In light of the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, how should the church address gays and this whole issue of same-sex marriage? Truth be told, the church has not always responded to LGBT people appropriately or addressed the issue of homosexuality with clarity. Some churches emphasize “love your neighbor” so much that they ignore the Biblical teachings about homosexual sin, disregarding the Bible’s principles about sexuality being sacred and informed by God. Other churches emphasize the Biblical teachings on homosexuality so much that they don’t “love your neighbor” and they respond harshly out of an attitude of self-righteousness. The fact is gays are as much our neighbor as Muslims, atheists, or heterosexuals living together outside the bonds of marriage; yet Christians are bound by Biblical authority when it comes to these kinds of moral matters.
What to do? Even for those Christians who agree homosexuality is contrary to God’s design for human sex, there is a struggle in figuring out how to speak about Biblical Christianity’s position with regard to this subject.
Part of the answer depends on who is listening to you talk about it. If you are speaking to cultural elites who despise Christians and their beliefs, you want to be bold and courageous. If you are speaking to strugglers who fight against same-sex attraction, you want to be patient and compassionate. If you are speaking to sufferers who have been mistreated by the church, you want to be apologetic and humble. If you are speaking to shaky Christians who seem ready to compromise the faith for society’s approval, you want to be persuasive and persistent. If you are speaking to gays and lesbians who live as the Bible would not have them live, you need to be winsome and straightforward. If you are speaking to belligerent Christians who hate or fear homosexuals, you want to be upset and disappointed.
One thing to always keep in mind is that often more than one of the above-mentioned categories of people is hearing what you have to say at any given time, therefore, being kind and respectful—even if firm—is always in order. Beyond that, following are some thoughts for how the Christian community might respond before God and before a watching world.
1. We will preach and teach through the Bible so that we understand the whole counsel of God, the unpopular parts as well as the popular ones. Jesus and His Word are not anything we want them to be; our lives as Christians must conform to His will and authority, not vice-versa.
2. We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexual sin, and we will extend God’s forgiveness to all those who come in brokenhearted repentance to God—everyone from homosexual sinners to heterosexual sinners, from the proud to the greedy, from the people-pleaser to the self-righteous.
3. We will call all people to faith in Christ as the only way to the Father and the only way to have eternal life. We will tell all people about the good news of the gospel: Jesus died in our place and rose again so we can be set free from sin’s consequences of suffering and death, and saved from God’s wrath.
4. We will treat all Christians as new creations in Christ, reminding each other our true identity is not based on sexuality or self-expression but on our union with Christ. We will strive to be a community that welcomes all those who hate their sin and struggle against it, even when that struggle involves failures and setbacks.
5. We will ask for forgiveness when we are rude, thoughtless or joke inappropriately about LGBTs. We will seek to love all in our midst, regardless of their particular vices or virtues, by preaching the Bible’s message, recognizing God’s grace, pointing out behaviors that dishonor the Lord, taking church membership seriously, striving for holiness together, and exulting Jesus above all things.
When Christian apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, was once asked, “How do you respond to non-believers who accuse Christians of being hateful to people who support lifestyles that are not according to the precepts of our faith?” he ended his excellent response by noting that every choice a person makes will have consequences, consequences that are ultimately judged by God, but as Christians we must love people, even those with whom we disagree. His entire response can be seen on YouTube at: “Ravi Zacharias on the Christian View of Homosexuality #Apologetics,”
Blessings to you,