I feel like I must write this post. As if I really have no choice in this matter. It is as if God just keeps leading me to this place to pen these words and to share this message from Him. Many things are driving this feeling. They date all the way back to the spring of 1997. To me, then a freshman at Oklahoma Baptist University, sitting in a classroom on the second floor of Montgomery Hall listening to a General Psychology lecture from Dr. Bret Roark. The second driving force has been a song stuck in my head the past few weeks. It is a really old Rich Mullins song. When I first started singing it in my head several weeks ago I had not listened to it in months if not years. Then came an experience one Friday morning that served as both the third catalyst to this post as well as one of those moments where you just have to laugh at yourself. That day was my 34th birthday and also the day my Sister-in-law was having surgery. The day before my mother-in-law had come through town and picked up Stephanie, Bo, and our dog and gone to where Stephanie’s sister lived, so they could help with all the kids during and after the surgery. So that morning on my 34th birthday I woke up early and alone at the house and got up to go on my morning run in the neighborhood. It was before dark and I was going along a route that I have run for some time now. Well, with it still being before daybreak I was looking down a lot to see where I was stepping and at one point I just keep following the sidewalk. I knew I was getting near the end of my run and looked around and did not recognize any houses. I looked at the closest street sign and was like I need to go this way. Well it was the wrong way and I became a little bit more disoriented. Finally I realized I was on the opposite side of my neighborhood and got turned around to get back home. I will come back to all of these three catalysts during this post but I want to point out that following our own way will take us far away from our destination at times.
So what was in a single lecture and discussion in a class from my freshman year of college that still impacts me 15 years later? I mean I took 128 hours of classes in my bachelor’s degree; that is roughly just over 1,900 hours of lectures. I remember no other single lectures to be honest. I remember many concepts and ideas, and have carried forward some great connections and friendships from college, yet this is the only single lecture that I remember vividly. Part of what made this lecture and ensuing discussion so memorable was how much it shocked me and rattled my young idealistic brain. My professor shared some research and talked with us about the possibility that homosexuals really are predisposed to become that way. Coming from a very conservative, evangelical background this shocked me to the core. My first instinct was to push back and so no, there is no way. I did not tune out the professor though, instead I continued to listen to him as he shared some of the latest Biological and psychological research into the matter. What finally shook loose all of my preconceived notions was when he said that none of the research pointing to genetic and biological factors in homosexuals negated the sin of their behavior. I had never heard it put just this way. It could be something people are born with, yet it is still sin.
Recently I have thought about this much as there has been a brouhaha surrounding comments made by a fast-food chain CEO about traditional marriage and the ensuing backlash from both the media and the LGBT communities. I have repeatedly heard and read the argument that we cannot say anything critical about homosexuality because they are just born that way. Tragically I have heard that coming the loudest from some of those professing to be believers in and followers of Christ.
That is what I want to address in this post. Because while I fully believe that yes homosexuals may be born a certain way that makes them much more likely to become gay, I do not believe that clears them from that sin. I have joked that the next person that tells me to not say anything about the LGBT lifestyle because they are born that way is just going to get punched in the mouth, and when they ask why I am going to respond that I was just born with a temper and they had ticked me off. While I am not going to do that, I do think it points out the absurdity of this argument. We are all born depraved and wicked. That is why Paul quotes the Psalmist in Romans 3 and declares that no one is righteous, no not one. But does this mean that we cannot speak truth into their situation and into their lives? I do not think so.
The beauty of the Gospel is that is provides grace for us where we are. We do not have to come to God on our own, in fact we can’t. God comes to us through Christ on the cross and His subsequent resurrection and He comes to where we are in our messed up, depraved, jacked up state. The Gospel message is not a message of works or self-righteousness; it is a message of undeserved and unmerited grace. It is completely foreign to all other experiences in life. We do not get grades because the teacher likes us, or we shouldn’t. No we get the grades we earn. We get a raise at work when we have proven ourselves. I have been let go from a sales job because of a lack of productivity. Now I wish grace had been applied in that instance, but no it came down to the bottom line and what made sense for the company going forward. This notion of we get what we earn and deserve is all around us. We encounter it daily and live in the reality of it at work and at play. The only place we see something run counter to this is in the Gospel. The Gospel says you do not deserve this, you will never deserve this, but here is this gift of life and love anyway.
Now to apply this truth of the Gospel to the current topic of how to treat the LGBT community. Do they deserve the Gospel? No, they do not. But neither do I and neither do you! Can they receive the Gospel and be embraced by Jesus? Yes. Yes. And Yes!
So how should we treat them? With love and with compassion. Not as social pariahs or outcasts. However that is not enough. We also need to share the truth with them. You see it is easy to say we need to love them and have compassion on them. That sells. That seems right. That makes sense. Much like I thought I was going the right way back to my house that Friday morning, it just makes sense. However if that is all we do, if we only love on them and share mercy and compassion then we will wind up far away from where we should be, much like I did that Friday morning. You see we have to love them with the truth. Does scripture say harsh things about the homosexual lifestyle? Yes, it does. However, does scripture say hard things about certain aspects of all of our lifestyles? Yes it does. So we share the truth with them, but in a way that shows love. We cannot do one without the other. To just love people in their sin is to commend them on their way to hell. To just share truth without love is to live opposite of scripture. Is it hard to do both? Yes, but we are called to do that regardless of the difficulty level.