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How Should Christians Treat Their Gay Neighbors?

Patience

"To know the Bible forbids it, and that it's not God's will, is one factor we have to consider," added Bev DeLashmutt, a counselor with Xenos Christian Fellowship, a megachurch in a city with an active gay population — Columbus, Ohio. "But there's a whole bunch of stuff the Scriptures say 'thou shalt not' that people struggle with and we need to have patience with. I don't know how we can isolate homosexuality and put it in a separate category. Divorce is forbidden except under certain circumstances but what's the church position on divorcees?"

Have patience with sin? What about Jesus' multiple calls to repentance?

"Jesus didn't expect unregenerate people to act in regenerate ways," Doug said. "If how they express themselves sexually is their expression of depravity, then how is that any different than a person who expresses their depravity through gluttony, or any other of the seven deadly sins?

"Homosexuality is depraved and it's not the way God intended. But we are all fallen and broken people."

He also urged forbearance and perseverance befriending gay and lesbian-identified people.

"When I'm in the presence of someone living that lifestyle, God and I both know how we feel about that," Doug offered. "I don't feel like I'm letting him down [by not confronting their behavior]. You don't see Jesus lowering the boom that way except on the religious people."

Doug noted the woman caught in adultery.

"She was going to be stoned and Jesus stepped in to spare her life," he said. "What an act of grace and courage that was. He definitely showed her that she had value in his sight and he stood up to the culture. When it was just him and her, he told her to leave her life of sin. That was an example of acceptance but not endorsement. I would go slow toward the sin stuff. Once a person begins opening up, those conversations will [happen]."

There's a time for truth. But heeding the counsel of James in regard to homosexual identity would seem to be wise: "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

What should we do?

"As this becomes more mainstream, we're going to need a new perspective," Bev offered. "More same-sex couples are going to want to come to church with their families. We have to think about and pray through all this. Even though the right and wrongness of it is not becoming questionable, the issues that go along with it are becoming more complex. We can't take a simplistic negative attitude and perspective about it."

So what should our attitude and perspective be?

"The only way to know how to answer another wisely is to show up as a listener and learner," Doug said. "You have to understand what it's been like to walk a mile in their shoes."

"As Christians we have to be learners," commented Bev. "I know I don't understand the issue enough; I don't understand all the personal struggles that go on with it, and I've probably had discussions with gay people more than most Christians. I want to learn and when I do learn I have learned a lot."

Gay-identified men and women often ask Bev about her view on homosexuality.

"If I give a short answer I'm afraid I'm going to be put in one of two camps: either I'm opposed to it and I'm a fundamentalist Christian who hates gays or I'm a liberal who thinks everything is OK," she said. "I do not sit in either one of those camps. That's why I say I want to be able to have a dialogue with them rather than give a short answer."

Really understanding someone means setting aside preconceptions and going on a journey of discovery into their hearts, as far as the other person lets you venture. Am I willing to listen to someone describe their life journey? Yes, I do that all the time. But would I hit a wall with a homosexual, especially one who thinks where they are is just great?

"How we treat this issue in next 20 years will determine what kind of voice [Christians] have left [in this society]," Doug said. "We can't keep doing it the way we've been doing it."

So how should we do it?

"When they are your neighbors, be neighborly and kind," Bev said. "We can have a dialogue with them and stay out of the grid of their interpretation of us and us of them. We don't have to make a decision for them that they need to do this or that. We just need to put down our guards and get to know each other."

That's what Ken and Floy did with Rosaria.

"God does not get an address wrong," Rosaria shared. "And Ken and Floy and I were neighbors. Just because we were neighbors they were going to be my friend in an unconditional way."

And being a neighbor means respect as much as kindness.

"Everyone has a life," Rosaria said. "Our neighbors came to their worldviews through a good bit of thoughtfulness. They are not blank slates who just need to hear the Gospel."

Because of that, I also need to be a person who can deal with difficult inquiries about my faith.

"Ken and Floy didn't act as though questions about politics or sexuality were inappropriate," Rosaria offered. "I could ask any question of the Bible and I often did."

Because of Ken and Floy's hospitality, Rosaria got to meet others with checkered sexual histories who had become Christians. These people showed her how she might make a transition into a life of following Jesus.
Bev also recommends finding common causes to connect with homosexuals.

"I love it when the gay community wants to help with my anti-trafficking work," she said. "There are causes that they care about and we care about and we can work together, so they get to know us and we know them. Then there's personalness instead of it just being 'those people.'"

In the end, acceptance, consistent friendliness, and Spirit-guided truth telling are the best things I can offer gays, lesbians or any person. Bev cited the example of her father in the Lord, who lived out these principles even as he was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

His physical therapist confided to him she was a lesbian in a committed relationship with another woman, and they had children together.

"She said, 'I know you're a Christian; what do you think about me?' He told her, 'My job is to give you God's truth and give you God's love. What you do with it is your responsibility.'"

Clem Boyd is an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award-winning journalist, managing editor of Cedarville University's Cedarville Magazine, blogger at whatdoesGodwantmetodo, contributing blogger to believe.com, professor at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH, and author of What Does God Want Me to Do?

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