Popular Christian author, speaker, and celebrity, Jen Hatmaker, sparked a firestorm within Christian media when she recently affirmed her support of same-sex unions and stated she believes gay couples in a monogamous relationship can be blessed by God and seen as holy. Christian apologists were quick to call her out and plead with her to reconsider her statement. Dr. Michael L. Brown, whom I consider to be one of the most compassionate and articulate biblical voices on the subject of Christianity and the LGBT movement, stated in an open letter to Hatmaker and her husband, Brandon, “when I read that interview, in particular your explanation of why you now supported same-sex ‘marriage,’ what struck me was the love in your words. It’s clear that you care about other people, but in this case, your love for them has caused you to compromise truth, which means that your love is out of sync with God’s love, and so, rather than helping people you are hurting them.”
Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian, penned an emotional response to Jen Hatmaker. Butterfield described her life before Jesus saved her:
If this were 1999—the year that I was converted and walked away from the woman and lesbian community I loved—instead of 2016, Jen Hatmaker’s words about the holiness of LGBT relationships would have flooded into my world like a balm of Gilead. How amazing it would have been to have someone as radiant, knowledgeable, humble, kind, and funny as Jen saying out loud what my heart was shouting: Yes, I can have Jesus and my girlfriend. Yes, I can flourish both in my tenured academic discipline (queer theory and English literature and culture) and in my church. My emotional vertigo could find normal once again.
Maybe I wouldn’t need to lose everything to have Jesus. Maybe the gospel wouldn’t ruin me while I waited, waited, waited for the Lord to build me back up after he convicted me of my sin, and I suffered the consequences. Maybe it would go differently for me than it did for Paul, Daniel, David, and Jeremiah. Maybe Jesus could save me without afflicting me. Maybe the Lord would give to me respectable crosses (Matt. 16:24). Manageable thorns (2 Cor. 12:7).
Today, I hear Jen’s words—words meant to encourage, not discourage, to build up, not tear down, to defend the marginalized, not broker unearned power—and a thin trickle of sweat creeps down my back. If I were still in the thick of the battle over the indwelling sin of lesbian desire, Jen’s words would have put a millstone around my neck.
Hatmaker has many supporters, too, who have risen to defend her decision to speak out on this issue and go against biblical teaching on the subject of homosexuality. Jonathan Merritt, who interviewed and wrote the article in which Hatmaker affirmed same-sex marriage was quick to respond, critical of those who spoke against Hatmaker: “For the past week, I’ve watched Christians play judge, jury, and executioner with Jen and with each other. Name-calling. Villianizing. Public statements. Calls for boycotts. All actions taken by Christians and directed at their spiritual siblings.” Hatmaker’s husband, Brandon, who is a pastor in Austin, TX, posted a lengthy defense on his Facebook page. He noted, “Jen and I are 100% on the same page regarding her recent interview about our love and hope for the LGBTQ community. This is a journey we have been on together. We both believe a same-sex marriage, as a life-long monogamous commitment, can be holy before God…. We’ve seen so much pain among the LGBTQ community: Suicidal teenagers. Divided families. Split churches. So. Much. Pain.”
Clearly, this is a divisive issue within the church today. I could spend a lot of space debating the biblical understanding of this topic, but there are already many excellent books on the topic. I would start with Michael Brown’s excellent book, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality [Amazon]. Michael Brown also participated in a debate with Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships [Amazon]. You can listen to that debate here.
Why Jen Hatmaker is Wrong
There are Here is why I believe Jen Hatmaker is wrong to affirm homosexual marriage and a gay lifestyle: it is a matter of ambassadorship. Many have made sound, biblical reasons explains why she is doctrinally wrong, and I agree with these voices. Yet many of Hatmaker’s supporters argue that she has a right to express her opinion, and that Christians are hateful and judgmental for challenging her. This is wrong and out of sync with how the New Testament instructs us to respond to brothers and sister who error, and certainly out of sync with how we should rebuke false teachers who depart from sound doctrine.
As Christians, when we take the Name of Christ (Christian), we acknowledge our allegiance to a different King and kingdom. The Apostle Peter calls us, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV). When we stand before the world, we no longer stand as citizens of this country, but as “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) who owe our allegiance to our Lord and Savior. His Word, the Bible, is our constitution and law, our final authority.
Think of it this way, as a country, we send our ambassadors to nations around the world to represent our country and speak on our behalf. Ambassadors play a critical role in times of international tension. Often, it is the ambassador who is the final link in communication between two countries as they teeter on the brink of war. Their job is not always easy. They must deal with political conflict both at home and in the nation where they are stationed. Changes in leadership in either country can bring about changes in foreign policy and previously understood boundaries.
Imagine what would happen if an ambassador decided he no longer agreed with her country’s foreign policy and determined to go out on her own and speak for herself. Without hesitation, our country’s leadership would immediately fire this rogue ambassador and disavow anything that she said. She would no longer speak for our country or our leadership. Her credentials would be immediately revoked and she would become a useless instrument in the exchange of dialog between two countries. Yes, she still has a voice, but her voice is now just her own opinion, she no longer speaks on behalf of the United States Government.
This is why Jen Hatmaker is wrong. When she accepted the role as a Christian author, speaker, and celebrity, she placed herself under the authority of our Lord and His Word. She was accepted into our churches and homes under that condition. Those were her credentials. Her speech was biblically based and what she said was in agreement with God’s written word. When she broke from that position and began speaking on her own behalf, based on her own opinion, feelings and emotions, and trying to represent these thoughts as God’s thoughts, she violated her right to ambassadorship. Like a country with a rogue ambassador, the church must disavow Jen Hatmaker and revoke her credentials as a qualified Christian speaker. She no longer speaks for the Lord Jesus Christ or His church.
And just to be clear, in case there is any disagreement among us that this is the correct approach to take, I am not speaking for myself, but as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. His apostle, Paul, makes our response to Jen Hatmaker and false teachers like her crystal clear: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” Romans 16:17-18 (NKJV).
Like many voices today, it grieves me to read of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker’s decision to leave the clear teaching of Scripture behind in favor of their own opinions. Yet, it also grieves me even more that there is a young woman or young man like Rosaria Butterfield who is living in a life of sin, and rather than seek God and His compassion found only in the gospel, they will listen to the Hatmakers and allow their words to flood their souls like a “sweet balm of Gilead.” Only those words are a lie that will cost them their very soul.