The bible, the National Football League and homosexuality make strange bedfellows.
New York Jets back-up quarterback Tim Tebow (of whom I am a fan for his on and off the gridiron accomplishments) escaped an NFL sack when he backed out of an April 28 speaking engagement at First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Historically, the Texas church has elicited – very predictably – organized pro-gay protests and inordinate media attention for its pastor's preaching against the homosexual agenda, Mormonism and Catholicism.
Outspoken about his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Heisman Trophy winner took to social media on Feb. 20, wiggling out of the pressure his planned appearance at the mega-church produced. Intense scrutiny came from print and broadcast outlets in the Big Apple where Tebow's in the spotlight, and from pro-gay critics of the pastor.
In a series of Facebook and Twitter messages, the former Denver Broncos first-round, quarterback draft pick stated that he needed to avoid controversy - after first calling the pastor to cancel his appearance celebrating a $130 million campus expansion at the church.
As a University of Florida Gator, Tebow attended his parents' church, First Baptist Jacksonville, where the preaching is similar to Pastor Robert Jeffress' sermons at First Baptist Dallas.
Until Jeffress' insinuated in a You Tube video that Tebow had “wimped out,” the Jets No. 2 man was on record as being open to sharing a future message of hope and love at the church.
Unlike Jeffress, Tebow's never mentioned homosexuality with the media, but he knows what happens to NFL players who do. San Francisco 49ers cornerback Christ Culliver was forced to take sensitivity training after making disparaging remarks about gay players during a radio interview.
Initially, I wanted to defend Tebow, Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas. Tebow because I share his faith and love for the bible verse John 3:16 (He threw a season-high 316 yards in a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and set an NFL record with 31.6 yards per completion); Jeffress and the church because it was in a small Baptist fellowship that the seed of my own Christian faith was sown the year I turned 13.
Though I agree with Jeffress' position that God's design for sex is between a married man and woman (for which he's lambasted by mainstream media and 'Big Gay' as a talk-show host dubbed it), I know other ministries are reaching out to gays and lesbians who struggle with unwanted same-sex desires, loving them unconditionally, speaking the truth in love about homosexuality, and addressing the myths surrounding it – with great success and no publicity, good or bad.
Take prophetic minister Doug Addison, for example. When half the lights in the New Orleans Superdome darkened for 34 minutes during the NFL's big game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 10, Addison's ministry blog called the third-quarter delay of game “The Super Bowl Sign Seen by the World,” something he prophesied would happen a full week before it did.
“First of all, God's heart right now is for people to encounter His love, power and acceptance,” Addison wrote in his Discovering Destiny and Purpose blog on Feb. 11, the day after the Super Bowl blackout covered half the Superdome. It occurred when the combined point totals of both teams equaled 34 (remember the number).
“I have been prophesying for awhile about a revival coming to spiritual outcasts; That is people who have been wounded by Christians and the church.
“This includes (but is not limited to) people involved in the New Age, the tattooed and pierced, and the gay and lesbian community,” Addison wrote.
Contrary to public opinion, all three groups of people are open to God, according to Addison, who has been ministering to them for several years. “One problem we are having with reaching people is that Christians have been judging these people harshly for their behavior.”
During a time of personal prayer following the Super Bowl, Addison believes the Holy Spirit spoke to him - amid bright flashes of angelic light - about the details of the No. 34, and directed him to Matthew 5:14 in which Jesus tells his followers they are the light of the world.
“Half of the lights went out (in the Superdome) because God wants us to notice that we are operating at half power. Many Christians keep thinking that God is judging our nation and the world. Yet God is actually holding the church accountable right now for not extending love to those in need,” Addison said.
He believes that spiritual revival is awaiting San Francisco and other cities when Christians give up their dislikes for spiritually outcast people groups. “God spoke to me that pride and prejudice have blinded many Christians. At least half (of Christians), as only one-half the lights went out” in the Superdome, Addison said.
In reading Ezekiel chapter 34 (again, notice the number), Addison discovered what he calls a prophetic comparison: People who need God and sheep.
“God spoke to me that the prophetic application of Ezekiel 34 is about Christians who have not had God's heart for people in need. This chapter in Ezekiel is widely used against leaders, but God isn't talking about Christian pastors or leaders in this context, just regular everyday Christians.
“This is a time to step up and be the light in the darkness. We really can love people who have been wounded by religion and by Christians who don't love as Jesus loves,” Addison said.
Biblical king David, who Addison believes is symbolic of someone who loves God and does battle on behalf of outcasts, is mentioned in Ezekiel 34 and in 1st Samuel 22:2, where the mighty men of God are characterized as one-time rejects in ancient Israel.
“This is a time in which we need to have a heart like David for people who have been wounded and driven away from having a relationship with God,” Addison said.
He had a similar prophetic word in December 2011 when, on his webcast and in his blog, Addison stated something around Candlestick Park in the Bay Area would be seen around the world.
On Dec. 19, during a Monday night NFL telecast, a power surge blew out a generator, forcing two outages during the game.
“This was a sign saying the old ways of operating will not be able to handle the new power coming from God to reach places like San Francisco,” Addison said.
Those new ideas include abandoning "religiosity," which is being too religious to connect with people, loving unconditionally as Jesus did, and separating religion from politics.
According to Addison, “God's heart is for people, not political parties. We cannot justify hatred toward people as 'hating what they represent.' ”
Finally, he says, allow people to experience God on his timetable. “Sometimes requiring them to change too quickly will do more harm than good.”
Another Christian leader making significant inroads in ministry to gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexuals (GLBT) is Nancy Eskijian, the senior pastor of Bread of Life Foursquare Church in Los Angeles.
Her successes in embracing these groups into the full life and belief of the southern California church are documented in “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex and Gender and the Bible” (Creation House) and “Restoration Now,” a book dealing with inner healing and deliverance (Signalman Press).
“We find these individuals were usually raised in the church and want to come home to it, but they want to enter into that home without judgment or condemnation – just like the rest of us,” Eskijian wrote in a February 2013 Charisma magazine article titled “The Truth About Our Gay Dilemma.”
The article stresses that Christians can be compassionate and biblical amid today's fierce same-sex battles as they enter hearts through love, challenge hearts through truth, influence hearts through understanding, understand hearts through awareness, and transform hearts through their spiritual position.
Eskijian agrees with Addison that GLBT people have been ostracized by the church for their lifestyles and that, when they do come back to the fold, there's a temptation to force them to change too quickly.
“The church has a reputation for being closed to the gay community. Churches like Westboro Baptist in Kansas only strengthen that reputation, as they picket funerals and stand on street corners waving their banners that exult: 'God hates fags.'"
Rather than forcing change by laying out a list of do's and don'ts for GLBT people who go to church for the first time or return to it, Eskijian wrote, “We approach them with compassion, healing and truth in doses they can receive, just as (Jesus) Christ did.”
As for challenging hearts through understanding, Eskijian says it's paramount for Christians to understand GLBT beliefs about their predicament.
“To speak with any degree of credibility about these matters with our gay, transsexual and transgendered neighbors, we need to understand their perspective, as well as God's response to these perspectives,” according to Eskijian.
Many who identify themselves as gay believe they were “born that way.”
“This phrase is a foundational, spiritual, legal and emotional pillar of segments of the gay community.
“It supports the view that homosexual acts and orientation can't be considered sinful because an individual is born that way – with an unchangeable condition or predisposition. He or she has no desire to be another way, nor is his or her orientation alterable even if that person wanted to be otherwise,” Eskijian explains in the article.
Even if someone believes he was born gay, or has been attracted to the same sex from a young age, that doesn't mean God designed those desires or that it is his intended plan.
“Nor does it cancel the clear promise of scripture where (the Apostle) Paul declares, 'Such were some of you,'" referring to former homosexuals and other types sinners in 1st Corinthians 6:11.
However, engaging in a homosexual act requires a choice, no matter how predisposed an individual is, just like any number of other behaviors.
That predisposition still reflects a heart the Lord wants to heal, restore and forgive.
“Gay or straight is not the issue,” Eskijian said. “The existence of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ declares the potential for new life to those who believe in the fullness of that life and want to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”
Maybe the bible and homosexuality aren't such strange bedfellows after all, given what God's word says about it and other sins. And maybe the church, the NFL and the culture at large should take a cue from credible Christians who are in the trenches doing battle with their gay neighbors.