Evangelicals’ treatment of LGBT persons has been abhorrent.
Bruce B. Miller: Face reality. Christians face a steep challenge to show Christ’s love to those who suspect that for all our nice words, we really don’t want them around us.
Young people are leaving the church because of how the church has mistreated gay people. According to one study, 91 percent of unchurched people said that “anti-homosexual” accurately describes Christianity.
Perhaps you too have left the church or even the Christian Faith. The Gospel is at stake! As Christians, what should our response be to our poor treatment of gay people?
Repent. Christians should own up to what we have done against LGBT people and what we have not done to stand against injustice, mistreatment, and especially violence. When the AIDS crisis was at its peak, few Christians responded with care and compassion to those suffering. Instead many were unkind, or, at a minimum, passive and uninvolved. With a sorrowful heart, I repent and apologize to LGBT people for not standing with you when you were unjustly treated and for not showing compassion when you were sick and dying.
Own our sexual sin. Will we self-righteously judge those whose temptations differ from ours? Too often Christians have been judgmental and held a double-standard on sexual sin, winking at hetero-sexual adultery while slamming gay people. Jesus teaches us to take the speck out of our own eye first. Nearly every adult has sinned sexually in one way or another. When we have personally received Christ’s grace and felt the Father’s loving hands cleansing our sin, then we can help others as wounded healers and washed sinners. We do not look down at “those” sinners but realize that Christ died for our forgiveness too.
Give grace. Too many Christians have strong convictions but embarrass Christ by how they relate to people. Jesus came bringing grace and truth, and they were not in conflict. Glenn Stanton wrote, “Truth without grace is abusive and grace without truth is mere sentimentalism. The two cannot exist without each other.” We must be people of 100 percent truth and 100 percent grace, neither watering down one or the other. We do not balance grace and truth but bring both in full measure. Grace and truth unite in love.
Grant space to grow and to differ. We need to give each other room to disagree and space to grow in matters where the gospel of Jesus Christ is not at stake. Our view of same-sex issues is not at the same level as our convictions about the deity of Christ. When we believe in a wrong Christ, we believe in a false gospel that does not save us. On the other hand, we can disagree about how to approach same-sex matters and still serve together forever in God’s new creation. While it is true that sex is reserved only for marriage, and marriage is reserved only for one man and one woman for life, it reduces tension when we give people space to agree to disagree, space to be in the process of thinking through what they believe.
Distinguish sin from temptation. While sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman are sinful, sexual temptations are not. A person’s spiritual maturity is not measured by the power of their temptations, but by their strength to flee them. So a person can experience gay temptations their whole life, and yet by resisting them be a deeply mature Christian. As a gay person, you likely face insults, unique hardships, persecutions and difficulties. But as with Paul, whatever his thorn in the flesh was, you can experience a deeper measure of God’s grace and power because when you are weak, He is strong.
Stand for justice and show compassion. We dare not be among those who continue to tell gay jokes at the expense of teenagers who are navigating very difficult sexual and gender identity issues. We must not be among those who make our children feel so ashamed that they would never dare share their deeply conflicted feelings. We need to dry the tears of those who have been ridiculed for not fitting cultural gender norms. We must stand up for those who are mistreated or unjustly excluded.
Hug people freely. Hugs do not compromise truth. Proximity does not imply approval. The wrong thought is that ‘If I go to the party, or the dinner or their home, I will be tacitly approving something that is wrong.’ Why was Jesus accused of being a friend of sinners? Because He hung out with them. He ate dinner with them and joined them at their parties. We must break through the sad confusion that showing love condones sin; that compassion equals affirmation, or that proximity conveys approval.
Dream of being like Jesus. Jesus was a magnet for sinners of all kinds. Should not the body of Christ act like Christ? What if our churches were magnets for gay people? Places where gay people want to be, where they know they will be listened to, supported and cared for. What if gay people were drawn to you and to your church as a place of grace and truth where they would be welcomed, loved and given truth that sets them free, living water that quenches their thirst?
Jesus gave his life for each of us — straight and LGBT alike. Jesus offers the bread of life and joy — a joy that exceeds every sexual pleasure. Each person without distinction has the opportunity to receive God’s gracious love gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ by trusting in Him. In this messy, dark world, we shine the light of Christ as we share his love with all people.
Bruce B. Miller is the senior pastor at Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas. He has authored several books, including the April 2019 title Leading a Church in a Time of Sexual Questioning.