The Part Where We Live It Out
If you haven’t yet read the two previous posts (here and here) on what the Bible actually has to say about homosexuality among Christians, you should go do that now. Seriously, do it. Don’t worry; this article will be here when you’re done.
Now that we’ve looked at where the Bible seems to stand on the issue (in my best estimation), I’d like to talk a bit about how Christians ought to respond. But before I do that, I need to lay down one ground rule for all Christians (gay or straight) when dealing with this issue – we are talking about people. Not statistics. Not ideals. Not civil rights. People. Bearing this in mind will go a long way toward helping us practice a Christ-like approach.
Okay. First, concerning Christians who are gay, let me just say that as a straight man it is not my place to prescribe to you how to deal with this. (What?!) I am not gay. I have never had to struggle with this issue. And no matter how many of my friends are gay, it will never be as personal for me as it is for you. Just like I wouldn’t want you dictating how I should deal with my problems, I’m not going to dictate how you deal with yours. I know that you have a lot on your mind. I know that it is hard work and exhausting fighting your way through all of this. I know that you are trying to love Jesus and honor God the best way you know how. And I know that somewhere in the back of your mind, you are scared to death that you might end up in hell because you got it wrong. I want to encourage you! I want to stand with you! I want to see you find happiness and fulfillment, and I don’t want to make this any harder than it needs to be. Please know that I am not going to judge you, and that (despite what some “Christians” might say), God is not going to burn you in hell for eternity just for genuinely coming to the wrong theological conclusions (whatever that might be). Gay or straight, broken or whole, celibate or married, Jesus died because he loves you. And that means you have infinite value.
Now, for those of us Christians who are not gay, how should we deal with the LGBs (and everyone else) in our lives? Simple – with love! That’s it. Love. It’s not our job to judge them. We’ll leave that in God’s hands. It’s not even our job to convict them. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job (Jn 16:5-11). Our job is just to love people, and let God take care of the rest.
Now that raises the question – how exactly do we love gay people? The Westboro crazies are notorious for saying that they love gays by aggressively “telling them the truth.” But is that really the sort of love that Jesus wants us to show? I’m not so sure. In fact, when I look at the NT definition of love, it sounds a lot less like beating someone over the head with the Bible, and it sounds a lot more like sacrificing for someone. Here’s what I mean…
Too often, the “Christian” tactic for dealing with the problem of homosexuality has been to try to outlaw gay marriage. If we can just make it impossible for gays to be legally married, surely we will have done our job for the kingdom of God. The strange thing is that Jesus never tried anything of the sort. In fact, when the Son of God was offered political power, he outright turned it down (Lk 4:6-8). What if the truly Christian approach to homosexuality is one that exhibits not power over people, but sacrifice under them? This is what some friends and I have taken to calling “Third Option Theology” (for a good picture of this, check out my friend Matt’s article here). Rather than falling into the world’s polarized views, kingdom people ought to be talented at finding a third option that gets at the heart of an issue.
For the issue of homosexuality, it begins with us seeing that LGBs are people. And as people, what they are really looking for is not for the right to have sex how they want it. Like all the best relationships, most gay relationships are not primarily about sex. They are about meeting our inherent need to be in deep, committed, intimate relationships. As humans, we are created in the image of God (imago Dei). And since God is inherently relational (one big intimate relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we are inherently relational. And when Christians try to deny LGBs the right to be in deep, committed, intimate relationships, we are in effect trying to deny their imago Dei. We are dehumanizing them on a fundamental, spiritual level. So, the real question for the church is not, “How do we keep gays from being gay?” but rather, “How do we help gays fulfill their imago Dei?”1
Now, this is going to sound crazy, but I think that the way we should do this is by opening up our lives to the LGB community. It would be ridiculous for Christians to deal with the problem of orphans by making it illegal for people to give up their kids for adoption (some people really should give up their kids). Rather, the kingdom way of dealing with orphans is to adopt all of them. Likewise, the kingdom way of dealing with homosexuality is not by making it illegal for LGBs to find deep, committed, intimate relationships with each other; rather, it is by inviting them into deep, committed, intimate relationships, so they don’t feel a need to go looking for it elsewhere. What would it look like for gays to feel such a sense of belonging and family in the church that they never felt a need to enter into a homosexual relationship? What would the result be if every Christian family volunteered to adopt an LGB person into their family, to live with them (à la, uncle Jessie in Full House)? It would probably be hard. It would be awkward and uncomfortable sometimes. It would mean being vulnerable. It would require setting aside some personal desires. It would take sacrifice. But doesn’t that sound so much more like the kingdom of God? Doesn’t that sound so much more like the heart of Jesus?
In fact, what if that was the typical Christian approach to almost everything?
You’re gay and you want to feel loved? Come be a part of our family!
You have an unwanted pregnancy, and you don’t think you can take care of a baby? That’s okay; our house could always use another person or two to love.
You’re young and single, and don’t know what you’re doing with your life? Let us be your family and help you figure things out.
You’re homeless? No worries. We have a home, and lots of love to go around.
I don’t know. I’m just saying, maybe it would be worth trying. For all we know, it just might work.
It just might change the world.
1: For more on how humans are designed to be in relationships, and how this is reflected in the Bible, check out the sermon, Solo Mojo, by Greg Boyd.