How to React to Homosexuals
A few months ago, I posted a blog about the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality. In that post, I presented the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality as sin. But as the maxim goes: “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” I have said in sermons before that the best way we Christians can love other people is by sharing the gospel with them. Now I would add that we must share the gospel in a humble attitude. Semantics aside, this post dealing with homosexuality has a different aim than my last post. The last post I wrote about homosexuality was meant to be primarily an instruction on the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality. Now I will present from the Bible how we as Christians should relate to and deal with those in our communities (and churches) who struggle with homosexuality.
Dr. Mohler’s blog on Monday sparked this post of mine. In his blog, Dr. Mohler noted that four young men ranging in age from 13-18 all committed suicide in the month of September after their homosexual acts had been exposed. I always have high expectations of Dr. Mohler’s writings, but Dr. Mohler surpassed himself this past Monday in responding to the suicide of one sexually confused young man in particular. What most impressed me about the article wasn’t Dr. Mohler’s theological convictions—though those are clear—but rather how Dr. Mohler applied his theological convictions about homosexuality (that it is a sin) to the situation of this young man’s tragic death. If you have not read Dr. Mohler’s blog, please do so; I will be quoting sporadically from it below.
Keep It in Context
Dr. Mohler’s response to this young man’s death was truly Christian. Why? Dr. Mohler responded not in condemnation, but in love. Before ever commenting about Tyler Clementi’s death, Dr. Mohler compassionately set the scene for us readers.
By all accounts Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old young man who was excited to be a freshman in college, gifted as a violinist, and looking forward to the future. All that changed last week when he walked out onto the massive George Washington Bridge that connects New York with New Jersey and jumped 200 feet to his death.
The last few days of Tyler Clementi’s life were a cauldron of confusions. Over the course of three days, he learned that his roommate at Rutgers University, also age 18, had surreptitiously turned a webcam toward his bed, filming him in a romantic encounter with another male student. The roommate employed social media to inform friends of the event, turning what Tyler Clementi assumed was a private moment into a devastating public disclosure.
It is now clear that Tyler was crushed, confused, and angry. He posted thoughts about how he might respond on the Web and finally wrote this on his Facebook page: “Jumping off gw bridge sorry.”
Whether you read Dr. Mohler’s full article or not, do those two paragraphs not break your heart? Perhaps not, but those of you who have not read the whole article do not perhaps realize all the implications of these two paragraphs. For now, I will merely praise God for giving Dr. Mohler the wisdom and love to put the sin of homosexuality in context. It is easy for us heterosexual Christians to despise homosexuals by thinking of homosexuality as allowing an “us-versus-them” mentality, but we Christians must remember that homosexuals are people, too. Homosexuals are people, too. People who have hopes, talents, and dreams just like us “good” Christians.
Dr. Mohler didn’t write, “Four young homosexuals took their own lives in September. Praise God the faggots are dead; they got what they deserve!” (I hope and pray that last statement made you cringe; it should have.) No. Dr. Mohler instead wrote a rather long article, and you can read just how thoughtfully he began it in the extensive quote above. Dr. Mohler acknowledged that this homosexual had a name, and his name was Tyler Clementi. I won’t chase a rabbit here, and I don’t know whether Tyler was a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a non-believer fully given to it (so I can’t pass judgment on his eternal state), but I can’t help but wonder: what if a Christian (a young heterosexual Christian man) had gone to Tyler after his online exposure and showed Tyler the love of Christ by saying something like, “Tyler, homosexuality is wrong. But I don’t condemn you for it. God’s forgiven me of sins just as bad as homosexuality, and he loves me despite my sins because of Jesus. Why don’t we go get a cup of coffee and talk about what you’re going through?”
We as Christians must remember that homosexuals are people, too, and that they have names just like we do. They’re not “faggots” or “gays” or “those people” … they’re just people, like you and me, who need the love of God and forgiveness in Christ just as much as we do. Not more, and not less.
Later in his article, Dr. Mohler acknowledges the homosexual community’s arguments “that these boys were oppressed by the fact that so many believe that homosexuality is sinful. They respond with calls for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality.” Dr. Mohler then writes:
Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.
In other words, the believing church cannot surrender to the demand that we disobey and reject biblical truth. That much is clear. We cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin, nor comfort them with falsehood about their moral accountability before God.
And Dr. Mohler is being neither presumptuous, nor bigoted, nor arrogant when he writes that “the believing church cannot surrender [and] cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin.” Dr. Mohler makes his statements here on the authority of Scripture. Obviously, there is the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, since we must realize our own sin (and homosexuality is a sin) before we believe the good news of Christ’s free salvation. But there is also Ezekiel 33, where God commands Ezekiel to warn sinners of their transgressions to repent before it is too late … or else Ezekiel will be himself an unfaithful servant of God. That truth applies to us Christians today, and Dr. Mohler applies it here. There are also New Testament commands to lovingly confront sin of any kind in fellow believers, as in Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5, and 1 Timothy 1:18-20. The biblical response to homosexuality, as to any sin, is a loving confrontation and exhortation to repent and turn away from sin and to God by his grace.
Don’t Respond with Homophobia
We, however, have not mostly responded to homosexuality in a biblical manner. Rather, we have responded both in homophobia (I condemn myself) and in easy-to-say-but-not-followed-up rhetoric. Dr. Mohler writes:
When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth.
Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.
Respond like Dr. Mohler Models
What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation? What about Asher and Billy and Seth?
Dr. Mohler’s words here cut me to the quick. His words are not just for pastors: they are written for all Christians. Would any of us who call ourselves “little Christs” have presented biblical truth to a Tyler we know “in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency,” or would we have slandered him irresponsibly, jabbed him sarcastically, and all the while congratulated ourselves moralistically? Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:6-9 come to my mind:
… for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
“But Jordan,” you my fellow Christians may now object, “the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong, and that we should condemn it!” Yes, you are right. But how did Jesus sum up the whole law? “Love the Lord your God completely, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Is it loving to condemn someone without offering them the pardon of Christ? No, it is not. Ever. Is it loving to treat homosexuals as outcasts simply because they’re flamboyant and awkward to be around? No, it is not. (And while I’m on my soap box, there are some flamboyant and awkward-to-be-around heterosexuals out there, too.) In the case of dealing with homosexuals, we Christians (yes, myself included foremost) have a nasty habit of twisting Scriptural truths and abusing Scripture’s authority to make “doctrines” out of “the commandments of men.” We honor God with our lips by saying, “Homosexuality is wrong,” but we worship him “in vain” when we withhold the love of Christ from anyone—homosexuals included.
But Dr. Mohler doesn’t stop applying Biblical truths with how we should respond to homosexuals … he goes on to apply how we should look at ourselves when we think of or see someone homosexual:
Most boys do not struggle with homosexuality, but there is not a teenage boy alive who does not struggle with sexual confusion. There is no deacon, preacher, or pew-sitter who went through male adolescence unscathed and without sin.
Dr. Mohler’s words here condemn me, and they condemn every one of us, of sexual sin. We may not struggle with homosexual confusion, but we certainly do struggle with heterosexual confusion to varying degrees. (The modern idea of adolescence doesn’t help this matter, but again, I won’t chase that rabbit here when I’ve already done it somewhat in a special PDF blog.) If we are to respond lovingly to homosexuals, we must first remember that we ourselves are undeserving of God’s love. We may not have sinned homosexually, but we have all committed sin sexually somehow someway. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28 condemn all of us—homosexuals and heterosexuals alike—of sexual sin.
Dr. Mohler somberly concludes :
There are Tylers and Ashers and Billys and Seths all around us. They are in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our churches . . . and in our homes. They, like us, desperately need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to know the grace of God toward sinners. They, like us, need to know the mercy of God extended to sinners through Christ Jesus. They, like us, need to repent of their sins and learn by grace how to grow into faithfulness. They, like us, need to know that they are loved if they are going to trust Christians to tell them about Jesus.
Even long before they may hear or respond to the gospel, they need to know that they are loved and cherished for who they are. They need to know that we stand between them and those who would harm them. They need to know that we know how to love sinners because we have been loved despite our own sin.
I am haunted by the one question that seems so obvious and clear in the account of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?
My challenge to you? “Set your minds on things that are above,” and once you have done so prayerfully, stand between the boy you know and the bridge he may be closer to jumping off of than you imagine.
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