This is the second of two posts on the topic of homosexuality. The first post introduced the issue. This post outlines the proper Christian response to gay individuals.
The $10 million dollar question: “How should Christians respond to gay individuals in a way that honors both them and biblical truth so that we can earn the right to be heard?
It’s a tricky question for most Christians as tire-blowing and axel-breaking potholes litter the road surface. The main reason the topic of homosexuality has become a roadblock is because the controversy forces the Christian community to wed right beliefs (orthodoxy) with right practices (orthopraxy).
For example, the far right response of Fred Phelps and the like rightly condemn the lifestyle but in practice but they misrepresent God’s gracious, loving character. The far left reaction of the Episcopal Church USA correctly reaches out to gay individuals but in the process violates long-held Christian beliefs concerning sexual purity.
So I’ve come up with two principles and an application that effectively brings these tensions together in a way that both honors gay individuals and the God Christians are to represent. The graphic below illustrates my thinking on the topic. My hope is that this post will helpfully guide the conversation in the right direction.
Principle #1: God loves the Gay Individual
The famous passage in John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world….” Notice that no distinction is made in whom God loves. It doesn’t say that God loved some and not others. Rather it says God loves every person who has ever lived.
The passage continues “…that he gave his one and only Son….” Notice here that love requires action. It’s more than an emotion. Thus, the demonstration of God’s love for lost sinners in Christ’s death on the cross.
Finally, this verse reveals God’s motive for sending Jesus: “…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In God’s loving-kindness towards his enemies, he extends to us the unmerited gift of redemption from sin and death in order that creation may be restored: God reunited with man.
You see, we must remember that God loves sinners, including the gay individual. Our usual tendency is to see this particular sin as being somehow worse than other sins, but in fact homosexuality is one just variety of sexual brokenness that God longs to redeem.
If that’s God’s attitude toward them and we want to represent God in our world, then should we not adopt a similar outlook? If we want to earn the right to be heard, then we must see gay individuals as God does, as broken, hurting people who are longing for affection, intimacy, and acceptance. Those are all basic human needs.
Principle #2: God Hates Idolatry
A lifestyle of sexual immorality, of which homosexuality is but one expression, is idolatry. Idolatry is an “extreme love or reverence for someone or something.” It is putting someone or something in the place of God. Thus, a lifestyle of sexual immorality – fulfilling selfish, carnal desires without respect for God’s desire for purity – is, in fact, worship of self. It is idolatry, and God hates idolatry.
Numbers 25 records an unflattering moment in Israel’s history as their years in the desert wilderness are drawing near an end. It recounts how some of the Israelite men entered into cultic prostitution with Moabite woman. This defiance against God is punctuated by one particular man who parades his sin in front of the whole Israelite community. Phinehas, filled with zeal for God’s holiness, sees what this man is about to do, follows him to his tent with a spear in hand, and kills both of them in the middle of their “worshipful experience” of Baal, thereby ending the plague that had already killed 24,000 people. Phinehas’ actions propitiated, or satisfied, God’s wrath for Israel’s sin.
The point of the passage is that prior to entering the Promised Land, Israel needed a final reminder that God hates idolatry. This episode is consistent with God’s character, who is “…slow to anger, abounding in love…. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Num 14:18).
I’m not suggesting we do what Phinehas did. Heaven’s no! But we ought to feel what Phinehas felt when he witnesses that man’s brazen act of idolatry. Call it a righteous intolerance for egregious sin or a willingness to convey the truth that God calls people not to live for themselves, but just the opposite. He bids us to come and die that we may live (ref Matt 16:24; Gal 2:20).
Application: Employ Jesus’ Model of Grace and Truth
In John 8:1-11, the gospel writer recalls the scene where a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus to stand trial for her sin (though in reality Jesus is the one on trial).
Granted, the primary purpose for this story isn’t to teach us a proper response to homosexuality. Rather this episode in Jesus’ life provides a picture of how Jesus resolved this tension of right beliefs (truth) and practice (grace). It is relevant to our discussion on homosexuality because of the power of demonstration.
The religious leaders have carefully set the stage with a well-placed question: “…this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (v. 4). If Jesus says, “Stone her,” then they will have succeeded in shaming Jesus before his growing crowd of followers. If he pardons her, then he’ll be seen as not upholding the Law. Do you see the tension? On the one side, Jesus is being pressed to carry out God’s righteous decrees. And on the other, Jesus desires to reveal God’s loving heart towards broken sinners.
Law and Love; truth and grace. How do you show both?
Of course, Jesus’ response is pure wisdom. “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” In a matter of moments, Jesus is alone with the woman. He alone has the right to throw the stone. But he chooses mercy over justice, grace over the grave.
Yet notice also his parting words at the end of verse eleven, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus still calls a spade a spade. He doesn’t mince words. What she did was wrong. She violated the marriage covenant, even if she was just a pawn in whole charade. So Jesus neither condemns nor condones her behavior, but in mercy he delays her judgment to a later time. He models for us mercy and truth.
In like manner, we need not judge gay individuals on God’s behalf. That’s God’s job and I’d just as soon let him tackle that task. Our job is to represent God well. This entails communicating truth with grace. It’s not either/or but both/and.
So there it is! (A bit longer than my usual post but needed to develop the argument.)
Two principles and an application. If Christians adopt this approach in their interactions with gay individuals, I believe we will make tremendous strides in earning the right to be heard. We will not change the culture necessarily, but we may be the instruments through which God changes individuals.
Like I said earlier, this is tricky stuff! I’ve tried to negotiate the subject with great care. I confess that at times I’m not entirely comfortable with the position I’ve taken.
Nevertheless, I can’t shake the idea that that’s a good thing. Jesus calls his people to embrace the tension of being in this world but not of it, which this approach strives to do.
Lord, grant your people skill in knowing when to bring grace and when to assert truth, humbly and lovingly. Amen.
Now I welcome your reflections.
- Which “camp” do you tend towards?
- Where is your greatest point of tension? Conveying grace or truth?
- How have you been challenged by reading this post?
 For clarity, I am defining a gay individual as someone who has fully embraced and is actively engaged in the homosexual way of life. The term here does not refer to someone struggling with his/her sexual identity.