You don’t know me. We have never met and probably never will. My name is Phillip. I am a husband (of almost 18 years), a father of 3 boys, and have been in pastoral ministry for more than 20 years. I have two advanced degrees in Church History and Theology.
Now, I know this is a weird way to start a letter, but I felt I needed to give you a little background before I write the things below. Context is important. I want you to know a little about me, so that I don’t just come off as some hyper-critical internet troll looking to pick a fight and catch 15 seconds of fame off of a hot-button issue. I don’t want to come off as some random, faceless name that may or may not have something worthwhile to share with you.
Let me start with the positives. I really like your music. The bluesy-jazz vibe in your voice is refreshing among the field of cookie-cutter, auto-tune pop that plagues the airways. The sound of soul is refreshing. I appreciate it. Also, for the most part, the songs I have heard from you are solid, God-honoring songs. We have sung a few of them in our church services where I pastor. Thank you for writing music that can cultivate a spirit and environment of worship.
I listened to your brief interview with Domenick Nati. The internet is all abuzz about it. But I need you to know, I actually listened to the interview. I didn’t just read some quote-mined article about the interview. I appreciate the overall humility you expressed when asked about homosexuality being a sin. I also appreciated the general tone you took. You weren’t defensive, combative, or spiteful. That tends to be the tone by far too many people on both sides of the issue.
In the interview, you pointed people to reading the Bible for themselves. You stated that if they can figure out whether homosexuality is a sin, then help you learn that as well. You stated you don’t know and are open to learning the truth. I thank you for exhibiting a teachable spirit around this issue. That actually displays a unique kind of bravery in our current culture. Typically, anyone that doesn’t immediately affirm the value of the homosexual position is considered an enemy of progress. To the leave the question open in the world of media and entertainment took guts. Well done for that.
I am not going to throw you under the bus like a number of my evangelical friends have done to this point. Your issue is one of discipleship. Before I address that specifically, I think full transparency is important. I am a conservative, orthodox Christian. I do think the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. I also think it teaches that various forms of heterosexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage are sin. I also think it teaches that pride, greed, gluttony, etc. are sin. Yet, I understand why you are struggling with this issue. The Christian Church has always had issues that people struggle with – even if those issues seem “clear” in the Bible. Because of this, discipleship has always been a primary part of the Christian experience. There is a call for the church to guard itself against false teaching. Why? Because any teaching that softens the call to be like Christ in the world – not just in compassion, but also in holiness – will at some point negatively affect the value of the gospel in the world. The gospel is a call from brokenness to wholeness; from slavery to redemption; from wickedness to holiness. Your own song, “How Can It Be,” expresses this idea well. Jesus has come to make a great exchange: our wickedness for His righteousness.
However, our current Christian world has many divergent voices on what that holiness looks like. Many have moved away from the clear, standard of righteousness given in Scripture and moved to a “buffet-style” version of Jesus. We walk down the line of the things God calls from our lives and we say, “Yes, I will take some mercy and compassion. Oh no – I won’t take any of that closemindedness about human sexuality. I will have a little righteousness, but not so much that I come off standoffish.” We cannot approach God this way. We are like the rich young ruler. He approached Jesus, asking about eternal life. Jesus challenged the thing that young man didn’t want to let go of. The young man walked away from Jesus, sad. Notice what happens in that story: the young man loved himself (in this case, demonstrated by his wealth), more than he loved God. Jesus, loving God and His truth, let the young man walk away from eternal life. Jesus didn’t make the criteria easier for the young man.
In this letter, I will not explain why I believe homosexuality is sin. There are great teachers out there that have plenty of great explanations about this issue. You can check out John MacArthur, John Piper, Al Mohler, or Kevin DeYoung to name a few. No, my concern from the interview has little to do with your comments regarding the issue of homosexuality. I am glad you are asking hard questions, and I pray you find good answers.
My greater concern from your interview is about something that none of my other evangelical brothers and sisters will likely address with you. About midway through the interview, Domenick Nati stated, “You going on Ellen is something your career really needs. You’ve gone mainstream. You’ve got a huge person reaching out. You would be really foolish to turn that down and be like, ‘No, you’re gay.'” Your response was telling. You said, “Yeah, Perfect way to end your career.” Toward the end of the interview, you mentioned being “married to your career.”
Earlier in this letter, I spoke about the rich young ruler. He had things. Things he had made. Things he had built. Things he loved. Things, very likely, he did “to honor and glorify God.” Yet, when called upon to follow Christ or keep the things he made, he chose to keep his own life, to keep his own possessions. I don’t necessarily think it was wrong or bad for you to go on Ellen’s show. It is great platform for millions of people that potentially don’t know or believe the gospel to be exposed to the truth of Jesus Christ. As far Christian mission goes, it seemed a great opportunity. Oh, and since I am being transparent, I don’t think Ellen is “bad” because she is gay. Being gay isn’t what makes a person “bad.” Being in Adam, shackled by a love of self, in a state in which our lives do not reflect the glory of God because of the absence of Christ, that is what makes us “bad.” There are plenty of heterosexuals that fit that bill.
Your concern about doing what was necessary to “keep your career” is what I found most alarming. Jesus often calls us to let go of things, not pursue things, and to not have lives that we want to have – all for His glory and His purpose. Jesus says it plainly, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34). My concern for you isn’t your uncertainty about homosexuality. My concern for you is this “love of self” that seems to be associated with your concept of “not ending your career.” It is a very slippery slope to stand on. What if you come to the conclusion that homosexuality is a sin? What if you are asked that again in the future in another public forum? If your desire is for a “career that won’t be ruined” over the truth and glory of Jesus, then you will be facing a crisis of belief. If you went on Ellen as a way to make much of Jesus where He isn’t usually named, I say “Amen.” If you went on Ellen to get your name out more and find avenues of greater “success,” that could be quite problematic. God doesn’t call for us to be successful according to the world’s standards. God calls us to be faithful, persevering in a life of faith and repentance, overcoming the draw back to the old lives of sin from which we were delivered.
Lauren, this is my concern for you. I am glad you are struggling with hard questions. I think it is good that you want your answers to come from the Word. But, I can’t help but wonder about something based on the “career comments” in the interview. Are you struggling with the issue of homosexuality because you are genuinely seeking the truth, or are you struggling with this issue because it could pose a future roadblock for the advancement of your career? In the first scenario, God welcomes the heart that is seeking truth and wisdom. In the second, truth and wisdom are clouded by selfish ambition. In the first, God’s grace usually produces a repentant heart and a strong faith. In the second, if left unchecked, the result is usually the same as the rich young ruler: someone walking away sad from the presence of Jesus. My desire for you as a Christian is that you not walk away from Jesus, nor begin to create an environment in your life now that might lead you to do so later.
Pastor – Sylvania Church in Tyler, TX