Traditionalist culture had said that homosexuality is wrong, but also has condoned the verbal and physical abuse of those engaging in such practices. Progressive culture says homosexuality is a good and healthy practice and that homosexuals should be treated with love and respect. Where does the Christian fall within this dichotomy? As in many issues, the Christian cannot find shelter in either camp. The Christian must follow the path of Jesus which most of the time does not fit in the neat cultural divides of this world. The Christian must believe homosexuality is wrong, but must treat homosexuals with love and respect.
Many have assumed that because Christians believe homosexual practice is wrong, that they are cultural conservatives on this issue. But there are aspects of traditional culture’s response that the Christians categorically reject. When I was in high school I remember overhearing the conversation of two football players bragging about going to downtown Atlanta to “beat up and rob queers” This is the sort of behavior that traditionalists condoned or turned a blind eye to in their disdain of homosexual behavior. It is illustrated in America by the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and by the bullying that has taken place so often in our school systems. It is seen in the crude jokes and derogatory names that are often spoken about homosexuals. A boxer said that homosexuals are less than animals. A professional baseball team locker rooms jokes about killing homosexuals. Around the world it can be seen in mob violence committed against homosexuals that is overlooked by governments or the judicial murder enacted by the governments themselves.
Many Christians have found themselves caught up these attitudes. In some churches preachers do not only say that homosexual practice is wrong but speak in the most demeaning terms about those that do so. They focus on these sins again and again every Sunday self-righteously attacking gays while ignoring the sins that a prevalent in their congregations. Traditional Christians have engaged in the demeaning jokes about and have implicitly approved of violence against homosexuals by not standing against such acts. Even some bible translations have translated the word for “homosexual acts” into demeaning words like “perverts” that are not contained the the original greek.
But all such attitudes and actions are condemned as sin by the Bible This violates the 2nd greatest commandment that tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It violates the law of the gospel that says we ought to love fellow sinners as God has loved us in our sin. It violates the example of Christ who had table fellowship with those who are considered sinners. It violates creation in that all humans are made in the image of God and deserve honor and respect because of it.
Traditionalists often tack the Christian gospel on to their conservative social agendas, but the heart of who they are is not the gospel. Their hearts are dominated by their social position of power (or lack thereof) and self righteousness. They turn Christianity’s belief that homosexual practice is wrong into an excuse for hating people who are different. This is wicked and has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.
Though Christians believe homosexual practice is wrong, the gospel radically transforms how they view homosexuals. Christians reach out to them with the same love that God extended towards Christians in their sin. Christians treat them with the respect deserved by fellow creatures made in the image of God. Christians offer them the table fellowship that Jesus offered to sinners in his day.
The key to this is first realizing we both belong to the same groups. We are both humans beings made to bear the image of God. We are both sinners who deserve God’s wrath and curse. Our sins may be different but they put us in exactly the same relationship with God: He is our judge. If Christians treat homosexuals as pariahs, they are implicitly denying that they belong to the group known as sinners and therefore deny they need Christ as Savior. In other words, they deny that they are Christians. If we have the experience of being sinners, we will react with compassion, not judgment, towards fellow sinners regardless of what that sin is. Homosexuals are just like us, humans who have sinned against God.
Secondly, the Christian must embrace the ethical transformation of the gospel which is loving people as God has loved us. When we were very different to God, even offensive to him, he continued to love us and came into the world in the person of Jesus to be our savior, even sacrificing himself on the cross for us. This is the good news of the gospel. The experience of this love means we will love those who are very different from us.
Thus, how should Christians treat homosexuals? We ought to seek to befriend them and be the best friends they ever had. We ought to love them and love them better than they have been loved by anyone before. They ought to lay down our lives for them to protect them and meet their needs as our fellow human beings. We ought to love them as God has loved us in Jesus.
Should we tell them that homosexual practice is sinful and that they should repent? No doubt, somewhere in the relationship this will naturally arise and yes, that is what we should say. But we should do so in gentleness and humility recognizing our own sin and we should do it without withholding our love and friendship. Indeed we should share what our sins are with them and show them how we struggle with them day by day and show them a godly example of regular repentance in our own lives. And we should always point them to the savior who is full of love and compassion for sinners as this is the only hope any of us have.
Two Final Notes:
Some may say, “Isn’t saying homosexuals are sinners homophobic”. No, because I am a sinner. We all are sinners. I sin daily and thought world and deed. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. To say someone is a sinner is not a political statement. It is a spiritual statement about our joint condition before a holy God.
Christians, the politically poisonous environment that we live in may cause us to forget that homosexuals are real human beings who need Jesus. Whatever you feel you must do politically (how you vote, what laws you support), remember that this is subservient to loving our neighbor as ourselves.