21 April 2009

An evangelical's plea: Love the sinner

I've been hanging around Northeast Ohio this last week.  Watching the news in the US and reading US newspapers. I really appreciated this article in today's issue of USA Today: An evangelical's plea: 'Love the sinner'

Here are some home truths from the article, in my opinion:
Evangelicals often speak of lesbians and gay men as if they have some sort of medical disease that we experts have diagnosed and can easily cure with a simple, biblical prescription.
(Disclaimer: I do know people who would be far more sympathetic and far less crass than this whilst still maintaining that homosexual sex is wrong. However - especially as a minister - I frequently hear people dismiss homosexual orientation as being a 'lack of discipline' as if the monogamy that is considered an honourable discipline for heterosexual people is a wanton lack of impulse-control when it is 'committed' by gay people.)

And here is an important insight that applies not just to the issue of homosexuality but also to any other issue where Christians disagree with the prevailing culture (bolding mine):
Unfortunately, some evangelical groups, such as the Family Research Council and Vision America, oppose even minor concessions, claiming we should not "normalize" homosexuality in our culture. But, these groups seemingly fail to realize that our role as Christians is not to delegitimize the existence of those who do not share our beliefs. Our job is to mirror Christ by loving people in spite of our differences and advocating for our culture's disenfranchised groups. Only then can we effectively share with them the reasons that we believe our beliefs are most compelling.
It seems to me that much popular Christian rhetoric is devoted to trying to delegitimize the thoughts of those who don't agree with us. Even though Jesus told us that his way would always go against that of the world, we often act as if our own beliefs can't possibly be legitimate unless and until 'the world' agrees with us.  Newsflash: That ain't gonna happen.

And, a final important insight that also applies to issues beyond homosexuality:
Scripture says the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, gives life. A spirit of love in public policy is one that all Christians can support.
If the 26-year-old self-identified evangelical author of this article is anything to go by, it would seem that there is hope for Christianity in the US after all.  Thank God for the younger generation.


Teri said...

Yes, yes. "It's the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law." I agree with your post on many levels. The emphasis should be on compassion. Absolutely.

And on the letter of the law, what I get from reading the gospel (again, as a layperson) is that Jesus continually turns it on its ear, so to speak. Just when we think we've gotten it right, we realize that the bar is immeasurably high. I think this is to show us all that we don't earn God's grace, it's given, as we're all sinners. It's all sin--the many ways we don't love our neighbor as ourself, infidelity, and perhaps homosexual sex (to name a few). However, pointing to one sin as worse than the other misses the point, I think. We all are sinners and rely on God's grace to get in right relationship, regardless of our sin. None of us are blameless.

As to the biblical take on homosexuality. I struggle with this and err on the side of compassion, as stated above. I think people are born one way or the other. I think Jesus would show compassion and honor the fidility people have for one another either in gay or straight unions. I believe in allowing gay marriage for that reason, it gives people the opportunity to make that commitment before God and community. That brings forth the opportunity to reflect Gods love in commitment to one another.

But that's just my opionion. I don't have the biblical stuff to back it up.

Doorman-Priest said...

"But, these groups seemingly fail to realize that our role as Christians is not to delegitimize the existence of those who do not share our beliefs."

Preach it Sister!

jay said...

Just thought I'd add my bit :) In agreement with Teri and Doorman-Priest:

As a gay Christian, and an evangelical based one at that (no gay evangelical is not an oxymoron) I have found my faith in Christ to be an ongoing learning curve.

In the debate about homosexuality there sometimes tends to be an infusion of pride and dogmatic behaviour.

This for me is sad, as a gay person, because quite often those involved leave out the most important part - the fact that the Lord wants us to have a personal relationship with him, not obeying a way of being before we are deemed to be able to, or in some church parlance, being "allowed" to, have a relationship with him. That is Gods decision not the church leadership decision. Their only decision is whether or not a certain person can belong to or be a member of their church. They have no say as to whether or not God wants to have a relationship with that person. (A look towards Jesus would be applicable don't you think?)

However, by having a relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, and through the outpouring and influence and help of the guidance of the Holy Spirit every believer will, not should, change.

I say will and not should because a relationship is not dominated by rules and regulations and should not be dominated by roles and responsibility modules. When one is in a relationship of any sort one changes, be it because they want to please that person or through an adaptation of a way of relating to and being within that relationship. It is however a two way thing, as all relationships should be, and good ones are.

For me my relationship with God changed me (no I am not now heterosexual; another story for another day) because I came to be influenced by God, through the Holy Spirit, and much less so through bible study, through fellowship and friendship with other Christians.

When the debate about homosexuality is just about, "you should not", and not about allowing God to work through that person, then the two sides of the debate will always be anthropically centred and not God centred. No man makes a person change their ways but God does.

I can almost feel the tension when the two 'sides' are talking, with one saying it says in the bible you are an abomination and the other side saying I am what I am! And God saying will you let me in. Let me work on your self righteousness and lack of compassion (the former stance) and on your view that your experience of your identity overrules everything and anything else regardless (the latter stance).

Let God in and let the Holy Spirit guide you. God will change you in ways you'll never know or thought about :)! And I say that to both sides in the debate.

Once again, thank you for being there Pam.

PamBG said...

Jay - thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment which bears a number of re-readings, I think!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I appreciate the thoughts here, and I struggle over this issue as one who believes that all homosexual sexual activity is proscribed in Scripture. Yes, sure, there are gay Christians who most certainly know the Lord. I believe that. And normally they find their orientation as natural to themselves. Paul in Romans though says it's against nature and God's creation. And with other passages, I end up having to side with the view I have, given my hermeneutical understanding of Scripture.

As Teri says, we're indeed all sinners, always in need of God's grace. And we do know in part, though some things have been given for us to know by faith.

Relationship is foremost, but God's commands are likewise important. You can't divorce the two.

Thanks to Jay, too, for his good words here. Blessings on him and on all other gay believers.