The recent events surrounding Chick-fil-A have given me a chance to read and think a lot about the church and its relationship to the LGBT community. Having written about how Jesus showed love without condoning sin, I wanted to explore the more practical side of what that might look like in the church.
One of the bloggers I have come across is Justin Lee who serves the gay Christian community and works to open up dialogue between what he calls “Side A” and “Side B”.
Some (“Side A”) believe God blesses monogamous same-sex relationships, and others (“Side B”) believes the Bible strongly condemns such relationships.
I would be someone who lands on Side B. And having that view is seen by many as promoting hate. Certainly groups like Westboro do nothing to help the situation. But I want to represent Jesus well. We are called to be His ambassadors to the world. I want to show love to others and I certainly don’t want to turn people off to Jesus who don’t know Him. But I do not want to endorse behavior that God says is a sin. The issue is big and complicated.
So what can a Side B church do to show love to the LGBT community?
Jon Acuff shared this church welcome sign:
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. … We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!
So how do we help the gay individual feel welcome and invited in the Side B church?
Justin Lee of GCN, during an interview talked about being welcome at a “Side B” church. He admits that is tough and what makes one person welcome may not be true for all.
Personally, I would not feel welcome in a church that teaches that I chose to be gay (I didn’t!) or that condemns me simply for admitting I’m attracted to guys. However, I have felt welcomed in so-called “Side B” churches that condemn gay relationships but still welcome gay people and encourage them to remain celibate. Many gay people would not feel welcome there.
Here are my thoughts on how a Side B church can show the love of Christ to a gay individual without compromising:
- we need to remember that all people are created in God’s image, are of infinite value, and are worthy of respect.
- we have to remember that Jesus came to save the lost which means the church should operate more like a “hospital” for the sick, not a “club” for the healthy (Mark 2:17). We are to be inviting to those seeking rest from the heavy burden of sin and guilt.
- we should understand there is big difference between someone who is attracted to people of the same sex and someone who is engaged in same-sex relationships and activity. The attraction is a temptation and not necessarily a choice. It may be part of the passions and desires of the flesh that they will have to fight with as long as they live (Gal 5:16).
- If there was no attraction or desire for things that are wrong then there would be no such thing as temptation. But we are all tempted in various ways. We should not label one set of temptations as worse than another.
- Temptation is not a sin. We should live in light of the fact that Jesus was tempted so that He could sympathize with our weaknesses and show mercy, therefore we should show compassion for those who struggle with attraction to the other sex (Heb 2:18; 4:15).
- It is possible for individuals who are struggling with attractions to the same sex to be saved and live a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- Individuals who are struggling with attractions to the same sex should be treated like any other individual in the church. They should be offered an opportunity to participate and serve as full members of the community.
- Acting on the attraction is a choice, and it is the homosexual activity that is a sin (1 Cor 6:9-10). We should deal with the individual seeking restoration in accordance with the guidelines that Jesus gave us (Matt 18:15-20).
- We should not show partiality but treat members of our church community that are engaging in homosexual activity as we would any other individual committing sexual sins (fornication, adultery).
- We should accept the reality that as long we are calling same-sex relationships morally wrong there will always be some division between the church and the LGBT community. Some will always see this as being judgmental and hateful. However we are still responsible for speaking the truth in love and not condoning sin (Isa 5:20; Eph 4:15).
How else can a Side B church show love to the LGBT community?