I wrote most of this a while ago, but after having an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about homosexuality this week, I decided to finish it.
I believe same-sex relations are sinful. Period. I have heard various revisionist theologies and have found them to be unconvincing. But, I am afraid many in the American church have taken this and made homophobia their default position. We have taken homosexuality and made it the worst of sins, perhaps the unforgiveable sin. And that’s a problem. Growing up I had this idea that homosexuals were this great “other.” They were different and scary. They chose to be gay, or maybe their parents did not raise them well, or maybe they were abused. Somehow being homosexual meant that the lost their status as an image bearer of God. This could not be further from the truth. In his book on ethics John Stott notes that there is no gay and straight in God’s eyes, but only those made in the image if God. I was quick to condemn homosexuality but slow to acknowledge the lust in my own heart. If there is enough grace to cover the lust that I have, there is more than enough grace to cover any one who struggles with same sex attraction.
I once heard Tim Keller on some random YouTube video point out that often Christians will love all of their neighbor’s except their gay neighbor. When I heard this it resonated with me. How eager am I to get to know and form friendships with gay people? Do I see them first as a sexual being or first as a spiritual being? Did I define them as gay or as human? We have so ostracized the gay and lesbian community that I do not blame them for frustration at the church. The church has failed miserable to love their gay and lesbian neighbors. These are real people with real feelings and emptions. We claim that we are not like the Westboro Baptist Church, but are we really that different? We may not carry around signs that say “God hates fags”, but I am afraid many evangelicals do hate LGBT people. I cannot read the bible without coming to the conclusion that same sex relations are sinful, but our love for them must not depend on whether they live a lifestyle that we agree with. We cannot push them away. We must pull them in. J. D. Greear said
“I know many…in the gay and lesbian community have been cast off by the church, maybe by your own Christian parents, and I want to tell you that is not Jesus. That is Satan dressed up in Jesus’ clothes using Jesus’ name.”
We must listen. Who are you to tell them why they struggle with same sex attraction? Christians must be seen as people who are safe to wrestle through these issues with. Because I love J. D. Greear so much I am going to quote him again,
“Jesus representing churches will not stigmatize sexual sin. Stigmatizing sexual sin shows extreme ignorance of the gospel.”
I would say that it not only shows ignorance but just a complete lack of understanding. Conservative evangelicals, whom I am one of, have done just that. We haven’t shown the gospel, rather just presented the world with our positions on sexuality. Again from Greear: “We have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality.” WOW. That is a strong statement. Too many of us love our positions more than we love people. That is the anti-gospel. I had not ever thought about it that way before. As C. John Collins has said, “the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for.” This whole language about fighting against the “homosexual agenda” has got to stop. If we see ourselves only fighting against gays and lesbians and not fighting for them so they may experience the love of Christ that no sexual relationship can provide, then we are failing. If it takes the legalization of gay marriage in all 50 states for evangelicals to forget about the “culture wars” and turn our attention to loving our LGBT neighbor, I’ll take it. I know that is probably unpopular among evangelicals, but I don’t care. Oh yeah, and the whole “gag factor” thing makes me gag. Homosexuality is not somehow weirder or scarier than other sins. It is not a sin because we think it is gross. It is a sin because it does not fit into God’s design for marriage. If you think homosexuality is gross and fornication isn’t, then I suggest you think about whether your positions are biblical or just the general conservative American position. And reparative therapy. Well that is heresy. I agree with Rosaria Butterfield that it is prosperity gospel garbage. We shouldn’t be trying to change people’s sexual orientation. The goal is not more heterosexuals. It is to lead people to live faithfully as Christians. I have heard advocates for LGBT rights say that the blood of LGBT suicides is on the hands of Christians. I can’t help but think that there might be some truth to this. Not because we preach the gospel and advocate biblical sexual ethics, but because of the hate that has been showed to them.
We cannot change our position on sexual ethics based upon what the cultural tells us, but neither can we change how we act towards those who are different than us or disagree with us, even if some of them hate us. Our culture tells us we must distance ourselves from and hate those who disagree with us and are different than us, but Jesus provides us with a completely different approach. We must love and draw near to those who disagree with us and live lifestyles that we do not approve of. Homophobia is just as much buying into culture as claiming that same sex relationships are okay. A Christianity without Jesus’ compassion is just as unorthodox as a Christianity without Jesus’ sexual ethics.
Here are two videos that have helped me think through this issue.
“Preaching like Jesus to the LGBT community and it’s supporters” by J. D. Greear
“Engaging Homosexual Friends with the Gospel” by Rosaria Butterfield