This past week has seen a lot of controversy surrounding the presidential inauguration. What it basically comes down to is that a certain Christian minister was asked to give the invocation, and later stepped down from doing so amidst controversy about a sermon he gave 20 years ago regarding homosexuality. I’m not going to give it any more press than that. If you haven’t heard, you can read the story on any major news outlet. That’s not my purpose here.
It seems that this is one of the core issues of our time, and is seen as such from every side. I have tried to avoid wading into this arena due to the messiness of it, but I have one simple observation tonight that I’d like to share. It’s a point of conviction for me, and one I think could be for the church as a whole. Regardless of one’s view of Christianity, regardless of which side of the debate one is on, one has to do something with what the Bible says about homosexuality. Some adhere to historical orthodoxy and hold that same-sex sex is a sin (like any other). Some re-interpret scripture in light of culture and the times and therefore reject that it is a sin. It seems that often both sides stop at this point and go on with their lives. To me, however, there is a burning question that must be answered. What do we do next? Some say we should fight a culture war. Perhaps they’re right. Some say we should advocate. Perhaps they’re right. However, in the midst of the turmoil, I believe beyond any doubt that Christians are called to pray. Scripture actually provides an extremely clear illustration of the call to prayer for this issue in particular, and I feel it wise for the church to heed it.
I don’t know that anyone “likes” the story of Sodom and Gamorrah. It’s messy, confusing, and really tragic. It’s also at the epicenter of many of the debates about the sinfulness of same-sex sex. A lot of people can’t come to terms with God directly destroying cities due to unrighteousness. However, I think I can kinda understand it. You see, Genesis 19 tells the story, and to me, the key verse is 13…where an angel explains to Lot that “we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” I’m sure all of us hope we will never come to a place of crying out to such a degree that destruction happens, but I know that I’ve seen it in my own life. We Americans were all pretty united in outcry when terrorists crashed planes into our buildings, killing thousands. I think we’re all pretty united in outcry when we hear that there are 8-year old girls being forced into prostitution in some places in the world. However, I feel like most of us stop at that point of outrage and outcry. I know I have. At worst, I have voiced my opinions by posting on social media, have felt justified, and have walked away. At best, I have made a small donation to a nonprofit or done some advocacy work. However, most always, I eventually forget about it until confronted with it again whenever the next controversy happens. I know I’ve been lazy in this regard, and I imagine many in the church have as well. Recently, though, the Lord has been calling me to scripture and prayer, and in it I found another way.
Many of us know the story of Sodom and Gamorrah’s destruction from chapter 19 of Genesis, but I think we often overlook or forget about chapter 18. Don’t do it, or you’ll miss one of (in my opinion) the most beautiful moments in scripture. You see, before these angels went to Lot’s house, they stopped in at Abraham’s house. Being a man of faith, Abraham recognized that these weren’t mere men, and rushed to wait upon them. After good food and talk of miracles, the angels got up to leave, but then paused and had an internal conversation. It went like this: 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. 20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” There’s a whole sermon in there about this, but we’ll skip it for now and go on to Abraham’s glorious response…intercession.
Intercession is a big word that simply means intervening or mediating between two parties. In Christian parlance, it most often refers to prayer to God on another’s behalf. Intercession was Abraham’s response to hearing of forthcoming destruction resulting from sin. The NIV even names the section “Abraham Pleads for Sodom.” Specifically, Abraham asked God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” It would be easy here to say that Abraham didn’t care about the wicked, but only about the righteous. I don’t want to read into what’s not there, but I feel like Abraham really did care about all the people. He could have just as easily asked for the righteous to be removed from the city if there were any. He didn’t do that. He instead asked that if even 10 people were found in the city who were righteous, that God would effectively impute this righteousness to sinners, saving them. Did you get that? The righteousness of a few would prevent the destruction of the many. Thousands of years before Christ came, hundreds of years before the Levitical law and sacrifices were established, Abraham was praying to God for propitiation by imputation of righteousness from the innocent to the guilty. No wonder Jesus stated in John 8:53 that “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Abraham got it. He stood as an intercessor on behalf of those he knew were destined for destruction, repeatedly asking God for even more grace. Tragically, ten righteous were not found in the city that day, and God did not relent from bringing destruction. However, as Christians, we know and believe there was One who was righteous and died as an atoning sacrifice to bring life to the many.
So, where does this leave us? Pray, church. It doesn’t matter if you believe God has slated these people for destruction tomorrow…pray like Abraham. Intercede on behalf of these. As a contributor to the student newspaper at my alma mater stated, “The gay suicide rate is sky high. Gay depression is rampant. Gay loneliness is widespread. And where is the church?” No matter what you believe on the issue, pray. Ask the Lord that He would bring hope in Christ. Pray that He would draw these into confession and repentance that leads to imputation of Christ’s righteousness in them for their salvation. Ask that God would bring a revelation of truth that would be transformative. God doesn’t change, and His truth doesn’t change, so pray for His truth to be revealed in Christ (the truth, himself). Ask that God would allow your church to minister to these…that we don’t miss this like the Tekoite nobles from Nehemiah 3:5 that “would not stoop to serve their Lord.” Like Abraham and the tax collector from Luke 18:13, pray from a place of humility, knowing that 1 Peter 4:18 says even those who are righteous are “scarcely saved.” In that regard, pray that God sends laborers into the harvest, but that He does the work, as we are completely incapable of saving anyone by ourselves. As Ephesians 6:12 says, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Finally, don’t pray once and be done with it. Be like Abraham…boldly come before the throne of grace and repeatedly ask (seek and knock) the Lord for more and more grace to abound. Pray daily, or even hourly, as often as you can. Oswald Chambers said “Prayer does not prepare us for the greater work, it is the greater work,” and John Wesley taught that “God does nothing but in answer to prayer; and even they who have been converted to God, without praying for it themselves (which is exceeding rare), were not without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the effect of a new prayer.” Prayer really does matter, especially in this time and in this issue.