Sunday, October 19, 2014

Setting the Record Straight

How are Christians to respond to homosexuals? New legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is having an impact on many businesses run by Christians. Christians have been forced to think through that question to an answer that is both biblical and kind.

It is clear that God loves all regardless of who we are. He loves all regardless of our sin, and we all are sinners. If God loves all, then it is incumbent upon us to love all.  That includes heterosexuals, homosexuals, and those confused about their sexual identity. It includes murderers, child abusers, liars, the greedy, the sexually promiscuous, and, yes, sexually active homosexuals. We naturally discriminate between sins, making some more serious - and unforgivable - than  others. God does not. Paul writes,
"everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free." (GNT)
So the first rule we must follow is to love. But that still leaves us with the problem of how to deal with the sin.

If we have a neighbor who is a serial killer, love would lead us to call the police. It would be the loving thing to do both for our neighbor and everyone who might be in danger. If we have a neighbor who is a thief, we would do the same - out of love. But those are both recognized as crimes in our society. What about "sins" that are not crimes?

The truth is that Christians have a poor track record here. We overlook some sins and focus on others. We in America are inclined to consider divorce, for example, as regrettable, but not a sin. The Bible would say otherwise. We think of gossip and gluttony undesirable, but not sin. Yet they too are regarded as sin in the Bible. We overlook most lies, even excusing them in ourselves, yet lying is clearly a sin. Yet when it comes to homosexuals, we instantly call out their sin. If we overlook some sins in ourselves and call out sins in others, that is hypocritical.

We need our thinking corrected. But the solution is not to overlook sin, either in ourselves or others. It is to confront lovingly. But when and how?

My wife and I have both had friends and co-workers who were sexually active homosexuals. Neither of us felt it appropriate to confront them with that sin. There might be a time to do that, a time when we could lovingly do that, but we never felt it was the right time. There were bigger issues. None of these people were Christians. Their bigger need was to know that God loves them, and we decided that loving them was our role.

Of course, if they were to respond to God's love, the sin would need to be dealt with. It would stand in the way as every sin does of any relationship with God. That would be the time to speak. Sin needs to be repented of and forsaken if anyone is to walk with God, be that sin pornography, hate, stealing, lying, or homosexual relations.

Those are simple biblical principles: love and lead that person to the Savior and when it is time urge them to repent of their sin. The pressing issue because of the recent legislation requiring no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is HOW to love the sinner without approving of the sin.

Specifically, can I as a Christian photographer participate in a same-sex wedding? Would that be participating in what is a sin? Can I as a baker participate by providing the wedding cake? Can I as a pastor participate by performing the ceremony? Those all have been real issues for real people in the last few years.

The law says if you are providing a service to the public as a businessman, you cannot refuse to do so on the basis of sexual orientation. But what of our conscience?

Each Christian in those situations must decide. Many Christians have chosen to kindly and without intending any offense decline to participate in those ways. It has cost some of them long drawn-out lawsuits, fines, and the loss of their businesses. So be it. Jesus said that we would suffer persecution if we walk his path. He did. Why should we expect otherwise.  

The one thing that we should not do is retaliate in hate or seek to hurt. Jesus did not. We should not. He continued to love those who murdered him. We can do the same in our much less serious trials.

We do live in America, however. And like Paul who at times called upon his rights as a Roman citizen when he was mistreated or falsely accused of a crime we have rights. We can call upon our rights. We have the right to speak in opposition to the direction our society is taking. We have the right to exercise our faith as we see fit. We have the right to challenge the legality of legislation that forces us to violate our conscience and biblical principles.

If we do, however, we must do so without vitriol or violence.  Martin Luther King Jr. provided a model for us of non-violent protest. He was willing to take the abuse and go to jail for the principle of freedom. And it is our privilege to do the same. And it may come to that. Being careful to let love be always at the forefront of every response.

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