How Should I Interact with My Friend Who Is Gay?
In what was by far the most requested question in our “You Asked for It” series, we take a look at how to handle a controversial and challenging subject with both truth and grace.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing in our You Asked for It series this morning.
A series where we are covering your 5 most requested topics.
And today we’re covering what was not only the most requested, but also happens to be the most challenging topic
Your question was this: “How should I interact with my friend who is gay?”
This is not an easy topic.
And unfortunately, it’s a topic that when it is actually addressed by churches, it’s is rarely done well.
And so we will attempt this morning to handle this topic with grace…with truth…and present to you a Biblical, logical, and balanced perspective.
This is a topic that we could talk about for months.
So there will be many things that I’ll only be able to touch in passing today.
If you have questions…don’t hesitate to ask them…
Whether that’s me later…or your small group leader…your House Leader…or anyone.
I expect, that for a lot of people in this room, this message will be incredibly challenging to the beliefs you already hold on this topic.
For many this topic is intense, and for some, it’s incredibly personal.
All I can ask of you is that you that would would consider listening with an open mind to the teaching of God’s Word.
WHERE DO WE DETERMINE MORALITY FROM?
Our question of “How should I interact with my friend who is gay?” is a question that is looking for answers rooted in application.
However, before we get to application, we need to first take this discussion up to 10,000 feet.
Because if we don’t first decide HOW we DETERMINE morality, our application of morality will look very different.
Determining morality (what is right & wrong) is like determining which way I’m going to face before I start walking.
If I pick one starting point for the basis of morality, I might (by the time I get to application) end up way over there, and if I pick another, I’ll end up way over there.
And for many in our culture, maybe even the majority at this point, their starting point for morality is that each person gets to determine what is right for them.
The other most common starting point for morality is that God tells us what is right and what is wrong.
It follows the logic of that if there is indeed a God (if humanity wasn’t an accident), then He (because he is outside of cultures/time…because He is wiser than all of us put together)…He tells us what is truly good and truly right.
And He has revealed that to humankind in the Bible.
That idea is one of the top one or two CORE beliefs of Christianity.
Theologically, it’s called Biblical Inerrancy.
It’s the idea that the Bible is fully true in all of its teachings.
And as Christians, we hold to that teaching, because if we don’t believe the Bible is true everywhere, then how do we know it’s true anywhere?
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ON OUR ISSUE
Now…no surprise here…we’re a church, so we subscribe to the second starting point of morality
That God determines what is right and what is wrong…not each of us as individuals.
So if that’s true, what does God say about our question today?
The question of one acting out on same sex attraction?
Which by the way is an important distinction before we get started.
The Bible, when it speaks on this issue, is never speaking of PEOPLE, but of actions
As we walk through these Scriptures for a few minutes, I want you to hang with me…even if this is really hard to hear
We have to start here…but I think you might be surprised where the Bible eventually takes all of this.
By the way, I did speak on the Biblical aspect of this topic in greater detail back in 2013 in our MIXEDconceptions series…
I also spoke a bit more on what to do if you are attracted to the same sex, and since today’s message is obviously a bit more about (as the question says) interacting with someone else …I encourage many of you to look up that message from 2013 on our church website
Okay, so if we believe God determines morality, what does he say on this subject??
Let’s actually start with maybe the most controversial of the passages.
(Leviticus 18:22) – NIV
“‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
There’s a similar verse in chapter 20 as well.
In any sort of debate, this is usually the first one many try to throw out…as debaters will say, “Yeah, but in the surrounding chapters it also says “Don’t eat rare meat, don’t wear clothes of 2 materials, and don’t get tattoos”
So, it’s often said, how could that verse on same sex acts possibly mean anything if there’s a verse that says don’t get tattoos?
Well, interpreting Levitical Law (which is a minor portion of the Bible) is a little bit more complex than that. Not a lot… But a little.
Unlike the New Testament, parts of the Levitical law in the Old Testament were written specifically for the Jewish people…and therefore, not applicable to us as modern Christians.
Let me give you an easy example of this that is going to make a lot of sense to you
A large part of Leviticus, in the OT, talks about sacrificing animals.
Which, in light of the New Testament and Jesus’ sacrifice, doesn’t apply to us as Christians anymore
It was for the Jewish people.
The same is true for some other purely civic or cultural aspects of Leviticus.
For instance, the Jews were instructed to not tattoo themselves because that’s how the pagans around them worshipped God by branding each other, so that’s how the Israelites were set apart.
But that’s not our culture today.
So then, I know what you’re thinking, “Why then would we still follow any of the practices in there (like this one on same sex acts)?”
The ones we still follow (and it ends up being the majority of the law portion of the Old Testament) are the ones the relate to morality.
Things like the ten commandments.
Because God’s character and his view on morality do not (and can not) change over time.
Perhaps the most comprehensive passage on today’s subject in the Bible is from the Apostle Paul, who wrote the book of Romans…about 30 years after Jesus.
The context of this passage is that: People know God exists, yet they keep denying Him and living for their own pleasures.
And as a result of that…we’ve lost what God really wants for us
(Romans 1:24-27) – NIV
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Paul makes a pretty clear argument that acting out sexually in a same-sex relationship…is an example, just one of them (as he continues to list tons of others later on)…but an example of sin.
There are even more verses on this subject in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 put it in a list of sins as well.
You can read about it more in Genesis, or in the book of Judges as well.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that sometimes people say, “Well, Jesus never talked about same sex attraction, so HE’S okay with it in a loving relationship.”
And, yes, while it’s true that Jesus never talked about it explicitly (although I would argue that he did implicitly when he mentions sexual immorality…which is all sex outside of regular marriage), it doesn’t matter that He didn’t talk about it.
Why? Because we interpret all of the Bible as authoritative…not just Jesus’ words.
Besides, Jesus also never talked about subjects like rape or incest…and that doesn’t’ mean He’s okay with them.
WHY WE STILL STRUGGLE WITH IT?
The Bible speaks on this subject, not once, but 7 different times…sometimes at length.
The case is hard for us to hear, but it’s clear.
In fact, up until very recently in history, ALL Christian churches and scholars (across the centuries, continents, and cultures…even across denominations) unanimously read the Bible as saying the acting out in same sex attraction is sin.
And yet…despite the clarity in which the Bible communicates about this, we, as modern day Americans, still really have a hard time with.
Maybe you’re even really uncomfortable with this right now.
Why is this so difficult for us to believe as American Christians, and yet it isn’t for other Christians around the world, or even American Christians of the past?
I want to give you a couple of reasons.
One of the reasons it’s uniquely difficult for us to trust the Bible on this, is because our modern culture has led us to believe that to trust the Bible on this, is to be on “the wrong side of history.”
In the past 5 years or so, our culture has re-categorized this issue from being a moral or sexual issue, to being a civil rights issue.
It’s become a justice issue.
And therefore, for one to say that same sex acts are sinful is to be…on the wrong side of history.
And for a lot of us, we then feel something like, “Well, I don’t want to be wrong on this…like maybe many American Christians maybe were with slavery.”
And yet that’s an unfair comparison that many are making
Here’s why: A lot of people have bad facts on this, but the church has always been for the the abolition of slavery.
Sure, there were slave owners who tried to abuse the Scriptures to justify their practices.
But the church has had a consistent position on slavery from the beginning.
Go back and read decrees from the popes for the last 1,000 years!
The Bible DESCRIBES slavery (Paul speaks to slaves in their present situation), but it doesn’t PRESCRIBE it.
The whole book of Philemon is about Paul telling a guy that he needs to let a slave go free…not to mention the Book of Exodus where God Himself frees the slaves!
And moreover, it’s illogical to say that one is on the “wrong side of history” when you’re coming form the starting point that each of us get to continually choose (and adapt!) our own version of morality.
How can there even be a right side of history if “what is right” is not fixed thing?
TWO INCORRECT APPLICATIONS
And so due to the complexity of the subject, and due to the fact that the culture is rapidly taking this thing in a different direction, Christians often start applying this subject in two really incorrect ways
Here’s the first one, and it’s an embarrassing one, Christians have often responded to all of this with fear and hate.
Many Christians, in their desire to make sure everyone was clear that it is sin, have wrongly elevated it above all other sins, and thus their interactions with those who are attracted to the same sex have been incredibly poor, and unbiblical.
Many Christians have responded with arrogance, self-righteousness, and even hate.
And quite frankly it’s utterly embarrassing to the name of Christ and reflects nothing of who He truly is.
And we have a lot of apologizing to do for our actions over the last 25 years.
And yet others, in the confusion of all of this change, have reacted in a second, but also incorrect manner.
They’ve reacted, often in reaction to the hate of many Christians, and have said, “Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal, let’s just love people and say that it’s just fine”
But to dismiss it as a complete non-issue can’t be right either.
Because clearly to do this is to ignore what GOD says about the issue…and that’s a BIG deal.
THE BALANCE TO INTERSECTING THE CULTURE
There has to be a better a way.
There has to be a way to handle this topic with grace AND truth
There has to be a way to be Biblical AND loving.
Here’s really the question at hand: “Can you still love someone (be a great friend) and yet disagree with their moral choices?”
The culture says, “No you can not!”
The culture says: “Our only option in interacting with someone who identifies as gay or lesbian is to fully accept their life and actions.”
Why? Because the culture has defined love as full acceptance of everyone’s moral choices.
WHY? Because remember the culture says that YOU get to determine your own morality, and therefore if you get to determine morality for yourself (and I get to for myself), I have no right/authority to say that your life choices are wrong.
And if I say that your choices are wrong, then I must not truly love you because I’m not letting you determine your own morality.
But isn’t there a better way?
Our culture says, “There is not! It’s too hard to live in that tension.”
But it’s NOT too hard.
In fact, we can (and do!) live in this tension all the time…we just don’t realize it.
We do it as parents.
We look at our children (particularly our teenagers), and we say, “I do not agree that the moral choices you are making right now are what’s best for you; however, I still unconditionally love you”
Parents don’t say “I want my child to determine their own morality.”
No. They ascribe to the theory that there is a higher morality…that’s why we PARENT our children.
But you can still love them even when you disagree with their choices.
And this true in all sorts of situations.
Listen, this is why we have grace and forgiveness.
Those things don’t even exist when you have full acceptance for every choice, because then no one can do any wrong.
There is a better balance here.
Rather than hatred and rejection…or rather than just full acceptance and denial of God’s Word.
It’s difficult, but we need to start living out of a balanced perspective.
So how do we do this?
We do it…first of all, by doing a better job of framing sin.
Like the fact that EVERY sin is equal.
Every sin obviously has different consequences (lying obviously has a different consequence than murder)
But every sin is equal, In the sense that every sin can be forgiven by Jesus Christ
In other words, a same sex act is no less forgivable or redeemable than any sin you committed on your drive here.
Not only do we need to start recognizing that every sin is equal, but that people aren’t their sin, they’re people.
I sometimes hear people say, “You’re gay. You’re a lesbian. That’s a sin.”
We need to stop thinking like that.
You disagree with a moral act, not a person.
You wouldn’t say, “You’re heterosexual…that’s a sin…because you might sin sexually with another person”
HOW DO I SHARE MY FAITH WITH MY FRIEND WHO IS GAY?
I know it was hard work to get to the place where we can actually start applying this, but we had to do it…
But after we’ve built our morality off of the starting point of God’s viewpoint (not our own personal choices), and once we’ve decided we CAN live in the tension of disagreeing with someone’s choices, but still loving them…NOW we can start applying.
So I want to look at three major questions that Christians deal with in interacting with friends and family members who identify as gay or lesbian.
#1: How do I share my faith with my friend who is gay?
The answer: Like anyone else who doesn’t know Jesus.
We can not create special categories of sinners…there just isn’t such a thing.
Many of your friends who identify as gay were probably even better people than you before you met Jesus.
And remember, a person with same sex attraction is more than just their sexuality.
They have other struggles too.
One of the things I think we forget when we tackle this question is our job is not to make people behave, but to help them believe.
If you had a co-worker who was NOT a Christian, and that person got unbelievably drunk at happy hour 3 times a week…
You wouldn’t lead them to Jesus by getting them to stop drinking first.
We don’t lead people to Jesus by cleaning them up first.
We lead them to Jesus and HE cleans them up.
And listen, we don’t have the power to change people or help them resist temptation. Not even close.
But the Holy Spirit does.
So if you want to see change in people’s lives, lead them to Jesus first, and let Him start doing the work.
But I hope that you’re more concerned about their salvation than you are their sexuality.
So how would Jesus do this?
He’d hang out and love them just like anyone else.
Jesus constantly spent time with the very people that the “supposedly holy people” rejected as ‘sinners’
And yet, Jesus never beats around the bush when it comes to sin either.
He loves people…and then he calls people out of sin.
Because He has something greater for them.
Look at what Jesus does when he meets the notorious tax collector and thief, Zacchaeus, in Luke 19
(Luke 19:5-8) – NIV
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
See, Jesus comes to his house first.
He does relationship first.
Shows grace first.
And out of that grace…Zacchaeus changes his ways and follows God.
Jesus always lives in that tension.
The Gospel writer John, in John 1, describes that tension well when he describes Jesus as being full of GRACE and TRUTH.
We’re to do both.
You don’t need to spend all this time telling a person with same sex attraction you think their lifestyle is sinful.
Most will have only heard one message from the church, and that’s intolerance and hatred.
Many with same sex attraction, deep inside, because of these constant messages, feel like God hates them.
Many teens are on the brink of suicide because of this.
Let’s bring truth AND GRACE.
Let’s re-write the story.
That they are no different from anyone else.
Sinners just the same.
And God loves them just the same.
That He gave his life for them…just the same.
Let’s share the love of Jesus.
Let’s start seeing PEOPLE, not LABELS.
WHAT ABOUT MY FRIEND WHO SAYS HE’S GAY AND A CHRISTIAN?
Okay, let’s take the application to a different realm.
What about this question we also got asked a lot: “What about my friend who says he’s gay AND a Christian?”
Let me just ask you: Why can’t that person be a Christian?
I’m just not following why we feel the need to create all of these unnecessary categories?
Do we say, “Can you be divorced and a Christian?”
Do we say, “What about my Christian friend who keeps watching porn every week, can he still be a Christian?”
Pastor Rick McKinley said this well, so I’m just going to quote him:
“Listen, no one goes to hell for same sex acts or adultery or any other sin. You go to hell because of self righteousness, because you believe you don't need Christ”
But I imagine the difference you’re thinking about in your mind is maybe this:
“Yes, but what if this person says they’re a Christian, and yet they’re making no attempt to change….or to be abstinent from same sex acts?”
First of all, I suppose we all have places in our life, where we clearly know what the Bible teaches, and yet we’ve just refused to do anything about it: Gluttony and materialism quickly come to mind.
Second of all, if this person is a believer, and your friend, it warrants a conversation.
A conversation where you…with the HIGHEST amount of grace possible, talk about God’s Word with this person.
But a conversation where you also recognize that the steps for this person to follow Scripture will be incredibly more difficult than anything you’ve probably ever faced in your life.
Worth it. But very difficult.
And I would say, “Don’t let your entire friendship be defined by this”
Don’t…every time you get together, say, “let’s talk about you being gay”
Or say, “Hey I brought you some books”
People aren’t projects.
I doubt that every time you have coffee with your heterosexual Christian friend, that you bring up the same exact sin in her life.
If you truly love them, and want God’s best for them, speak gently…speak with grace…and be willing to love unconditionally no matter what happens
We have an opportunity to show the world what living in the tension of grace and truth really looks like
And I’m telling you…it’s hard, but it will work.
In preparation for this message, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a man who is gay, and I asked him: “Why is that some people who are gay still attend evangelical churches like this one…knowing that we have traditional Biblical beliefs on morality?”
“Why not just attend another church who says it’s no big deal?”
And I thought what he said was really important. He said, “There are plenty of churches out there who may accept you, but yet there’s no spiritual depth to what they’re doing.”
“And besides, we don’t just want people to agree with us, what we want, is for people to LOVE us”
Can we do that?
Can we let go of the categorization and live in the tension of truth and grace like Jesus?
WHAT IF MY FAMILY MEMBER COMES OUT?
Let me address one last common question we got:
“What do I do if my family member comes out?”
Many of the things we’ve already said apply to this situation too.
I will only add to it a few things:
With family, I think we often really wrestle through “How do I show them love, but not endorse this either?”
I think many of the principles are the same.
You can be clear on what you believe is God’s best for them.
But know that not every act of love means endorsement.
Maybe some do…but most do.
Was Jesus endorsing prostitutes when he hung out with them at dinner? No.
And so if your daughter says she wants to have her partner over for dinner to meet you…have them over for dinner.
Let go of the idea that you always have to make sure to clearly tell them that you think it’s sin.
They probably already know you think that.
Make your focus be about Jesus…and the loving relationship He wants to have with them.
And think of it this way as well:
I mean, if your daughter said, “I want to bring my BOYfriend over (and say he struggled with some other sin…he’s prideful…or really materialistic) would you say no?
Would you say, “I don’t want to endorse materialism?”
I think when we pull away from making this some ‘extra bad sin,’ and we treat it like everything else, a lot of the applications make a whole lot more sense.
But I encourage you as a family member, to still trust in God’s word.
I see so many family members throw away their Biblical beliefs on morality as soon as a family member comes out as gay.
And I think for a lot of people that was because they used to believe that those with same sex attraction were some sort of class of ‘extra bad sinners’
And then, when their own children (or their brother, or you name it) came out as gay, they said, “Surely that previous narrative I believed about the was wrong!”
This person is not extra sinful at all. In fact, they’re nicer than many other people I know!
And thus they switched their belief, and said that the act is just fine
But here’s the thing, people who are acting out on their same sex desires are NOT any more sinful than anyone else.
And they’re not some category of worse sinners.
IN fact, they’re just like the rest of us.
Sin just looks different for every one of us.
WRITING A NEW NARRATIVE
And so let’s do this differently.
For far too long, the story that we’ve been telling those with same same sex attraction about Christianity is that their behavior excludes them.
Which by the way is NOT a better story than the gay community, which tells them that they’re “you’re like us”, and your behavior includes you.
We need to get back to the true Biblical narrative.
Not the one that pretends we’re better than everyone and shouts at those who sin differently than us.
But the one that tells those who are attracted to the same sex… that they’re just like us.
In the fact that every single one of us were created sinful at birth.
It just looks different for different people.
We’re all broken (even all sexually broken) in different ways.
We all struggle with sin…there is no separate class of sinners called gay people.
And so the new story is not, get yourself together and then join us…
It’s even better than the story that the gay community tells.
The new story is “you’re just like us”
But there is a savior…
A Savior that can save all of us, renew all of us, and bring all of us to a better life.
All of us! NO matter what.
So let’s stop labeling people.
Let’s stop making separate classes of sinners.
And may we live in the balance of the truth of Christ…and the grace of Christ.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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