A few other times I’ve thought about posting about homosexuality, but I’ve never done it. I would always start, but never finish, never happy with the product.
After reading Preston Sprinkle’s book, I feel like I finally have the words. So here it goes…
To start, this post is not about what the Bible says. If you want to see/hear that, others are more qualified than myself to speak on this. People to Be Loved does a great job of addressing these passages, should you choose to read it (which I’d definitely recommend).
What we’ve done wrong:
I think I’m like a lot of you in that in the past, homosexuality, gay marriage, etc. has been an issue I want to speak on. I’ve researched, debated, and made sure people knew where I stood. But this is all wrong.
I was hit by two stats I saw:
- A study asked young non-Christians what the first thing that came to mind when asked about evangelical Christianity. The answer: antihomosexual. (1)
- Teens struggling with same-sex attraction who seek Christian counseling are MORE likely to commit suicide than those seeking help from nonreligious counselors. (2)
As Christians, we’ve stood against something rather than for something.
Treated it like an issue
Homosexuality is really about people, and what we say and how we say it can hurt others. By treating it like an issue, we don’t treat others with kindness. Instead of treating others like human, we treat them subhuman. This isn’t always the intent, but it is the result.
Refused to listen
In People to Be Loved, this plays out time and time again, with stories from people who felt hurt by the church. The church has got to stop acting this way. The church needs to be less issue-focused and more people-focused.
Growing up, I always heard the U.S. was a “Christian nation.” This phrase has become so trite in this day and age that we don’t even know what it means. It’s not uncommon to hear someone discuss our moral decay and long for the days of old. But where have the “days of old” gotten us? As it turns out, the many “Christians” of our “Christian nation” were really only Christians in name. They didn’t have the intellectual knowledge of the Bible, but used tradition and vague scripture references to defend their position.
Reality is, the church is to blame. We didn’t understand the Bible in a way that we could best know how to respond. Because we were the Christian majority, we failed to really know our Bible.
How we respond:
Preston Sprinkle uses the example of Jesus and the tax collectors. Tax collectors in those days were mainly Jews collecting taxes from the Roman oppressors. So not only did tax collectors get to “choose” how much to collect and keep the excess, they were also traitors. How did the “church” respond to tax collectors? They were the worst of the worse. Even considered worse than murderers and thieves. I think as Christians, we respond this way as well. So Jesus’ response becomes very telling.
Jesus invites Matthew into his inner circle, and he invites Zacchaeus to dinner. We don’t see that Jesus’ initial reaction was requesting repentance or condemnation. We see Jesus’ initial response was love. He let people know he loved them, and then the assumption is later Jesus has private discussions with them.
So from this, I think we can have 3 take aways.
Begin relationships with love
Preston talks of many ways to do this, but invite people to do life with you. If they ask your opinion, invite them into a relationship first. Without a relationship, opinions are harsh and hurtful.
People expect a negative response from a Christian, but how is the scene different if you don’t give that negative response? The new response could actually allow for a real relationship.
Affirm the humanity of others
Listen. By listening to others, we can better understand their pain. I think this could apply to politics and so many other things in society today, but by making the other person evil, we don’t leave room for a conversation.
If someone calls you stupid, you’re not likely to stick around to hear what else they have to say. I know I wouldn’t want to.
Talk when asked
After a relationship, and after listening, then we can talk. And hopefully, this leads us to a better understanding of how to talk without insulting or creating pain. Too often we just want to talk, without first trying to understand, and it leads to droves of people who refuse to step in church.
We cannot expect people to listen if they think we don’t care. And let’s remember Romans 2:4, kindness leads to repentance.
Our previous response has always been to fight. What has fighting got you? And when you think of it, this is the exact opposite posture it takes to lead others to Christ. While some look at today’s world in contrast to the Christian culture of decades past, and are depressed at the “depravity” of the world, I look at the culture and say Christians finally look different. While I’d prefer that some things were different, the culture creates an atmosphere that makes Christians radical. Today, we’re uniquely positioned to attract others.
I think an observation on Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NYC, sums it up nicely.
“He’s happy to discuss about it(homosexuality, abortion, etc), but he doesn’t like being challenged on this by people who don’t believe in the God of the Bible, because how could they possibly understand why he’s reached these conclusions if you’re not starting from the same place? He says that if he could just show a person how to walk with Jesus, really walk with him every day, it would be easy to resist the temptation of loving someone of your own gender.” – Taffy Brodesser-Akner
As Christians, we expect others to believe like we believe. But how can we expect that if they’re not coming from the same place? First, we have to convince others of God’s love. Then, and only then, can we expect them to “feel the same way” or even be open to the discussion.
Personally, I know I have some apologizing I should do. Not because of my beliefs, but because of the posture of my beliefs. Going forward, my (our) posture needs to focus on the saving love of Jesus. A posture of attack isn’t conducive to leading others to Christ, and in many cases I think we’ve forgotten that’s all that matters.
1 - taken from Preston Sprinkle's People to Be Loved, pg 79 2 - Preston Sprinkle's People to Be Loved, pg 82 3 - Preston Sprinkle's People to Be Loved, pg 75-79