A Treatise on Homosexuality, Part 7 (And Last): How Should Christians Approach Homosexuals?
It’s been good for me to attempt to put down in one place my thoughts on the subject of homosexuality; I probably ought to do this with other subjects as well. I hope it’s been informative, interesting, and even thought-provoking for my readers as well. I want to finish by talking, not about how the state should view homosexuality, but about how we, as individual Christians, ought to approach not only the subject itself, but the people, people who are tempted by—and those who give in to, even justify—homosexual behavior.
This subject matter is quite germane, I believe, in that it seems to me that in this area, perhaps above all others, Christians have done a pretty poor job of “hating the sin, and loving the sinner”. Now, a brief word as to that very concept: there are some who consider that distinction bogus, and I’m sure many gays feel that way. The reason for this, it seems to me, is that, as we’ve discussed before, those who are not believers tend to draw their identity from their actions, whereas Christians do what they do because of who they are; our actions flow from our identity. If one’s very identity is tied up in his sin, then to confront sin—indeed, to label it “sin”—is an affront to one’s identity. But I cannot—and will not, as a Christian—shrink from telling the truth, though as we’ll see in a moment, I am required always to strike that all-critical balance: I will speak the truth in love.
So what is that truth that I need to speak? First, every person who has ever lived retains the imago Dei, the image of God. This is the ground of the sanctity of life; if God created man in His image, then I must act in keeping with that basic theological truth. A key part of that is that I am required to give respect to every person. I may not like what she does—heck, I often don’t like what I do (see Romans 7)—but that’s a totally separate issue. Homosexuals deserve my basic respect as fellow image-bearers in a way that is diminished not one whit on account of their sexual choices. The same could be said, of course, for people who adopt a variety of different sexual lifestyles: I may—must—hate their sin and mine, but I must have respect for the individual. Period.
Second, every person is a sinner, as a result of the fall. Every person. Now…if I haven’t said enough controversial stuff yet, let me add something else to the fire; try it on for size, and see how it fits. I believe that every sin is equally sin, but not every sin is equally sinful. Agree with me on that? Not understand my point enough to form an opinion? Here’s what I’m saying: there is no sin—none—that is a “half-sin”, or some percentage less than 100% sin; hence, “every sin is equally sin”. But not every sin is equally sinful; fornication is a worse sin than lust, because even though they are equally sin, fornication takes lust a sinful step further. Adultery incorporates lust, but is worse than fornication, because adultery goes beyond “sex outside marriage” to “sex that breaks the bonds of marriage”. All of that said, I am open to—in fact, agree with—the idea that homosexual behavior is a worse sin than mere fornication. Why? Because it is sex outside marriage, but it further twists God’s design for the sexual relationship. All of that said, though, I agree with C.S. Lewis, who suggests that the worst sinner of all is the man filled with pride that “thank God, I’m not like that homosexual over there”; pride is the mother of all sins, and some “religious” folks are so full of it that the sin of homosexuality pales in comparison! Ergo, you struggle with homosexual temptation? You sometimes fail? Welcome to the club, fellow sinner; I do not have the prerogative to sit in judgment on you as though I have no sin myself, ’cause we’re all born with it, and it’s terminal.
Remembering this, then, we come to the third point: everybody desperately needs Jesus, and nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace. I read an editorial today talking about Franklin Graham, and it incorporated the same silly old saw about “evangelical exclusivism”, about how narrow-minded it is to say that Jesus is the only way. It said, by the way, words to the effect that “evangelicals under 30 don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to God”, to which the appropriate response is, of course, that people under 30 who don’t believe Jesus is the only way to God cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered “evangelicals”. But I digress…only Jesus brings salvation. Jesus said that Himself, and if He’s lying or mistaken, then He can’t be Who the Bible says He is, but if He’s telling the truth, then everybody needs Jesus. And this includes people struggling with homosexual temptation, meaning that our task is not to point fingers of condemnation at them—the Holy Spirit of God does a great job at convicting people of their sin, and I’d just as soon trust Him to do His work, how ’bout you—but rather to in love point them (in the very same way we point anybody else) to Jesus. Find homosexuality repulsive? Great…you’ve got a good grasp on what God thinks of your sin, mister. And if He can save you from the rotten ugliness of your sin, maybe He can save homosexuals from theirs—and further, we are His hands and feet and voices, so if we’re not showing the love of Jesus to homosexuals—if what they continually hear is our condemnation of their lifestyles instead of hearing and sensing the good news of the gospel, then Houston, we have a massive problem.
Yes, it bears being said that there are people who call themselves “Christians” who take an accommodating stance toward homosexuality—and toward other sins—and these folks are to be confronted at any/every turn. I do no one any favors by lying to them, by pretending that their sin is anything but black and ugly (just like I do myself no favors when I imagine that my sin isn’t as bad as other people’s). And so when the ECUSA ordains and approves of practicing homosexuals serving as priests, we can rightly call that organization out on it; a church that compromises that far and tolerates sin so easily isn’t playing on the same team I am. But this is in line with what Paul says in I Corinthians, about the fact that the people we should not associate with aren’t your garden variety pagans (whatever their sin), but rather people who profess to be Christians, yet who tolerate, even encourage, sin. So there’s the disclaimer.
But with that said, the fact remains that if I can’t show genuine love toward a person struggling with homosexuality; if I treat that person as some modern-day leper, then I’ve got a serious problem I’ve got to deal with before God.
How, then, do I deal with a homosexual? Same way as I deal with any other person: I see him as a person of worth, understand that he is beset by sin just like me, and do what I can to introduce him to Jesus. I am called to hate his sin, and my own, but as in every other case, I must love the sinner for whom Jesus died, for Jesus loves (a terrible sinner like) me, this I know.