Friday, July 03, 2015

L.O.V.E. the LGBT


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“No one cares what you know until they know that you care,” Howard Hendricks wrote in Teaching to Change Lives. [1] I believe it’s clear what the Bible says about homosexual lifestyle (Read Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11). Evangelical philosopher William Lane Craig put the biblical stance this way:
Does the Bible in fact forbid homosexual behavior? Now notice how I put that question. I did not ask, does the Bible forbid homosexuality, but rather does the Bible forbid homosexual behavior? This is an important distinction. Being homosexual is a state or an orientation; a person who has a homosexual orientation might not ever express that orientation in actions. By contrast, a person could engage in homosexual acts even if he has a heterosexual orientation. Now what the Bible condemns is homosexual actions or behavior, not having a homosexual orientation. The idea of a person’s being a homosexual by orientation is a feature of modern psychology and may have been unknown to people in the ancient world. What they were familiar with was homosexual acts, and this is what the Bible forbids. [2]
Our concern now is how do we speak the truth in love to them? I came up with the L.O.V.E. acronym to summarize how we can reach out to them in a caring manner. 

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First, LOVE them. The flip side of “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 39) We are called to be a loving neighbor to everybody. In 2011, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz backed out from his live interview in the annual Global Leadership Summit with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek, due to an online petition that accused his church of homophobia. Hybels responded,
Willow [is] not anti-gay, Willow [is] not anti-anybody. Our church was founded on the idea that people matter to God. All people. All people of all backgrounds, all colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. [3]
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Second, OPPOSE discrimination against them. James 2:1 warns against discrimination: “My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others.” (Contemporary English Version) When I was a teenager, a devout religious woman told me not to patronize beauty parlors. Instead, she said, I should go to barber shops. When asked why, she replied, “If you have your haircut there, I’m condoning their homosexual lifestyle.” It was a starve-them-so-they-could-not-support-their-lifestyle strategy. But what if the barber was a philanderer? So, going by the same argument, am I condoning his womanizing, too? The issue is skill, not sexual preference. Plus, how can we reach out to people if we isolate ourselves from them? 

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Then, VEER away from making fun of them. Ephesians 4:29 commands us, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (New Living Translation) Gay jokes would only encourage discrimination. It’s not about being too sensitive (or onion-skinned). It’s about being sensitive (or, respectful) to their feelings. Craig wrote
Vulgar words or jokes about homosexuals should never pass the lips of a Christian. If you find yourself feeling glad when some affliction befalls a homosexual person or you find feelings of hatred welling up in your heart toward homosexual people, then you need to reflect long and hard on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew: “it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgement for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you” (Mt. 10.15; 11.24). [4]
Lastly, EXPRESS God’s Word graciously. According to Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (NLT) Hybels explained how they “handle” the LGBT issue in their church.
Now what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the Scriptures—which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else. But even as we challenge all of our people to these biblical standards, we do so with grace-filled spirits, knowing the confusion and brokenness that is rampant in our fallen world. And at Willow we honor the journey of everyone who is sincerely attempting to follow Christ. [5]
“We honor the journey of everyone who is sincerely attempting to follow Christ,” Bill Hybels. Image credit

We could—and should—be gracious. Don’t hit people on the head with the Bible. I remember talking to a gay hairdresser who told me, “Pastor, I already know what the Bible says about people like me. In God’s time.” And I told him, “We will journey with you.” Change takes time and it’s God who does it as the person obeys Him. 

Brothers and sisters, let us L.O.V.E. the LGBT.

[1] Howard Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives (OR: Multnomah, 1987), 90.

[2] William Lane Craig, “A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality,” Reasonable Faith, retrieved from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/. Emphasis added.

[3] Ted Olsen (2011, August 11), “Bill Hybels on CEO Howard Schultz’s Withdrawal: ‘Buy a Starbucks and Show Some Christian Goodwill,’” Christianity Today, retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/. Emphasis added.

[4] Craig. Emphasis added. 

[5] Olsen. Emphasis added.