsically bound up in a particular expression of sexual sin. Instead, we are identified as Christians with Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This means that homosexuals can change. The Bible affirms this idea (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and numerous psychological studies have borne it out. For more information on this topic, visit www.exodusinternational.org . I would also urge you to read the excellent book by Alan Chambers entitled God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door.
If you or somebody you know is struggling in this area or self-identifies as a homosexual, please remember that God loves all in Jesus Christ, but truly desires for His people to walk in holiness and purity. Unrepentant sexual sin is incompatible with a close relationship to Jesus, and yet there is always hope for genuine change for those who know Christ.
The time for silence, fear, accommodation, and hatred is past us now. The time to boldly yet graciously extend the love and compassion and truth of Jesus has arrived.