There is a lot that should go into introducing this particular article so I want to give as broad of an introduction as I possibly can. I am writing in the hope that the fans of For Today who have questioned what the deal is between me and the band would have a sense of clarity on what’s going on. I’m also writing to lovingly disagree with some things that Mattie has said. I want you - the reader - to have a clear picture of why we disagree for your own sake so that you aren’t confused by any seeming animosity or dissension between myself and For Today. In case you don’t know I labored with the band For Today for almost 9 years of my life, 6+ of those years were with Mattie. We shared communion, fellowship, the study of God's Word, and also in the work that God had given us to do. We were best friends. I still love each member of For Today and pray for them as often as I think of them. I owe a lot of good things to Mattie's influence in my life along with the rest of For Today and I consider them all best friends though we don't see eye to eye on many things.
Some folks have accused me of not talking with the band privately first, but truth be known I have taken this up with them numerous times in private. I've sought to have them clarify their stance on homosexuality, but they have made no efforts to be clear. I first brought it up to them in January of 2013 in a Bible study only days after I left the band, then also in the following months. It should also be known that it is not unbiblical to publicly answer a public statement regardless of whether or not it has been discussed in private.
I have had others say that I seem to emphasize the sin of homosexuality over other sins, which is not true either in my history or in my present day ministry. I pastor about 40 young men and women week in and week out teaching the grace of God, the gospel, repentance, the baptism of the holy spirit, and prayer. I spend most of my energy on them and stewarding the Word of God well. Every Christian in America will be posed with the question of what they believe about the homosexual lifestyle, and they will be presented with an opportunity to say what the Bible says clearly or to lie. I talk about it regularly because I want young Christian men and women to be strengthened and given courage to speak the truth and to do it lovingly. The more prepared they are to handle this issue the better. The issue is not going away and lying isn’t an option.
After Mattie's apology video was posted in January of last year many people did not know where Mattie or the band stood on the polarizing issue of homosexuality. This to me is incredibly unfortunate. I believe it has been rightly stated that "homosexuality is a 21st century test of orthodoxy" and unfortunately many Christians are petrified to state the Biblical perspective on the issue. To state it clearly is generally career suicide and instead of going that route, many professing Christians choose to be vague and ambiguous with their views; many dodge the issue and grasp for a straw of self-preservation in an increasingly hostile world. Don’t take it from Mattie, me, or any other Christian leader on how to handle these questions (I’ve often been far too outspoken and Mattie not outspoken enough). Instead go to the Bible, take it up and learn how the faithful men who preceded us handled these exact same questions. They weren’t vague nor were they unloving. They were clear to their hearers and they were filled with compassion and love. Let us all seek to be like that.
Mattie Montgomery said the following in an interview with AltPress on 2/13/2014:
AP: You mentioned putting your heart out there, being vulnerable. Given how often you've expressed love toward so many people, it must've been very frustrating for you to suddenly be deemed homophobic or otherwise hateful in the aftermath of Reynolds’ tweets.
MM: It was frustrating, to say the least. That whole thing blindsided me. And it was exasperated by preexisting issues.
The fact that there are people who call themselves Christians but go on the news and picket soldiers' funerals and say stuff like “God Hates Fags?” These people totally dishonor God, and disrespect God and they dishonor and disrespect people who are made in God's image.
There is a bitterness and a polarization that has come and a lot of wounds and defensiveness have developed in the homosexual community toward Christians. That has made them very sensitive toward Christians in general, especially when talking about the issue of homosexuality. I hate it.
We've been put in a situation where the media has made it an “us vs. them” sorta thing. As a result, we've lost our sense of human community.
That is the thing that breaks my heart. Like I mentioned earlier, the guys from Stray From The Path don't agree with or care about anything I stand for, and they are still some of the best friends we've ever had on tour.
I think there's something to be said there in that we are able to respectfully disagree with each other. There are still plenty of other things where we find common ground. At the end of the day, we're all in this world together; we're all in this thing called life together. We've got to do what we can to help each other instead of hurting each other and tearing each other down.
So yes, it was a frustrating thing, and it was a difficult situation for me to go through because I really do love gay people. I have a whole bunch of people I've been friends with for years who are gay men and women. We have all been forced into this new religious/political paradigm where Christians are pitted against homosexuals in this stupid struggle for political dominance. It's really a political issue. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter.
Because I'm a voice to a lot of Christians, I'll say it like this: I would like to see Christians come to a place in which they can be respectful of people, regardless of their sexual orientation. No matter what sexual inclinations a person has or what faith they do or do not ascribe to, as Christians we still must believe they are made in the image of God, and because of that, our love and they deserve our respect and honor.
AP: After all of the conversation stirred up by those tweets, people definitely want to know where you stand on gay marriage.
MM: I'm not a lawmaker. So, really, my opinions on what laws should and should not be don't matter. But ultimately this is a political issue right now. It seems like homosexual people are seeking, politically, to have equal rights. And I think that's absolutely fair. So, speaking politically, if I was a lawmaker? I would vote to legalize gay marriage. I don't think the United States government has the right to tell people who they can and can't marry. That is my standard across the board. To be completely honest with you, I don't think the United States government has the right to approve a marriage between me and my wife, as a heterosexual man. It's not really their business. The fact that they think they can forbid some people from marrying is ridiculous to me.
You can read the rest of the interview here: http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/for_today_interview_2014
I want to start with some of what I agree with in Mattie's interview. I agree that we need to powerfully approach the LGBT community with love and open arms. We must defeat the incredibly unfortunate “us vs. them” mentality that wants to creep into the human heart. Anything short of Jesus’ meekness and love towards the lost is folly, from my mouth or from any other Christians mouth. It would be a terrible mistake to believe what the Bible says about the sin of homosexuality, but not believe in the power of the grace of God to redeem, heal, restore, and to satisfy them with Himself. Far too many are doing that. Jesus most certainly has the power to save, to make himself more desirable than sin, to remove same-sex attraction, to give holy attraction for the opposite sex, and to give life where there is death. There are too many testimonies and stories of Christians who were set free from the sin of homosexuality to think otherwise.
Now I will continue with what we disagree on. Gay marriage is not a mere issue of "political dominance", it is an issue of sin and deception both in the world and in the professing church. To acknowledge that something deserves our vote politically is the same as to say it deserves our vote spiritually. Any effort to differentiate between the decisions we make politically and the decisions we make spiritually is not only arbitrary, but contrary to the whole of the Christian faith. The Bible is filled with teaching that the lives we live cannot be distinct from our faith, they are one in the same.
It could be compared to saying that I believe human trafficking is wrong, but voting to legalize prostitution for the sake of those who weren't trafficked to have the right to do according to their will. Or to believe that abortion is wrong, but voting for it thinking it will give women more freedom. This false way of thinking fails to consider the compromise of the soul to support something politically that is opposed to the faith and it does not take into account the immediate consequences of gay marriage on society as a whole. For most political issues we don't make any distinction between our convictions and the way we vote (mostly because this is constitutionally a democratic republic). It is easy to recognize that it is incredibly divided to vote for something that we ultimately believe is wrong.
In this interview Mattie dodges the issue by taking a politically indifferent position. He states that at the end of the day it doesn't matter and that if he were a lawmaker he would vote for gay marriage. I'm simply curious, if it doesn't matter at the end of the day then why would you vote against the Biblical and traditional view of marriage?
We read in Romans 13 that those lawmakers, the "governing authorities,” are "instituted by God" and "are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad." They aren't there to make people moral, but to prevent immorality from affecting the general population. The "governing authorities" are "God's servant(s) for your good" and "he is... an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." We also read in 1 Peter 2:14 that these same governing authorities are "sent by him (the Lord) to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." So to hypothetically take the seat of a lawmaker I would want to promote laws that ultimately will protect the family and would fight to establish definite boundaries that can be reasonably maintained. I'm grateful that I am not a law maker, but for any Christian to hypothesize being one I would hope for them to aim higher than voting to legalize gay marriage. Thank God that Christians don’t have to be the lawmakers of the nation - but we are corporately called to be its conscience.
We must consider what the scripture says on the issue. It seems important to express to Christians that the same book which assures you that you are saved from sin, wrath, and death by faith is the same book that speaks very clearly on the issue at hand. On what grounds could you believe the parts about the grace of God saving you, but not the parts about what he calls sin? All of the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). We don’t get to make Christianity into whatever we want, it is an unbroken continuum of faithful servants to Jesus and by faith in Christ a person is caught up into it. Personal opinion has absolutely no bearing on what is objectively true concerning the faith. What does Jesus and the New Testament say about sexual immorality as a whole and specifically about homosexuality?
Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19
“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. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven..."
By affirming the Law of Moses Jesus is also affirming these statements from the law:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.(Leviticus 18:22)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
Jesus' emphasis upon the law of Moses does not represent legalism, but rather a certainly that the law is valid in a life honoring to God. It's important to note here that there is a clear distinction between ceremonial laws (like circumcision), cultural laws (like mixing fabrics), and moral laws (like the Ten Commandments) throughout the Bible. All of the law serves to prove that we cannot please God by external commands. The grounds of New Testament morality are built upon the Law of Moses, but the New Covenant motive in serving God is demonstrated clearly to portray moral law keeping as the effect of grace rather than its cause (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-12). It is easily proven that the moral law applies to the New Covenant believers for we see that nowhere in the New Testament are we told not to keep the moral law of the Old Testament. The Old Testament also prophesied that the New Covenant will effect law fulfillment (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27). We are affirmed that our newfound love for obeying God's moral law is produced by the grace of God and that the whole of the law (all ceremonial, cultural, and moral laws) it to find its fulfillment in Christ alone. He was punished for what we did not do, he imputed (attributed) to us what we should do (Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30), and in that he successfully effects righteousness in those that he calls to himself (again in Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Jesus also says in Matthew 15:18-20
"But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person..."
Again he upholds that violating the law concerning sexual immorality is "defiling." All sexual immorality defiles a person.
Again in Matthew 19:5-6
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
We read that from the beginning the institution of marriage was made "male and female." There is no room here in the text to insert an orientation option. A man and a man or a woman and a woman is simply not marriage. This definition of marriage precedes us by thousands of years, but we in our chronological snobbery can't believe that the traditional and historical views of marriage were correct.
Paul speaks clearly in Romans 1:16-27
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Paul begins his discourse saying, "I am not ashamed of the gospel" and ten verses later finds himself discussing the wrath of God against homosexual acts. The connection and flow of the text is easy to see here. We see that Paul associates not being ashamed of the gospel and the proclamation of God's wrath against the sin of idolatry, lust, and homosexual behavior. People are not generally ashamed of the universal blessings in the gospel, but many are ashamed at the exclusivity of the narrow way of Christ. Many Christians say that they are not ashamed of the gospel, but they act scared to death of the words that follow that statement throughout Romans 1. The preaching of God's wrath is the precedent for the preaching of God's grace, through it God proves grace to be grace in that it is unmerited and undeserved. Each man must be brought to nothing that he might acknowledge his need for God's saving power in Jesus Christ.
We read a few other times in the New Testament that Paul warns Christians from being deceived according to the moral standards that they hold to. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will 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. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
We read a similar statement in Galatians 5:19-21,
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
And again in Ephesians 5:5-11
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
And an additional warning from John the Beloved in Revelation 21:8 we read,
"...But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
There is a clear theme carried throughout the apostolic writings that Christians are subject to be deceived into thinking that the grace of God could ever allow, promote, encourage sin. On the contrary Paul teaches us” "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12)
Throughout the Bible we read of God's grace, how it is unmerited and undeserved; this is the high point of the entire Biblical narrative. God offends us when he calls us what we are, but he calls us what we are so that we may acknowledge our need for Him, cry out to him for mercy, and that he might give it to us in super abundance. It says of Christ "For all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and "he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him." (Hebrews 7:25)
In closing there are a few things that I believe would be good for any Bible-believing, For Today loving person to consider:
- Mattie and For Today are musicians, they cannot replace your local church leaders. Often it is an escape from responsibility to look up to Christian musicians because they simply cannot hold you accountable the way that the New Testament describes as necessary. They are not elders, they are not representative of the church at large, to believe they are is to gravely misunderstand the functionality and power of the Church. In fact, mishandling God's Word in the way that Mattie has in the above interview is enough to disqualify a person from eldership for they must "hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). For him to muddy the waters of this clear biblical truth brings to mind the many lyrics that Mattie has recently published stating that "my convictions are not for sale" and "You'll have to put me in the ground to silence me". It seems misleading to say that you would have to be put in the ground to be silenced when all it truly takes is a couple questions about gay marriage. Following through on those lyrics would certainly be a godly thing and I encourage him to do so by presenting the Biblical truth about the issue.
- The Bible must be your food. It is easier to watch YouTube videos and to listen to music that pumps you up, but these are not enough to feed your soul. They are ultimately not going to have the power to help you persevere to the end. The warnings about false teachers were valid in the days of the apostles and are increasingly valid today. It is possible for you to be deceived by a Christian leader, miss the gospel, and ultimately fall from pure and simple devotion to Christ. Let the Word of God be your guide, you will never have to choose between life in the spirit and loving the Bible. The Holy Spirit makes us to love the Word and the Word powerfully leads us back into God's presence and power. We need both to survive and to persevere as we sojourn in this world.
- Softening the truth about the sin of homosexuality ultimately is to refuse God's means of grace. To say that homosexuality is not sin is to withhold God's glorious grace from the homosexual community. I'll show you how this happens, Galatians 3 says "the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" and that "the Law is our guide until Christ came." We cannot refuse to herald the Scriptures concerning sin, they are there to help all mankind recognize and acknowledge their need for a savior. Until this truth affects them they cannot call upon him to save them. Withholding the truth about sin (any sin) is one in the same as withholding the truth about grace. How can grace be grace if it is not proven to be undeserved? It is no longer grace if it is deserved, it would be God's obligation if we were not sinners.
- The LGBT community is savable, they are not a lost cause, they need Christian love to be given to them freely, they need to meet more and more believers who unashamedly disagree with their lifestyle and who love them sacrificially. We need more Christians who will bleed for them and less Christians to merely point fingers. We should invest greatly in speaking the truth to them in love, open arms, open hearts, proclaiming the love and way of God's sin defeating Son. I invite all Christians to boldly and openly proclaim the Word of God, to sound the trumpet of gospel truth in a world that will hate you for it. Don't live for the pleasures of human praise in this life, but for the never ending pleasures of God in eternity through Jesus Christ.
Finally, I understand that I have many flaws in my personality, in my understanding, and in my presentation of Biblical truths. I’ve remained keenly aware of my shortcomings in these areas and have sought to correct as many as I am made aware of. I am a young man who loves the Bible, who was radically changed by Jesus in 2006 and just simply can’t shut up about about him or his Word. I want him to do to other people what he did to me, to make them love him, to make all the little trinkets of the world to become unappealing and small. I hope he is exalted in your eyes as holy and perfect as beautiful and just. I long that you would see Him as He is, may he open your eyes if you’ve never seen him. All is from his grace. I’m a needy beggar who believes that God can overcome human resistance to Him and who will conquer the sin of those who believe.
Jesus invites you in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”