Target Audience: Christians, Conservatives, Baptists, Evangelicals
For those who are bracing themselves for a pro-gay blog post, you are about to be disappointed. For those who are bracing themselves for an anti-gay blog post, you too will be disappointed. The focus of this blog post is to advocate a third way of dealing with homosexual men and women in churches, along with every other lifestyle that might make us feel uncomfortable. It is not about affirming the gay lifestyle or condemning it. It is about accepting homosexual men and women as people created by God, in the image of God, loved by God, forgiven by God, and for those who follow Jesus as Savior, redeemed by God. This post is about the lifelong journey of learning to love others as Jesus loves us, without condemnation, judgment, hatred, or violence.
I came to know Christ as my Savior when I was 18 years old in a small Baptist church northwest of Toronto. For the most part, I have hung out in Baptist churches, or more conservative theological churches and have no intention of changing my core theology with respect to things that directly relate to the gospel itself. I am, though, and have been for quite some time, much more liberal or moderate when it comes to social issues, such as homosexuality. I depart from the feelings and attitudes of many of my brothers and sisters in the faith, particularly with respect to how homosexual men and women should be treated should they show up at a conservative evangelical church.
About a year ago, I experienced a defining moment in my Christian life. I attended two small group Bible studies connected with my former church. The first small group I facilitated. The second one I attended as a participant. The statement that triggered the controversy was: “Tolerance for all lifestyles is so highly valued that the only sin that is a sin is judging. Do you think this is true today and what, if anything, can Christians do about it?”
In both Bible studies the lifestyle that members of the group wanted to discuss was homosexuality. Now, I have been around churches long enough to know that in a Baptist church, at least most Baptist churches, homosexuality is never going to be welcomed or embraced, or most times, even tolerated.
The discussions that followed in both groups, though, left me shaken and disillusioned about the people with whom I had been worshipping. While homosexuality was the match that set the discussions aflame, it could have been how we should treat or view radical Islam or anyone who is radically different that make these people feel threatened.
The people took the aggressive approach. While conceding that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about changes in people, they seemed to be in agreement about two things:
First, the way to deal with a mythical gay couple who should show up for a morning service was to aggressively condemn their lifestyle using Bible references to back up the beliefs of the heterosexual men and women doing the interrogating.
Second, they seemed to feel that aggressively condemning the homosexual lifestyle to a gay couple demonstrated the love of God to these people.
I am not naive. Obviously the Old Testament condemns the homosexual lifestyle, but I believe the New Testament is less clear about whether homosexuality is the abominable sin regarded by many evangelical Christians. The Apostle Paul also directed churches not to let women speak in church and offered advice to slave owners. The point is that while the Old Testament clearly speaks out against homosexuality, the condemnations of homosexuality were written in an age where women were considered to be property, not human beings. The Bible sometimes reflects the culture of the day, as it does with respect to homosexuality.
Beyond the theology of whether or not homosexuality is acceptable, there is the question about how we, as Christians, are to treat other human beings. It is not hard, in many churches, to find men and women who have little conscience about the outright murder or abuse of homosexual men and women. These are the same people who either condone or stand silent when abortion clinics are bombed and doctors who perform abortions are murdered.
Quite simply, I can respect a wide variety of beliefs and opinions. I can worship with people who believe that homosexuality is wrong. I can worship with people who believe that it is right. I can worship with people who choose to voice no opinion and take no action, positive or negative, toward homosexuality. I cannot, though, associate or worship with Christians who believe that hatred, bigotry, intentional discrimination, and condemnation is the best way to deal with sin or controversial issues. For me to continue to identify with the hatred, bigotry and open discrimination of other human beings would be to add my voice to their twisted concept of God and His mission for humanity.
When Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV (2011), He did not mean just heterosexuals, or people with whom we feel comfortable. That command is as much a challenge to me as anyone else. Do I have people who I do not like, that I find difficult to be around? Of course I do. Everyone does, but then Christianity isn’t about adapting our culture to our faith. It is about replacing our culture with the principles of our faith.
At this point, anyone reading this blog post might wonder if there are any genuine Christians at this church or are they all haters. My former church has a lot of genuine Christians who have incredible compassion, generosity, love, and empathy for a wide range of people. In reality, their challenge isn’t defending their faith, although they seem to be ill-equipped to do so. Their challenge is learning how to love challenging people, which is a challenge to everyone. We need to drop our rocks of condemnation, judgment, hatred, fear, anger, and violence and embrace others with the love we experienced from Jesus. Anything less is in itself sin.
The challenge isn’t whether we affirm or condemn homosexuality. The challenge is accepting people who God has created, in His image, and loving them as Jesus loves us.