I hate being put into any one camp as a Christian, but I consider myself (for conversation’s sake) to be a conservative Christian. I greatly value the Bible, and consider it to be God’s Word. I take sin seriously and desire to be a person of Truth.
For me Grace and Truth are not two separate things, like Grace is the nice side of The Gospel and Truth is where we get to point out people’s sins and stuff. Grace and Truth are not a reference to separate things or two aspects of one thing, there are a reference to one person, Jesus.
That might help to explain why this whole “lifting out” and “above” of the homosexual issue is both disheartening and disturbing to me as a Christian. The more I read, the more barbaric conversations I see and hear between Christians about homosexuality, the more I sense that the controversy among Christians surrounding homosexuality is much more driven by fear than by most anything else. Why else would one sin (for those who believe it is a sin) be given so much more blatant attention and bias than all the others?
I think we need to start with the common ground that we all as Christians love Jesus, want to be faithful, and don’t want to be a hinderance, but rather a help to the cause of Christ. I have a hard time thinking of too many Christians I know who don’t have these intentions in their core. Perhaps there are some, but few and far between.
Beyond that common ground, there are a host of issues that have come to the conversation table that have resulted in a wide variety of differing views about homosexuality. Many of them, I suspect, are motivated by fear, particularly among many evangelicals.
It’s interesting to me that the bible doesn’t call us to tolerate people who sin differently than we do, but to love them. If Jesus merely had lifted a standard of “tolerating” as our template, sadly much of the Christian community still wouldn’t get a clean pass, as we can’t even act “tolerating” to homosexuals in our churches and Christian organizations . But the standard is even greater, it’s love, not tolerance. Love doesn’t erase people, look away, simply tolerate their existence, treat another’s sin as more sinful than theirs, or judge, condemn, or send to the curb as second class citizens or no citizen at all. This is not love.
For many, they are truly afraid of truly loving homosexuals. Why?
Let me identify and help dissolve some of the fears behind an unwillingess to truly love homosexuals, or even just tolerate them.
Fear 1: If we truly love homosexuals, we won’t be faithful in defending what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Let me put your heart and mind at ease, or make you really angry… your choice. The truth is, no one truly defends what the Bible truly says, they defend what they believe the Bible says. It’s not the authority of scripture that they are truly defending, it’s the authority of their beliefs about what scripture says that they are ardently trying to defend. Need proof?
Lets just take an issue far more major, essential, and important than homosexuality… like “salvation.”
There are large evangelical, biblical, scholarly people who believe that salvation is a gift from God given to all people received by personal faith in Christ. According to their beliefs, God loves everyone, wants everyone saved, and provides the way through Jesus for them to be saved, through faith. Anyone can believe and receive this gift of salvation. This group can line up many bible passages that they claim to be authoritative proof that their belief is right and faithful to God’s Word.
But did you know there is also an equally large group of evangelical, biblical, scholarly people who believe that salvation is a gift from God given to some people and not to others as He predestines some to enjoy heaven and some to burn in hell, giving people no choice in the matter whatsoever. In fact, according to their beliefs (including popular pastors like Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, David Platt etc.) even people who want nothing to do with God, God regenerates and makes them unwillingly believe in Jesus through “irresistible grace” so that they go to heaven, but God withholds doing this for others, and thus, they sadly go to hell. They too, line up their bible passages they claim to be authoritative proof that their belief is right and faithful to God’s Word.
Obviously, using the very same Bible, these two large groups who each claim to be biblical, conservative, evangelical, authority-of-scripture loving Christians have come to two very, very different conclusions about the central foundational issue of Christian salvation. In fact, each group often declares the opposing group as not submitting to the authority of God’s Word and faithful interpretation. They both claim that what they believe is what the Bible “plainly teaches,” that theirs is the absolute truth of God’s Word, and that they are the true guardians of the authority of God’s Word.
This is just one example of so many examples of how Christians who claim to be bible-authority loving, evangelical, and faithful have come to very different conclusion/beliefs about what the very same bible says or doesn’t say on essential and non-essential issues. Who truly can claim they have got it right and are in sync with the authority of the Bible? Obviously, both can’t be right and true to God’s Word?
Now we arrive at homosexuality. An issue that many Christians would say is a slam dunk, cut and dry issue. Surely, we Christians, who easily can get the whole issue of salvation right (lots of sarcasm intended) have the inside scoop to what the Bible truly means about this issue. You can see in how we have handled the central issue of salvation so well that certainly, we can handle the simple “pop fly ball” of homosexuality (more sarcasm). Besides, we are the authorities of the authority of the Bible, can’t you tell by how many denominations with entirely different beliefs we have? Trust us, we know what we are talking about and know the plain truth about what the Bible teaches, especially about homosexuality.
The truth is, as with the issue of salvation, there are biblical, scholarly, Jesus-loving, conservative people whose views and understanding about what the Bible truly says about homosexuality are greatly differing. Each brings their Bible, passages, word studies and lexicons to the table and having read the same Bible conclude very different understandings, each one claiming they are the authority on the authority of the Bible and what they believe is the plain and faithful teaching of God’s Word.
I am not going to get into that debate only to say that there is one, and both sides feel just as biblical, scholarly, faithful, and Jesus-loving as the other.
My point is this, if you refrain from truly loving homosexuals, letting them in you church, sitting besides them in a small group, hiring them in your company, or allowing them involvement in your ministry because you fear in doing such things you are not defending what the Bible says about homosexuality, what you are truly deliberating over is not what the Bible truly says, but what you believe at that moment the Bible says.
What if you are wrong, what if you got the interpretation wrong and in the meanwhile you isolated, condemned, and marginalized an entire people-group in the process when you shouldn’t have? What if you have made an idol out of your understanding?
Jesus once addressed this type of issue to people who wanted to place their stances on the Word of God over their stance with people.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
I love what Steve McVey says of this passage and issue…
“They had their Bibles in hand and studied them much. In fact, they could quote most of the Old Testament, but Jesus said they simply didn’t get it. While they professed to be focused on living by the teaching of their Bibles, Jesus said they were missing Him.
There are Christians today who talk more about the Bible than they do Jesus. That should be a red flag. The Bible is not an end unto itself. Nor is it a guidebook or a handbook for living. The Bible is a grace book that points us to Jesus Christ. He is the end that we pursue. If we are not led to the person of Christ and to faith in Him, like the Pharisees, we are missing the whole point of the Bible. I realize this viewpoint may be uncomfortable for some people. It may sound to you like I’m minimizing the place of the Bible in our lives, but I certainly hope not. Remember, this is coming from somebody who has spent his life studying, emphasizing, and teaching the Bible! I love the Bible more than I have words to express. But it’s a paradox. As much as I love studying the Bible, and as much as I love teaching it and helping other people discover how great a blessing it is, learning the Bible is not the main thing. As we live in Him and He lives through us, we will approach the Bible in the right way, knowing that Christ is our life source, and the Bible points us to Him.” –McVey, Steve (2011-02-01). 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday (pp. 79-80). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Bible is important, no doubt, but the truth of the matter is, we should be very careful not to lean on our own understanding to the point we are willing to miss the heart of Jesus for truly loving all people. None of us are truly the authority on what’s authoritative in the Bible. This is what the Pharisees were never willing to do, that is, to come down from their religious pride they would call “faithfulness to God’s Word” and stand with people.
Christians are great at claiming “authority” when they feel their throne lowering and their control slipping away. In contrast, when Jesus used the fullness of the power of authority, he washed people’s feet. When we Christians use authority, we tend to erase and marginalize people and people groups.
This must come to an end if we are going to have a voice that has influence in the world.
Fear 2: If we truly love homosexuals, we will be condoning homosexuality.
Jesus was not afraid to associate Himself with people whose lives were sinful and questionable at best. If you believe all homosexuality is sinful, it may also be that you join those who believe the same and fear that drawing too close and giving them equal respect, involvement, friendship, employment, acceptance, and/or love might mean you are or appear to be condoning homosexuality.
Recently, World Vision, a Christian organization explored this issue by changing their policies to be open to hiring homosexuals in their workplace. Later, after Christian pressure, they changed back to their original policy to not do so. The main issue it seems is that many Christians insisted that to hire homosexuals was to condone sin and a sinful lifestyle. Many would say that homosexuals are not just sinning, but living a lifestyle of choosing sin willingly without any sense of repentance.
Here again, I am not going to get into the issues of whether homosexuality is a sin or not or that people who are homosexual are committing a lifestyle of sin by their rebellious choice.
However, I do wonder if companies like World Vision treat other sins like they treat the believed-to-be-sin of homosexuality when they hire and manage people. Do they check to see if all the fat people they hire are fat for exclusively medical conditions beyond their control rather than being an issue of gluttony? If so, how is that determined? Do they interview and explore every divorced person’s marriage history, determining if the divorce was biblical or not, because many would say that remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is adultery, a sin? If so, who makes this determination?
But let’s take things even a bit further. The truth is, every Christian has an area where they are knowingly sinning and even unrepentive, just like many Christians would declare homosexuals are doing. Yup it’s true! Don’t believe me, read on.
The bible teaches, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” -James 4:17
Many Christians know they should be obeying speed laws, never running red lights, should be tithing 10%, should have constant pure thoughts, should never covet their neighbor’s home, should be completely satisfied with their own looks, giving to the poor, should care for orphans and take care of widows, should not have selfish thoughts, should have faith instead of worry, pray without ceasing, and the list goes on and on and on. There is so much good we ought to be doing that no one could measure up.
Yet, are you repenting (a concept most evangelicals mistakenly believe means to “change your ways”) right now of all the good you ought to do but are not? You aren’t repenting because to do so would take every moment of every day as there is always something good you know you should be doing but you aren’t.
But if you are going to live by the notion that unrepentive, repeated sin is the crossing line that determines whether loving, welcoming, including or hiring a person is condoning their sin or not, than your “not doing the good that you ought to” is not only sin, it’s an unrepentive lifestyle of sin of your free choice that you and every Christian is living right now! You should never be hired, included, accepted or welcomed because you are living in sin, and we can’t condone that!
Btw, I was just wondering, how many times do you commit the same sin before it becomes a lifestyle of sin? 2 times, 5, 1o? Who makes that determination anyways?
Furthermore, if this is the line of believing you are going to take, then every person Jesus interacted with and even those He called as disciples He did so as an act of condoning sin. Peter , for example, had it in his heart the capacity and later the actions of denying Jesus, and Jesus knew that long before it ever even happened. Was Jesus therefore, condoning his sin? He ate and drank with sinful people, was He in doing so condoning their sin? He even called/hired broken, sinful, lifestyle-of-sin type people onto His team, was He therefore condoning sin?
It was only the religiously-spirited Pharisees who would draw this ignorant conclusion of Jesus and condemn Him for doing so. It is the same today.
Imagine if World Vision had taken a stance like this… We want to hire every qualified homosexual person we can find, not because we agree with everything about them or their lifestyle, but we would rather have them around the influence, safety, and care of the people of Jesus than the world. We believe we can do a better job of loving them and coming along side them as we all grow in Grace than anyone else. And what better way than to work side by side together, doing life. We want them to be exposed to the life of Christ in us (if they aren’t already) and the Holy Spirit around us that they might have every opportunity to consider the claims of Christ and their true identity and life in Him. We will let the Holy Spirit be our judge and jury and us their friend and coworker. We will trust the Holy Spirit with any change that needs to take place in any of our lives, and to protect our reputation and character as an organization. We do not see their employment as a threat to the integrity of the Gospel nor our Christian organization, but a result of it.
In fact, I would suggest that companies, churches, and organizations that withhold the full Grace of the Gospel, or communicate any hint of the Law to homosexuals through not welcoming, including, valuing, respecting, hiring, or empowering them is doing far more to condone their sin (if that is what you believe) than by bringing them into the arms of your love. The Bible clearly teaches that it is the Law that entices us to sin, not Grace. Giving Grace and acceptance does not condone sin, it is in fact the only Gospel chance, through the Holy Spirit, for true change to occur. It is God’s kindness that leads to a change of mind (what repentance really means).
If you are truly afraid of condoning sin, then welcome, love, respect, hire, befriend and involve homosexuals in your life, ministry, or organization. To not do so condones far more sin. Trust God with your reputation, and Grace to manage and influence people… Jesus did.
Fear 3: If we truly love homosexuals, we won’t be taking sin seriously.
Sin is serious, there is no question about that. But, how we go about taking sin seriously is even more critical.
The truth is, Grace and Grace alone is the solution to sin. Jesus was and is the solution for all sin, and He is Grace. Grace is not a new theology, program, or fad, He is a person, Jesus.
We are not the solution to sin. The Law shows us we can never solve the problem of sin by any effort or aspect of our lives and living. Alone, we are powerless against sin. Jesus alone, is the only power to overcome it. God took sin so seriously that He dealt with it completely and eternally through Jesus knowing we are powerless against it. When we harbor any level of belief that any aspect of our performance can resolve issues of sin in ourselves or others we are in fact not taking sin seriously, but rather minimizing the seriousness of sin down to a level of human ability to resolve.
The Bible shows us that the more we focus on sin, the more we will sin. Yet, the more we focus on Jesus, the more we will understand our true nature and identity in Him and therefore live victorious lives.The best way to take sin seriously is to take the finished work of the cross seriously. Taking sin seriously means to stop focusing on sin and place your focus on Christ and what He has done for you and to you. And not just you, but everyone.
As Christians, taking sin seriously means doing everything we can to help people experience the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, the only solution. As Christians, our identity is secure in Him, and His Grace is what promises to carry out the good work in us. Taking sin seriously means trusting Grace completely. We should never fear sin or sinful people in such a way as to keep us from befriending, hiring, welcoming, or involving homosexuals (if you believe homosexuality is a sin). In fact, what we should fear is not taking sin seriously enough to manifest the remedy to sin, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the companionship, friendship, and fellowship of His people whether in the context of a church, organization, or a company. We in fact minimize the power of sin and compromise the Gospel when we think that we can marginalize certain sinful people in the work place, a Christian organization, or the church and yet consider them our mission, as if keeping them at arms length, compartmentalizing them, and hoping they get our message from a distance is the best strategy for the Gospel. Do we truly trust Grace to be the remedy for sin or would we rather have people working, living, involved, and empowered by the world as if the world were a better place for people to work out this sin issue in their lives? Is sin serious enough to us to manifest what Jesus has done about it and our trust of the power of the Gospel in us and through us enough to walk along side of it without fear of contamination or reputation? If you truly believe Christ lives in you and as you in this world, contamination and reputation are much more likely to become an excuse than a real concern.
Now more than ever, preaching the Gospel means being the Gospel. You can’t be the Gospel through mere words, you can only be the Gospel of Grace through being, walking, befriending, and doing life with people. Just like Jesus did. If the mere message was enough, Jesus would have merely passed out teaching tapes. The Gospel was never intended to merely be a speech, but to be a stance with people. And not just select people, but broken, hurting, confused, difficult, dirty people who sin differently than you.
When God manifested the reality of His taking of sin seriously, it resulted in the serving of people infected with the very thing He detested by coming out of heaven and walking, hiring, befriending, involving, empowering, and ultimately dying for them.
Taking sin seriously is not in what you are willing to disapprove and disassociate from, but who you are willing to be the Gospel of God’s Grace with in life, work, church, and friendship.
Fear 4: If we truly love homosexuals, we might start attracting too many gays.
Yes, I have heard pastors, ministry leaders, and Christians vomit this kind of sentiment, “what if we start attracting too many gays?”
Really? I am sure before Jesus left heaven to be born on earth, God’s last words to Him were something like, “Hey Jesus, Son, old pal. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t attract to many sinners, I have no clue what to if that happens, it would be a huge mess.”
I suppose I can understand the anxiety, sorta. Ministries, churches, Christians, and Christian organization are under a lot of pressure. Unfortunately, mainly from other Christians. We Christians are experts and flogging each other, with a little bit of salt in our hands to rub on afterwards . So, I can understand the anxiety, but I don’t necessarily agree with bowing to it.
It’s amazing to me how ill-equipped many Christians, ministries and churches feel in ministering to people whose sin (if you believe homosexuality is a sin) is not only different from theirs, but believe its presence automatically threatens their reputation and integrity. Sure, some are more than willing to allow homosexuals into a worship service, event, gathering, or to have a doughnut together at the church cafe’, but the idea of including them as valued parts of your organization or ministry sends many into a tailspin of fear.
Why? Because of several of the fears already addressed previously in this article. For many churches and ministries, they see themselves more as an institution to be maintained rather than a mission to be extended, and at the end of the day, preserving their institution is more important than standing true to their mission. They are willing to be misunderstood and rejected by the people they are supposed to reach in the process of making sure they are understood and accepted by the people they wish to keep… Christians, Christian donors, Christian supporters.
What are we going to do with the homosexual visitor who wants to become a member? What do we do with the homosexual member who wants to volunteer? What do we do with the homosexual volunteer who feels called to lead? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Here’s what many do, we welcome them enough to feel good about ourselves, but politely (or not so politely) keep them at a distance so that they don’t threaten the other ways we want to keep on feeling good about ourselves… you got is, church politics, christian politics, ministry politics, denominational politics etc.
There are legitimate concerns about involving people into areas of volunteering, employment, and leadership. We must be discerning and wise. But anyone can have an agenda, selfish motive, lack of character, illegal background etc. Is homosexuality in and of itself an automatic disqualification from being volunteer, employment, or leadership material? On what grounds? Sin? Willing sin?
Yes, we Christians with our churches, organizations, and ministries want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to say homosexuals are a part of our mission (if you believe they need to be seen as a mission in the first place) but not have to deal with the unfortunate mess integrating them into the life of your church, ministry or company would entail in our Christian culture today.
Unless of course, they clean up and repent of their ways, then they are one of us! If they join us on the evil, spiritual seductive treadmill of self-improvement where God does His part and we do our part, then they are one of us! If they hate themselves but not knowing exactly why like we do, then they are one of us! If they join our hypocritical plight and become inspired by message after message of the things they need to do and not do to be a better Christian and act like they are actually making any progress when they really aren’t, then they are one of us! If they reject their sexual orientation and claim it’s all a choice like we believe it is, than they are one of us. By the way, I was just wondering, if you are a heterosexual, when did you choose to be heterosexual? Just curious. If they just get an accountability partner, those precious little spiritual gems, then they will be one of us!
No wonder why the real concern shouldn’t be about whether we will attract too many homosexuals, it’s will we attract any at all? And if we do, will they even stick around long enough for us to know their story. I know, we hope not, and may not even care. That could get too dirty for our porcelain Christian life, ministry, or church.
Besides, why would they want to become any more like us and believe more of what we do? Why would they want to join our futile, self-focused, performance-driven so-called Christian walk that never gets truly any better but rather just pretends like things are. Why would they want to get involved in our church where what we are against is far more important than what we are for, where the Holy Spirit’s ability to change people has been replaced with rules, regulation, guilt trips, and fear. Why, why, why?
If you, your ministry, or your church fears attracting too many gays, let me put your mind at ease, trust me you won’t! And thank God for that! They would do better to go straight to hell, the place many have likely deemed they are all going anyways.
Fear 5: If we truly love homosexuals, we will be adapting to our culture.
One of the cries I often hear from those who seem to want to condemn all homosexuals to the fires of hell and claim that the Bible is perfectly and unquestionably clear that God feels the same is that if you disagree, have questions, harbor doubts, or just aren’t sure about the whole matter, you are not only just “adapting to our culture,” you are not staying true to the authority of God’s Word.
I truly believe that there is little cultural influence in the hearts and minds of those who humbly and truly wrestle with the issues surrounding homosexuality. For both the homosexual and the one who wrestles with what one as a Christian is to believe and do with this issue, the depth of struggle, inner debate, spiritual searching, biblical study, and desire for truth is far deeper than one merely bending to the winds of culture.
People are discovering firsthand, not primarily through cultural experiences, but personal ones, that this issue is much more complex than meets the eye and the black and white tunnel vision of those who are quick to cherry pick their way through the scriptures in order to build their case for what they are against in life and in the world. Furthermore, Christians are coming to realize there are other credible ways as to how one could interpret the biblical references to homosexuality than merely what has been commonly offered. It’s not just clear, cut and dry. These are not far-fetched, doing a “dance around the truth” kind of exegesis exercises being done, but real, faithful biblical scholarship by people who are just as serious about Jesus, the Bible, and sin as anyone else.
I am sure there is a homosexual agenda in both the Christian culture and our culture at large, but there are also a lot of other agendas within our Christian culture. Agendas are not new. And I would dare to say it is not agendas that are driving the reevaluation of this issue, but rather compassion, and biblical revelation.
If Christians were continually prone to merely adapting to culture and that was the driving force behind the questions people are posing to what has previously been accepted and taught as the plain, clear truth about what the bible says about homosexuality, than I am curious as to why for the past 15 years, our culture has become much more health, weight, and nutritionally fit minded, yet the church is clearly not adapting to that much.
Don’t worry, if you wrestle with what the bible says about homosexuality and how to handle this issue in the lives of others, chances are strong that you aren’t merely adapting to culture, but working through issues that are much more complicated than that. Furthermore, you are trying to navigate the application of the Grace growing within you. Grace has filled your heart with wisdom, compassion, and truth. And looking at the world through the eyes of Jesus has begun to look much different from when you merely saw it through the eyes of “church”, “religion”, or “legalism.”
Keep growing in Grace, perfect love casts out fear.
Thank you for a great, thoughtful and thought provoking article. It has put things in perspective for me as I have struggled about this issue for a long time. I try to love others as Jesus does, but I am so sinful in my loving that my judgemental thoughts just mess it up. So, yeah, thanks! I shared it to save it, I’ll have to read it again. (and again)
Thanks Cindy, we all need Grace for sure. So great to connect with you. Keep in touch!
Perhaps I should have said I am so sinful despite my loving….
i believe that Christians should be more inclusive the more we take strong stance on issue like homosexuality we alienate people we make it us and them. I think what we must show the love God the world is filled with wounded and hurt people if you are not close to them you will never understand the reason behind their action.