Acceptance of the LGBT isn’t really a problem among most Christians today. Most have no issues having friends that are gay. There’s no issue until that friend comes to church and wants to be a part of the family. For the most part, the church is cautiously ok with this. The issue is the believers loyalty to scripture and their love for this beloved soul in their midst. There were more than one response to my earlier post, Can The Church Welcome the LGBT stating the importance of inclusion, but also instruction by the Word of God to the person about their sin. It’s not long before the church feels compelled to correct their behavior because of the conviction of what scripture says.
I like what my friend Chad said in a comment after my last post:
“When Jesus (who embodied TRUTH on planet earth) came across a woman caught in obvious sexual sin (the infamous woman caught in adultery), he knelt down beside her and became an advocate for her. When we question what to do about compromising what is true when we accept the LGBT community, we should take our cue from the TRUTH who got down in the dust and defended her from the persecution of religious people. He told her to go and sin no more to be true, but not until he had faced her persecutors with her.”
I love how he said he “told her to go and sin no more, but not until he had faced her persecutors with her”. Here’s where the temptation for Christians lie: the expanse of space between when they stand with the LGBT and when they see God move on their hearts. The time span of time could be days, months or years – and we have to be ok with that. And before we go any further I would like to state a personal opinion I hold. You may or may not agree with me. I’m ok with that. There are many facets to this discussion where there will be disagreements with valid points on all sides. I believe that it’s not our job to determine how a gay person responds to God in terms of their lifestyle. I believe that as we truly love and extend acceptance, Holy Spirit is more than capable in loving and doing any work He would like in their hearts and lives. This may mean the change all Christians are longing for and it may not. It’s well with my soul. I am at rest with walking alongside regardless of what happens next.
So what do I say if I’m asked about what I think about their lifestyle? I am honest. I say something along these lines: “I love you and accept you any way you are. You don’t have to change to earn my friendship. I am for you. I don’t have all the answers about what I believe when it comes to this biblically, but I can guarantee you that God is for you as well.” I’ve never offended anyone by saying this. Honesty about my own journey to seek to understand creates a bridge. As soon as we start preaching Levitcus 17 or Romans 1, we’ve just burned a bridge that was desperately needing to be there and taken on a position we are not called to.
You mean we’re not called to tell someone they are fully in the wrong according to scripture? Well, according to those very verses in Leviticus and Romans that’s exactly what I’m saying. Let me tell you why.
In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 it speaks of homosexuality being an abomination. Unfortunately, Leviticus speaks of other abominations as well – one being the eating of shellfish (Leviticus 11:12). If we are under Levitical law, then it looks like I’m screwed as well. Other abominations mentioned in the Old Testament are pride, lying, false witness, violence, spreading strife, false balance in business deals, justifying the wicked, wearing clothing from the opposite gender, acting unjustly, not caring for the poor, idolatry, adultery, and oppressing the poor. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there with one of these at least once. Good thing we’re not under Levitical law.
Let’s move to Romans 1, the very section of scripture I once threw at a gay student on one of my ministry teams when he came out to me. I used this verse as an ultimatum towards this young man to either turn from his “wicked ways” or be handed over to a deprived mind. Oh, how I wish I could go back and do that all over again, but I was only doing what I felt any good Christian would do: speak the truth. I’ve never been more wrong.
I’ve been studying Romans chapters 1, 2 and 3 as of late. In order to interpret Romans 1 you need to also read Romans 2 and 3, as Paul’s thoughts continue. Here’s what it says in point form so it’s easy to follow, Readers Digest style.
– here it tells us that God is angry, yes. What’s He angry about? Human’s mistrust in Him, leading them away doing wrong. Taking their lives into their own hands as to say to Him they can do it better. What’s really getting at Him is that they know better. They knew Him, but decided to do things their own way anyways. Therefore, they trivialized themselves into confusion and lack of direction. They traded the glory of God for a cheap replica.
– What does God do? What any good parent would do when their kids refuse to listen to their warnings; they let them find out the hard way. God says, “Ok, you can have it your way”. It’s not long before they find themselves in serious trouble. Their foolishness spirals down so far they don’t even know how to be human any longer. They long for more and more sensual satisfaction that they start to experiment with the same sex. They’re bored with sex and wanting something more. This only causes them more sexual confusion. But this isn’t it, there’s more. Doing it their way only brought rampant evil, vicious backstabbing, envy, killing, bickering, cheating. They became mean-spirited, God bashers, bullies. They would even ditch their parents when they got in the way. They started to behave in the cruelest of ways to one another.
Before we carry on, please note that same sex immorality is noted, but there was also other immorality mentioned as well. All types, sexually and beyond, are mentioned. Many of which we can see not only in our present-day culture, but within the walls of our churches as well.
It continues into Romans 2:
Paul states that yes, “those people” are on a dark spiral downward but “don’t think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. Judgmental criticism of others is a well known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done”.
What’s Paul saying: before you nod your head to all mentioned in Romans 1 – passing judgment, take a look in the mirror and realize that Romans 1 actually is speaking of every one of us. We all have taken life into our own hands. Who’s truly guilt-free of that? We’ve all felt the sting of going our own way, don’t forget it. He puts us all back on the same level, giving no one the opportunity to brag about their righteousness.
It only progresses further into Romans 3 where Paul asks if there’s anyone who is truly “righteous”? Not one. Again, we are reminded that Christ is who unites us in our humanity and our need for Him: slave and free, male and female, jew and gentile…. gay and heterosexual.
When the Pope said, “Who am I to judge them?”, he was embracing the heart of these three chapters. We would do well to do the same.
This post doesn’t answer questions of whether gay’s are blessed in their union, or what to do if a homosexual wants to be on the church board, or whether pastor’s are free to marry a gay couple. There are many questions that the church will need to answer as we move forward to truly welcome these beloveds. A challenging read on these items would be Peter Fitch’s book, Learning To Interpret Towards Love. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but it’s a good read and a step in the right direction of opening discussion. Tony Campolo, who I love and respect has interesting thoughts on this topic in this short you tube video. Click here to view.
I feel if we can start with the heart of Romans 1-3 as a foundation, we may be on the road forward. If we base our conversation on who’s “right” and “wrong”, we’ve missed it and will continue to miss it. Sometimes theology needs to proceed after love. If there’s an opportunity to love, do it despite questions or theology. Jesus helped people on the Sabbath – which was a “no, no” from a theology perspective. He replied by saying; Love God, love people – this is fulfills all the rules. This is the new rule to live by.
The Bible doesn’t speak against homosexuals. It doesn’t speak “against” anyone who finds themself messed up apart from God. It speaks of God’s heart to restore. Feel free to love without restriction and base your conclusions from that foundation.