Love Thy Neighbor (Unless he’s – you know – gay – or evangelical)

Have you ever grown weary of hearing both sides of an issue and given up on it, concluding there’s no possible way to determine which is right?

There is a Biblical proverb (18:17) that says; “The first speech in a court case is always convincing until the cross-examination starts!” (The Message)

That is how many people feel about the issue of homosexuality and faith and if they are not personally wrestling with same-sex attraction, it’s too easy for most to give up trying to wrestle it through. Instead, they settle in one of the two camps with no real confidence as to why they have. Due to this lack of confidence, they simply avoid the topic altogether.

To approach this conversation is an act of love. Love of Christ and love of others, others who may be in your life or total strangers. To approach this conversation is to expose one’s self to others, to be vulnerable, to let the fig leaves fall and stand awkwardly with nothing between us but our shared sin until we invite Jesus in, too. Then, as He provides a covering,we can have hope of finding graceful truth.

It’s also a risky act to approach this conversation because you’re likely to anger or offend both your friends and those who started out disagreeing with you in the first place. But, I warn you, loved ones, the Bible lists the cowardly right alongside the sexually immoral in the list of those who will be consigned to the second death in Revelation 21:8 so, screw your courage on and continue to walk with me for a ways.

The polarization of this issue came home to me one Sunday when I was about to teach my high school Sunday school class. I had brought in the Sunday paper for one of our lesson activities and on the front page was a photo of the Providence gay pride parade. The photo captured a float of men in thongs dancing lewdly on a decorated flatbed being confronted from the sidelines by angry, grimacing protesters holding up signs announcing that God hated those who marched.

One of the boys in my class pointed to the photo and asked, “Mrs. Roeleveld, I honestly can’t figure out whose side we’re supposed to be on in this photo. Do you know?”

Yeah, I knew.

In many ways, we weren’t “on the side” of anyone in that picture. That black and white shot was like a Polaroid of modern sin. God is not pleased by displays of lewdness nor is He pleased by displays of hate and anger. So, in that way, we were on no one’s side.

In another way, Jesus came to reconcile men and women to God. He got His hands dirty doing it and wasn’t afraid to associate Himself with sinners. So in many ways, Christians must be on the side of everyone in that photo – not judging, condemning, nor distancing ourselves from the ugliness of their sinful displays but praying for them, loving them, and speaking the truth in every way we know how until they can either hear it and receive it or hear it and reject it.

Sin is ugly no matter where it appears and trust me, it appears a lot in church. How can I NOT have humility when pointing out the sin of others when I know that my own sin cost the life of an innocent man? How can people who represent Christ and the church NOT have humility when we see how much pain and damage our unwise words and actions have often caused the very kingdom we seek to build?

Arrogance is a stench in God’s nostrils. Hatred and anger feed on arrogance and burn brighter on the fuel of self-righteousness. Or have you not read the gospels to see that the only ones Jesus ever spoke to with harsh words were those who harbored religious pride.

I don’t hate gay people. I do have to watch my heart around people who hate and who call themselves Christians.

However, it is my understanding of scripture that it’s wrong to engage in same-sex sexual relations. I don’t apologize for this understanding – there is a long tradition of Biblical study that supports it and while the American church may be backing down on this issue, other international Christians look at us aghast and continue to interpret the scriptures to prohibit same-sex sexual relations.

I think a lot of the wrong scriptures are used to speak about this subject. Some scriptures that are really about using sex as a weapon of power are used to argue with men and women in loving committed relationships and that’s a misappropriation of scripture.

However, I have to ask those who struggle with the issue of same-sex attraction, if they haven’t read Jesus’ call to deny ourselves in Matthew 16: 24-25, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

When I came to Christ, I knew that entering into this love relationship meant that I would now have to learn to die to myself – out of love for Christ and gratitude for His sacrifice, not under compulsion like an angry child trying to obey the rules.

I respect the journey of pain and rejection that many homosexuals have faced in their struggle with their feelings but I’ve had my inner battles and outer abuses, too. No follower of Christ has an easy road before them. As a Christian, I’ve yielded my rights to do what I want or what my natural inclinations would dictate in all areas of life. I believe everyone called to Christ is called to deny him or herself, not just gay people.

I once saw an editorial cartoon of a man holding a sign that read “Gay Pride.” There is a young boy looking up at the sign holder saying, “Hey Mister, don’t you know that pride’s a sin?” I guess, that cartoon highlights what is often my struggle with homosexuals. You see, in my understanding, even if somehow we learn that homosexuality is not a sin, that doesn’t mean you aren’t a sinner deserving of hell! You do other stuff wrong, too, just like I do. You still need Jesus and your arrogance doesn’t smell any better in His nostrils than does mine.

And if you are searching the scriptures with diligence to research what Jesus said about homosexuality, you must also have seen the verses that compel me to speak the truth to you, in love. We must create a safe space for one another to seek Jesus together.

We are all sinners. We all need to be changed. Jesus is our only hope of salvation and our only hope of transformation. His death and resurrection, alone, paid the price for all our sins. If we accept that and repent of our sins, He forgives us – this is our only passageway into eternal life. As each of us struggles with sin, we do not have the right to judge one another but we do have the responsibility to call one another to task to be constantly growing more like Christ.

In a future post, I’ll look at some of the debated scriptures but it’s important, first, to create a safe space for one another – a space with three-dimensions – Grace and Truth and Love. Can you be in this space with me as we walk just a little further down this road? I love what you all bring to the table – ALL of you.

So, what say you?

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20 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Erynn says:

    Well said. Thanks again.

  2. Keep speaking Truth, Lori! You’re doing a great job, and I agree with everything you’ve brought to the table thus far.

  3. Amy Brock says:

    Our pastor is covering this topic this week (today) and next. I think that his stand on the issue is right in step with yours. The link to the teachings should be up at some point soon at LHCC.info. He is going through the scriptures, but is also addressing the arguments that homosexuals have from scripture. He is very respectful and loving.

    Thank you very much for opening this conversation. I am frustrated with the hatred and panic reflected in many Christians towards homosexuals. I feel like we are not really looking to God to change hearts and minds. I came to Christ a sinner and He changed (and continues to change) me. I think our “strategy” as Christians in striving to change society’s view of any sin should be to share the gospel and be living witnesses, end of story.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts. It’s been good to read what you and others are thinking. Carrie

  5. Hard subjects like homosexuality are not for the weak…. writ on my friend… standing in the gap takes much more guts that getting wrapped up in the pack mentality. Good gracious… those who don’t pick a side on this issue haven’t read Romans 1. Stuff like ‘not retaining God in their knowledge’ clearly says those involved in this sin KNOW what they are doing. When we studied this issue that was the hardest thing to accept. We wanted to ‘love’ these folks out of it. But, knowing that they have clearly made a choice left us only the instruction..”if possible, leave peaceably with all men” …. sometimes all you can do is be kind, considerate, and pray.

  6. Thank you for taking up this difficult subject, Lori. I had a sister who was gay (she died a couple of years ago) and some Christians didn’t understand. One said, “How can you let her in your house?” To which I said, “How else is she going to see the love and grace of the Father if I don’t show it?”

    I keep going back to the fact that my sin is equal to the sin of homosexuality, but the difference lies is whether I’m seeking to change and sacrifice my sinful desires–whatever they are–on the altar of Christ…or making excuses for them.

  7. Lori, clarity, grace and truth are evident in the way you are presenting this.

  8. Carmen says:

    I’ve been struggling with this very thing. My nephew and his ‘partner’ came by the other day on their way to my sisters place and stopped by for a visit. I treated them the way I treat everyone. With love and understanding, with much joy and also humility; all the while wondering if I was compromising my beliefs. It’s a tough one.

  9. David Todd says:

    My understanding of sin is that there are not big sins and little sins. All sin separates you from God. Sin is sin. Homosexual behavior is no different than heterosexual promiscuity. Both are sin, both separate you from God.

    And yet, I suspect that if you asked a large sampling of Christian parents, “What one sin do you hope your children don’t commit”, that murder and homosexuality will lead the list. Showing that most Christians do consider some sins more sinful than others.

    Thanks for your approach in this.

  10. Heather Savage says:

    It seems that the American church tends to go off in two directions – either it dismisses the idea of sin at all, or it makes a hierarchy of sin. Either way is wrong because we end up worshiping an idol – a god made in our own image. If we dimsiss sin, we ignore God’s holiness and demand for perfection. If we make one sin worse than another, we are imagining a god that overlooks or excuses our own pet sins, while judging “their” sins.

    We are ALL called to repentance and to believe the Gospel. No matter who we are or what sins we are plagued with, we must turn from them, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. A common quote we heard in the southern midwest was “the ground at the foot of the cross is level.” None of is more righteous or deserving of God’s grace than any other.

    We must carry this attitide of humility in our relationships both with unbelievers and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Too many times, because we personally do not undestand another’s struggle with a particular sin, we look down on others’ stumbling rather than helping them carry their burdens.

    While I do think that many Christians do believe that all sin is the same, I wonder how many gay believers would find understanding in the church if they fell into sin, even though they were truly trying to follow Christ. It is hard for straight people to understand the struggle that a gay person would have.

    In all, we must have love, which covers over a multitide of sins. We must also take in faith the words of scripture – no matter what sin it addresses. God calls all sorts of things sin, and we may not understand in our human minds why they are so bad for us. But God, in his infinite wisdom, has laid out for us how he wants us to live. We must walk in the narrow path, and, with humility, help others along the way.

  11. Calvin says:

    Lori, I am very thankful for this discussion. I appreciate that you have been able to raise it to a level that is comfortable for me to discuss. Honestly, when you are gay, talking to an Evangelical about homosexuality can be very intimidating! You have done an outstanding job keeping this civil yet honest. I am also quite happy by some of the responses that have been posted. None of them have made me feel like I need to run and hide and lock the door! Thank you.

    Lori, you are a friend, and a person I hold in high regard and respect a great deal. In the spirit of love and friendship, I have to say that you are wrong. I still respect you and would never criticize you…but I have to have the courage to say that you are wrong.

    I am saying very clearly that Homosexuality is not a sin. I am not saying it’s a lesser or greater sin, I am saying it is not a sin at all. Let us look at it this way:

    What possibility is more likely?

    1. God makes gay people, gives them sex drives and a free will, but demands that they never, ever enter into a happy committed relationship with another person to whom they are attracted to, to remain in a state of grace.

    Or

    2. A Bible is divinely inspired and written down by holy but fallible men. The scripture is influenced by two thousand years of changing languages, translations and interpretations, then again read and re- interpreted by a faithful people who all hold personal social and historical biases against homosexuality.

    Honestly, number 1 seems incredibly cruel. And number 2? Have you been around people? Any human being who has had to deal with another human being understands how language fails us all the time. Have you ever tried to relate a simple story and got details wrong?

    Number two seems 100% more likely.

  12. Calvin says:

    (And I can’t tell you how ridiculous “its God’s plan” is as an answer. That is the most meaningless statement and Christians use it every time to explain away something they themselves cannot explain. God made a universe that runs on logic and reason, and I have no other reason to believe he uses any other framework than the one he used to create the universe that I see and feel every day.)

  13. calvin says:

    As I have said, Homosexuality is so vastly different from every other “sin” why is it even considered a sin? It is not inherently destructive, selfish, nor does it remove the person from grace.

    Every sin IS inherently destructive, selfish, and removes the sinner from grace.

    Take a moment and ponder this. My 10 year relationship with Shawn is full of love, gives me happiness, does not affect my physical or mental health, and I am generally a happy, fulfilled person.

    Would 10 years of murder make me feel this way? Would ten years of theft? Of Adultery? Of living a promiscuous life? I live a grave filled Christ centric life. I do not think this would be possible if homosexuality is sinful. If I am wrong – give me an example.

    Nothing anyone has said yet, in any blog, sermon, or discussion has led me to believe anything different than I feel, that I LIVE, in my own heart. I am not a sinner because of my homosexuality…it is from a host of other sins for sure…

  14. I am on a three minute break in a 13-hour work day but will hopefully not be brain dead at 10:00pm so I can respond to some comments. Don’t think I don’t care, just getting money to put food on the table, all!

  15. Dawn says:

    Although I have not studied scripture, nor have I interpreted it as a result of study, I consider myself a Christian. It is inconceivable to me that a loving Christ would cast out a person who is in a loving, respectful homosexual relationship. We cannot equate homosexuality with lewd displays and depravity – those things are not exclusive to any group. In a world filled with so much darkness and evil, a loving respectful relationship between any persons should not be on the list of our protests. I have gay friends and family members who live their lives, without apology, as loving, law abiding, generous, spiritual and helpful souls. I know they are loved by God as much as the next person. There are people in every demographic who work hard for the forces of darkness, no matter what their words, titles or outward appearances proclaim them to be. A loving God knows who they are all the same.

  16. Thank you all for continuing to keep this a safe space for loving, honest discourse.

    Heather, Vonda, David, I agree the church has much to learn about loving people who are gay. If an unmarried couple visited many churches they would be welcomed and “slowly” encouraged to marry. I doubt there would be much patience with a gay couple.

    Carmen, I don’t think it’s wrong to show hospitality to and love to your nephew and his partner.

    I once had a high school student confess to me, in tears, that she loved her gay friends (she wasn’t attracted to them, she just loved them.) She was convinced this proved she wasn’t a Christian and she was afraid someone would find out that she was being nice to gay people instead of telling them they are wrong all the time. How screwed up have we gotten the message of Jesus if this young girl was ashamed to show love to others?

  17. Calvin, I would absolutely never challenge that you and Shawn are supportive, loving and committed. In fact, I’ve been praying that this is the right time for you to be having this discussion and that it’s also the right time for Shawn. It can cut deep, emotionally, to even begin this conversation so I am praying for both your hearts.

    I will honestly tell you it’s been a long time since I researched this subject and I must apologize to you for that. Because I don’t wrestle with same-sex attraction, I haven’t given the topic the time and energy it deserves. I’m correcting that now. When I was wrestling with passages of scripture that talk to women teaching the Bible to men, it always hurt my feelings when church leaders would say they “didn’t spend much time worrying about that topic.” Having been born a woman with a strong inclination to teach, I didn’t have the luxury of “not worrying about that topic.”

    I will write more about specific passages later this week. But, let me just say a couple of things. 1) our modern culture has elevated sexual expressions of love to an unnatural elevation. There are PLENTY of urges with which we are born (such as many men’s natural aversion to monogamy)on which we are instructed not to act. We’re called to celibacy as single people. Sometimes one partner in a marriage is incapacitated physically or emotionally and his or her partner is called to remain faithful, sometimes for the remainder of their lives. That’s not God’s cruelty, that is life. Sometimes modern humans forget there are many, many ways to express love – sexual intercourse is only one of those expressions. Sex was God’s idea (and a good one) and He gets to make the rules that govern it.

    I know there are debates about words of scripture but the debate about the words used for homosexuality are fairly recent. The men and women MOST familiar with the original Greek and Hebrew (those who comprised the early church) did not debate the meaning of those words. It really wasn’t until the 20th century the debates rose on many of these passages. As anyone who has played “telephone” will tell you – verbal things tend to get MORE distorted the further you get from the source, not less, so looking back at how the early church defined these terms is more reliable than the culturally pressured modern scholarship (in my opinion).

    I value your friendship, Calvin. You’re a gracious, creative, generous, loving man. I don’t see it as my job to convince you that homosexuality is a sin. I’m thrilled you’re willing to engage in this discussion as it helps me to sort out how I communicate about homosexuality and faith.

    I think some scripture passages have been misappropriated and misused to cause needless pain to gay men and women. Others, though, seem undebatable to me. I have another 13 hour work day tomorrow but I’m hoping to post another blog later in the week dealing with specific passages. I hope you’ll all continue to contribute to this conversation.

  18. Jeanne says:

    Courageous and timely… clearly, this blogpost was written with an open heart and generous spirit. I commend your courage. God’s beautiful earth is so balanced. We, as His creatures, can remained balanced, too, if we seek a non-judgmental approach to these tough issues. You have done that with written elegance. I’m glad I found your blog. I have one, too… http://www.reflectionsofasoulsinger.blogspot.com – most of my posts are just ramblings about life, but all speak to music as a source of energy for my soul!

  19. Welcome, Jeanne! I hope you’ve found it easy to subscribe to the blog. I’m popping over to check yours out now. God bless.

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