There is certainly a lot of strongly held beliefs out there in regards to homosexuality, so in light of this, I think it will be helpful to look at some “facts” (that is, certain ascertains which I believe to be relatively hard to deny, though I wouldn’t put it beyond people to try):
- There are homosexuals in our world.
- There are people who practiced homosexuality, but who later happily and successfully switched to being heterosexual (meaning they considered themselves to be heterosexual and engaged only in this type of sexual activity).
- For everyone one of the above people, there are probably more homosexuals (I’m guessing many more) who have honestly and sincerely tried to become heterosexual, who may have even tried to go to counseling, etc. for years, but who have not ceased to have homosexual desires.
I state this because conservative evangelicals will want to point to the fact that some people have changed. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that everyone can change their sexual orientation at will, nor does it prove that homosexuality is a result of nurture (rather than being biological). I don’t know whether some people are born with homosexual orientation or not. While I understand why people focus on this, it is a bit of a moot point to me. It’s my observation that, whatever the source of sexual orientation is, it seems that most people can’t change it at will.
So what do we Christians do with this? I personally have come to believe that what Andrew Marin is doing is the best approach. I really love it, and think it is spot on. In a word, he loves gays. Not in a sexual nor erotic way that our culture often thinks about love, but love in terms of seeking their best, listening, respecting, and building relationships with them, relationships where they are free to be themselves without fear. I know many of you will be quite uncomfortable even with just this idea. But we do well to remember that Jesus hung out with all of the wrong people in his day: prostitutes, white collar extortionists (tax collectors), Samaritans (whom the Jews had about the same level of affection for as we do for terrorists), alcoholics, and other sinners—and Jesus was heavily criticized for this.
Do you think Jesus was popular and accepted among these people because he made sure to point out to them all of the sin in their lives at any chance he got? I certainly don’t imagine so. At the same time, I certainly don’t believe Jesus “looked the other way” or told them everything they were doing was ok and didn’t matter. Sinners tend to be pretty aware of their sin, and may well even be burdened by guilt about it. I believe what they generally most need is to know that there is hope of love and acceptance, that they aren’t so bad as to be unlovable. I think most people innately get that we aren’t good enough and that we deserve condemnation. But most people are unaware of the possibility of redemption, and many struggle to accept love.
In discussing homosexuality, conservative christians are very concerned about making sure not to give the impression that homosexuality is ok. Yet just telling someone what you believe (whether directly or through a public statement) doesn’t necessarily change anyone’s mind, especially with this issue. As I discussed recently, relationships and love are probably the biggest desire and need people have beyond basic physical necessities. When we are very clear from the beginning that we don’t accept homosexuality, this creates a barrier to building a relationship. It should be no surprise that homosexuals aren’t excited about getting to know Christians when Christians are primarily known for condemning homosexuality.
As I’ve written about before, I believe that relationships are the context for dealing with sin. I believe that we have to start with the relationship first before having a discussion about whether or not homosexuality is ok. Otherwise, the relationship will never be formed. I don’t know about you, but I’m not real open to listening to someone criticize me and/or tell what I should be doing if they haven’t first taking the time to listen to me and understand my situation.
I think that any homosexual who engages Christ and the bible will eventually have to wrestle with what the bible says about sexuality. I want to honor and respect them as equal, fellow human beings, and allow them the space to wrestle with this and come to their own conclusions. I feel I would be placing myself above them if I were to state that there is a specific conclusion which they must come to. This is why I have no problem not making a clear statement either condoning or condemning homosexuality.
Whether the issue is homosexuality or something else, I believe weren’t meant to help each other out as we walk together toward God. Again, I’m convinced that love is primary.