In 2004, Christianity Today dubbed Max Lucado, “America’s Pastor.” It noted his fifty (at the time) published works – ten of which had sold about 1 million copies, with 33 million total Max Lucado books being sold since his first publication in 1985.
Lucado’s books continued to stay popular throughout the next decade, with even pop princess Britney Spears declaring him to be her favorite author in 2013.
Today, Lucado’s website says he’s sold over 120 million copies of his books, which have been translated into 54 languages and which regularly appear on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
In spite of this incredible degree of popularity, Lucado’s work has not been free of controversy. The Independent article citing Ms. Spears approval of Lucado noted his “extreme views on gay rights.”
And what were his views on gay rights which were too extreme for 2013? Independent points to a 2004 article entitled “What God Has to Say About Gay Marriage,” which reads, “If they recognise gay marriage, what will keep them from the next step?
"Who’s to say that one man can’t marry five women? Or two men and two women? How about a commune marriage? Or a marriage between a daddy and a daughter or a woman and giraffe? Don’t underestimate the evil bent of the human heart.”
Max Lucado was far from the only one making these points in the years before the Supreme Court legalized homosexual marriage, or “homosexual mirage” as it is sometimes called. Many faithful pastors and ministries made similar comments. But what’s noteworthy about the article cited by the Independent for these quotes, is that the quotes in this article seem to be all that remains of it on the internet today. The site where it was published has removed it and the video of a sermon by the same title has also been removed.
And this is in reaction to negative attention received by “America’s Pastor,” when he was invited to speak at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He wasn’t targeted for anything proclaimed in his message at the Cathedral, but for these comments which he made seventeen years ago!
And, in reaction to this controversy, Lucado made the following statement:
"In 2004 I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage. I now see that, in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful. I wounded people in ways that were devastating. I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or been used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I apologize to you and I ask forgiveness of Christ.
Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but we agree that God's holy Word must never be used as a weapon to wound others. To be clear, I believe in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage, but I also believe in a God of unbounded grace and love. LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ families must be respected and treated with love. They are beloved children of God because, they are made in the image and likeness of God.
Over centuries, the church has harmed LGBTQ people and their families, just as the church has harmed people on issues of race, gender, divorce, addiction, and so many other things. We must do better to serve and love one another.”
As I said, almost all that remains of that sermon seems to be in the Independent’s article on Britney Spears. The Christian post has another excerpt of the same point made in a slightly different way, “"How will homosexuality impact our culture? What about the spread of disease? If gay lifestyle and gay marriage is endorsed – what follows? Polygamy? Legalized incest? If we can't draw a line, will lines be drawn at all? Men and women were not intended for identical gender but opposite (sic)."
Without being able to view the whole sermon, we can’t tell whether these are the comments he’s apologizing for, but we can assume that those who reported on the sermon would have reported the worst of it.
If this is the case, and this is the comment he’s apologizing so vociferously for, I think we’re left to question, “why?” These are good and valid questions, which have already begun to be answered in the years since the Obergefell decision. Consider how gender is commonly understood now, just a few years later. A recent Gallup poll reported that more Americans consider themselves Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender(LGBT) than ever before – up to 5.6% - and with almost as many identifying as transgender as those who call themselves lesbians. This trend is absolutely the fruit, at least in part, of Obergefell: if marriage can be redefined on a whim, so can sexuality. There is no standard against which to measure “normal” sexuality anymore and thus there are no concrete boundaries that cannot be crossed as society adapts to new mores.
To his credit, Lucado, even in his apology, affirms that he holds a traditional understanding of marriage. He’s not apologizing for holding that view, but for the language that he used to express it. But, we must not apologize for speaking truth, no matter whether it offends it’s subject or not, so long as it is done lovingly and out of love.
It’s noteworthy that, even at the time, Lucado, according to the Independent, condemned “gay bashing.” And his statement in his apology calling Christians to respect and love LGBT individuals as Image Bearers of God, is something we all need to keep in mind whenever we confront this subject.
The Independent article notes that Lucado affirmed in his 2004 article that no homosexuals “will have a share in the kingdom of God-” a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. “Or do you not know that the unrighteouswill not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Yet, now Lucado states, “Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality…”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Albert Mohler responded, “… if we are looking at clear biblical texts and make no mistake, the issue of homosexuality and the definition of marriage are clear biblical texts, I think it is not faithful to say that faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality…”
And this is a reprimand, let me remind you, of “America’s Pastor.” If only America had more pastors like Albert Mohler.
Mohler goes on to say this, “There is nowhere for any of us to hide on this issue. Sooner or later, if we have any public voice or public role, if we have any claim on evangelical or orthodox Christian identity - that means just biblical Christianity - then we are going to have to make our convictions clear on this. There is not going to be any halfway house of ill-defined faithfulness. Faithfulness, as it turns out, in love and in truth will have to be defined.”
Can faithful Christians flout God’s Word? Can we call ‘good’ what God has called ‘wicked’ or insist that plain language means the opposite of what it says? We already know the answer, but will America’s Christians get it right? Many churches and Christians have tried to dodge the question, and some have gotten away with it thus far. But, as Dr. Mohler says, “There is nowhere to hide,” and we shouldn’t want to. Our culture needs the preserving salt of the church to stand for Truth in an age of delusion.