The Third Way: The Only Authentic Response

way out

The Third Way. Perhaps you’ve heard about it or seen the posts flying. The Third Way re. LGBTQ means to love without taking a position of “right or wrong” on being LGBTQ (or “acting” on it), but instead to suspend judgment and simply embrace.*

Perhaps you saw this exquisitely thoughtful video by Pastor Danny Cortez, about Danny’s change-of-view on the LGBTQ issue.

Perhaps you saw Danny’s son Drew Cortez’s heart-rending video.

Perhaps you saw Albert Mohler’s critique stating there is no Third Way for a Christian–you are either for or against, with no middle ground. Perhaps you saw Wayward Follower’s or John Shore’s or Zach Hoag’s rebuttal.

If you study Christ, whose name his followers bear, if you seek to love as radically as He loves, the Third Way is the only authentic response.

Countless times in countless ways, Jesus pretty much instructs us to take the Third Way — to love our neighbor, not to judge God’s servant, to deal with the gargantuan log in our eye instead of searching out a speck in someone else’s.

What is this if not the Third Way?

The verse that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart is the poster-phrase for the Third Way. Who can possibly put themselves in the position of judging who’s “for us” or “against us”? …not to mention, why are we so addicted to that judgment?

Jesus gives us actual examples.

  • Healing on the Sabbath: in direct conflict with the letter of the Fourth Commandment. Jesus healed the man, purposely, on the Sabbath. Religious leaders don’t like a Third Way; they like things black-and-white, cut and dried. But Jesus would not allow that.
  • Failing to condemn someone the religious leaders thought should be condemned: called “a sinful woman” (whatever that might mean there), this woman scandalously anointed Jesus’ feet with oil. Simon the religious leader could not even believe that Jesus not only failed to condemn her, much less let her scandalously rub his feet. Instead, Jesus had some words for Simon. In essence, Jesus showed us a Third Way by lauding this “sinful woman” the religious teacher thought SURELY deserved condemnation.
  • Even the woman caught, redhanded, in adultery. Even her, when the law REQUIRED her to be condemned, Jesus did not condemn… much less did he let anyone else condemn her. Whatever you believe he said to her afterward (which I may take issue with), JESUS said it (…which is still not the same as stoning her). Legalists jump in with Jesus’ followup remark and overlook that he did not allow anyone else to say anything. He required everyone else to take the Third Way.

Jesus gives us no precedent whatsoever to condemn. No precedent whatsoever to judge.

The MOST precedent we get — after complete acceptance — is, in fact, the Third Way.

We love. God does whatever else needs to be done.

Come on, people (…Mohler…) IT’S NOT THAT HARD.


*(I want to be clear that I do NOT mean the position that “being/acting on LGBTQ is a sin, but we love and embrace you anyway,” as was posited in a film on a new Catholic Church; though better than excommunication, it is still determining sin for others, which contradicts Christ’s message to us.)

17 thoughts on “The Third Way: The Only Authentic Response

  1. I have to admit that I have some serious reservations about the so-called “third way”. I understand and support the idea that we should not condemn or pass harsh judgment on a person whose beliefs or orientation are different from our own. That’s just common courtesy. Treat others the way we would want to be treated. The Golden Rule. We should certainly allow people the dignity to live according to their own conscience and religious beliefs — as long as these aren’t used as an excuse to harm others,

    But can their really be a “third way” when it comes to issues like equality under law? Full inclusion in society and the life of the church? Marriage? Employment? Can there be a “third way” on issues of basic civil, constitutional and human rights? The “let’s-all-get-along-and-not-judge” movement is well-intentioned, I suppose. But often it seems to mean, “I still think you are sinful and less deserving of equality under law, but I am keeping that opinion to myself”. Can we imagine taking such a “third way” regarding any other group’s rights? Minorities? Women?

    • I think I unwittingly threw fuel on a fire when I was just warming my hands over here. That is, our job is to love, let people be, with FULL INCLUSION under the law. I believe that with all my heart. Instead, I’m inviting those who can’t set aside their “sin” issue to just let it be, just as Jesus instructs us — give people all the respect of any other human beings, including freedom to marry, to have wedding cakes, and not be harassed. Those who will not budge on the sin issue can still give all those things without sacrificing their faith. That was my intention on this post. I am probably speaking into pre-existing conversation on this Third Way term, and I want to be VERY CLEAR that I do not mean anything but forward motion for LGBTQ people, legally and in every other way. If you can’t condone interracial marriage as practice, you can keep your opinion to yourself, without hindering your “religious convictions” in any way. I’m getting the clear gist from you and Liz that that term has been used to create another barrier, but I do not mean it that way. I’m actually dashing out right now, but I’m happy to edit the post to make this clear. Anyone who knows me knows my position on this, as Liz said. I’m probably too optimistic that I could trust churches to actually rely on Jesus and leave to him all this hairsplitting on things they don’t understand (i.e., orientation and identity).

    • What you seem to be saying is that we must not only allow other to have their belief and rights but we must actually agree with them or this will never end. It is the same old thing – the lgbtq must have the right to their voice and belief but no one who disagrees can even be allowed to refuse to participate with out being accused of discrimination. It is to me, totally hypocritical to preach love, freedom, individuality, and inclusion and then hate, silence, constrict, and shun those who don’t agree with you.

      • I want to clarify that my reply was in response to Micheal’s comments. And that I know he does not mean to come across that way but it is rather the extreme pro LGTBQ voice that pushes that way.

  2. Susan – One thing I am finding is there isn’t a clear definition of a third way when it comes to what I consider important details such as: can lgbtq members (even ones in same sex relationships) do all the same things that straight members can do (teach, work with kids ministry, volunteer, sit on committees, be leaders etc) and where does a third way church stand on same sex marriage.

    I’m all for engaging with and sharing space with those who disagree with me but not if it means that lgbtq people have to live as if they are less than straight people. I guess that is where I draw the line for myself.

    I wonder if people have an idea of how a third way church would handle the issues I’ve mentioned? and if it is a different picture depending on what they believe about same sex relationships?

    I don’t want to be a trouble maker but I do want to be realistic and face these real life questions head on as I process the idea of a third way church.

    I hope others here will help me process all of this by engaging with me about how they see a third way church operating irl.

    • I agree completely, Liz. I am NOT using Third Way as “you’re wrong but we accept you” — connecting anything LGBTQ-related as sin/wrong. I was disappointed that the clip (I linked at the end of this post) DOES do that. I use Third Way to mean, bug off, stop deciding what it right or wrong for others, because your plate is full enough just learning what it means to love. Similar to Paul saying basically, “If it’s not a sin to you, then it’s not a sin.” I in no way mean to endorse some kind of subclass for LGBTQ “even though we love them.” Thanks for helping clear that up.

      • Thanks Susan – I was certain I knew where you stood on that. What I am not sure is what others understand the term to mean. I think this is a very important matter as you do and it can be very off putting for lgbtq people if the church ends up with another Christian term that has a bunch of negative baggage associated with it. I’m talking about this with some lgbtq Christians at the moment and many of them are not assured by the term and fear that churches will use it and still treat them as second class citizens. One question that some are asking is why not just use more straight forward language?

  3. That movie “The Third Way” should carry a trigger warning for ex-gay ministries…it’s full of all kinds of ex-gay propaganda disguised as compassion…not to mention the priest featured in it is a homophobe and a bigot.

  4. Incredible as always! I was having a discussion with friends yesterday and this came up .. and of course their were as many opinions as their were people in the discussion. I believe my purpose, perhaps the purpose of EVERY Christian, is to become more Christ like day after day … In becoming more Christ like aren’t we fulfilling every thing the Bible calls us to do? That task is a high calling … In fact it takes all of my energy and focus … so thankfully I have little or no time left to be judging other folks.

  5. Thanks for the link to the short film The Third Way. They did a great job of pulling you in thinking these people were going to end up living completely fulfilled lives as homosexuals with a partner and family of their own, only to find out that they eventually came to believe that they had to remain celibate. Bummer.

    One day, I will find that local church that supports me fully with no exceptions!

  6. Amen! There is a Third Way! Thanks for shining a light on this. My gay daughter is worthy of Jesus’ love! We should not judge. Thanks, Susan

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