Gays and lesbians are within the Church. Ignorance of them has no place inside God’s Body. It is due time that the Church recognize those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered. While we are not to compromise our beliefs, based on the Biblical text we’ve already looked at, the Church must start reaching out and embracing those who are different – as Scripture also demands. This is what it means to live within the tension of Jesus’ love and the call He’s placed before us.
It is also high time that the Church stop using God and His word as a weapon against those they disagree with. God is the Source of all truth, but He is also the Source of all love. His word, then, is meant to offer life, not death. The message of Jesus has always been, and will continue to be, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He calls us into a relationship with the Father; He calls us to find ourselves in Him, and not ourselves; and He calls us to spread this message near and far, to all peoples, regardless of anything.
How many times, we, the Body of Christ, have fallen short of this task. Many have turned the message of Christ into nothing more than legalistic “do’s and don’ts.” Many, on the other extreme, have thrown out the Bible’s authority and have replaced it with culture’s wisdom. Both extremes are sinfully wrong. Both extreme’s need to repent and move redemptively towards the middle, where we find Christ standing.
I love what William Webb says about homosexuality. Webb wrote a book that looked at how Scripture moves in its thought towards “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.” In regards to the passages about slaves and women, he says that there is a redemptive-movement hermeneutic to be seen: slaves are not to be acquired, and woman are no longer to be seen as property. However, in regards to homosexuality, the hermeneutics offers an absolute movement: for God’s people, same-sex acts were forbidden back then, and they’re forbidden now. Still, he adds, a redemptive focus on how we treat gays and lesbians needs to be made:
It means that we treat them with the same kind of grace, respect, care and compassion with which we [heterosexuals] want to be treated. It means that we fight along side of them against hateful actions aimed at their community. It means all of the above, even if we do not agree with their sexual ethic. In the final analysis, they will determine whatever course of action they deem best for their lives. However, a difference of perspective does not mean that the Christian community should be silent about its sexual ethic. Caring for people includes seeking their very best, whatever that may entail. The Christian community needs to lovingly persuade all people toward a sexual ethic that is in their best interests, even if those with whom we dialogue never come to our conclusions. Of course, such dialogue is of little or no value unless it takes place in the context of genuine friendships, where the matter of love and respect is not in question (pg. 40-41).
A New Move Forward
As Christians should know by now, we cannot force our beliefs on to others – period. No matter how right we think we are, and how wrong we think they are, forcing Jesus onto someone does not work (i.e. the Crusades were a bad idea). The ministry approach Jesus took was different that many of us take today, and we need to reconsider His actions above our own (i.e. the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, and the good Samaritan, just to name a few stories).
If gays and lesbians continue in their same-sex relationships, we cannot stop them, but nor should that give us a right to hate them and protest their lives. Jesus never picked up a sign to boycott sinners. Instead, Jesus held up a cross, for all of man kind, for the payment of all sin, as a sign of God’s mercy and grace. My conviction here is that Christians should put away the protest signs and start holding up the Cross – the very cross that was afforded them in their time of need. At the Cross of Christ, all people come together as one upon level ground (Ephesians 2:14-18). At the Cross, we embrace the truth of who we are and whom we belong to, and from the Cross, we emerge as new creations.
Within this mindset, then, we see how 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lays a foundational premise in reaching out to the gay community. This approach offers and trains the Church to live and minister between the balance of grace and truth, like Christ, in every situation no matter what. As already said before, the ultimate goal for a homosexual is not to become heterosexual, but rather to find his or her identity and wholeness in Christ.
Being gay is not a disease, it cannot be easily fixed, it will not just go away, and it cannot be fixed by forcing heterosexuality. Same-sex attractions do not always go away with prayer, bible study, or counseling; and almost never does it go away with fire and brimstone messages from the pulpit or street corner. For many who have these attractions, there is much healing that needs to take place within the person, and because of this, the journey is a long one. In an article from Christianity Today, an anonymous author gives some lessons from his own road of healing: there are no quick fixes, homosexual lust is not the crucial issue, and one cannot do it without the Church. In the article he writes, “No matter how much I battled, suppressed, and prayed against these feelings, they not only didn’t go away, they strengthened. At times, I would cry out to God, begging Him to change me. However, no change came. God was silent” (The Road to Healing). It was not until he learned a simple, yet powerful, concept that change started to happen, “I learned that God wants me to want Him more than healing.”
The goal for those caught in sin is wholeness, not perfection. Every time, in life and in Scripture, Jesus stands before mankind as the mark to run towards. It is He that we focus our attention on; it is Him that is our prize. Those with same-sex attractions – post gay – may never marry and start families, but some will. Either result is acceptable, just as they are for straight people. The goal of restoration is not marriage, having kids, or even becoming heterosexual, rather the ultimate goal, as stated before, is for a person to find their wholeness and identity in Christ. This needs to be the Church’s message, because it was Jesus’ too (John 4:14, 10:10, 14:6).
Ultimately the choice to find freedom is the person’s choice. Some choose freedom out of desperation, others find it through questions, and still others chose to never find it because of selfishness. Though everyone who moves into a post gay life wants to make sure that there is safety on the other side before crossing over. The Church must be that type of welcome mat waiting for all who walk through the door from death to life.
The Body of Christ must disciple as Jesus discipled His followers, submitting to the truth that God’s love far exceeds any definition of what love is. God’s love is pure, truthful, and just; it is mandatory that the Church learn how to follow suit. 1 John 4:20 strongly holds that no one can truly love God, who cannot be physically seen, and yet hate his brother, who is physically seen. If we as the Church are standing in violation of the example of Christ, to be like His example, then we stand in violation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and need to remember verse 11 too.
Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, that everything done needs to be through love. The Church can have a powerful ministry lined up to help bridge the gap between themselves and the gay community, but if it is not through the love of Christ, the ministry will never get past the drawing board. It seems the Church “has been too busy trying to change [gay] people to recognize that some of the discrimination they have faced has truly been unjust … A great way to identify with a person or group is to emphasize common ground with them” (Thompson, p. 44, John 1:14, Acts 17).
In order to practically do ministry among the gay community, the Church needs to understand two approaches, “[the] first is the importance of presentation … the second … how do we respond to the attacks of those with whom we disagree” (Thompson, p. 36-37). The Church must understand the great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves; this is paramount. One example of doing this is in J. Jones’ article, where the Methodist’s quadrennial meeting rejected the ordination of homosexuals and gay marriage, though they “did approve a resolution denouncing homophobia and violence against gays” (p. 16-17). Another way of loving our neighbor as ourselves, is to realize that even though “homosexual intimacy is sinful … [Christians] should nevertheless ask the state to protect gays and lesbians civil rights as a moral matter” (Failinger, p. 271). The Church cannot truly love its neighbor effectively if they are simply standing by and watching society unjustly mistreat the gay community. Again, we should be holding up the Cross and not a cowardly sign that says, “God Hates Fags.” Because He doesn’t. He loves them. Just like He loves you.
For more ministry points, see the following articles on this blog:
- GLBT Issues for Youth Workers and the Church
- Helping Parents Love Their Gay Children
- Other Articles on Sexuality