|Volume 24 Number 9 September 2022
The word “epicenter” pertains to the center point above an earthquake. However, “epicenter” is used often figuratively as, “The focal point of a usually harmful or unpleasant phenomenon or event; the center” (yourdictionary.com). As I listened to the news this morning, the broadcaster referred to San Francisco as the epicenter for the United States for instances of monkeypox, and he cited New York City and Miami as epicenters for this disease in other parts of the country. Furthermore, in each of those epicenters, monkeypox first and primarily infects homosexual communities. Thousands of years ago, Sodom was an epicenter for homosexuality, for which cause God destroyed it and neighboring cities (Genesis 19:1-29). God could not find even 10 righteous souls in Sodom (Genesis 18:24-33).
Genesis 19:4-5 identifies the specific sin by which the city of Sodom defiled itself, and the NIV uses plain, unmistakable words. “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” Prior to the Law of Moses or Judaism and under Patriarchy, God condemned homosexuality or sodomy. The word “sodomy” comes from the city of Sodom, which God destroyed because homosexuality was commonplace there. That decisive, punitive action by God against Sodom as the epicenter for homosexuality should cause residents of San Francisco, New York City and Miami to pause and carefully reflect respecting being epicenters for homosexuality today.
Likewise, under Judaism, God also condemned homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 reads, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (NKJV). The word “abomination” here means “extreme disgust and hatred” (Webster’s) and “something disgusting (morally)… an abhorrence” (Biblesoft’s). God hates some sins – such as homosexuality – more than others (Proverbs 6:16) and calls them “abominations.” The seriousness of homosexuality is apparent from Leviticus 20:13, which says, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” God mandated capital punishment under Patriarchy and Judaism for homosexuality.
God also condemns homosexuality in the New Testament under the Gospel Age – Christianity. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV). In another list of sins, the inspired apostle Paul included, “…the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality…” (1 Timothy 1:10 ESV).
God views homosexuality as a “perversion” and made the destruction of Sodom and the surrounding cities “an example” against homosexuality. “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6 NIV; cf., Luke 17:29). “…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
Remember that through homosexuals another disease was introduced into the United States – HIV/AIDS. Now, homosexuals have lately brought into the country the disease of monkeypox. Not only did the apostle Paul condemn homosexuality when writing to Christians at Rome, he also indicated that there is a physical penalty for practicing homosexuality.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves… For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:24, 26-27 NKJV)
HIV/AIDS, monkeypox and who knows what else appears to correspond to “receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Unfortunately, diseases brought about by homosexual behavior also results in collateral damage when non-homosexuals become infected with HIV/AIDS and monkeypox (i.e., through blood transfusions, bi-sexual contact with heterosexuals, exposure to saliva or blood).
How ironic! Homosexuals just finished not long ago – June 1-30 – and celebrated “pride month.” Shall we celebrate HIV/AIDS? Shall we celebrate monkeypox? Should we have pride in HIV/AIDS and monkeypox? Lawmakers, leaders of industry and the media champion homosexuality – something that God views as an abomination and condemns. Romans 1:32 declares that punishment will be forthcoming not only for homosexuals but also for those who approve of it!
Contrary to popular assertions, the Bible amply condemns homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Luke 17:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7; Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-11). According to the meaning of the original language of the word, the “perverted persons” of Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7 refers to homosexuals.
There is a remedy for all sins, including the sin of homosexuality. Some of the Christians at Corinth had been homosexuals, and they were forgiven upon their repentance and obedience to the Gospel. Paul wrote:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV)
Jesus Christ summarized in Mark 16:16 one’s initial obedience to the Gospel to become a Christian. It reads, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” Forgiveness for sins after becoming a Christian involves penitence and prayer (Acts 8:22). To not obey the Gospel and suffer eternal condemnation is too horrible to contemplate (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 1 Peter 4:17).
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 2010.
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2011.
Someone correctly said that sharing our faith involves tact, and “the best kind of tact” is always “contact”! Christianity is a lifestyle to be lived and to be shared with everyone we meet. Effective evangelism begins with conversation and often this is the most difficult place to begin when it comes to our everyday cohorts. Few folks will approach us and directly say, “I would like to have a spiritual conversation with you.” As such, far too many Christians never have spiritual conversations because we sometimes have no idea where to begin. Yet, spiritual conversations are not as difficult as we may think. How can you and I be more efficient in our contact with others as we share the Gospel with the lost?
Firstly, we must have a good awareness. Christianity is an antennas up way of life. We are always looking for opportunities and for open doors. Sometimes these doors of opportunity take many months or even years to fully open. Good awareness begins with people’s needs. For example, divorce, death, discouragement, disease and disaster are all potentially open doors for evangelism. This world really needs a healthy dose of others who truly care and are willing to get dirty to help out. Is there someone you know who has a need? Has someone recently lost a loved one, a job or is distraught about the condition of the world? Be aware of those around you; often they will be longing for us to stop and take time to really care, and that caring can and will open a spiritual conversation.
Secondly, we must have a good prospect. Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain if someone is really interested in spiritual dialogue or just simply “doting about questions and strife of words” (1 Timothy 6:4 KJV). No matter how badly we want to converse spiritually with someone, there are some who are not good heart-soil (Matthew 13). We need to be aware of good prospects with whom we are associated. One word of caution here: sometimes in our mind a person is not a good prospect, but in God’s eyes he or she is (Acts 9:13-14). Also, sometimes a person is not a good prospect at one time but later may be open to God’s Word. There are prospects all around us every day. Coworkers, schoolmates, neighbors, friends, non-Christian family members, etc. It really comes down to our vision; do we see people, or do we see prospects?
Thirdly, we must be a good listener. Good listeners truly listen and are not always thinking of how they will respond. Good listening is an art that takes time and effort to master, but it is crucial for profitable spiritual conversations. Good listeners will often hear about pain that is deep inside someone’s heart, a past religious failure or even what the person believes about the Bible. Paul reminded, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6 ESV). We can never speak or answer properly unless we first listen!
Lastly, we must ask good questions. Questions are the cream of spiritual conversations. There are general questions that help open the conversation. Remember, folks are usually experts in three areas: their jobs, their families and their backgrounds. So, use those areas to open the conversation. “What do you enjoy doing?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living?” These questions not only open the door, but they also show that we care about the person.
There are also open-ended questions. For example, sometimes a person will ask, “Why does the church of Christ not use instruments?” We can tactlessly answer the question and lose the prospect, or we could simply reply open-endedly, by asking, “That is a great question. Is there a particular reason you ask?” Then, follow up by asking, “Well, what have you heard about the church of Christ?” An infamous question that often creates hostility is, “Do you think the church of Christ are the only ones going to Heaven?” Instead of tactlessly answering the question, ask a question in return to open the door. For example, you may restate the question by asking, “Do you believe you can go to heaven without obeying Jesus?” Now the stage is set! You may then say something like, “Well, I really believe anyone who obeys Jesus will go to Heaven.” Then follow up with, “Do you think every religious group is obeying Jesus?” Then ask, “I often question why anyone would not want to obey Jesus.” You are not only opening the door for a study, but you are also testing the quality of the soil. Follow up by asking, “What do you think it means to obey Jesus?” “I would love to hear your perspective on this.” No single approach or set of questions will work in every situation, but questions open the door for healthy spiritual dialogue.
Spiritual conversations become easier and more effective as we grow and learn. It is a joy to speak of Jesus’ name and of His plan! Never be ashamed or afraid to begin spiritual dialogue. Pray each day for open doors of opportunity, and then look out! God will open doors for His kingdom if we are truly looking and anticipating such. Remember to use tact when spiritual conversations arise, but never forget, the best tact to use in spiritual conversations is contact! “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35 NKJV).
[Editor’s Note: An excellent article, indeed! Herein are excellent and practical points that are fundamental to the most effective type of evangelism. Now, what remains is for Christians generally and for me in particular to implement them into our daily lives. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]