I was talking with friends recently about the Gay Olympics coming to Cleveland this summer. The conversation steered to the fact that there are strained relations between the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community and Christians. The question was asked, “Why do gay people believe that Christians hate them?” As I thought about it, I realized that most Christians and oftentimes church leadership have not handled this question well. At the same time, I realized that the LGBT community has not handled this well either. There is a lot of misinformation out there about this issue.
I don’t believe true followers of Jesus should hate anyone. We may hate sin. We may hate evil. We may hate the source of evil, but we are called to love everyone. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, in human form to live a sinless life, to die a death that we deserved, and to be resurrected. This act on behalf of God The Father and Jesus, His Son broke the power of the curse of sin and death that was against all humanity and allowed God to offer the gift of new life and resurrection to all who would believe in Jesus and obey Him. It was God’s love for all mankind that motivated Jesus to do this for us.
The point about John 3:16 and the message of good news that Jesus delivered is that God loves everyone! Every person, no matter what his or her belief, ethnic background, sexuality, religion, or lifestyle choice has inherent value in God’s eyes. We are all made in the image of God. As a follower of Christ, this truth moves me to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
Jesus sought to respect and bring dignity to every person He encountered. This is especially evident in how he treated those who opposed Him and His message. He did not force His message on anyone. He respected the right of people to accept or reject His message. He loved people that opposed him or did not agree with Him. He did clearly warn people who rejected His message of the consequences of doing so. He appealed to the intellect and heart of people and did not seek to impose change from the outside. As followers of Jesus we seek to do the same. He was only harsh with those who were religious hypocrites and were leading others astray.
In The Gospel of John 8:1-11, Jesus demonstrates compassion and truth telling at the same time. He restores the dignity of a woman who is caught in sexual sin. A woman is brought to Jesus having been caught in the act of committing adultery. (Notice that the man who committed adultery was not brought along with her.) The religious leaders of the day sought to trap Jesus between the Old Testament Law (which Jesus was coming to fulfill) and the message of grace and transformation Jesus had been proclaiming. The law required death by stoning. However, Jesus was there to uphold and fulfill the law without giving in to the twisted version of justice that these hypocrites wanted to impose.
Three statements Jesus makes in this story are astounding: 1. “He who is without sin, throw the first stone”, 2. “Woman, where are your accusers,” and 3. “Go and sin no more.” By saying these three things Jesus is making the following statements: We are all sinners. There is not one human who does not stand guilty before God. We may think we want justice, but at the end of the day we all need the mercy of God. He is also saying to the woman, nobody else has the right to accuse you. Jesus alone is the one who has the power to judge her. He then tells her to go and to stop sinning (acting in disobedience to God’s Word with regard to her sexual behavior).
First a word to Christians: We need to make sure we are following the ways of Jesus Christ and not the ways of the hypocritical religious leaders in this story. We need to learn to speak the truth in love like He did and let people know that Jesus loves us, but that He calls us to walk in obedience to His Word.
To the LGBT community I would say, recognize that Jesus loves everyone. His love is unconditional, but His approval of people’s actions are not! Don’t confuse the love of Jesus with His approval of your opinion or behavior. If you demand that true followers of Jesus approve your lifestyle, it will not happen. As a follower of Jesus I can say that God loves you. Jesus has a design and destiny for your life if you will come to him and allow His truth to work in you. He has the power to transform your life, if you will let Him. Everyone of us, gay or straight, is born with desires and inclinations that are contrary to God’s will and design for us. We all need to come to grips with our sinful nature. In that sense we all stand on the same ground.
It may surprise Christians and LGBT people alike that the early church was made up of some who came out of a gay lifestyle. One of the most powerful statements in the Bible comes from the book of 1 Corinthians 6:11. The quote begins, “And that is what some of you were . . . ”
Paul, one of the key leaders of this new band of Jesus followers who had come to be called “Christians” defines who it was that made up the church of his day. His list is impressive and in some ways startling. The context shows that Paul is condemning hypocrisy in the church. He is warning the Christians that behavior that is contrary to the truth and character of God will not be acceptable to God. He warns them in verse 9, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Paul then goes on to define those behaviors telling them that they cannot call themselves followers of Jesus and persist in these behaviors.
The list includes the sexually immoral, people who had worshipped idols, people who had broken their marriage vows and committed adultery, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, people who slandered others, and people who swindled others in dishonest business dealings. Paul lists these nine behaviors as former lifestyles that had defined these people before they came to Christ. He goes on to say, “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God..” (1 Corinthians 6: 11, NLT 2004)
The common zeitgeist in western culture is that people are born gay and cannot change. The Bible clearly proclaims the opposite, that people can change, no matter what their background. As one former gay acquaintance who is now a believer proclaims, “My friends tell me I cannot be a Christian. I was born that way. I tell them that is why I needed to be born again. Jesus has forgiven me and is changing me daily to be more like Him. He has given me a second chance.”
Over the years as a pastor, I have spoken with a number of people who were dissatisfied and unfulfilled with the gay lifestyle. They came to the Church for help. Some had even been deeply hurt in the Church, but they came because they knew that Jesus had the answers. I was able to apologize that some who called themselves Christians had not had the maturity or experience to help them.
I have seen many gays changed by the power of God. It isn’t always easy. For some they experienced an instant change in their desires. Others embraced the truth of Jesus, but experienced change over a long period of time. Some never lost their desires, but sought solace in Christ and found fulfillment in celibacy. Our sexuality is so much a part of our identity. To change old patterns that may have seemed natural is a struggle.
In all fairness, I have also seen others struggle with heterosexual addictions and behaviors. I have seen people wrestle with unforgiveness, hatred of others, addiction to drugs of alcohol, pornography addiction, a propensity to lie, to use or abuse others and many other lifestyles and behaviors that are contrary to the truth and teaching of Jesus. Struggling with walking out our faith in Christ is not unique to people with homosexual desires. That is why Jesus tells His followers to “take up their cross and follow Him.”
To followers of Jesus, I say it is time to speak up and expose some of the lies that have been proclaimed about Jesus and His followers. God does note hate LGBT people. Nor do true followers of Jesus! The press has often zeroed in on religious people that do hate. It is time to show them that is not true. It may make some uncomfortable, but we Christians also need to proclaim that by the power of Jesus we can be all be changed! All of us are born broken into a broken world. Some of us don’t want to stay the way we are and we find forgiveness, peace and transformation in the The Lord Jesus Christ.
To the LGBT community I would ask the following questions: Do you really believe that everyone has to accept your lifestyle or face the consequence of being called a hater? Do you support equally lifestyles different from your own? Do you want to be part of an activist movement that seeks to silence all who oppose them? Recognize that you don’t have to be a religious hypocrite to be a hater. Some of the most persecuted people who I have met are people who were unhappy and left the gay lifestyle. The rejection, persecution, and sometimes violence that they have experienced from their gay friends is as ugly as any hatred I have seen toward the gay community. Both examples of hatred are unacceptable.
We all need to learn to respect one another even as we respectfully disagree. Camille Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, recently captured the essence of our need to learn to listen to one another and be able to politely disagree in a civil manner. She addresses the outcry from gay activists over Phil Robertson’s (of Duck Dynasty fame) comments toward gays.
Paglia’s beliefs differ greatly from mine, but I respect her commitment and call to open and respectful dialogue. These are her words from a December interview on the Laura Ingraham radio show as recorded in thedailycaller.com.
“I speak with authority here, because I was openly gay before the ‘Stonewall rebellion,’ when it cost you something to be so. And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech. In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I one hundred percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right of religious freedom there,”
Robertson had been suspended from Duck Dynasty due to comments he made to GQ that have been deemed “anti-gay.” According to Paglia, “To express yourself in a magazine in an interview — this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades. This is the whole legacy of free speech 1960’s that have been lost by my own party.”
Paglia went on to point out that while she is an atheist she respects religion and has been frustrated by the intolerance of gay activists.
“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility,” Paglia said. “This is not the mark of a true intellectual life. This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S. Why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism. Why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc. is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points.”
“There is a dialogue going on human civilization, for heaven sakes. It’s not just this monologue coming from fanatics who have displaced the religious beliefs of their parents into a political movement,” she added. “And that is what happened to feminism, and that is what happened to gay activism, a fanaticism.”
I agree with Paglia. True tolerance means that I have enough respect to listen to people who have an opposing view to mine. It means that I will respect their right to speak even if I disagree with them. It also means that I will defend their right to speak when it is threatened. This has been one of the key hallmarks of American society. I see the application of the politically correct agenda eroding true tolerance. Granted there have been errors and distortions on both sides of the issue. There are many issues regarding human sexuality, marriage, how we define laws, and how we define truth that need to be discussed.
My prayer is two-fold: One, that my Christian brothers and sisters will stop being defensive and learn to speak God’s truth with love and respect. Secondly, that the LGBT community will take an honest look at what Jesus said and respect followers of Jesus in their right to believe; understanding that there is a difference between love and acceptance.
 Paglia: Duck Dynasty uproar ‘utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist’ Posted By Caroline May On 5:42 PM 12/19/2013 In The Daily Caller – http://dailycaller.com