He suggests (though he is not yet at the point of conviction about this) that the inclusion of Gentiles and the way that happened in the early church might provide guidance for the Church today with regard to our homosexual sisters and brothers.
He writes about certain lessons he has learned from having fellowship with two lesbian women in his congregation. It is the final lesson he writes about that got my attention. I’ll share his words and then we can talk about it.
A final lesson has been about God’s priorities. One of the lesbian women who now serves in our church had a dramatic conversion experience and life change that was unlike anything I have seen before. I cannot think of anyone else who, after encountering Christ, changed so many of her habits, pursuits, and priorities. She is a radically different person and her transformation was unmistakably the work of God’s Spirit. But apparently the Holy Spirit is not interested in transforming her sexuality yet, and I find that worthy of note.
Why would God refrain? According to most of Christian culture her sexuality ought to have been the Spirit’s first target for conviction and repair, but her experience was not unique. I hear from those in other churches that gay men and women coming to faith and clearly stepping into a life of discipleship and sanctification are likewise not experiencing God transforming their sexual preferences. So how should we read this?
In the early church, the Jewish Christians became convinced that God desired to save Gentiles through faith in Christ alone, because they saw the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of the Gentiles. The common understanding of conversion in the first century was that one needed to physically change—to be circumcised and give up certain foods in order to be acceptable to God. But the early church shifted its perception of this entire group of people, not because of the Bible (the Bible was clear that all males needed to be circumcised and eating shellfish was a no-no), but because they saw the work of the Holy Spirit bursting forth from the lives of these Gentile believers.
After seeing the Spirit’s work, they changed the rules of inclusion.
I do not have a clear conviction from Christ on this point, but I wonder if that same lesson is being offered to the American Church, who so clearly sees the Holy Spirit alive and awake in some of our gay friends. I wonder if empirically we might make the same move as the first Christians who disregarded the many verses on circumcision and food laws, disregarded traditional mores, and embraced the present activity of God’s Spirit in their midst as authoritative.
I think if we did, we would not only begin to see God in new ways, we might gain many new sisters, many new brothers—just as the early church did.
Is Jeff Cook on to something here?