“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
I am quoting the Bible first, and affirming that I believe with all my heart what it says about homosexuality, because I do not want this to be either a hate-filled screed or an obscurantist apology. First of all, it is wrong to hate what Christ commanded us to love, and He commanded us to love our enemies. Homosexuals and everyone who does not hold to the Gospel are our enemies, and yet they must be our loved ones. It is of tantamount importance that Christians, in our words and deeds, express our love for men and women who have fallen into homosexuality, and just as importantly, express our hatred for their sins.
If only the solution was simple, right? It is really damn hard to love the part of a person that can, by God, be made lovely, while hating the part that must be excised for this to happen. It is incredibly difficult and, between Christians and homosexuals, rarely done. Our love for them CANNOT come from compromising the Bible’s very strong words on sodomy, and our hatred for sodomy CANNOT come from compromising the Bible’s even stronger words on love.
That is the knife-edge that we must attempt to walk, and I’ll be very frank: Christians are failing. Homosexuality does indeed elicit fear in conservative Christians. Some of us fear the growing cultural influence of a demographic with values so alien to our own. Some of us fear that if we meet homosexuality with anything less than revulsion, then we will be seen as soft or effeminate–or even homosexual. Some of us are simply nauseated by the idea of homosexual activity, and this clouds our judgment. But I think most of us are afraid that we will experience homosexual temptation ourselves.
I think most Christians respond to homosexual people the way they respond to homosexual temptation: with fear and revulsion. This is wrong. Homosexuals are people. That means they are redeemable. They have inside them the spark that can become faith in Jesus Christ, the seed that can change their lives. And revulsion is not the sort of hatred that immoral activity should elicit: it does not help us to disgusted by homosexuality. We need to hate it. And we need to love them. As I said, it’s not easy.
A brief digression: As fear and revulsion have no place in dealing with homosexuals, neither are they permissible with temptation, even homosexual temptation. We are always tempted. Christ was tempted. Did He fear? Was He disgusted by the devil? No doubt we would have been, in His place. But isn’t the whole point that He was in our place? Christ looked at temptation as an obstacle between Him and the Father, an obstacle to be surmounted. And He was not disgusted by the Devil. He hated Satan, because Satan was the reason for the endless parade of horrors that crowd this world. We must hate and overcome temptation (never alone! Always with and within Christ!), not fear it or let it churn our stomachs.
The modern Christian response to homosexuality contains altogether too much fear, not enough hate, and nowhere near enough love.
Everyone with a functional brain and body should know how alluring and devastating sexual temptation is. I do not know why, past the powerful, corrupted, hormonal responses, but I do believe this: that of every ten men who have fallen away from the church, one fell away from an intellectual loss of belief, and the other nine fell away because they couldn’t give up on sin, quite often sexual sin.
It’s nearly useless to discuss whether homosexuality is “worse” than other sexual sin. I believe consenting sodomy is worse than consenting hetero adultery, but less evil than rape. But why does that matter? A man drowning under ten thousand feet of water, or sin, is just about as much of a goner as one drowning under a couple thousand more gallons. We all need Christ even to breathe, let’s not forget that.
The homosexuality question is pushing Christians farther and father out of the American mainstream. Who cannot foresee that “hate speech laws” will soon extend to pulpits? It seems obvious to me that the church will be prosecuted, in my lifetime, for not accepting the overwhelming cultural and scientific consensus about gays, lesbians, queers, transgenders, and asexuals. And weak Christians will forget the Bible’s injunctions and try to smuggle rainbow-draped illegal immigrants into the Church, and will fail.
Whether or not that happens, our response to homosexuals seems clear to me, but not easy. It involves love and hate, not tolerance or fear. If you meet a homosexual, and he confronts you about your beliefs, maybe you could say this to him:
I think you’re wrong to act as you do. God created sex for men and women to share together. But when we started sinning, we couldn’t stop, and we began to throw out the laws God put in place. And that led to homosexuality. It’s not a new or hip thing, it’s been around for thousands of years. I do not hate or fear you, I hate your sin and I love you because you are an example of God’s creative majesty, or at least, you can be. I also do not think that, without Christ, I would be any better than you. I have undergone, given in to, resisted, and been forgiven for temptations as bad as yours or worse. This is not me preaching to you, this is me offering Christ to you.
There are many factors that may have led you to where you are now. Confusion about sexual feelings that were never properly explained to you, an absent father, a feeling that you aren’t as manly as other men, or maybe a desire to ‘fit in’ with the newest overpowering cultural trend. Whichever of these it was, I’m here to tell you that it’s wrong. You are not going to want to listen, because this sin is part of you on a deep level, no one would deny that. But you can be free, not by ‘praying the gay away,’ or at least, not only, but by throwing yourself at the feet of Christ, with a broken and contrite heart, and begging for His cleansing forgiveness. This is the hardest thing you will ever do, and the most important, and the most worthwhile. Please, come with me and we will talk to my pastor, and pray, and read a certain book that has much to offer you.
Maybe he’ll listen, maybe he won’t. But this I know: our ears work fine until someone is trying to fix what’s wrong with us, and only Christ can make us take the tough medicine. We should not promise homosexuals, in trying to bring them back to the church, that we have the power to make them “normal.” Christ does, and He uses it, but not in every instance–but He will redeem whatever house, however battered and burnt, where He is invited in.
I have not read the book Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill, but as I understand it, he is a man who identifies as a “homosexual” because that is simply where his temptations trend. He calls himself a gay, celibate, Christian. I can think of people who will see definite contradictions between the first and last words. “Gay” is an absurd cultural fabrication that has nonetheless caught on, but it has cultural baggage. There are people who do not have, or rarely have, any sexual temptation besides homosexual. They can, if they wish, call themselves that. But Wesley Hill is not a practicing homosexual, he is a man who loves God (as far as I know, and I hope that it is true), admitting his brokenness before God and awaiting the coming of the One who can heal him.
Let us not condescend. Are our temptations and sins really any better than his? Of course they aren’t. Wesley Hill is rejecting sexual relations, one of the hardest things any human has ever done, to serve his God, because that God commanded it. This is a courageous thing. Let us admit it, and our own failings in dealing with men like him–and with the ones who can, with Christ’s love and the Gospel, become like him.
So, a man is wasting away under the weight of sin, and yet there still remains a stave or two of the sturdy stock from which God made man. What can we do but love this man, whom God loved enough to create, and hate this wasting disease that will kill him if we do not stop it? Let us administer the gospel and sever the sin from the man until the man can, like we all must, become washed and begin to wait.