LGBT, Grace and the Church
After four years at a Christian college, my first job was at a Peaberry Coffee in Colorado. I quickly found out that I was no longer in the bubble of an intentional, Christian community. Misha, one of my fellow baristas, had long, black hair and sometimes wore a dress to work. Misha was bisexual. But Misha was one of the nicest people I had ever met. He taught me the intricacies of making the perfect coffee drink. He didn’t hold it against me that I was a Christian and I treated him with love and grace. It was a pretty eye opening experience for me. I had grown up with the idea that those on the other side of the political and religious aisle were living evil lifestyles. I was totally blindsided by the fact that Misha and others in the LGBT community I have met since exhibited more love than some Christians I know.
I firmly believe that the defining issue for my generation of Christ followers is how we respond to those in the LGBT community. Currently it seems like most in the church take one of two approaches. The first is to emphasize that those who are LGBT are living in sin and that the church should work against gay marriage in the political system. The second approach is to argue that homosexuality is not a sin and we should be embracing the LGBT community.
Can we hold to the Truth of Scripture and embrace all with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ? I believe there can be a third option.
Here is my attempt to outline how we can hold to the principles of sexuality in Scripture yet show unconditional love and grace to those who have been burned and booted out of the church.
We all are sinners in need of the grace of God
The apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:22-24, “This righteousness is given through faith int Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” We are all sinners who need the grace of God. When we rush to point out the sins of others we are forgetting the sin that eats away at us and separates us from God. Let us first recognize our own sin and humbly seek God on our knees. This will radically change how we treat others.
God loves each person deeply
John writes in 1 John 4:9-10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God created each of us and loves us deeply. He sent his Son so that we could be in a relationship with him. I believe that God is deeply saddened when some in the church don’t exhibit love to those in the LGBT community. God created all and loves all.
Sexuality is sacred
In the beginning God created Adam and Eve to unite sexually and become one in marriage. Before sin entered the picture, they exhibited the perfect relationship where they could be naked together and feel no shame. God created Adam and Eve to connect sexually. He designed the male and female anatomy for the magical connection that can happen during sex. Man and woman were built for each other and the sacred act that is sex. But as the creation narrative sets it up, sex is created for marriage. It is in the commitments of marriage that we can show our true selves and be transparent.
Philip Yancey writes, “Confining sex to marriage does not guarantee that we will realize anything beyond physical gratification in our sex lives. It may, however, create an environment of safety, intimacy, and trust where the true meaning of sex, the sacramental meaning, may at times break through. Marriage provides the security we need to experience sex without restraint, apart from guilt, danger, or deceit. Teenagers worry that they will miss out on something if they heed the Bible’s warnings against premarital sex. Actually, the warnings are there to keep them from missing out on something. Fidelity sets a boundary in which sex can run free.”
Sex is sacred and created for the marriage between a man and a woman.
Sex Outside of Marriage is a Sin
God created marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman. Sex outside of this committed relationship is a sin. The reason I focus on this definition of sin is because young people who call themselves Christians are engaging in sex outside of marriage more prevalently these days. The writer of Hebrews explains, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” This includes sex between two men and between two women. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “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.” For an in-depth explanation of the translation of these verses, check out this post by Dr. Craig Blomberg.
I believe that as a church we have focused so much on condemning homosexuality as a sin that we have failed to uphold the sacredness of sex within the safety of marriage. Sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is considered a sin in the eyes of God. We can explain our way around this but as we do, we tear at the sacredness of sex within marriage as God created it.
Legislating Morality is not the Church’s Role
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” Part of the error of the church has been trying to legislate our morality. We are so quick to legislate our beliefs on those outside the church, but slow to correct those within the church. I have honestly never seen biblical confrontation happen within a church. But I have seen a lot of Christians trying to force Christian beliefs and morals on those outside the church. It is no wonder that people outside the church don’t really like Christians.
Our role as a church is to further the Gospel through loving those outside the church unconditionally. I believe that we have wasted far too much energy as Christians in politics. The local church is the hope of the world not the Republican or Democratic Party.
How Should the Church Embrace the LGBT Community?
I believe Andrew Marin is an excellent example of how the church should embrace the LGBT community. He has immersed himself in the community life of the LGBT Boystown neighborhood in Chicago and loves his neighbors unconditionally. Find out more about his ministry here.
As a church we need to lead with unconditional love. We need to stop emphasizing that same gender sex is a sin. We need to stop trying to legislate our morality. We need to start following the example of biblical figures like Daniel who lived as exiles in a foreign land. I believe we can still hold up the sacredness of sex within marriage and embrace the LGBT community.
I want to be part of church where those in the LGBT community and those who are straight can openly talk about their need for a Savior. I want to be a part of a church where we can hold up the principles in Scripture and not run from what the Bible says about sexuality. I have yet to find this church but my belief is that Jesus’ life showed that we can hold up both Truth and unconditional love at the same time.