Christians in America may be soon witnessing a larger push to reveal the love of God in their lives and to think twice about how they confront sin – especially after a recent Barna survey found that just 16 percent of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.
More specifically, most young non-Christians who The Barna Group approached said they felt Christianity is judgmental (87 percent), hypocritical (85 percent), and too involved in politics (75 percent), among other negative perceptions.
Furthermore, 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers say present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual."
"As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians," the Barna report stated.
Young Christians largely criticize churches, saying they have made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else and that churches have not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.
Amid news of the report, many Christian leaders are reminding believers of the greatest commandment given to them by God.
"Often Christians think that to love a homosexual is a compromise of their Christianity, that somehow their love would be misconstrued as condoning homosexuality," according to Christine Sneeringer, director of Worthy Creations, a ministry of Exodus International – one of the nation's largest organizations dealing with homosexuality.
But Christians are called to love their neighbor, she recalls, while also pointing out that a Christian's message must balance love and truth – the truth being that homosexuality is a sin.
Tim Wilkins, an ex-gay Baptist, also teaches congregations across the country that the Church has a responsibility to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. At the same time, however, he tells them they have a responsibility to share the redemptive message of Christ.
"Homosexuality is a sin and freedom from same-sex attractions is available through Jesus Christ," he says.
Some more liberal Christians, however, in their push to embrace homosexual persons, have gone too far and have strayed from the foundation laid by the Bible.
Presbyterian theologian Jack Rogers, for example, is visiting several churches this fall refuting the common Christian interpretation of the Bible that Jesus and Scripture opposes homosexuality.
The professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary is trying to get a positive word out in Christian churches about the gay and lesbian community and thinks churches should be leading the charge for their equal rights.
"I'm trying to help people understand that the Bible rightly interpreted, which I would think is through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry ... does not condemn Christian people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered," said Rogers, according to The Lawrence Journal-World.
Rogers acknowledges in his book, "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church," that he has not specialized in the issue of homosexuality as a biblical scholar. Still, he says those who argue that the Bible condemns gays and lesbians are taking biblical literalism too far and feels there is excessively negative words in the religious community, according to the Journal-World.
Another Christian leader who is making a push for the equal rights of homosexuals is Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, whose denomination has riled the worldwide Anglican Communion with its unwavering support for sexually active gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex couples.
Although conservative Anglican leaders have called on The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – to roll back support for same-sex unions and homosexual ordination, Jefferts Schori has on several occasions confirmed that the U.S. church body will not retreat, though they are willing to "pause."
"All people – including gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians – are deserving of the fullest regard of the Church," the Episcopal Church head has asserted. "We're not going backward."
At a recent public forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Jefferts Schori further claimed that members of The Episcopal Church are living as Jesus did.
"What does it mean to follow Jesus? How did Jesus live? With whom did he eat? With whom did he converse?" she posed at the public forum.
"Jesus hung out with people on the margins. He hung out with people who were unacceptable to the Judaism of his time," the church leader pointed out. "I think that's what it means to follow Jesus."
While there is no doubt that we have been called on to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), we have not been called to love sin nor have we been called on to promote, encourage, and approve of sin.
There is a very big difference between loving sinners and loving sin, as there is between the condemnation of sinners and the condemnation of sin.
Yes, Jesus embraced prostitutes, tax collectors, and even worse sinners. He spoke with them, he ate with them, and he "hung out" with them.
But it's clear that he did not encourage sin; he discouraged it.
"Then neither do I condemn you …. Go now and leave your life of sin," Jesus told a woman accused of adultery, as recorded in John 8.
When the Pharisees at this event brought the adulterous woman, they were attempting to trap Jesus by either forcing him to order the woman to be stoned (as the law of Moses commands) or to order the people not to stone her – thus breaking the law.
Today, many Christians find themselves in the same position. Some choose to stone because the law says to. Others choose to either ignore the law or distort the law.
The response we should have as Christians, however, is like that of Jesus'.
"When they (the Pharisees) kept on questioning him (Jesus), he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7)
By saying this, Jesus did not say that the law was wrong. The law is right. Sinners deserve to be punished for committing sin as a criminal in society deserves to be punished for committing a crime.
However, as Jesus indirectly pointed out, there is no one who is without sin and thus there is no one who can judge and condemn another person without making a statement to God that they themselves want to be punished for their sins. Even Jesus, who was without sin, did not judge nor condemn the woman.
BUT … while he did not condemn her, Jesus did tell her to leave her life of sin. He did not ignore the fact that she was sinful and did not say what she committed was not a sin.
Christian leaders such as Rogers and Jefferts Schori would be wise to look more closely at what the Bible says and not put their thoughts above God's much higher thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), which are revealed in the Bible.
To the liberals, questions to consider are: Would Jesus lead the charge for the equal rights of adulterous women? Would Jesus see to it that adulterous women are ordained or see their relationships blessed?
And to those who have led many to see Christianity as "anti-homosexual," questions to consider are: Is "stoning" sinners going to lead them out of sin? Are you in the position to condemn, or are you in the position to love?
Believers at both ends need to get back in line with the Bible and do as Jesus would do.