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’s how many people feel about the issue of homosexuality and faith and if they’re 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 polarizing nature 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 isn’t 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’s 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 segments of 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?” 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?

This series was originally posted in July 2011. To see the comments many made, go to the original post but feel free to add more comments here:

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. Emily Kate says:

    Thanks so much for re-posting this Lori and for tackling such a tough thing. I’ve been thinking and praying about this issue a great deal recently, particularly with all the controversy brought on by recent political action here in NC. I struggle to find the intersection of truth and love, courage and grace, and it so encouraging to hear your perspective. Love you! Em