John Fuller: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and today Dr. Rosaria Butterfield addresses a challenging and controversial topic in our culture today and that is– sin.
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield:Every single one of us struggles with original sin which distorts us. Every single one of us struggles with actual sin that distracts us. And every single one of us deals with indwelling sin that manipulates us and those are for believers. So, when somebody who struggles with same-sex attraction says, “I was born this way,” immediately Christians get on the defense and say, “No, God would never make you …” blah, blah, blah. Well, true, God doesn’t make you sin, but I’m born in Adam. And Romans 1:26 tells me that the thumbprint of original sin inmy lifeis a deep and abiding sexual and “otherly” attraction to people of my same sex.
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Jim Daly: John, we shared last time that Dr. Butterfield has been one of our most popular guests this year, which is why her program is part of our 2017 ‘Best of’ collection. Rosaria had a dramatic conversion to Christ and at one time, she was a tenured professor who taught English and Queer Theory at Syracuse University. She was a feminist and a lesbian and about as far away from God as she could be. But she was also a truth-seeker and man, I give her credit for that. That’s what I love about her story, because through the help and guidance of a loving Christian couple, Rosaria found the truth of God’s word and it transformed her life forever! Las time we began the follow-up to Rosaria’s story; how she is now a pastor’s wife, that puts a big smile on my face, and continues to speak and write about issues like same-sex attraction, gender identity and how Christians can become more effective witnesses to the LGBT community. If you missed that program last time, get the download or the CD– it’s a fantastic program! Or you can get our broadcast app for your smarphone which is an easy way to listen.
John: Yeah, you’ll find these resources and Dr. Butterfield’s book Openness Unhindered at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more– 800-A-FAMILY.
Here’s part two of our Best of 2017 conversation with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on Focus on the Family.
Jim:Rosaria, let’s pick up a little bit from that clip and what you talked about last time in terms of sin and the fact that we don’t like it and I … that’s true of all of us, whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever (Laughing). I mean, sin makes us feel guilty and it puts us in a place where we’re not comfortable. And in fact, in this context of same-sex attraction and um … gay marriage and all of it, um … often the statement that is given is, if culture did not shame us in this area, we wouldn’t have shameful thoughts and feelings. There wouldn’t be um … kind of the bad attitude toward us. If you can, kinda respond to that idea of sin in the context of—
Jim: –if you didn’t know it was sin, you wouldn’t be upset with me.
Rosaria: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter) You know, sin is … the doctrine of sin is the best-kept secret in the world. And … and I think people don’t understand, but I … you know, for me it was actually very liberating um … to … to have a … you know, a … a … to finally understand what Romans 5 says.
Jim: Which is what, Romans 5?
Rosaria: Well, you know, Romans 5 is what really helped me understand that original sin wasn’t … didn’t just make me broken. It actually made me guilty and corrupt, just like everybody else on the planet and that Jesus, His love was so powerful on the cross, that it was able tobear down. It was a conquering and triumphant love.
So, I think, I … you know, I really want to get back to this idea that I really think Christians have a low view of sin.
Rosaria: I … I … and I know there probably is listeners [sic] ready to drive off the road right now, hearing me say this. Um … but you know, I think that we often minimize sin. We act as though, you know, they, the… you know, the devil made me do it. Original sin, I was born this way. I can’t help it. Well, you know, God knows you can’t help it. That’s why we need to be born again.
Rosaria: And … and then the other way that we minimize sin is we only … we only give people half the gospel. We say that God’s atoning love forgives you. You are forgiven. But then we forget to … the other half, which is that you have the power to obey.Youhave the power to obey.
Jim: Well, and that’s the key point and you said last time something that we need to kinda close the loop on.
Jim: You … you talked about becoming a Christian in 1999 and in that environment, it was easier, you think—
Rosaria: Oh, yeah.
Jim: –than if you were in that spot today—
Jim: –because of the normalization—
Jim: –of homosexual union and the Obergefell decision, Supreme Court. The culture’s embracing it.
Jim: But talk about the last part of that question I just mentioned—disconnection between sin and shame.
Jim: So, if shame goes away—
Rosaria: Yeah, what do you get?
Jim: –I mean, we’re being … basically, Christians are being shamed not to shame.
Rosaria: Right. (Laughter) That’s right; that’s right.
Jim: And so, when people don’t feel shamed or that they’re living in a sinful spot—
Jim: –it’s hard for them to recognize—
Rosaria: Yes, it is.
Jim: –this truth that Jesus proclaims.
Rosaria: Right, it is; it is and I think it’s because for too long the Evangelical church has been confident in saying, we need more grace. And you might say, “Well, Rosaria, who’s gonna argue with that?” You know
Jim: Yeah, I’m a big fan—
Rosaria: –we do need more grace.
Jim: –of grace.
Rosaria: I’m a big fan of grace, but repentance is the threshold to God. And so, if you want to deal rightly with your shame, I mean, when I came to Christ, I was … it … you know, it was … it was startling. It was like waking up in that verse in Psalm 73, “I am like a beast before you.” You know, I really thought I was on the side of jus … justice and … and … and goodness and um … and compassion and to realize that I … it was Jesus I was persecuting the whole time–
Rosaria: –was my undoing. And then to have that … that line in Psalm 73, “I am a beast before you,” I was filled with shame. I was filled with shame. And … and one of the things that I … that I learned– and at this point, I was in the church and I was worshipping God and we were singing the Psalms and I realized that David felt the same way I did, but he didn’t beg for grace.
It’s so interesting. He actually begged that he would fully repent and that he would be– and this is Psalm 51 I’m referencing now– that he would be cleaned white as snow, that his repentance would indeed, bring glory to God. You know, sometimes we have shame because we think, if only we didn’t do it, we’d be more effective as Christians. But we need to understand that you want to be a poster child of Christianity? Then you’re a poster child of repentance.
Jim: Hm, that’s powerful.
Rosaria: You’re a post … you are not a poster child of having lived a wonderful cleaned-up life. Are our lives changed? We’re absolutely changed and you know why? ‘Cause we’re killed. That’s what the gospel does. It brings death before it brings life. And that’s what union with Christ means. Union with Christ means that you died with Christ and you have risen with Him. And you know, there’s a passage in Romans.
Rosaria: Sometimes, you know, I get to speak to people who are just struggling under the weight of their sexual sin. And you know, maybe you’re listening to this right now and you … you know that just minutes ago you were six hours deep into Internet pornography and you’re a believer.
I mean, may … maybe you’re a leader in the church. And here you are. Well, this verse is for you and for me. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too, might walk in newness of life. For we have been united with Him in death like His. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
What we need to do and what we need to know is at that moment when we have fallen deep into sin and Satan is saying to us, “See! You’re not a believer. Look what you just did.” That is that moment when we get to really say back, “You know what? You’re right. Every sin deserves death.” Isn’t it interesting that Satan knows half the gospel?
Rosaria: Praise be to God that we know the whole gospel and that is, that we have risen with Christ Jesus. And you know what? Every time we pe … we repent of our sin, we have risen with Christ Jesus. Every time we apply faith to the facts of our depravity, we have risen with Christ Jesus.
Jim: Yeah and that’s important because that’s where you get the power to live a life that’s full of God’s Spirit. Now we’re talking about equipping Christians and here’s an example of the kind of questions I’ll get in certain interviews, usually more hostile interviews. They’ll say something like, “What’s the problem with gay marriage? I mean, how does it bother you? How does it affect you?” And we’re hearing that challenge a lot in today’s culture. How should we respond?
Rosaria: Um … the problem with gay marriage, I’ve already talked about how it puts a millstone around the neck of people who struggle with same-sex attraction.
Rosaria: Okay? So, that’s a really big one. It puts a millstone around your neck.
Jim: Because they don’t see the error that they’re in.
Rosaria: Well, and I’ll tell you, I was speaking at a large church and a woman who was 76-years-old waited until the end of a book signing. She came to me. She said, “Rosaria, I am 76-years-old. I have been homosexually married to my lesbian partner for 50 years. We got married in Canada. We have children and grandchildren. I have now heard the gospel and I’m going to lose everything, right?”
And I said, “Right.” Nobody told her. It’s a millstone. So, the first problem with gay marriage is that there are brothers and sisters of our holy God who are now deceived and manipulated by a world that believes that God’s law is discriminatory. The biggest problem is that there are souls now lost and protected by Satan’s minions. And that should be every Christian’s biggest problem.
Rosaria: And so, we don’t get to reinvent marriage because we’re not the real deal. But the big problem with gay marriage is, that it not just reinvents marriage, it reinvents personhood by solidifying this idea that there is something called “a gay person.” And to deny that gay person civil rights is a form of bigotry.
Jim: Rosaria, in fact, in … in the book,Openness Unhinderedand you really stressed the subtitle, which isFurther Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, um … you talk about a friend of yours, Rebecca, and who identifies as a gay Christian.
Jim: And this cuts right to the illustration you’re using. How do the two of you dialogue together? How do you maintain a relationship and not let your blood boil—
Rosaria: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jim: –the dialogue and … because I think so often, we in the Christian community, we feel frustrated—
Jim: –maybe intimidated because the culture is so quick to embrace same-sex marriage now that you feel like you’re the problem.
Rosaria: Right, right.
Jim: So, you shy away from those things. So, you either are … your blood’s boiling or—
Jim: –you’re not willing to talk to anybody. But you’ve had this dialogue with Rebecca, as you mentioned in your book.
Rosaria: Right, right.
Jim: How do you go about having a discussion—
Jim: –with somebody where you have deep disagreement?
Rosaria: Right, right and Rebecca is … we don’t just have a dialogue. She is my dear friend. Um … she is my dear friend and I love her and we pray together and we cry together and we do life together. So … I … you know, these … this is not a small thing. Christians, in order to maintain a biblical witness, we need to remember that people are not positions and that people can be very duped by positions.
And certainly people right now who struggle with same-sex attraction are manipulated by the gay rights movement in very powerful ways. In fact, these are dear brothers and sisters who feel like they are literally being pulled apart by wild horses, um … torn between an Evangelical church that despises them for reasons it ought not and uh … and a Civil Rights Movement that wants to manipulate them for a cause. It is crucial that people of God realize that.
And so … so, the first thing is to remember that people are not positions. And the second is to not buy the terms of the world. You know, I will tell you that I had a very dear friend who came out as a lesbian recently and … and announced to me that she and I could no longer be friends because uh … because of where … “where I stand.” Now we have been friends for over two decades. We have helped raise children together. We have been neighbors at certain seasons. We have been there for each other.
And she said, we cannot be friends because you don’t approve of me. And I had to say, “Ruth, I hate to break your bubble, but I have never approved of you.” (Laughter) “Okay, all those years that we have been the … the dearest of … I’ve never approved of you. And I have news for you. You never approved of me. I … I think you said spanking children is barbaric at one point. I thoroughly remember getting firm lectures about the kind of chicken nuggets I bought from Costco and how that was going to kill my children. And then I remember the full-on arguments we had over Pixar films.” (Laughter) “So, I have news for you. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I don’t know why you’re drinkin’ the Kool-Aid.I never approved of you and you never approved of me.”
But we’ve always loved each other. We’ve been there for each other. We are there in the adoption of our children and the birth of our children. We’ve been there when big things happened in our neighborhood. We’ve been there in the … in situations of violence and … and anger. And you know why? Because love is a conquering kind of thing because it’s invented by God.
So, she laughed and she said, “You’re right. I never approved of you. I’ve always loved you. Okay, we’re good.” We need to get there with people. And you know …
Jim: It’s almost like a brutal honesty, but we’re too afraid to be that—
Jim: –brutal with each other.
Rosaria: –we have to be brutal with each other. We just have to say it like it is. And as far as how do you … you know, what do you do with, you … you just moved into a neighborhood and you’ve got a couple next door who identifies as lesbian and they have children and what do you do? Well, you know what? You get to know your neighbors.
Rosaria: Uh … I mean, I don’t know what to say. You get to know the names of their children and the names of their dogs, so that you can return both when they wander.
Jim: Let me ask you the benefit of that, which you experienced in your own journey, um … that—
Jim: –opened the door for your heart, didn’t it?
Rosaria: Amen, because you know, after about two years of reading the Bible for my research, one of the things that happened was undoing to me. The Bible offered a totally different understanding of homosexuality than I had ever had and the Bible started to get under my skin.
And I was faced with the question, do I really want to understand homosexuality from God’s point of view, or do I just want to argue with Him? And you know what? I just wanted to argue with Him. So, I just wanted to be done with this research program a