Bridging the Gap Between the Church and the Gay Community
My last two articles have been dealing with the issue of understanding the worldview and arguments used by the LGBTQ community. I never want to address these subjects as though I am giving Christians ammo to go and blast the unbelievers. Instead, my hope is that, by understanding the issue better, you might be more courageous in your love and compassion toward those with an opposing worldview.
The problem we face does not simply lie fully on the shoulders of those with whom we disagree. Perhaps some of the blame falls on us as believers as well.
The church can often be selective in which sins we overlook and which sins we publicly protest. We might be extremely vocal on issues like abortion and gay marriage, yet some tend to give little voice towards sins like gluttony, adultery, greed and envy.
Scripture does not teach that all sins are the same, and I agree that we should be vocal on issues as important as those, but we should also be just as involved in dealing with the sins of adultery, divorce and greed that exist within the church. When we focus all our attention on the sins of the world and not the sins within the pews, the outside world looks at us as hypocrites.
We should not be surprised when lost people act like lost people, but it should convict us when believers act frequently like unbelievers. This is important because, if I am going to be consistent, I must deal with the sin in my life with the same fervor that I address the sins of the world.
I have heard many sermons in my time where atheists or members of the LGBTQ were mocked or used as a punch line. My stomach would sink thinking of what message might be sent to those struggling with these sins if they happened to be sitting among us. Would they feel like the church was a place of grace where they could come and seek counseling or wisdom on an issue if they had already been maligned from the pulpit?
Perhaps, in response to an ever-changing world, we have built little communities that are safe from any conflicting ideas. We have our own music genres, clothing stores, movies and even video games. It’s like we created invisible walls where Christians can live without ever engaging a lost person. If we know our crowd is predominantly Christian it’s easy to get away with making fun of the lost world on a regular basis. This creates an “us versus them” mentality instead of recognizing that they are not the enemy but merely victims of the enemy.
A friend of mine who is a new believer recently went to a woman’s conference where someone spoke of a lesbian she had met in a mocking and graceless way. This confused her because she thought the church was supposed to be a place where the sick found love and truth.
If we truly want to make some ground in helping the LGBTQ community it begins by getting to know them as an individual instead of just as a problem to be shouted down. Be careful of how you joke with your friends on this subject. We wouldn’t make fun of someone struggling with divorce or alcoholism and the same compassion should be shown to those struggling with same sex attraction. Most of the things I know about this community have not come from a book but from deep conversations with those who live that lifestyle.
I have pastored places where gays and lesbians were welcomed with open arms, yet we never had to water down the truth. I had planned for weeks to teach on sexuality one Sunday when a person whom I knew identified as gay walked through the door. I’m thankful I did not feel the need to change my sermon in order to make them feel comfortable. I taught simply what Scripture says, and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable.
I know Scripture makes me uncomfortable whenever it talks about my sin. Yet I tried to hold high the light of truth, grace and hope that is found in Jesus. I shared my own imperfection and struggles and let them know that the only thing that separates my sin from theirs is that I have received grace and forgiveness, and Jesus offers that to everyone regardless of what their past looks like.
To sum this up, I suggest we simply take the words of Paul seriously when he tells us in Ephesians to, “speak the truth in love.” Instead of avoiding those who have that sin in their life, invite them over for dinner. Show them hospitality and compassion, and look for teachable moments where you can share with them the truth and freedom found in Jesus.