The other day I shared the gospel with a friend, and he responded in a way I didn't expect. He said, “I believe in Jesus; I just don’t believe that gay people are going to hell.”
This was surprising, because A) we hadn't been talking about homosexuality at all, and B) I also don’t believe that gay people are going to hell. But he had made that assumption—as he then explained, that’s what he “knew” the church believed—and he took issue with that perceived fact.
It’s easy to see, therefore, how the ongoing debate about homosexuality and same-sex marriage is dividing the church and driving some non-believers away. There are a lot of assumptions and misunderstandings, on all sides, and confusion within the Christian community about how to reconcile all that’s going on.
Part of the problem, as evidenced by my friend’s reaction, is that homosexual activity has been given some kind of different, special status. He didn't say, “I just don’t believe that alcoholics are going to hell,” or “I just don’t believe that a heterosexual couple who sleep together outside of marriage are going to hell.” But according to the Bible, those statements are all equivalent (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
So why are they treated differently? Partly, it’s because no one is calling for drunkard’s rights or asking to make shoplifting legal. For some people within the church, I imagine it might have something to do with familiarity: you’re not likely to say anything against heterosexual sin if you’re actively engaged in it, for instance.
For others within the church, though, they treat homosexuality differently because they want to be loving. In recent years, anything that doesn't actively affirm a homosexual lifestyle is often called “hate,” and hate goes against everything a Christian is supposed to be. Besides, according to the popular narrative of the day, homosexuality is a predisposition that cannot, and even should not, be fought. And if God makes someone that way, then surely God is OK with them behaving that way, right?
All such Christians have to do, then, is ignore the Bible. Disregard God’s Word, the very source of their hope. And ignore the fact that we’re all prone to sin; that there’s about as much evidence for genetic predispositions for alcoholism and violence as for homosexuality; and that if we can use predispositions and feelings as an excuse, then there is no sin and Jesus is not a Savior.
I fully agree that Christians should be loving (John 13:34-35). In fact, we should be the most loving group on the planet towards those in a homosexual lifestyle, or in any other lifestyle or situation you could name.
But I might lovingly disagree about how to do that.
The Bible talks a lot about truth and love (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 13:6; 1 John 3:18; 2 John 1:3; etc.). There’s a reason for that: you can’t really have love without truth. For example, if someone’s about to buy my old car and I know for a fact that the wheels are about to fall off, the loving thing to do would be to tell them the truth. It might cost me the sale, but it would save my integrity. Or if a friend is engaging in behavior that you know will cause harm to themselves or others around them, and they don’t seem to realize it, the loving thing to do would be to tell them the truth and try to save them that pain (Proverbs 27:6).
So if you want to truly be loving, you have to tell the truth. And here’s how you can do that.
Truth in Love
If a friend is an unbeliever, and is a practicing homosexual, you tell them the truth:
Jesus loves them. He’s crazy about them. He loves them so much that He willingly died for them. The death was necessary because we all have sinned, and no sin is really any different: whether it’s a single lie or serial murder, any sin leaves us short of God’s standard of perfection. There’s nothing we can do to be “good enough,” but if we accept the free gift of Christ’s payment for our sins, we can lead a full life on earth and have eternal life with Him.
That’s good news; it’s true; and it’s the most loving thing you could possibly do for them.
And if you know a believer, someone you’re in community with, who is engaging in homosexual acts or struggling with any sin, you tell them the truth:
Jesus loves them. He’s crazy about them. He still forgives them. He also wants what’s best for them. He can change them; they don’t have to be slaves to alcohol, drugs, pornography, heterosexual addiction, homosexual addiction, codependency, eating disorders, gambling, greed, or anything. None of those bring life, and He came to give you life to the full (John 10:10).
The chorus to Macklemore’s “Same Love” (sung by Mary Lambert) states:
I can't change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
Defeatist as that may be, in a way it can be true. We sometimes don’t have the ability to change ourselves. But God does have the power to change us; to make us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). I've seen it many times. I've seen it in my own life, where He took someone addicted to sex and pornography, a materialistic lover of money who came to church hung over from the night before, and turned me into a pastor. I may have some of the same predispositions, and still sin sometimes, but overall my life has seen a radical change.
This life is so short, though. Eternity’s very long. Whatever may happen or not happen in this life, the only thing that really matters is where you’ll spend eternity. And that’s not based on what you do, but what Christ did for you.