Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Guys, sometimes I can't believe we're still talking about this. It seems so insane to me.
All of a sudden, with the Nashville Statement, the church's stance on homosexuality is in the news again. And I once again feel the need to tell people that Jesus does not hate the gays.
I'll say again, I understand if you think it's a sin to be gay. I totally get it, I see why you read Scripture that way and I understand. So for the sake of the rest of the argument, we're going to say that homosexuality is a sin. That God came down and told us "Oh yeah you guys were totally right being gay is a sin and I don't like it." Ok?
So in this hypothetical scenario God has made it clear, being gay is a sin. Fine.
Why do we need to point it out so much? And why do we point it out so much more than other sins? I understand that it's partially because it's controversial, but I feel like at no point has it been SO controversial that a gay person was surprised to hear a church didn't approve of them being gay.
I don't understand why we keep declaring we're against homosexuality so loudly, so fervently, especially to non-believers! At no point in any Scripture I can find does it say we need to call out peoples' sins before they know Jesus. It just doesn't make any sense to do that. Before people know Jesus they have no idea what it means to really sin and they have no reason to care that they did. I've said this before but I'll say it again, it's like screaming at a German person in Chinese. They have no idea what you're talking about, the message will never get through.
And when we make our stance against someone's sin so clearly, before they know Jesus, it makes them want to run as far away from the church as possible. Because why would you want to follow a man you think doesn't approve of who you are? Why would you willingly spend time with a group of people who have condemned you to hell for your lifestyle? You don't know Jesus, so there's no reason to care what he has to say about your life.
Jesus never once told people they were sinning before they knew him and experienced him. So why do we do it?
In John 8 Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery. We all know this story, the Pharisees brought her to him to see if he would condemn her or not. Did he immediately say, "Yeah you're a huge sinner, that thing you did was terrible and you're going to hell if you don't change"?
No. He said "He without sin can cast the first stone." And all her accusers, the group of men that wanted to stone her to death, were all gone.
Jesus stood up for her against people who were trying to condemn her. He protected her from people who wanted to hurt and bully her. He showed her he was on her side. Then and only then did he simply say "Go and sin no more."
It is not our job to condemn, it is our job to be the defenders and protectors of those who are hurting. Was Jesus afraid that the Pharisees would think he was cool with adultery because he was nice to the woman who adultered (is adultered a word? Adulteried? Adulteringer)? He wasn't. He didn't have to change his stance on the sin to be her protector, to stand up for her and be on her side.
In John 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. He talks to her, gets to know her, and then simply asks questions. He doesn't say "I know you've had 5 husbands and are living with a guy now. That's a sin, just in case you were wondering. I just don't want you to think I'm cool with that. Love the sinner hate the sin!"
No. He asks questions, makes statements about facts (the man you're with now isn't your husband. True. Not judgmental, just a statement), and tells her who he is. She gets to truly know Jesus, to understand that he's her Savior, her Messiah, the one she's been waiting for.
Even after all that, he still doesn't tell her to stop sinning. He never once calls her a sinner, tells her it's not ok for her to make those choices. Nothing. She truly gets to know him, she has a real encounter with Christ, and that is what makes her not want to sin anymore. A lot of people wouldn't even want to sin once they know Jesus.
That's a big chunk of the Spirit's job, by the way, convicting people of their sin. But we'll get to that in a minute.
In this case, Jesus didn't even need to tell her. Meeting him was enough, she was convicted and I'm assuming (though it never does say) that she did stop sinning after that. But we do know that she shared her testimony of her encounter with Jesus with everyone she knew, that the entire town came to see Jesus because of what she told them. Would she still have had such an amazing testimony if Jesus had just said "Hey by the way, you're sinning and I don't like it"? He let the transformation take place, let the Spirit do its thing, and just sat back and watched as she became an evangelist! He let the natural progression take place.
So often we stop that progression before it can even have a chance. The Spirit has a very specific job of convicting people of their sins. But it seems like we never give him a chance! If we're so fast to tell people they're sinning we're robbing them of the experience to be convicted by the Spirit, to discern his voice and to make their changes out of love for their Savior, not out of fear from the church.
I'm not saying we should never confront people about their sin. I am saying we should let people meet Jesus, get to know him, learn the Bible, give the Spirit a chance, and then step in when necessary.
I know a lot of people say "But we need to defend our faith! Defend our theology against the progressive liberals who would try to change it!"
I understand wanting to keep the truth in the gospel, wanting to be sure we're not always changing our minds based on cultural norms. I get that. But nowhere in the Bible does it say "And you shall be the defenders of God and the Bible and his theology because he can't do it himself."
Guys, it's God. He doesn't need you to defend him. He's got this. What he needs you to do (and what Jesus has told us to do over and over) is to just love people. To make sure people feel wanted and included and welcomed into his church. That's our job, not policing other peoples' sins. Our job is 97% loving people, 2% confronting sin and 1% potluck dinners in the fellowship hall. We need to focus on what Jesus actually called us to do. And Jesus never called us to judge or condemn or talk about how much people are sinning.
If you can get one thing out of this post, I wish it would be this: Gay people are people. Gay people (especially gay people raised in the church) have probably been through more pain and heartache and suffering than you will ever know. They have probably struggled internally for years, fighting their feelings, being terrified they were going to hell but not being able to change their desires. Then, once they build up the courage, knowing their families and churches could reject them, they come out and tell us what they've been dealing with for decades.
Our response should be, "I am so sorry you've had to struggle on your own in this for so long. I am so sorry you felt you couldn't talk to us about it. This is a safe place where we will walk beside you as we figure this out. We're in this together, we love you, we have your back, and we want you here, with us, as part of the church."
What's our response instead? "You're gay!? Ok let's pray and see if it will go away. Shoot, it didn't? Ok well you need to just really push those feelings down. You're bad. You're very sinful. This is really bad. You can't push the feelings down? Ok well, you can probably still attend church but you can't really be a part of anything we do. And definitely don't talk to our kids because we don't want them to catch the gay. And please know that we will continue to think you're going to hell and also we're super uncomfortable talking to you about this so please let us know when you're not gay anymore and we'll all be friends again. But until then I'll probably mention to you at least once every few months that Jesus really doesn't like what you're doing. Just in case you forgot."
Guys. These are people. Real people. Who are suffering. A lot. Let's treat them like people. Please.
And listen, I get it. I get that you feel super strongly that the Bible says being gay is a sin and you love your friend and you don't want them to go to hell and you want to say you did everything you could to save them.
I really do understand that. Because I was that person. I had a gay friend that, all through college, I kept trying to figure out how I should tell them they were sinning and were probably going to hell. My motivations were partially good. I really didn't want them to go to hell. I really loved them and wanted them to be in Heaven with me. But the other part of my motivations were super selfish. I wanted God to think that I would stick up for him, that this was my chance to really make a difference, to be the person I thought he wanted me to be and confront someone about their sin even though it was hard. I thought I was failing God by not telling them they were sinning and going to hell.
And thankfully (so so thankfully) I never did had that conversation. I would have regretted it more than I can even tell you because it would have seriously injured our relationship (if not broken it completely). And they would have never been completely comfortable around me again. And you know what? They knew how I felt. They knew I didn't approve of them, but they still chose to love me and spend time with me. Can any of us say that? That we willingly spend time with people we are 100% sure disapprove of us in some way?
The thing is, this gay person went to church. They know Jesus. They grew up like I did, so they knew it was a "sin" in the eyes of the church. So at what point in there is it my place to remind them? They already know. What they don't know is how Christians will react to them once they know they're gay.
I honestly feel that if someone knows Jesus, and I know their heart and intentions are true, and that they really want to do what Jesus calls them to do, and they still think it's ok to be gay- then you know what? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is ok to be gay. Maybe it still isn't. But either way, it's between them and God. I honestly don't feel like it's my place at all to constantly remind them I think they're sinning.
In the long run, I would rather someone know Jesus AND be gay instead of someone not ever getting the chance to know him because they're gay. Knowing Jesus is more important than anything else. Ever. In the entire world. If people don't know Jesus then they have no hope of salvation. So why put obstacles in front of that? Shouldn't we be doing everything we can to bring them to Christ FIRST?
Because I can tell you this, when we tell people they're sinning before they even meet Jesus, they'll never get the chance to know him. We've already driven them away. It's too late. So we need to decide what's more important, our theology or the souls of the world.
Maybe being gay is, in fact, the sinniest of all the sins. Maybe God hates it more than any of us can even possibly imagine.
But what if he doesn't? What if we're wrong and we've cost millions of people eternity in heaven with him because we never gave them a fair chance to know Jesus?
What I do know is that God calls us to love other people. Over and over and over again Jesus tells us that loving people is the most important thing we can do after loving God.
So if I'm going to be in the wrong here, I'd rather err on the side of loving people. I think I'll be able to explain that much better to God in the end.
"Yeah God, I was totally wrong about that. There really are no gays in heaven. Huh. But I loved the crap out of people while I could, I fulfilled your calling to make people feel loved and welcomed and accepted as part of your body."
That's much better than "Oh shoot, being gay was ok this whole time!? Whoops. There were 5,000 people that didn't come to know you and are burning in hell at this very moment because I made too big of a deal about the gay thing and they never got a chance to see you for who you are? My bad..."
I know which one I'd rather say. If I have to be wrong, I want to be wrong because I loved people too much.