Much has been debated recently regarding Singapore’s Penal Code, in particular Section 377A, following the recent decision by the Indian Supreme Court to rule in favour of decriminalising homosexuality. Several individuals (including prominent public figures) and groups have weighed in on both sides in print and online media platforms, and some have even been aggressively garnering support for online petitions either to support or repeal. What follows is a personal reflection on this pertinent and controversial topic, and by no means reflects our church’s official position. The intention here is also not to debate on a theological level, as if to prove or defend my position on 377A or homosexuality. Instead, my hope is that it will encourage reflection of our own personal response, suggesting a more balanced approach towards this and related issues.

The NCCS statement* on homosexuality begins, “Recognizing the Bible as the authoritative standard for its (the Church’s) faith and practice…” In the Reformed tradition, this is echoed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) which states, “the Word of God written … All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.” These have their basis from 2 Tim. 3:16-17,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This has to be the primary starting point of our discussion. Do we as Christians and the Church believe and uphold the original Word of God (the 66 books of the OT and NT) as inspired, inerrant, infallible, and our supreme standard of faith and conduct? If we do, then that forms the foundation of our response and reaction to what is happening around us, not just on certain sensitive topics, but on all that God’s Word instructs us, such as loving God with our all, loving others as Christ loved us, making disciples of all nations, baptism, communion, obedience, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus.

John 1:14, 17 tells us,

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This passage firstly makes a distinction between the OT era, represented by Moses and the giving of the Ten Commandments, with the NT era, represented by Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. The common understanding is that we are now under the age of grace, whereas the time before Christ was the age of law. However, this is not to be confused with two extremes, namely hypergrace or hyperlaw. Hypergrace on one hand, overemphasises God’s grace to the point where the seriousness and consequences of sin are diminished, and followers bear little or no distinction from the world around us. Hyperlaw, on the other hand, is the overemphasis on following the letter of God’s law, much like the Pharisees and the evolution of second-temple and rabbinic Judaism. By the time of Jesus, there were believed to be as many as 613 mitzvot (commandments) derived from the Torah and Jewish oral traditions.

Hypergrace puts God in the control booth, eliminating our personal responsibility altogether. Hyperlaw puts us in the control booth, eliminating our need for God. Hypergrace leads to liberalism; hyperlaw leads to legalism. Both are extreme teachings that should be avoided. We must not allow an unhealthy concept of God’s sovereignty or man’s personal responsibility to eclipse the truth of God’s word. We need a balance of both law and grace in our Christian lives. Jesus Himself said in Matt. 5:17,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Also, John points out that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Note grace comes first, but truth follows. What is the difference between law and truth? Law imposes and condemns, whereas truth is derived from love and transformation. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” We are exhorted to speak the truth in love, growing to become the mature body of Him who is the head, Christ (Eph. 4:15). Jesus, in encouraging his disciples, explained that if they hold on to His teachings, they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free (Jn. 8:31-23).

What does this all mean in light of the discussion today? Firstly, we need to come to clear and consistent convictions derived from God’s Word. We should not engage primarily in a war of words or on the legality of the law or on moral issues. We need to move beyond beliefs, or mere head knowledge of the Word, to convictions that are lived out and practiced. We need to teach and pass on those convictions to the future generations, that they may apply God’s truths in their lives, and come to know the Truth, the person of Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Saviour, to trust and follow all the days of their lives.

Secondly, however, it does not mean then that we go Bible-bashing or condemning homosexuals as the worst sinners. We are all sinners saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. We need to examine and remove the logs in our eyes before pointing out the specks in others (Lk. 6:37-42). We need to learn what it means to speak the truth in love, to speak Jesus into situations and discussions, to show the love of Christ even in our engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. We and our churches need to create safe environments and spaces for people, even Christians, who struggle with same-sex attraction, to open up and share about their questions and struggles, without feeling judged or condemned. That is part of the message of the recent movement, “Come out; Come home.” All of us struggling with sin need to return to our Father to seek forgiveness and restitution, and to be encouraged and empowered to allow God to transform our lives for His glory.

Thirdly, we need to show through our words and witness what it means to live as Christians under the authority of God’s word. We need to model biblical, wholesome values of family and love, and we need to encourage and promote these at a local church and nation-wide level. Even as we speak, there have been compromises made even within the Christian community and camps. In a recent briefing to church leaders on the Penal Code, our own national leaders admitted that laws are largely following societal acceptance and values, and encouraged religious groups to continue to speak up and out on preserving laws for the good of society. Studies have shown that where more than half of society moves in favour towards certain issues e.g. homosexuality, it is a matter of time before legislature is changed, and policies and practices follow accordingly. This is not to encourage us to be lobbyists or push a political agenda. We need to stand firm and live out our lives as convicted and compassionate Christians in the world, holding out and believing that God’s truths and Christ’s love can change lives, to impact society as salt and light for God’s glory and kingdom.

*For a balanced and biblical Christian perspective and position, please refer to the full NCCS statements on homosexuality (July 2003) and 377A (September 2018) on their website.