Homosexuality, Serpents, and Doves

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The tag-line for BJU’s What in the World! newsletter is “helping believers be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” I borrowed, of course, the words of Jesus in Matt. 10:16 as He sends His disciples out on a preaching tour.

Every sinful age demands that Christ’s disciples have this serpentine wisdom or cunning—φρόνιμος is the same word used to describe the “subtil” serpent in Gen 3:1 (LXX). So one major purpose of What in the World! is to engage in what Bryan W. Smith calls “Christian-worldview shaping.” Readers need to know what the world is arguing and how to respond.

But Jesus also called for His servants to be “harmless as doves.” R. T. France points out in his TNTC volume on Matthew that this harmlessness or innocence (ἀκέραιος) “demands not naivety, but an irreproachable honesty” (p. 182). So What in the World! urges purity by shedding light on the sins of the church.

France’s last comment on Matt. 10:16 struck me today: “The balance of prudence and purity will enable Christians both to survive and to fulfill their mission to the world.” His words fit exactly our situation in the culture war over homosexuality and gay marriage.

If we were more prudent then, yes, we wouldn’t have biblically illiterate Christians making the Bible look silly during radio call-in programs.

But if Christians fulfilled the simpler task of being pure, then Lisa Miller could not have written important paragraphs in her recent infamous Newsweek opinion piece. Two points here:

  • If Christians had led the culture—instead of dragging it backwards—in granting civil rights to all God’s image-bearers regardless of race or skin color, Miller and others could not so readily draw a direct line from Martin Luther King to Matthew Shepard.
  • And if Christians didn’t divorce one another she couldn’t say, “Paul argued more strenuously against divorce [than against homosexuality]—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.”

If we love homosexuals we mustn’t give up the fight for the right to openly tell them the truth about their sin. But Jesus knew best: we must be wise and pure ourselves.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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