Revive Our Hearts Radio

Urgent Questions and Solid Answers

Leslie Basham: Here's Rosaria Butterfield.

Rosaria Butterfield: A biblical sexual moral ethic is actually at the center of the gospel, not its margins. Many people are just waking up to that. And you know, when you change . . . this is just a kind of old philosophical truth that I knew back when before I knew the Lord. If you change the language, you change the logic.

So if you decide that no, we are not all male and female image bearers of a holy God with a soul that will last forever, but instead some of us are gay and some of us are straight and some of us are trans and some of us . . . If you do that, that seems on the one hand very charitable. What it actually does is it supplants God's truth for our life for our feelings. And our feelings are more often than not rooted in how original sin has distorted us. Every day we have to deal with that. How original sin has distorted us, actual sin distracts us and indwelling sin manipulates us.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Friday, July 15, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, this past February, you heard an interview I did with Rosaria Butterfield here on Revive Our Hearts. She told an amazing story of God's amazing grace. And we heard how this former gay rights activist came to faith in Jesus, and then how she left a lesbian lifestyle and began to live a life for God's glory.

Rosaria: A transgender friend really put the question in a pointed way. What she said was this: I went back into the kitchen to I think probably grab another bottle of wine and get some more bowls of pasta filled. And she sat down and she said, "Rosaria, before you go back in that dining room and serve again and talk, I just need to talk to you because I'm worried for you. This Bible reading is changing you. I'm really concerned."

Nancy: If you haven't heard that story, I hope you'll visit the archives at ReviveOurHearts.com. Be sure to listen to this series "Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert."

Rosaria: I needed to go to church and meet God and not worry about the fact that my butch haircut and my jeans probably was just not the normal dress code of this particular group.

Nancy: Well, since we aired that series in February, it feels like so much has been changing so fast. There's been a heated debate going on over those who self-identify as transgender and what public bathrooms they use. And we've seen increased opposition for Christians who decide that they can't in good conscience provide services for same-sex weddings.

We've also seen a number of speakers and authors who claim to believe the Bible who are now supporting same-sex marriage. And sadly, these discussions have often been carried out in a way that is divisive and sometimes even leads to violence.

Well, these are confusing and complex days. And what are we to think? How are we to handle these subjects?

Our team caught up with Rosaria Butterfield last month at the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference, so that's why you'll hear some conference activity going on in the background. Erin Davis is on our team. She's the lead writer for the Lies Young Women Believe blog for Revive Our Hearts and she talked with Rosaria about some of these current issues.

Erin Davis: I wonder if you could help me have some language for a term now that we are just all so used to but it's lost some of its meaning, which is "sexual orientation." We hear that phrase, and we aren't even sure what it means. Could you help us understand it?

Rosaria: Yes. Well first of all, you don't know what it means because it is changing weekly. In the nineteenth century the term "sexual orientation" was actually introduced via Freud to suggest an ontological category of personhood. That's a big clunky phrase, and what it really means is, "who you really are."

Prior to the nineteenth century, most everyone accepted that we were different from animals. We were different because we were made in the image of God. And we were different because we were male and female image bearers. We were different because we had a soul that will last forever through eternity itself.

But Freud came on the scene and said "no." He said it was in part connected to a kind of evolutionary idea. We are just higher mammals. We are higher mammals whose real meaning of personhood, real purpose in life, is to flourish in terms of our sexual desires. Some people are homosexual and some people are heterosexual and that's who you really are.

And so that launched a kind of sexual idolatry, really. And here's the thing about idols: Idols have to be fed. There's no point in the Old Testament where an idol says, "Hey, I've had enough. Please don't. Don't sacrifice your children. The cattle will be fine." Idols constantly need to be fed because idols are by nature predatory.

From the nineteenth century onward we have seen this, I want to say, predatory category. And I'm using the word "predatory" because sexual sins won't be satisfied. They just keep escalating.

In 2015 with the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergefell case, that is the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, what happened is that sexual orientation moved from a national idol to a civil right. And so, now we are dealing with sexual orientation in a whole new way because as a civil rights category, it now has the weight and the teeth to put forward the religious liberty persecutions that we're starting to see and that we will see more of.

Erin: I know you don't have a magic ball to gaze into, but I wonder how you see that unfolding five years from now, ten years from now, fifteen years from now.

Rosaria: Yes. It's so funny because if you ask my husband that question, he is much more optimistic that I am. But I keep telling him that's because he hasn't traveled to some of the places I have. I think it's going to continue to escalate to the point where likely people who proclaim the gospel will be looking at prison. I don't have a crystal ball, but I would not be surprised if that would happen in a five to ten year period.

The Islamic Jihadist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that happened just recently is a great example. Because who is being blamed for that? Christians. Why? Because we preach the gospel.

You might say, "Wow! Duck and cover! This is getting bad." But that is not what Jesus calls us to do. A really key question is,

  • How are we going to love our enemies now?
  • How are we going to practice hospitality now?
  • How are we going to put forward the commands that are just as relevant and if not more so now than they were when we were sleep walking?

Because here's what we know about these times. God in His providential love and wisdom already anticipated them. We need to follow the Lord. We need to understand that hospitality is actually a form of spiritual warfare in a world that needs to be slayed by the gospel of love.

Erin: My pastor who doesn't travel is a pastor in rural Missouri. He's been at the pulpit at our church for over thirty years. He would agree with you. I've heard him say several times that people who are in Bible College right now are going to face jail time if they decide to preach the Bible.

So I think you're not the only one with that feeling. Not many of us want to say it out loud. But I believe that gender is the battlefield upon which God's Word is currently being challenged. Gender wars are well underway. But as you look back at the history, do you think there was always an agenda to undermine the gospel with sexuality? Or has Satan just twisted some bad science?

Rosaria: That's a great question. I don't think it was arbitrary. But I think we need to situate gender in the binarism—the maleness and femaleness of Genesis 1:26. It isn't just that gender was a free for all for Satan. I mean, it's certainly become that. A creation ordinance depends upon a binary of male and female. That being born male and female, Genesis 1:26 says it has both ethical and moral responsibilities and constraints.

That is what Satan is attacking—because it's a creation ordinance. Any creation ordinance is at the absolute heart and soul of the gospel. Many well very intended evangelicals are waking up to a very scary world because they believed the lie that all gay marriage would do was simply create a kind of expansion of the melting pot of diversity.

And what people are realizing is no, actually, exclusivity is at the heart of the gospel message because exclusivity is at the heart of God's love. Jesus is the way. But the way that this gets played out in gender is this.

A biblical sexual moral ethic is actually at the center of the gospel, not its margins. Many people are just waking up to that. This is just a kind of old philosophical truth that I knew back when before I knew the Lord. If you change the language, you change the logic.

So if you decide that no, we are not all male and female image bearers of a holy God with a soul that will last forever, but instead some of us are gay and some of us are straight and some of us are trans and some of us . . . If you do that, that seems on the one hand very charitable.

What it actually does is that it supplants God's truth for our life for our feelings. And our feelings are more often than not rooted in how original sin has distorted us. Every day we have to deal with that. How original sin has distorted us, actual sin distracts us and indwelling sin manipulates us.

Erin: It's that Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which is language precedes thought. We think it's the other way around that we think it and then we say it. But as the language of sexuality has changed, as we've given language to some of these different categories many of which didn't exist. Transgender . . . and the list goes on and on and on and on. I've kind of tried to stop keeping track.

Rosaria: Yes. It's alphabet soup. You can't keep up with it.

Erin: Right. It has changed our thinking as the language has changed, right?

Rosaria: And that's where Christians have to really draw the line. I think that you can't give a good answer to a bad question. So, if we start with the wrong question, or we start with the wrong language, or we start with the wrong labels, or we start with the wrong category of personhood, we are only going to end deeper and deeper in trouble.

I would spend as much time as it takes really wrestling and persuading the people I love who would disagree with me about this, and I'll tell you why. I spent two years of my life really asking the Lord this question: "Is my sexual love for women a reflection of who I am?" And that's what I thought. Hey, I'm a lesbian.

Erin: That's what you've heard.

Rosaria: Right. And that's what I believed. "Or is it a distortion of who I am through the fall of Adam?" Now, everything rests on the answer to that question. Before we can answer that question, we just can't go on.

You sort of compare this to having a garden. If I have a beautiful garden and I just spend five years letting it flourish—I don't prune back the rose bushes. I don't get rid of the pests. I don't weed it. I just let it flourish. It will destroy itself.

If I go to a master gardener and I say, "Hey, what is wrong with my garden? I let it flourish. I didn't do anything wrong." That master gardener's going to say, "But Rosaria, the nature of the garden is that it comes with weeds."

And so friend, sister who's listening to this right now, I love you and the nature of your nature and my nature is it comes with weeds. It's the nature that we had. And while salvation in the risen Christ changes our nature, it does not change our battles. It does not change that Satan knows our headdress.

It doesn't change my body memories or yours. So we must be on guard to ever believe that our feelings are sanctifiable simply because they are unchosen, and we've had them since our earliest memory. That's the thumb print of Satan.

So when people say to me, "I was born this way." I don't disagree. Of course you were. It's called original sin. We're all born this way. We're all in the same boat. It's a democratizing principle.

Erin: My answer is not as sophisticated as yours in that department. But I think just as someone is born with a gravitational pull toward other areas, but we don't just throw off all hindrances and say, "Well, you have a gravitational pull towards violent anger. So that's who you are." Or, "You have a gravitational pull toward substance addictions. That's who you are. You can just live that." So I wonder where our logic split.

Rosaria: It split because "gay" became a category of personhood. And so for many, many people including, let's not kid around about how serious this is, including American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, most Christian colleges, the CCCU right now endorses this idea that some people are just gay.

And that gay is sanctifiable as long as . . . Obviously APA wouldn't say this, but Christian organizations would say, "Gay is sanctifiable as long as you don't act on it." Now, that in itself is a sin because the minute that you call sin "grace" you are falling in that 1 John problem of calling God a liar.

So let's say you are much more sexually pure than I am. You are holding on by the white knuckles. God has gifted you with a much stronger flesh than I have. It's still sin because we can't call what God calls sin grace.

Sin isn't just about what we do. It goes much deeper than that. Jesus says that anger in the heart is murder, that lust is adultery. We follow our Lord who knows our hearts better than we do.

Erin: Well, give us, those of us who are Christians . . . I feel like I'm walking on egg shells a little bit about all of this language and how to talk about it and how to honor God's Word and love people well. I don't know what words to use—gay or homosexual or the alphabet soup. It seems like new letters are being added daily, a string of LGBT.

Rosaria: In the lexicon of the world, sexual orientation refers to who I want to go to bed with and gender identity refers to who I want to go to bed as. The crudeness of that is not something I invented. You can find that in the New York Times and Newsweek.

So, think about the context. Our entire life meaning is in the illicit bedroom. So, that's the distinction. Then how to refer to people? I never refer to people as "gay." I think that's a degrading term. I referred to myself as "gay" for years. And when I read Psalm 73 and God said, "You are like a beast before me," that was my undoing.

I thought I was on the side of justice and righteousness and diversity, compassion and care, to discover it was Jesus I was persecuting the whole time? My Jesus? Never. I will never use the word "gay" to refer to a person. It degrades what it means to be an image bearer.

What I do is I'll say "somebody who identifies as gay or lesbian." This becomes very crucial for the mom who's listening right now whose adult daughter just came home from college and said, "Mom, I'm a lesbian".

What that mom needs to do in her mind is say, "No, you're not." I'm not saying she should say this out loud, but in her mind she should say, "You are a prayed for child. You are a covenant child who is struggling with a besetting sin that is all over your back and all over my world and all over your world. But I'm going to shake the gates of heaven for you because you are not a lesbian. That's not a category that God made for anybody. We are all male and female image bearers of a holy God and we struggle with besetting sin until glory. And I'm going to stand right beside you. But I'm not going to be duped by this for a minute. I'm sorry you are."

That's the internal dialogue that that mom has to have with herself before she can be of any good to the daughter that God has now called her to shake the gates of heaven for.

And let me say: I was not converted out of homosexuality. I was converted out of unbelief. When Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord put in my life, first met me, he knew that being a lesbian was not my worst sin. It was being an unbeliever.

So, people can struggle with all nature, all manner, of sin until their dying day. We just need to struggle in God's way. And in God's way we just drive a fresh nail into our choice sin every day. But if we are not calling it sin, we're calling it grace, we can't even get in the game. So that mom has to help that daughter get in the game.

Erin: Don't you think it's become like a quiz of one question of whether you are an intelligent human being? Do you accept homosexuality? Yes or no. If it's "no" then something's wrong with us.

Rosaria: Absolutely. And you know, that's part of why we need to be apologists and evangelists. We need to persuade our loved ones. We need to persuade our culture. We need to be ready to share the gospel at any moment. We need to be ready to share it in chains.

I was sitting on a plane recently, and the woman next to me was talking about one of the bathroom bills. I'm from North Carolina—House Bill 2. I just said,

"Look. I'm a Christian. I just believe that being born male or female comes with ethical and moral responsibilities. I don't think that this law discriminates against people. I think it discriminates against behavior. All law discriminates against behavior. That stop sign discriminates against behavior. We're really glad that the pilot right now is going to follow the traffic laws.

"So, I really think that we need to help each other just accept—that's what laws do. And you know this whole business about you can't legislate morality? I just don't think that's true either—you can't legislate virtue. But again, that stop sign? It legislates a lot of morality."

The woman said, "I've never heard that before. That's a really interesting argument." And the two people behind me leaned in and said, "Hey, can we get in on this conversation?"

And so, I think that Christians need to not be afraid of sharing the fluency of the wisdom of the gospel. I'm not quite sure that you want to start with . . . "It's right in the Bible. It's Genesis 1:26." I think it helps for people . . . just like mothers with their children.

We want our children to move from literacy to fluency especially when they are just learning to read. The same is true for Christians right now. This is our ground game. Our ground game right now is at the grocery store shopping line. Our ground game right now is at the line dropping off kids at school. That's our ground game.

And that's part of why I really see hospitality as a key avenue that the gospel's going to spread under the persecution. I can get away with saying things on a plane, in my home, in a classroom. I'm a homeschooler, so that kind of classroom, let's be clear. At my doctor's office that I'm not sure that I can quite get away with in some other public settings. And God blesses that.

Erin: And in areas of greater persecution than we experience, we see ministry driving in homes, people coming to know Jesus around the dinner table. And it's a commandment in Scripture. Somehow we've twisted hospitality to think it's about like women who can make a braised duck or something.

Rosaria: Or put sprinkles on your cupcakes.

Erin: Right. But it's something God asks all of us to do. It has become a little bit of a neutral territory for us to share the truth of the gospel.

Rosaria: Absolutely. And we need to pray. We need to really pray with one another that the Lord would give us the fluency to not miss these moments. Because here's the thing about a world that's just popping at the seams with really not good questions.

Every "not good question" is a gospel opportunity to provide a better question. And you need the winsome love of Christ and the grace and a little bit of hutzpah, too, right? You need some Christian boldness to say, "Maybe that's not the best question. Maybe the question is this? Maybe we've gotten it all wrong."

Erin: I'm just interested if these might be two separate questions. So feel free to pick your lane. But for example, the bathroom law in North Carolina, the boycott happening at Target, some of those things that are happening where I feel like Christians are trying to take a stand. If those are helpful?

Rosaria: Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, first of all, HB–2 is a great piece of public policy. I've sat down with so many Christians who have said, "Oh, HB–2 must be terrible. The newspaper told me so."

And I'll say, "Well, did you read it? Because if you read it . . ."

And I would say Christians who are much more liberal than I am on certain positions would say, "Wow! Well, yes, that's common sense."

HB–2 is a wonderful bill. We need to pray for the legislature and everybody involved in it. And we need to stand strong in North Carolina and all those other states. That's all there is to it.

Target? One of the things that boycotts do is it does allow corporate America to do the numbers game. So . . . let's see how many transgendered people are there in the world? I mean it's just a numbers question.

Let's be clear that these laws are not saying you can't use a bathroom. These laws are just saying use the bathroom that is corresponding to your biological sex. You have to do what everybody else has to do. That's what those laws are saying.

So,what that boycott does is it gives Target a wake-up call about how many people are angry. Whether Christians could really pull off completely boycotting Apple, Target, Starbucks . . . you know, we need to be responsible in how we spend our money. And at the same time, we need to be also understanding that often boycotts do fail because you just can't follow through on them. But it's a good numbers count. It's good to sign them.

Erin: It's my understanding that it affected their bottom line specifically in Target's case, as my understanding.

Rosaria: Absolutely. And you know what? Butterfield's are not shopping at Target. If you want to know where we stand. We're done. We used to like Target. We're done.

Erin: Right. Well, I don't have a Target where I live. But it's my understanding that they've recently added a rainbow rack of children's clothing to like celebrate.

Rosaria: I wouldn't know.

Erin: And so I'm out.

Rosaria: Yes. But what that does is it gives corporate America a little wakeup call that Christians pay for diapers and formula and Cheerios also, and we might just want to take that business elsewhere.

Nancy: Well, that's Erin Davis and Rosaria Butterfield. They recorded this conversation just a few weeks ago at the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference.

Rosaria's been addressing some of the most controversial issues of our day. She's speaking out of her own journey, her own life message. She tells the story of being, at one time, a gay activist who earnestly opposed the gospel and how she came to faith in Christ in a really terrific book called The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

We'd be glad to send you that book by Rosaria as our way of saying "thank you" when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Be sure to ask for Rosaria's book when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

I want to encourage you to get a copy of this book. First, it will be an encouraging reminder that there is no one so lost, so far gone, that the Spirit of God cannot reach them and draw them to faith in Christ.

Stories like Rosaria's in books like this one, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, are so helpful as we try to engage unbelievers with grace and love and truth. So be sure to ask for a copy of Rosaria's book when you call us or contact us to make a gift to Revive Our Hearts of any amount.

Thank you so much for your support, your prayers and your encouragement as we're continuing together, in partnership, to call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Praying for children is one of the most important things a mom can do. On Monday, we'll hear practical advice in how to pray in new and effective ways for our kids. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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