This final post in this series (click to read part one or part two) is a consideration of how the Gospel affects our treatment of homosexuals, which is an important consideration in our culture, which tends to gravitate toward one of two extremes: encouraging homosexuals to embrace homosexuality or hating homosexuals for embracing homosexuality. So how does the Gospel affect our treatment of homosexuals?
Love All Homosexuals by Being Humble and Honest About Your Own Sinfulness.
We do a lot of posing, a lot of pretending, as Christians. We are all guilty at times of wanting other people to be more guilty before God than we are. We want the sins other people commit to be far more heinous than our own. It’s because we tend toward legalism, a form of hypocrisy that “forgets” the seriousness of one’s own sin in order to make sure others know how awful their sins are.Â Having addressed homosexuals (and others) in Romans 1, Paul turns to in Romans 2 to the Jews in Paul’s day who highlighted the wickedness of the Gentiles all the while overlooking the fact that they were committing exactly the same sins.Â I want you to see how Paul addresses those who are hypocritical in their treatment of unbelievers and of those who claim to know Christ.
a) Hypocrisy in dealing with those who openly reject Christ.
The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.Â I fast twice a week;Â I give tithes of all that I get” (Lk. 18:11b-12). While this man has convinced himself that external behavior earns God’s acceptance (and has deceived himself into thinking that he has mastered his external behavior!), it was not the Pharisee, but the tax collector, who uttered, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Lk. 18:13), who was accepted by God. And notice with me that the tax collector was humble (admitting that he was at the mercy of God) and honest (identifying himself as superior to no one by calling himself “the” sinner). So, what is the point of the parable? We’re not left guessing. Jesus told those gatheredÂ that, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14b). And Paul clarifies the nature of the humility that will come upon those who exalt themselves, saying, “But because of your hard and impenitent heartÂ you areÂ storing upÂ wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when Godâ€™s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5).
If you are a believer, you will do well to remember that, “you wereÂ dead in the trespasses and sinsÂ in which you once walked, following the course of this world, followingÂ the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work inÂ the sons of disobedienceâ€”among whom we all once lived inÂ the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyÂ and the mind, andÂ were by natureÂ children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3).Â And if you are in Christ, you’re no longer these thingsÂ onlyÂ by the grace of God. In other words, you received mercy notÂ becauseÂ of anything you’ve done, butÂ in spiteÂ of everything you’ve done. The result is that Christians should delight to show unbelievers the same love and mercy they have received.
b) Hypocrisy in dealing with those who (at least claim to) know Christ.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brotherâ€™s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, â€˜Let me take the speck out of your eye,â€™ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brotherâ€™s eye” (Mt. 7:3-5).
Jesus’ instruction here is for believers who are dealing with the sins of other believers. Notice that He did not tell them, “Do not correct each other,” as this passage is often used to suggest. Rather, He essentially said, “Do not correct each other while pretending that you have no sin of your own. First, humble yourself before Me and your brother, and then go and help your brother.” The result is that while the hypocrite takes great pleasure humiliating others, the Christian takes great pleasure in humiliating himself for the sake of others.
Love All Homosexuals by Being Genuinely Concerned for Their Well-Being.
Far from the hatred homosexuals often receive, whether verbal, physical and/or sexual violence, dirty looks, belittling jokes, etc., the person who loves Jesus will “do good to all men” (Gal. 6:10a). The distinctly biblical response is to love homosexuals by doing what will benefit them most, which is a natural outflow of the fact that all human beings were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Maybe you’re asking, “Where do I get the notion that we are to treat people with dignity just because they were created in God’s image?” Genesis 9:6 reveals to us that part of the reason God caused the Flood (yes, I believe it was an actual event!) was because people were shedding the blood of those who, though sinful, were made in God’s image, and, as result, were to be treated with dignity, respect and genuine love.
Love All Homosexuals by Speaking Gently And Truthfully About the Seriousness of Their Rebellion Against God.
So, how should Christians view homosexuality? We certainly don’t condone it. To condone any behavior that God has all ready declared sinful is horrifically unloving. Let me illustrate. Is it loving for a parent to condone behaviors in her child that could result in his/her harm or even death? Should I support my son playing in rush hour traffic on I-30 in Dallas if that’s what he wants to do? Of course not. No one would call that loving. In fact, such treatment of children is utterly hateful. Though speaking this truth is almost never received well,Â Al Mohler reminds us that,
“Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those seeking to contort and subvert the Bibleâ€™s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. To lie is never compassionateâ€“and their lie leads unto death.”
Love All Homosexuals by Gently, Respectfully and Boldly Calling Them to Faith in Christ and Repentance from Sin.
We explained above the hope that is found in the Gospel, and we ought to spend our time pleading and begging homosexuals to turn from sin and to love Jesus! After all, we were saved to proclaim to the world the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9)!
Love HomosexualsÂ Who Openly Reject JesusÂ by Proclaiming the Gospel to Themâ€¦ Over Dinner.
So, how do we love people who do things we don’t condone? It depends. If the person is an unbeliever, then we no more avoid them than Jesus avoided eating dinner with Gentiles and tax collectors. Christians must love unbelievers, which should, in part, flesh itself out inÂ purposefulÂ (here’s the key word!) relationship-building (i.e., eating dinner, etc.), all the while, 1) praying for God to show them the same mercy He has shown us, and 2) looking for opportunities to tell them the Gospel of Jesus (1 Cor. 5:9-10). We must, however, be careful not to soft-peddle sin as if they are pretty good people in need of a spiritual band-aid or as if the gift of repentance doesn’t accompany salvation. People aren’t saved by thinking much of themselves, but in recognizing their own spiritual poverty before the God who is mighty to save.
LoveÂ RepentantÂ Homosexuals by Welcoming/Treating Them as Brothers And Sisters in Christ.
Dealing with homosexual believers, however, is a different issue. To the person who says, “I’m trusting in Jesus alone for salvation and am constantly seeking to turn from and hate sin and to turn to and love God, but the sin of homosexuality is a constant battle for me,” I would say, “Welcome.” This person believes the Gospel, calls sin sin, and is seeking to repent. There is no issue here unless we demand that Christians be entirely perfect, which would result in 100% vacant churches.
LoveÂ UnrepentantÂ HomosexualsÂ Who Claim to Love JesusÂ byÂ Pursuing Proper Church Discipline (Just Like Any Other Professing Believer Who Refuses to Repent of Sin).
On the other hand, to the person who says, “I’m trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, and Iâ€™m actively and unrepentantly engaged in a homosexual relationship,” I would say, “While you may be a believer, you give me no grounds to treat you like one or assume you are telling the truth, since you currently bear the evidences of hating Jesus and loving sin (Jn. 14:21, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-14, 1 Jn. 3:7-10). To give some perspective, welcoming the unrepentant homosexual as a church member is on par with welcoming as a brother in Christ the man who says, “I’m trusting Jesus for salvation, but I’m perpetually unfaithful to my wife and have every intention of continuing in that behavior,” or to the man who says, “I’m trusting Jesus for salvation, but I thoroughly enjoy gossip, and have no plans of ever stopping that wonderful activity!” Scripture is crystal clear in its assertion that a person who plans to continue sinning with neither the plans nor even the desire to repent has not been legitimately saved (1 Jn. 3:7-10). As such, one cannot in clean conscience welcome such a person into the fellowship of believers as though he or she bears evidence of being in right relationship with Christ.”
To the contrary, the person who persists inÂ anyÂ sin (notÂ justÂ the sin of homosexuality) after theyâ€™ve been loving and properly confronted about their sin in accordance with Matthew 18:15-17a, should be treated, â€œas you would a pagan or a tax collectorâ€ (Mt. 18:17b).Â And Paul fleshes out in greater detail exactly what it looks like to treat someone as a â€œpagan or a tax collector.â€Â He writes, â€œI am writing to you not to associate with anyoneÂ who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindlerâ€”not even to eat with such a one.Â For what have I to do with judgingÂ outsiders?Â Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judgesÂ those outside. â€˜Purge the evil person from among youâ€™â€ (1 Cor. 5:11-13). This means that Christians are to have no association with those who claim to know Jesus, yet persist unrepentantly in sin.
But Paul also provides the reasoning for purging from the fellowship of believers those who persist unrepentantly in sin: â€œWhen you are assembledÂ in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,Â you areÂ to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,Â soÂ that his spirit may be savedÂ in the day of the Lordâ€ (1 Cor. 5:4-5).Â Broken-hearted, prayerful love, not hatred or frustration, is the motive for putting someone like this out of the church.
That said, the moment someone who has been â€œpurgedâ€ from the fellowship repents, welcome them back as a brother or sister in Christ, thanking God for being merciful to them!
You’ve read my perspective, and I’d love to read yours. I would appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with you in the comments below.
- The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical PerspectiveÂ by Albert Mohler
- Beliefs About Homosexual Behavior and Ministering to Homosexual Persons, a resolution passed by the Baptist General Conference
- God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical FoundationÂ by Andreas KÃ¶stenberger
- List of Christian Denominational Positions on HomosexualityÂ (not a scholarly source, but generally trustworthy)
[…] stay with me. I want to invite you to hear me out as I complete my thoughts on this in part 2 and part 3 of this series. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in the comments […]