Conservative Evangelicals and Homosexuality - Same-Sex Attracted Non-Christians and the Church (Part 10)

A key question in this discussion is: how should the church love those who experience same-sex attraction? In the last blog, I began to look at some of the implications for the church of the Biblical view of same-sex relationships that I have outlined. In that blog I focused on the impact of the pressure of the change in society and the conflict within the church that has caused. In that conflict, the tendency seems to be to paint those who take a biblical line as harsh, unloving and homophobic. This is sad, because nothing could be further from the truth.

In thinking about how a church can be faithful to what God has said on sexuality and show love and compassion to those who experience same-sex attraction (which is also what God says!), it can help to think of people in different situations. Inevitably this will involve some generalization, but hopefully it can still be helpful. In this blog, I want to reflect on how Christians and the church should respond to non-Christians who experience same-sex attraction.

Imagine someone begins to attend your church who is quite clear they are not a Christian, but perhaps they are interested in finding out more about the Christian faith. As you talk to them, you find out that they identify as gay and that they are in a relationship with someone of the same-sex. Alternatively, within your family or workplace you might regularly be interacting with those who self-identify as gay. What should a Christian attitude to them be? What should you say when they raise the question of how you view their sexuality and their relationship?

We love people

First, we need to be clear that we love gay and straight people. We love all people, because God made them in his image (however much our sin has marred that image) and he sent his Son to die for rebels like us (Genesis 1:27; 9:6; John 3:16). This means we will be good friends to them, good family members, good work colleagues. It means we will get to know them, pray for them and look to help them when and where we can. There may be things that are hard. When we talk about issues such as same-sex attraction, which they will be likely to hold very close to centre of their identity, it can be hard for them to believe that we love them if we explain what a Christian believes. This is particularly true, when people think love must mean affirmation. However, so long as we are gentle and thoughtful in how we explain the Bible’s teaching, then we are being loving, because we are explaining what the God, who is love, wants the world to know.

We don't live in a Christian society

Second, we need to recognize that someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus isn’t likely to be too concerned about living in the way Jesus taught. We have become a little confused about this, because we have a country that was once much more Christian. This means that many of us remember a time when the morality of the culture and Christian morality were much more similar than they are now. While we might wish that our society was more Christian and that our government would pass laws that reflect Christianity again, in very many areas we now find that this simply isn’t the case. We may even want to campaign for some of those changes, because we believe that God’s way is the best way for society. However, what we really want for someone who experiences same-sex attraction isn’t societal pressure or legal restriction. What we really want is for them to experience the transforming power of the Jesus and his Spirit.

We want non-Christians to follow Jesus

This leads to the third thing. If we love them, then we will want them to follow Jesus. Our primary prayer for any non-Christian is that they become a Christian, because the implications are not just for this life but for eternity. Questions about same-sex attraction should not distract us from this priority. The reason Jesus came was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). The reason the church exists is to make disciples who have put their trust in Jesus to save them (Matthew 28:19-20). We need to remember here that we are not saved by faith in Jesus and not by good works (Galatians 2:16), but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10). That means when we are praying and speaking to our friends we are not trying to get them to behave, whether in ways related to sexuality or not. No, we are praying and speaking with the desire that God will bring them to turn from their sins to follow Jesus. This means we will want them to come to church and church events. We will want to tell them about, God, sin and salvation whenever we have the opportunity. Most of all we will want to pray that God will bring them to faith.

We need to be honest about sin

Finally, if we want them to follow Jesus we will have to be honest with them about sin. Following Jesus is about turning from sin and believing the good news of the salvation that he brings for sinners by his death on the cross (Mark 1:14-15; Romans 5:8-9). It’s important to say two things here. The first is that we are all sinners Romans 3:23). We are not to think of those who identify as gay or are in same-sex relationships as a different class. However, the second is that we will need to be honest about homosexual sin with them, even though this is likely to be tough on our relationship with them and we may be tempted to try to side-step it. One of the greatest difficulties in these conversations is to show that we want to tell them about God’s truth in this area because we love them and because people who love you tell you the truth even when it hurts. What we can’t do is side-step the issue in the hope that they’ll become a Christian and we can tell them later. Not only would that be dishonest, it would be harmful to their faith when we did address it.

Although these things are hard, I hope the provide a pattern for both faithful and compassionate interaction with non-Christians who are same-sex attracted.


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