Help! I’ve got gay friends and I don’t know how to love them! Many times have I been tempted to cry out with those words. I don’t have all the answers for how best to love our gay friends and family members, but I have found a few nuggets of wisdom from my study of the scriptures which I think you may find useful.
Meeting Sinners With Humility
I used to worked as a server at a Red Lobster in the Saint Louis, Missouri area. During my months there I made a few friends with fellow employees. Not long after I arrived, I shared with a curious co-worker how I was in seminary training to be a pastor. He asked me how I felt about gay people. I asked him why he asked and he shared with me that nearly all our co-workers were gay. I told him that I had nothing against him or anyone else working there. I wondered what challenges might lay ahead.
My co-workers were intrigued that I had no boyfriend or girlfriend. I became known as the ‘priest’. I was clearly different because I did not tell dirty jokes and I did not party after our shifts. On several occasions I overheard things which I would rather not have heard. But I was not there to judge or condemn anyone. I was there to love people.
One of the major criticisms I have received over my years in ministry is that I am too transparent about my sins and failures. I talk a lot about sin and our need for a Savior from the pulpit. I call people to live lives of repentance; turning away from our wicked ways to Christ for life and righteousness. Since I began teaching as a teenager, I have not shied away from talking about my struggles: my parent’s divorce, my father’s brain surgery, being a high school drop-out, my former addiction to porn, marital challenges, and even sins I have recently committed. Why do I put on display my sins, rebellion, and brokenness for the world to see? Because I know the Savior and I want the world to see the hope I have in Christ! Everybody struggles with sin, guilt, and shame. The world does not need a church filled with self-righteous, better-than-thou, judgmental, holy-rollers! They need a church filled with people who admit their sins and welcome sinners.
So when one of my co-workers asked me if he could be gay and be a christian, I began by sharing how the love of God for us can overcome our sins. I shared my story. My friend also shared his story. He had not wanted to be gay, but the temptation had been so strong that he could not resist. So he had given in, owned his gay identity, and decided that the God of the Bible must not love him because God made him gay. He insisted that I answer one question: is it wrong to be gay? I didn’t know what to say. I knew he needed both love and truth. I shared with him that all sex outside of Biblical marriage between one man and one woman is wrong. I told him that, apart from Christ, I was as guilty as anyone else when it comes to breaking God’s commandments. And I told him of the transforming power of God in my life. We had a few more conversations and a couple of meals together. I visited him, and he even visited a Bible study I was attending. He did not accept Christ at that time, but I still pray for him.
Several of my friends over the years confided in me about their struggles with various sexual sins. They knew they could talk to me after hearing my testimony from the pulpit about my struggles with porn addiction as a teenager. I spent time with them in the Word and in prayer as a fellow traveler on the same road of repentance. I can’t say that any of them have achieved moral perfection in their quest to repent of their sins and live godly lives. Neither have I.
Common Church Errors: Truth or Love, but Not Both
Most believers seem to fall into one of two errors when it comes to homosexuality. Either they want to assure sinners of God’s love and acceptance without confronting their sins, or they want to correct sinners that they may become acceptable to God. Both are serious perversions of the gospel. God loved us first, while we were still sinners, but in loving us, he calls us out of our sins which lead to death.
Some in the church believe that homosexuality cannot be sin, despite clear biblical teaching to the contrary (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-10). They simply cannot believe that a God of love would create a person with such a deep sexual appetite for what is forbidden. And since they know people who try to be straight but fail, they conclude that God made some people gay and that homosexuality must not be sin.
The other error is to treat homosexuality as far more heinous than other sins. This error finds expression in several ways. Some may call the temptation itself sin. They would argue that to be tempted with the beauty of someone of the opposite sex is less sinful than to be tempted with the beauty of the same sex. Perhaps they do not understand the meaning of Jesus’ teaching that if a man looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultery in his heart. And again, that if ones eye causes him to stumble, he should pluck it out, for it is better to enter heaven with one eye than hell with both (Matthew 5:27-30). The message is clear, all sin leads to death, judgment, and hell. But while all lust is sin, temptation itself is not sin. The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way in Hebrews 4:15. If same sex attraction is sin, then either Jesus sinned when he was tempted in that way, or he cannot empathize with the weakness of gays. Neither is biblical, so the temptation itself cannot be sin.
Others argue that those who continue to fall into the practice of homosexuality, despite sincere repentance afterward, should be cast out of the church and shunned outright. Yet we all struggle regularly with sin. They would do well to head the warning of Jesus in Matthew 23:4 against tying up burdens for others to carry which we ourselves cannot. Perhaps we need to be reminded of Jesus admonition to remove the log from our own eyes before removing the speck from the eye of another (Matthew 7:5). Then we will begin to understand how difficult and lengthy a process is which leads to personal holiness. Jesus instructed us to forgive the repentant seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). How much more must God’s forgiveness be extended to us who are learning to hate our sins and are practicing repentance!
Still others view all who have ever practiced homosexuality as irredeemable. Such a position is ungodly, unchristian, and worthy only of the strongest condemnation. For no sin but the rejection of the gospel is unpardonable. Paul clearly stated that some believers were formerly practicers of homosexuality in I Corinthians 6. Those who would look down at the gay community ought to learn a lesson from Luke 7:36-50: the greater the sin, the greater the forgiveness, and the greater the forgiveness, the greater the love for God. Those who look down upon other sinners probably do not see their own sin and therefore, have no love for God.
The loving truth is, that God condemns all forms of lust; adultery, rape, sex before marriage, sensuality, bestiality, and homosexuality. God’s plan for marriage is one man and one woman, united for life, and his plan is very good. Not everyone is called to be married. Some are created as eunuchs, and some are made eunuchs (Matthew 19:12). Marriage is not essential to a happy or whole life. But holiness is. And our only source of holiness is Jesus. The good news is that Jesus longs to save us from our sins.
The Gospel For Gays
The gospel is the good news. And the good news for gays is the same as it is for everyone else. God knows our sins, our guilt, and our shame. He knows our struggles. And he loved us anyway. Romans 5:8 tells us about God’s love for us when God declares “God demonstrated His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love for us came at great cost. Jesus had to die to save us. That’s how bad our sins are. But Jesus did not have to save us. He died willingly in our place because he loves us. Jesus does not hide the truth from us. The Ten Commandments still stand. Jesus said that not one jot or tittle, that is, not one letter or accent mark, of God’s Word will pass away (Matthew 5:18). The law of God from Genesis to Revelation is good. But it tells us the truth. We are all sinners. Even after we are saved, we still struggle with sins. And we must live lives of daily repentance. But we do not have to clean ourselves up to be loved by God. God does that work. We must simply turn to Him and ask. And when we fall into sin and temptation again and again, the answer is always the same, reject our sins and come to Jesus. He welcomes us with open arms.
*All scripture citations are from the English Standard Version.
**All images from google image search.