Loving God and Loving People

I opened my Twitter Friday morning as my plane landed at LaGuardia in New York and witnessed my newsfeed blow up with the news of the SCOTUS decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Simply put (in case you’ve lived in a hole the last few days) the Court ruled marriage as a fundamental right for all couples, regardless of orientation, gender, or state residence.

On one end, people cheered and applauded the decision as a step of progress for human liberty. On the other end, some Christians bemoaned the decay of morals and our country’s supposed religious foundations. Many just didn’t know what to say.

The ruling should really come as no surprise. The culture has been shifting for quite a while now, and we’re probably at the beginning of a post-Christian America. For better or worse, this is the cultural milieu we are in.

I don’t want to debate about whether homosexual practice is a sin or not. If you believe the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, then there is no escaping the fact that it prohibits homosexual activity, unless you do some hermeneutical gymnastics. Scripture tells us that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, sin began its destructive ripple, wreaking havoc through all of creation, including a fallen sexual condition. The temptation to be sexually promiscuous for the heterosexual is every bit an evidence of the fall as is the sexual attraction between people of the same sex. God didn’t “make” anyone gay, it is just one of the many ways sin presents itself. But just as the Bible instructs me that obedience to God means sex is to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage with one woman, it instructs us that obedience to God means not engaging in same sex intercourse. It promises us that Jesus offers healing for all of our sexual brokenness and that living in obedience to Him gives us our greatest joy and His ultimate glory. Our sexual ethic is defined by our King Jesus, not our desires or what culture endorses. (Important to note here is that same-sex attraction isn’t anymore sinful than it is sinful for me to be attracted to women. The act is what is sinful, whether it be in the mind (lust) or body, because it is a distortion of the image of God and the union of Christ and the Church. More resources and information will be provided at the end of this article.)

Christians are faced with two challenges in this, the first being that God, in his Word, has expressly forbidden homosexual practice in the Old and New Testaments. This is not a case of us being inconsistent with the commands of the Bible, and contrary to rising popular opinion, the teachings aren’t as ambiguous as proponents of same-sex marriage advocate.

The second is that most of us have friends and loved ones who experience same-sex attraction and struggle through it in a way most of us will never understand. They’ve experienced deep hurt and pain and betrayal and rejection because of their orientation, and it is heartbreaking. They are real people who didn’t just “choose” to be gay.

Most Christians, when faced with these realities, tend to drift toward one of two extremes, both of which are wrong. The first is expressing anger and hatred toward the LGBT community. Bible verses are spit out without love, condemnation is cast, and verbal/physical abuse may occur. There is an insensitivity toward the LGBT community because of a lack of understanding and a gag-reflex because it seems so abnormal. People on this end tend to view homosexual behavior as very high in the hierarchy on the totem pole of sin. They believe they’re being faithful to God and the Bible in calling out sin, but they usually respond without the grace, love, and compassion we’re called to, remembering our own inherent depravity and sinfulness.

The other extreme is being so pulled by compassion that you decide homosexual activity really isn’t that big of a deal. Bible passages are reinterpreted or ignored because they seem outdated. People on this end irresponsibly make the charge that the Old Testament forbids things like eating shrimp and wearing clothes of two materials, which we do, so homosexual practice also must be okay since we’re “ignoring” those other laws. They say Jesus never explicitly taught on homosexuality, so how do we know he wouldn’t approve of it? It is the original trick the serpent used in deceiving Adam and Eve: “Did God really say…?” They begin viewing conservative Christians as bigots and hypocrites, and they do all this because they believe they’re being faithful to a Jesus who does not condemn but calls us to love all people.

Sometimes it seems like you have to pick one extreme and go with that, but I think the tension is actually a good thing! Jesus tells us that all of the law is summed up into these two commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. We’re called to live in the tension! We love God and what He has revealed to his through His Word, and in light of that, we love His image bearers, however broken they are. Love does not mean we approve everything someone does. It is not loving for my brother to not tell me if something I am doing is hurting me or others.

So what does this look like? It means to stay faithful to the biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage because God created both and ultimately defines them; they are not merely sociological terms. It means to love the LGBT community in a sacrificial way, listening to them, caring for them. It means that we don’t separate truth and love, but speak the truth in love and in a compassionate, gracious way. It means that our churches should be lights shining in the darkness. Russell Moore may have said it best:

We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.

This is what I think Jesus would say to the person caught engaging in homosexual behavior: I think Jesus would look into their eyes in love and compassion and say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

Christians, let us be the church. Let us be identified as those who love God and love His people.

Here are some further resources:

Why the Church Should Neither Cave nor Panic About the Decision on Gay Marriage – Russell Moore

Reaction to the Supreme Court Ruling – ERLC

5 Biblical Responses to Homosexuality – Sam Allberry (Sam is a minster who experiences sam-sex attraction, but because of his love for Jesus, remains celibate.)

Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency – Tim Keller

Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry (book)

Is Same Sex Attraction a Sin? – Sermon

Something Greater Than Marriage – Rosario Butterfield and Christopher Yuan

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving the Rainbow Flag – TGC

Review of “God and the Gay Christian” – Tim Keller

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4 thoughts on “Loving God and Loving People

  1. I am confused, your second “extreme” has no justified dismissal. You simply object to that line of thinking because it is a “trick” of the devil? Really? Was it a trick when you decided to “ignore those other laws”? History has shown Christianity adapts, it is what happens when the social climate changes and when “those other laws” became “outdated.” Marriage in the bible has a rough history that didn’t always mean one man and one woman (seriously, concubines, plural), society changed it. True acceptance isn’t an extreme. In reality, the other extreme is to give up Christianity altogether. Your solution of “agree to disagree” is okay, but don’t vilify those who have adapted and accepted.

    • R,
      Thanks for replying!
      My dismissal of the second extreme is mainly because of the Bible never holds sexual activity between two people of the same sex as a positive thing, in fact, there are commands against it. This is reiterated in both Old and New Testaments.
      As far as “ignoring those other laws,” I hope you clicked the link I placed there. Christians don’t just arbitrarily pick and choose which laws to obey! The laws concerning shrimp, or your clothing, was for purity. In the Law, you see there are purity laws and moral laws. You could only approach God by being ritually clean, and so the sacrificial system, as well as the purity laws, were there to guide that. But when we get to the NT, we see that Jesus fulfills much of the law! Especially the purity laws so that eating shellfish or trimming our beards aren’t what make us unclean before a holy God. He declares all food as clean and shows that it is what comes out (from the heart) of a person that makes them clean or not. This was why the veil was torn in the temple when Jesus died. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it!
      He kept pressing the moral law however. This is why he still identified sin in how people lived. He even affirmed marriage as being between one man and one woman.

      Christianity hasn’t adapted to the social climate, because that would imply it’s just a product of society/culture. BUT Christianity (religion in general) is a part of society/culture, and in the Old Testament especially, God worked within culture and society. Just because we see polygamy or concubines in the Bible doesn’t mean the Bible endorses it! It is telling us what people did. And in that cultural context, people sometimes took multiple spouses. Interestingly enough, the Old Testament always shows how this was turned on its head because things like polygamy or resorting to concubines made things even messier, ie, Hagar and Sarah, David/Solomon and their wives, Jacob and Leah/Rachel.
      But as understanding as to the covenantal nature of marriage and it as a picture of Jesus and the church began to develop, these other practices were done away with. The history of the people in the Bible isn’t perfect, but I think that’s a good thing. It shows the truthfulness of it. And we obey the Person that WAS perfect and directed all things, including sexuality.

      I still believe that objecting to my second extreme simply because the Bible forbids it is valid, but maybe I wasn’t clear in how we differentiate between the laws.
      My apologies, I didn’t mean to vilify others, I just don’t believe the Bible would affirm either of those responses, including adapting or accepting.

      Thanks for reading and engaging! I really do appreciate that

  2. The bible is a book. Written by men. Possibly insane men. I have read the whole thing. It took a long time. I learned more about morality from Harry Potter and The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.

    I think it’s a bit rude to say “It means to love the LGBT community in a sacrificial way”. What does that even mean? “Oooh, look at me, a cisgender heterosexual man, look how lovely and pious I am for pitying and helping these sad hell-bound sinful hooligans”. You are othering people, not treating them as your equals, and that’s an assholic thing to do.

    I am not a Christian, I most def do not believe the whole son-of-god thing (or heaven- reincarnation is my jam. Like recycling!), and I know that you neither know me nor care what I think, because you will cling ferociously to your beliefs even if it means looking down upon others, but I hope you know this: all living beings deserve dignity. And when you cling to your old books written by guys who were probably drunk at the time of writing, which were then mistranslated by other men, and smugly let members of the LGBTQ community in to your life as if you’re doing a great deed, you are taking away the dignity of others, and diminishing your own.

    • Thanks for your response, Jennifer!

      I’ve read the whole Bible too. Took me a long time too. And it was hard, and many times confusing, and sometimes frustrating. But seeing it cohesively, you see a God who reveals Himself, who wants to be known.

      It’s not so much looking down at the LGBTQ community or pitying them to make ourselves feel better or pious. It’s recognizing that they, along with cisgender heterosexuals, along with ME! are broken. In different and similar ways. I’m in no way better! And I’ll be quick to admit and proclaim that — if anything, I’m more of a hooligan deserving of hell. In no way do I look down upon my friends in the LGBTQ community. But I acknowledge that we all need redemption, and Jesus offers that! Healing for brokenness, dignity for those without. It’s not granting dignity to look at my broken self and say that I’m dandy… that’s taking away dignity.

      I acknowledge that there may be Christians who make LGBT friends out of a sense of moral superiority or service, but I would grant that’s not all of them. No, we befriend and love those on the fringe because that’s what Jesus did, and that’s what He did for us!

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