My daughter e-mailed me a story from The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) dated June 17, 2010: “Bellevue says ‘you’re out,’ gay softball coach claims.” If you don’t want to read the news story, let me fill you in quickly. Bellevue Baptist Church, where I served for nine years as a minister, kicked a softball team out of their league because the coach was a lesbian.
Was the church playing hardball with this switch hitter?
My daughter asked what I thought, appropriately entitling her e-mail, “This is where it gets tricky…” Here’s my response:
I heard Richard Land, President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tell a story recently about meeting a priest who inquired, “Why are you Southern Baptists so hung up on ‘pelvic politics’?” The priest was referring to Southern Baptist’s hot-button issues of abortion and homosexuality. Land astutely observed that people like this just don’t get it.
They think the issue is sex.
Don’t get me wrong. Homosexuality is sin. It is condemned multiple times in both the Old (Leviticus 18:22) and New Testaments (Romans 1:26-27). But cliche as it may be, God hates the sin. God loves the sinner. And sexual sin is just one category of sin—no better, no worse than other sin. God hates all sin—my sin, your sin. Furthermore, nearly everyone is guilty of some kind of sexual sin, since Jesus said that to even look lustfully equals adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28).
So sexual sin is not really the issue here.
If you survey reader comments on the story—and the story generated nearly 1,000 comments in 24 hours, five times more than any other story that day—most people criticized the church for a lack of love and grace, or for hypocrisy and inconsistency. Most of the comments were sheer ignorance, and I mean that word in its classic sense, absolute ignorance of Bible hermeneutics. I don’t have time to even begin refuting them. And it doesn’t really matter because love and grace and consistency in responding to sin is not the issue either.
The issue in this case is clear and simple:
If the woman in question would have had a godly response to the confrontation about her sin—agreeing with God that it is wrong and repenting of it, then the church would have been right to let her and the team stay. But she openly and defiantly confessed to being gay and was not willing to turn away.
You may be puzzled by why I think an unrepentant heart is the central issue.
Because if sin alone—any sin: homosexuality, alcohol abuse, gluttony, anger, lust, idolatry, envy, just go down any catalog of sin (Galatians 5:19-21)—if sin alone disqualifies one from playing softball, we would all strike out. No hits, no runs, all errors.
But this woman not only sins, she professes her sin openly and defiantly. It’s an on-going lifestyle for her. Not a stumble. The Bible has much to say about wicked people who boast of their sin and think they are beyond the arm of God’s judgment. For starters, read Psalm 10.
So, if the woman humbly repents, she’s safe. But since she was unrepentant, Bellevue had no choice but to call her out. The fact that she was the coach, in a leadership position and held to even higher standards, made it even more clear cut.
I pity and pray for Jana J. Jacobson. Her sexual disorientation is not the issue. Her issue is an unrepentant heart and an open arrogance toward her sin. The church did not declare her guilty. God did. Bellevue simply read the verdict. She, however, could have appealed to the Judge and received a full pardon. Instead she chose to take the punishment herself. People don’t ultimately go to hell because of their sin. They go to hell because they reject the Savior. No, this isn’t a case of “pelvic politics.” Sex is not the issue. Rejecting God is. It is not, however, too late for her. She can still apply the grace and mercy that God offers. What a story that would be, if she repented, got saved, and the church restored the team. God, let it be. Jana, I’m praying for you.