I recently saw this quote by Rick Warren bouncing around Facebook. It was posted during the recent Supreme Court proceedings regarding gay marriage. The topic of homosexuality and gay marriage is at forefront of the nation and has been a huge topic of conversation on campuses too.
Christians typically have a difficult time knowing how to respond to these conversations. I certainly do. While I don’t claim to have many answers, it has helped me to think in terms of three postures toward the homosexual community on our campuses.
While this might not be the posture most Christians personally take toward the LGBTQ community, it is certainly the way they feel we have responded. They feel that we have condemned them as outcasts, unwelcomed in our community let alone society at large.
There are certainly pastors, politicians, and talk show hosts that clearly condemn the LGBTQ community. Those who speak in a condemning way speak as if homosexuality is a sin of greater magnitude, something that is condemning our nation.
At least two scriptures strike me as particularly important for those who hold to a condemnation posture.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ Luke 7:34
Jesus was the friend of sinners. He befriended the outcasts and immoral people of his day, namely tax collectors, prostitutes, and “sinners.” Somehow they did not feel condemned by Him. They wanted to spend time with Jesus and He with them.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. I Corinthians 5:12,13
Paul did not want the church to try to hold those outside the Christian community to their moral standards. Rather, he wanted believers to judge each other, in a way that would purify the church. We need to focus on sin within the church (such as being judgmental even) and not expect people with different beliefs to live like us. Why would they?
There is immense pressure in our society to be “tolerant” of everyone’s behavior. Tolerance is fine, if by it we mean we allow others freedom to make their choices, but this is not what tolerance means today. It means we have to agree with the beliefs and behaviors of everyone. When defined this way, “intolerance” is truly the chief sin in our culture. In our day, there is almost nothing worse that you can do than tell someone you disagree with them, that you believe they are wrong and you are right.
The fear of appearing intolerant has led many believers to condone homosexuality. They no longer believe it is a sin, meaning a behavior that goes against the character and commands of God.
At least two scriptures strike me as particularly important for those who hold to a condone posture.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:11-12
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. I Timothy 1:8-11
Homosexuality is listed among the many other sins that separate us from God. It is lumped in with things we think are “little” sins like slander, greed, and drunkenness and with things we think are “big” sins like murder, perjury, and slave trade.
Homosexuality is no worse or no greater a sin than anything listed here, but none of the sins listed here can be condoned. If we condone homosexuality then we then need to condone everything else listed here, don’t we?
I am not claiming that I know how to do this personally. Far to often I find myself wavering between condemning and condoning postures, but I am challenged to read the gospels and see how Jesus was able to stand somewhere in the middle or perhaps somewhere above it all.
He had a standard that was impossible. He said, “Be perfect as you heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). How could He say something like that and yet still have broken people come to him without feeling condemned? He was able, like Rick Warren’s quote above says, to disagree with someone yet still love them well. This is what I want to learn to do.
Jesus’s ability to do so is seen so clearly in John 8 when the crowds bring a woman caught in the act of adultery to her (I always wonder why the man was not brought too). They basically ask Jesus, “Are you going to condemn her or condone her?” Jesus calmly writes something on the ground and asks the person without sins (like on the list of sins above) to be the first to throw a stone at her. One by one they leave until it is just Jesus and her.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11
Amazing! He did not condemn her nor did he condone her behavior. Oh how I wish we could learn this third way. I believe we can have convictions and be compassionate. I believe it is possible to disagree with someone’s beliefs and/or behaviors yet still be near to them in relationships.
This is something the Christian community needs to learn to do with the LGBTQ community, and visa versa. But we should be the first to attempt to do so.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.