This is part 2 of “How now should we talk to our gay friends?” The first part talks about the “how,” or “posture,” of Christian conversation. This part (2) will address the “what,” or “content,” of our conversation.
I need to admit is the tension I feel while writing. On the one hand, I am a full-fledged, Bible-believing evangelical. I affirm a very conservative theology including the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of Scripture, the virgin birth, miracles, etc.
On the other hand, I have dear friends in the LGBT community who have shared that the word “evangelical” is connoted with hatred, anger, self-righteousness, and political agendas. While I don’t believe that is an accurate description of all evangelicals, I do believe they have plenty of evidence to support their claims.
I don’t believe I am alone in this tension. It seems to me that this is where Jesus lived. He had authentic, loving, legitimate friendships with people whom the religious of his day treated with disdain. And He was quick to point out that the religious folks were just as sinful as His close friends. At the same time, Jesus was honest with both groups about their sin. This is very important to consider.
As in part 1 of this post, I do encourage evangelicals to have conversations with LGBT friends. (But if that’s the only conversation you are having with them, there’s a good chance you are using them and not loving them.) Ignoring and shunning a group of people based upon their sin is hypocritical (because we are ALL sinners), anti-missional (because the mission of God is to redeem sinners), and anti-gospel (because Christ died for us ‘while we were yet sinners). LGBT people are not our enemies –they are our fellow citizens on earth to whom we are called to “be at peace with everyone…” (Romans 12:18).
Of course, we know that the message of God’s Word is offensive to many –Jesus told us it would be (John 15:18-21). However, we are never called to deliver his Word in an offensive manner. To do so is a far greater sin –the sin of misrepresenting Christ.
I believe you will find that most LGBT people, when treated with dignity and respect, are equally willing to have conversations and friendship with evangelicals. Just remember, conversation implies that you listen, genuinely listen, at least as much as you speak. And friendship implies that you consider them as person -not as a project.
So, now for part 2, WHAT exactly should the content of our conversation consist of when we discuss LGBT issues and same-sex marriage?
Be clear about your belief in the Bible. Be upfront about the fact that you believe the Bible is God’s authoritative Word. Let the person know that your beliefs and convictions are based upon a traditional, evangelical view of Scripture. This will be helpful so that the person understand the worldview perspective you are drawing from. Explain that you believe the Bible teaches that the practice of homosexuality is sinful (more on this below) but not beyond the grace of God.
Do Not Talk About “Their Sin” Without Talking About “Your Sin.” Consider that you are talking about THEIR SIN –in the open. That’s not comfortable for anyone. Don’t quote I Corinthians 6:9 without sharing verse 11: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral… nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you.” Even more important, don’t neglect the hope found in the rest of verse 11: “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Ask, Don’t Assume. Perhaps you have been hurt by someone assuming you are a bigot because you identify as evangelical. Don’t be guilty of doing the same thing to an LGBT person. Instead, ask and listen before assuming you know what they think or how they feel.
Don’t Group all LGBT Persons in the Same Group. Just like the term “Christian” could include a wide array of viewpoints, the LGBT community is composed of various perspectives. Some LGBT people did not support same-sex marriage while others did. Some prefer to remain private with their lifestyle while others choose to be public. Differences of opinion within the LGBT community also exist among issues regarding adoption, fostering, education, and legislation, etc. Such differences highlight the value of conversation all the more.
Don’t Group all Christians Together Either. Acting as if you are the spokesperson for all of Christendom is arrogant and assumes everyone believes what you believe. Be careful to exhibit your awareness of the diversity among believers. This is not a call to be reserved with your convictions, rather to be intellectually honest in expressing them.
Never Misquote or Misrepresent the Bible Just to Make a Point. Misrepresenting the Bible is misrepresenting God –that’s akin to Satan’s rhetoric with Eve (ie. “Did God really say…” Genesis 3:1).
Share Scripture Defining The Biblical Position on Homosexuality. Here are a few to consider:
- The Bible says absolutely nothing positive about homosexuality. Any argument that says otherwise is based upon the premise that “the text doesn’t mean what it seems to mean.”
- The Bible clearly defines homosexuality as sin (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Timothy 1:9-10).
- Jesus addressed the issue of homosexuality. In Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9, He affirms God’s design for marriage as between male and female. Further, in Mark 7:21, Jesus condemned the sin of porneia which can be found in Greek literature with reference to adultery, fornication, prostitution, and homosexuality.
- Paul’s word choice for homosexuality (I Tim. 1:9-10) is not “up for interpretation.” If anything, he went out of his way to use specific language that would not cause confusion. If, as some have suggested, he was referring to another sin such as pederasty, he could have used other terminology. Instead, he intentionally coined a term from the Septuagint translation of Mosaic Law forbidding sex between two men.
- The Bible makes it clear that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). And, while every sin is not equal (ie. murder vs. lying), we are all equally condemned as sinners. “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1). Therefore, we must never approach others as though we are judge and jury. Instead, we come as fellow sinners pointing to our only hope who came “into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18).
This is an extremely abbreviated list. For an excellent resource, I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?