Within the last couple of days you may have heard about “The Nashville Statement.” It was formulated by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” and signed onto by many Christian leaders and lay people, mostly from an American Christian evangelical background.
The focus of the Statement is on human sexuality and the Biblical teaching that God created man and woman to become one flesh (Genesis 1:27, 2:24, 5:2; Matthew 19:4ff; Ephesians 5:21ff). I encourage you to read the Statement for yourself, rather than relying on media reports which tend to mischaracterize it. It’s not long (only 14 short articles) and can be found here.
There’s a lot of controversy about this Statement, which confuses me a bit for the following reasons:
- It’s in accord with orthodox Christian teaching
- Other church bodies have released similar statements and hold to similar teachings (for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches similarly (here) and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has released a number of documents related to these issues, viewable here: lcms.org/…ocuments/marriage-and-sexuality).
- The people who oppose this statement seem to miss the Gospel message inherent in articles 8, 9, 12 and 14 in particular.
In summary, the Statement upholds the Biblical truth that God created man and woman to join together in marriage as one flesh, and that He intends for the sanctity of this union to be safeguarded. As embodied creatures, consisting of both body and soul, God created us male and female (Genesis 1:27).
Granted, this is an unpopular truth in our current American (and Western European) social and political climate, but the Church is called not to align itself with prevailing opinions, but rather to uphold God’s truth and proclaim it in love.
Indeed, God’s Word reveals that we are all sinners. By examining ourselves according to His standards (i.e. the Ten Commandments) we see that we all fall short, as St. Paul says in Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”
Yet, God has saved us from this condemnation, since we are “.. justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood…” (Romans 3:24-25).
The point that many people miss is that we are all sinners. Christians are sinners too, and subject to the same temptations as are all people. Christians often fall into sin and are not as God intends for us to be. Yet, God saves us from this sin by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ and then calls us to walk as the people He has re-birthed us into (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). When we fall from this calling, and we will, God’s grace is always there, and He is always forgiving for the sake of Christ.
The Nashville Statement, like many others, is simply an attempt to clarify the teaching of the Church on one topic, that of human sexuality. It does not mean that those who agree with the Statement “hate” those who disagree. Rather, it means that the Church loves humanity enough to keep witnessing to God’s Word in spite of opposition so that all people might be led to the Gospel of Christ which forgives, heals, and restores. We must feel the weight of God’s Law upon us, as it convicts us of sin, so that we can recognize the Gospel for the Good News that it is, as God lifts the weight of this sin from us.
What is more, the Church loves sinners precisely because the Church knows that she herself has been redeemed from sin by her faithful husband, Christ Jesus our Lord.
In closing, perhaps it’s helpful to keep Paul’s words to Titus in mind (Titus 3:3-7):
For we were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This Gospel is for all people.