Christian, why is it so hard to love homosexual people?
Christian churches have developed a series of dogmatic teachings that culminate in Christians wearing T-Shirts bearing the theologically inaccurate statement, “God Hates Fags”. No wonder many Christians find it hard to reconcile this with their spiritual discernment, which prompts them simply to love and accept all people in Jesus’ name.
I have long resisted posting on this subject, even during the Chik-Fil-A nonsense, because it’s an explosive topic. But I think it’s time, now that I’ve posted a reasonable weight of contemplation on my blog (in excess of 50 articles) to provide a background to my comments. That should help to contextualise any thoughts here which could otherwise be interpreted unfairly.
Christians apologising to LGBTs!
On Facebook in January 2012, I posted a link to a story about a Christian group who had apologised for the Church’s erstwhile bad treatment of homosexuals. They did so with banners and placards at a Gay Pride parade.
My comment on that link was:
This is bringing “the message”.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation – 2 cor 5:18
I have copy/pasted the ensuing comments and conversation below. I find it very revealing; not so much about individual people, but more about the Church’s teaching in this area and the effect it has had on our ability to see human beings and to simply love them.
My advice on “what to look for” in this conversation is the response of those in support of my view. See if you agree with my assessment: They tend to be appreciating the fact that someone has articulated what, in many cases, I suspect that people intuitively knew already: that they should be allowed to love homosexual people. But many people are unable to navigate the tangle of anti-gay dogma they encounter from the Church in order to defend their intuition.
Tragically, some end up concluding that their intuition is wrong, and that God actually “hates fags”. Fortunately that particular sentiment didn’t come up, but some people clearly had trouble with the notion that he actually loves “fags”:
It’s one thing to offer an apology – that’s not easy, but to accept one and to then forgive requires real maturity.
Make no mistake – The hero of this story is Tristan. He has vindicated “the 25%”, and validated their faith through a public demonstration of love and forgiveness. *That* is closer to the example of Christ than even the role of those apologising!
this is fine but we want them to understand that we are not against human being but against the practice of homosecuality
Actually, that’s not what I want them to understand at all.
I want them to understand that they are valuable human beings, and the object of God’s love. And that’s the same thing I want anyone else to understand too. There is no difference.
but they still living in sin Kevin and they need healing, as Christians we care and we love them and we want them to repent.
Jesus said to the prostitute, you are forgiven, go and sin no more
Again, I don’t see this (“living in sin”) as being any different from anyone else. There’s nothing particularly special about homosexuality – all have sinned, all are loved, all have the offer of salvation. The whole world is living in sin, not just them.
We are not asked to judge others, or their practices, but to reconcile people to God. We are only asked to “judge” and “correct” Christians’ behaviour, not the behaviour of non-Christians.
The most important thing to repent of is disbelief. Focussing on homosexuality or anything else just confuses the message.
Yes we are all sinners but not all of us partake in festivals where we “PRIDE” ourselves of that sin.
Lots of people participate in festivals of pride in their worldly pursuits. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to stop people doing that, even if they’re worshipping foreign gods! We Christians are simply told not to join in.
The love of God is demonstrated in Christ’s sacrifice for us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8). That means, while we were still “in sin”! So I don’t care what someone’s sin is, or how “bad” anybody thinks it is. God is not a respecter of men and neither am I. Gods love is fully provided for them, and I just say what I hear him saying.
Since Christ died for all while they continue to sin, the least I can do is be friendly in His name! Anything less is denying the love of God and the call on my life. My calling is actually to affirm them as a person in Jesus’ name, as he did the woman by the well.
I’ve got friends who say they would be dead today if I had not taken this approach with them. It is the path of life.
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:17
Yep. That is a great challenge that has been given us and one that I admit is difficult at times. How quick we are to judge without being conscious of it but manage to overlook our own. Being a Christian is tough.
Luckily we’ve got guys like Tristan prepared to forgive us our errors. 😉
We are all sinners but we are forgiven if we repent on our sins, the thing is God Cannont be mocked.Jesus died for everyone including gays but he also asked us to follow His commands and live a pure life, it is a struggle I know but if someone is willing God will help them to overcome their suffering.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:14-17)
At the end of the day, sexual immorality will lead people away from their salvation. It doesn’t matter who is practising it or why. God calls His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:16) and not to have even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). I do realise that it is very hard for people trapped in addiction and sexual immorality to get out of it, as christians we are here to help them and lead them to Christ and His Gospel
Which commands are we talking about?
The only explicit commands Jesus left us with were “Love God…”, “Love your neighbour…”, “Love one another”, and “Wash one another’s feet”. He even said that it is by *these things* that the true people of God “will be known”!
People’s suffering is overcome only by being reconciled to God. That always, only happens while they are “yet sinners”, and the love that flows in that relationship is the source of any reforming of their behaviour. Trying to assault people’s behaviour is putting the cart before the horse and just doesn’t get the job done:
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” – Col 2:23. (The next few verses reveal God’s method of dealing with the problem of sin – Christ).
// “God calls His people to be holy” //
I agree. But he doesn’t call us to correct the behaviours of others who are, after all, not His people! He asks us to love them, as He loves them.
I’m very much with Kevin on this one. Kevin, you speak with sensitivity and wisdom.
I have to agree with you Kevin on this one although I do respect the argument.
God has given me a wonderful gay friend who is a beautiful soul and we have been friends for over 10 years. We were meant to meet. I love him for who he is. I do know it is my Christian duty (and love of Christ) to help him understand the love of Jesus through his word but I do not put him down for being homosexual.
Jesus wants us to be loving toward everybody, no matter who they are. I do not condone gay marriage and he knows my views on this but I do protect him from slander from narrow minded people. How can he ever meet God if we are not loving? Would that give non-believers any incentive to convert? As far as I can tell, and experienced, the whole world is made up of sexual impurity. I love my family, and as Kevin would know I am very close to them; however, as a newer Christian of 2 years I can see much destruction that they themselves cannot see purely from the way they are raising their kids. I am far from perfect and I am always getting myself in hot water because of my outspokenness about impurity. But gee I am learning so much about love too. We have to be so careful of what we say to others.
I think you’ve handled the relationship wisely, Friend 4. It’s fine to disagree about something, and if you have a genuine relationship with someone then you can disagree about some pretty profound things – things like religion, politics, and “even” sexuality, without compromising the relationship at all. In fact, in a healthy relationship there is even room for attempting some respectful persuasion (same goes in both directions, of course…).
The point, as you have described in your friend’s case, is to love someone with whom you have a difference of opinion. It’s really not so radical. If I was unable to do that I would have far fewer friends. Zero, to be precise.
As for family… here’s the tough part… same thing applies. Sorry!
Because God’s response to humanity sinning, failing, destroying, cheating, stealing, raping, killing, lying, rejecting life, embracing foreign gods, etc… ultimately was not to warn them, tell them off, punish them and prevent them from doing it. His ultimate response was to give of Himself – Completely, in an act of love without condemnation. Then He called those who “got it” to do likewise. And so it goes on.
Because that’s how you solve a problem like “humanity”.
I am not saying not to welcome them or love them, I am waying to tell the truth about their wrong doing and to help them to be saved
Are we applying the TEN Commandments
Matt 12:50 and the Ten Commandments, were both directed to the people of God, not to everybody else. The commandments for everybody else would be those given to Noah, which don’t refer to sex at all (unless you count “be fruitful and multiply”!).
In Australia it would be unconstitutional to apply commandments 1, 2, 3 and 4. Adultery has also been decriminalised, so we can’t legally enforce that one either, and the tenth is impossible to police. How should we be applying the remaining Commandments to gay people?
Simply telling non-Christians that they are wrong-doing gives the impression that God is not able to love them. Any wonder they think of Christians (and our God) as haters? It is under that approach (spearheaded by Evangelicalism) that the universal church has produced more atheists than disciples in the last two generations. The majority of atheists grew up in church…
Perhaps its time for a review – Jesus didn’t act that way toward sinners, nor did any of the early church.
- Friend 5
Great to see!! Wonderful!
Kevin praise God for your wisdom! I loved reading this debate and the learning that came from it.
I feel very awkward about acknowledging any of that as my own wisdom, although I do accept the sentiment in the spirit in which it’s offered, thank you (and Friend 3).
It actually represents my best approximation of the wisdom *of God*, which is personified in Christ and demonstrated on the cross. I intend only to articulate it as best I can, not to lay claim to it.
I too thank God, but I think the praise, as always, rightly belongs to those who “have ears to hear”.
Acceptance of what God calls sin is not a loving act. These men are sinners on their way to hell and are we to keep quiet about Gods commandments for the sake of false love. We are all responsible to God and His Laws and commandments and to separate God from His Word (COMMANDMENTS) is to proclaim a false gospel. We as believer are called to preach true repentance. Now I see why so many Christians hate Gods commandments.
”Acceptance of what God calls sin” is not at issue here. Acceptance of what God created in His own image is what we are talking about.
“His commandments” actually are not God. Jesus complained that His countrymen had done precisely that – begin to worship the law instead of the One of whom it speaks (Jn 5:39-40). By doing so, the people had separated God’s commandments from God’s love, and therefore from God.
If you consider homosexuals in any sense as “enemies” of God, or of the church, or of the gospel, then it is salient to heed the words of the Lord and *love* them! (Mat 5:43-45).
I loved seeing this, and loved reading the account of it. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t hang out with the people religions zealots wouldn’t just to sit there with a sign expressing hate and condemnation.
Well done kevin. Brought tears my eyes and sense of hope that we Christians can get over our arrogance and judgementalism see other as Jesus would. It seems to me that we are closer to the Pharisees in the bible then the followers at times.
I think Kevin’s wisdom shines brightly in this debate. He has answered all arguments with spiritual sensitivity as well as logic.
It interests me greatly to see people throwing around the 10 commandments so easily. Basically these commandments can be broken down into two halves: Love God, Love Others. We all fail at this–so we ought first to examine our own hearts/lives (our plank) before throwing things at people who do the same (their splinter).
Secondly, Kevin in quite correct in saying that we can not, and should not, attempt to hold non-believers accountable for values that are alien to them. We have a xian ethic that we have been told to adhere to. We are God’s children and He has given us a new way to view the world. We should not impose xian ethics on a not-yet believing world that doesn’t understand them. Rather, we draw them in by loving them as they are, not with an ulterior motive, but to just love them. We let God do the changing in them, but live out God’s love and attitudes as best we can, because let’s face it. People’s view of God is generally their view of xians… which often isn’t a good view at all… ouch!
As far as I understand it, we (Christians) are to spread the “good news”, ie point the way to Christ, and let HIM take care of the “transformation”. I recently posted this comment on another link in regards to the same subject. The only difference between a Christian and a “sinner”? A Christian is still a “sinner”, but saved by the Grace of God because they accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour………. We are ALL “sinners” (seen and unseen), it would be foolish to think any different, because if we were capable of being completely “sinless”, then Jesus died for nothing. It’s called “Grace and Mercy” people…. we ALL NEED it and we ALL NEED to extend it 🙂
Are we allowed to love homosexuals?
Some people clearly have trouble simply loving a homosexual person. The trouble for them is that they have a firm conviction that homosexual practices are wrong, and many feel that it is their duty to teach the person to stop practising this wrong thing. They feel that demonstrating love or acceptance of the person before that happens presents a dangerous risk of possibly being seen to condone homosexuality itself. It seems to be lost on these folks that “God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Whom did Jesus love?
Clearly, Jesus never took the approach of requiring conformity as a prerequisite for love or acceptance. The financially, sexually, socially and criminally deviant people of his day were all acting in ways that Jesus did not condone, and yet he hung around with them, made friends, blessed them, and taught them about the kingdom of God. When he called them to repentance, it was in the context of their preexisting faith commitment as members of national Israel, and therefore in covenant with God, and it was people who had come to him for teaching. He did not simply stalk into people’s lives and tell them to change.
Why is homosexuality so feared anyway?
It seems that Christians have little problem loving those who are transgressing other mores of Christian life, like the proud and arrogant, the greedy, the adulterous, the criminals, but often struggle to love homosexuals. Why is this?
Where the problem lies
I am convinced that this relates to the problem of the Church’s own tortured wrestle with sexuality. The church has variously, for much of history, erroneously condemned sex in general and masturbation particularly, and has spectacularly demonstrated hipocrisy. Asceticism and celibacy have formed part of this journey of corporate self-discovery, but so have orgies, child sexual abuse, illicit affairs, and every other unmentionable expression of sexual dissipation.
Gays are among the unfortunate ones who have borne the brunt of this internal sexual dysfunction within the collective consciousness of the Christian church, being used as scapegoats as the church grappled through this psycho-sexual dysfunction.
Ok, then… what’s Kevin Bennett’s view on Homosexuality?
In the conversation on Facebook I avoided declaring a specific view on the practice of homosexuality. The reason is not that I don’t have one, nor that I’m ashamed of it. The reason is wasn’t the point and such matters can be unnecessarily inflammatory.
But in case I appear evasive by not being specific, and at the risk of being controversial, I’ll put some cards on the table.
All contemplation about homosexualty from within Chrirstianity must be informed by this: if we are to call it “a sin” at all, then we must also recognise that it is not the only sin, and the Christian must recognise that at a fundamental level there is no distinction between various sins, because:
whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it – James 2:10
judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy – James 2:15
Therefore the catch-all applies:
Judge not, lest you also be judged – Matt 7:1
There is an assertion from the Gay lobby that many people feel that they were born homosexual. I’m convinced that people who believe that they were born gay are mistaken, and science is on my side. Science has tried to identify a homosexual gene and failed. There have been some interesting possible biological markers which affect the likelihood of a person identifying as homosexual, but science has not come up with any causal genetic factor which is not dwarfed by environmental and developmental ones, and this is not for want of looking.
But I don’t think people are lying who say they were born that way, I just don’t think they are correct. I also don’t think people are correct when they say they are a reincarnated dog, but in the same way I don’t think they are lying. They are mistaken.
Now, in order to maintain that point of view it is necessary that I also acknowledge that whereas I feel like I was born hetrosexual, that is likely to be equally untrue. I am convinced that I could have learned to be homosexual had I been so influenced at the particular formative times in my life, but I wasn’t. My family and society modelled hetrosexuality to me, and that is the framework in which I understand my own sexuality.
I am certain that we are born sexual beings, and that through our childhood and adolescence as we develop in that sexuality we learn what it means. Our conclusions may not be what our parents expect, but I am certain that they are formed overwhelmingly based on our experiences.
Men and women are very different from one another in many ways, but our attraction to one another is not necessarily programmed into our DNA. As it happens, hetrosexuality produces children, and so historically children have most often been raised in hetrosexual families… This alone is sufficient to maintain hetrosexuality as normative in the human species without any genetic pre-programming required.
There may be genetic pre-programming towards a hetrosexual disposition in the human DNA, but I don’t think it needs to be so in order to explain the sociological reality in history of societal hetrosexual normalcy.
Some people literally are born with confused gender-related attributes. For example, from the earliest age they can believe themselves to be of the opposite gender to what their physical body indicates, or in other cases some are even born with a combination of male and female genitalia. In these cases the term “homosexual” becomes a meaningless label. The person is just as “sexual” as anyone else, but what that ends up meaning to them is impossible to predict, and certainly inappropriate to condemn or judge.
But should homosexuals stop practising homosexuality?
There are two categories of people under which any Christian-based “should” question needs to be considered: “should Christians…”, and “should non-Christians…”
Those who are not Christian are held accountable to the kind of laws that God gave to Noah, which amount to a prohibition against violence, among some other more mundane things. I don’t see any particular reason why a homosexual should cease practising (monogomous, consenting, caring, generous, supportive, private, respectful, mutual) homosexuality. In this form there is nothing intrinsically evil about it, just as there is nothing intrinsically evil about hetrosexual sex within these same parameters.
Even where the Bible refers broadly to homosexuality outside of the people of God, it is a view conditioned by the context of that culture in that particular era: historically much of the socially visible homosexuality related to the worship of pagan gods or with contemporaneous Roman customs, and was observably associated with a socially poisonous sexual culture. If modern homosexuality can be achieved without those aspects then Christians really don’t have any particular reason to criticise it. Indeed, if it’s happening behind closed doors then Christians should be respecting the “do not disturb” sign.
I wouldn’t want to give the impression, however, that homosexuality is actually presented as “normal” in the Bible. One of the provisions given to Noah was, “be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it” (Genesis 9:7). Particularly in the historical context, that’s a very strong affirmation of hetrosexualily.
“Here’s where the rubber hits the road”, some would say. This is where we really get to the heart of the issue: is it ‘ok’ or is it not?
But if I’ve learned one thing in Christian life and ministry it is this: My God has his own way of commenting about his people’s behaviours in his own time. He is a speaking, loving, acting, present God who is quite able to articulate his own position. As many times as I have looked at someone’s life and presumed to know what they ought to change, God has given me the ears to hear what their “real problem” is and it frequently lies in other areas. By jumping in and trying to apply simplistic dogma to the complexity of a human life we simply alienate people and fail to engage with their true problems.
For example, I have many friends who have seemingly intractable drug habits. Telling them to “stop it” doesn’t help them: they already know that the drugs are killing them, and they want nothing more than to stop taking them! But when I listen to their heart I find a range of problems there which are giving rise to the drug habit. When I pour love into those areas of concern, the drug problem loosens its grip on their life. I’ve blogged about that in “The Psychological Gospel”.
If someone comes to me reporting that they want to change their sexual orientation, I can help them to do that. It’s no more or less impossible than someone changing their status of alcoholic, or junkie. It’s a question of identity.]
God may or may not want the Christian to give up their homosexuality but it’s not my job to figure that out. I provide the love of God’s heart, the truth of God’s identity, and training in hearing the voice of God’s Spirit. Having done so I cannot presume to teach that person more than God will teach them himself (1Cor 2:13, 1Thess 4:9, 1John 2:20, Isa 54:13, Jer 31:33-Jer 31:34, Heb 8:10-Heb 8:11). If God is telling that person to give up their homosexuality then it’s really between that person and their God. I refuse to enter into it until that person tells me that they earnestly desire to change (the same goes for drugs, or cultural identity!).
Furthermore, as I outlined above, I understand that people believe that they were born gay. Although I think they are mistaken, my recognition of that fact leads me to very substantial care and tenderness in discussing this topic with them. After all, drug addicts often feel that they have “an addictive personality”, and cannot ever be free from their habit. People struggle to adapt to different cultural settings, and some feel it is impossible. I disagree with those ideas, too.
But you can’t simply tell someone that their opinion about their own identity is wrong! Even if you are correct, and even if they want to believe you, a shift in such a fundamental area of self-perception will be a trauma of potentially devastating proportions causing tremendous pain. Such things should and must be left in the hands of God; this type of heart surgery is his specialty, after all. I don’t announce to people that their addiction is “all in their mind”, and neither would I say such a thing about homosexuality (or hetrosexuality…).
The advice I would give homosexual Christians is that if they feel that they have the liberty to practise homosexuality, they should do so in a manner that doesn’t confront other Christians. It is reasonable for other Christians to consider hetrosexuality to be normal, and so the Bible’s teaching on respecting others’ sensitivities applies. Particularly, for example, Romans 14 and the way that it deals with the question of food choices, and religious holidays.
let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
– Romans 14:13
Two lessons in empathy:
1. The hetrosexual reader is invited to contemplate what it would be like for everyone you care about to insist that hetrosexuality is evil, and that homosexuality is the way that God actually intended. If that seems like a difficult situation to navigate, then you’re getting close to appreciating the plight of the homosexual. They do not see it as wrong, but rather as inevitable for themselves.
2. The hetrosexual reader is also invited to consider their favourite sexual position or favourite sex act. Now picture that being made public, and used to label you. Picture yourself attempting to defend yourself against the charge of it being “disgusting” (because, let’s face it, if you are introduced to a person in terms relating to any sexual act, they will be disgusted). What consenting adults do behind closed doors should not be used as a label for that person. Sex is not a spectator sport, and thinking about people in categories like “homosexual” in the first place, is part of the problem.
My recommendation is that we allow it to suffice that the Biblical record leaves the reader in no doubt that hetrosexuality is considered normative. Of course, so is martyrdom in many ways, but we don’t see “God hates people who don’t die for their faith” T-Shirts!
A God who speaks
You see, I met a God who speaks.
It’s quite a relief to know this God, because it means that I do not need to take his role in judging or changing people’s lives. Ironically, I was once labelled “a Liberal” for this view by a Christian minister! If I were to categorise it myself (and I don’t), I would be more likely to place myself in the “literalist” category, but it results in a view which sounds uncharacteristically permissive in historical terms.
Don’t his ministers speak on God’s behalf?
I do believe that it is my role to speak on God’s behalf in certain situations, but I have found by experience that this relates almost exclusively to certain things, such as: The nature and character of God, the story of Salvation history, the certainty of divine Judgement, and God’s assurance for his people in that judgement. Many find it tempting to apply these things to particular issues such as homosexuality, but I find that doing so can result in gross errors like, “God Hates Fags”.
The truth is that my view is precisely as permissive as God is, and precisely as restrictive as God is, because it is moment-by-moment instructed and maintained by God and relies on God to sustain it himself. For this reason I would have been less surprised to have been labelled “whacko fundamentalist” than “Liberal”. I’ve not yet met anyone claiming to be “a Liberal” who has such a central place for the certainty of Divine Judgement as I have.
To those who wish that I would affirm homosexuality
Whereas some will consider my views “unbiblical” simply because they are too permissive, others would look over the view I express here and remain hurt that I have stopped short of recommending homosexuality as an equal alternative to hetrosexuality in a general and normative sense. As I have already recognised, this is a topic which is of deep personal importance to the people it effects.
Those who feel that my views are unbiblical don’t concern me. I often find that loving as Christ loves is hindered within the traditional dogmatic framework of Biblical interpretation, and I let the former govern the latter. But to the second category I make an explanation and an appeal:
This article is designed for the consumption of Christians, not as an attempt to engage with the LGBT community directly. It helps to articulate to Christians that they can love anybody, despite historical dogma to the contrary. It is an example of how Christians can be faithful to the Bible and love their homosexual friends as well, and indeed it affirms that this is required of them.
In order to say, “It’s ok to love homosexuals”, when the Bible has so many dire imprecations against homosexuality, it is necessary to explain why. In order to do so it is necessary to treat the matter within the Christian worldview which does, at the very least, affirm hetrosexuality as normative. This document should be seen as a glimpse into the intra-Christian dialogue on the matter and not an entry into any extra-Christian polemical engagement with the LGBT movement.
I have detailed at great length what my view is, why I don’t seek to change the opinion of homosexuals on this matter, and how that works out in practice. Please afford me the same courtesy by sharing thoughts and views by all means, but in refraining from any attempt at “heart surgery” for me.
May we all be content to leave such matters in God’s hands, which are big enough, wise enough, strong enough, and kind enough to handle them.