The LGBT Community and the Church: A Christ-like Approach

LGBT and the Church.jpg

The LGBT Community and the Church: A Christ-like Approach

by Pastor Matt Childress

A recent Gallup poll shows that 10 million American adults identify as LGBT. In a new Pew Research Center report, 48 percent of Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual Americans identify as Christian.

So, what does this mean? Two things:

  1. A huge percentage of the LGBT community loves Jesus, and
  2. Someone from the LGBT community has likely visited your church recently.

In fact, not only is it likely that they’ve visited, it’s very possible that some have returned more than once. And not only is it very possible they’ve returned more than once, it’s also possible that some have become members (unbeknownst to an often largely homophobic congregation).

So, what’s my stance? What’s ICWC’s stance? Our stance is Jesus' stance:

  • He Accepts People—All of Us—Where We're at in Life. In Matthew 9, Jesus had made a new friend: Matthew. Later that night, Matthew invited his new friend Jesus to his home, where a party was going on; probably with lots of drinking and drunkenness. How did Jesus respond to Matthew’s invitation? He accepted the invitation and went. I don’t believe anyone reading this article would say that Jesus was wrong by going. Being a christian (a.k.a. follower of Jesus) means to accept people just like He accepted you, where they're at, period.
  • He Didn’t Rate Sins. Did you know that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality? Do you know what sins He did mention? Envy, selfish ambition, anger, etc. Do you know what the Bible says about people who regularly live with these traits? They will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Gal. 5:19-21). Have you been accepting of someone in your church who practices these things? Greeted them at church? Applauded after their baptism? The church is quick to point out what they feel is wrong about the LGBT community, but slow to point the finger at those who transgress toward these things mentioned in Galatians 5 that will keep someone from inheriting the Kingdom of God. Kind of a double standard, wouldn't you say? 
  • He Taught Us to Focus on Our Own Wrongs. Identifying the sins of others is easy…really easy. Want to know what’s hard? Focusing on your own shortcomings and trying to overcome them. Remember, Jesus said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5). I assume He then dropped a mic.
  • He Commanded us to Love, not Judge. Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments with two new commandments: Love God and love people (Mark 12:30-31). That’s our job as true followers of Christ. We were not commanded to judge. In fact, James 4:12 tells us There is but One Lawgiver and Judge; the One Who is able to save and destroy. So, who are you to judge your neighbor? Most believers have John 3:16 memorized, but should probably also commit to memory Jesus' words in the very next verse: “God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it, but to save it” (John 3:17). So, if Jesus didn't judge, and we’re followers of Jesus, shouldn’t we behave like Him?

Perhaps you’re saying, “Yes, but we need to show people the truth in love” (which is an overused phrase in Christendom that serves as justification for pointing out the sins of others). While I agree that we do need to show the truth in love, I don't agree that we need to tell every single person we come in contact with about their shortcomings. Let me give you an analogy: Let’s say that you’re having lunch with a co-worker and that co-worker tells you about someone's boat that they envy. You would rebuke them and tell them that their sin was wrong, wouldn't you? Oh, you wouldn’t? Why not? Because the scripture in Galatians 5 above tells us that those who practice envy, “Will not inherit the Kingdom of God." So if you’re going to call out people’s sins, call out all sins, including your own.

So, let me be very clear here: we need to show the truth in love. But you can’t bring someone’s (perceived) issues to light UNTIL YOU HAVE A LONG-ESTABLISHED RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM AND YOU’VE EARNED THE RIGHT—BY THEIR OWN REQUEST—TO SPEAK INTO THEIR LIFE. But even then, you'd have to bring it up delicately, have impeccable timing, etc. How would you feel if someone you had never met walked up to you and said, “Five minutes ago, you sped past me on the highway, but I was going the speed limit. You were speeding. The Bible says that you should obey the laws of the land. You’re a sinner!” Can you see how calling out people—when you have little or no relationship with them—would be offensive?

Sensitivity, empathy and unconditional love are the keys to bridging the gap with people. With this said, let me give you six relational do’s and don’ts for you and your church when relating to someone from the LGBT community:

1. Listen, Learn and Listen Again. You don’t have to talk, preach, or correct. In fact, DON’T do any of these things. Just listen. Afterwards, listen. And when you get done listening, listen again. Reminding people that they are loved without conditions is what we as christians are called to do. You don’t have to agree with everyone’s lifestyle you come in contact with, because {reality check:} many people don’t agree with your lifestyle. You do, however, have to genuinely love. It's a commandment.

2. Pay Close Attention to Your Language. To someone Jewish, it’s fine to ask, “Are you Jewish?” But to ask, “Are you a Jew?” is cringe-worthy; almost a derogatory accusation. We need to be aware of subtle nuances in our communication. The terms homosexual and gay lifestyle have been used in hurtful ways, and as a result, they're simply not a part of the vocabulary of the LGBT community. Because of this, the church needs to change our vocabulary. Most prefer the terms gay or lesbian. We have to pay close attention to the words that we use, church. Any hope of relationship depends on it.

3. Gospel First; Sexuality Later. Make sure people know that your allegiance is to the gospel and to Jesus, first. As for discussing someone’s sexuality...EVER...yikes! Look, I’m married and straight. But I really don’t want to discuss my sexuality with anyone but my wife. If someone wants to bring up their sexuality, then listen. But be careful not to give your opinion until or unless you’re asked.

4. Don’t Be a Hypocrite. The church has largely been critical of the LGBT community, rather than being critical of their own sins. Hypocrisy is a terrible sin, and we’ve all been guilty of it. Hypocrites damage their reputation and it's nearly impossible to ever gain back credibility. Our message of the gospel will go much further if we become a new type of hater: haters of our own sin, rather than haters of the sins of others.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to say, “I’m Sorry.” For far too long, the LGBT community has heard a lot of the same, hurtful things from evangelical christians. How's that been working for us, church? Want to guess what they rarely hear? “I’m sorry.” We, as christians, should be an apologizing people. So, don’t be afraid to ask if you’ve said anything that has been hurtful. It's called "Humility." Apologies always bring one thing: Healing.

6. Be a Safe Person. Many who are LGBT say that it’s been hard finding a safe person to talk to in the evangelical community. So what do they often do? The same thing you or I would: struggle alone. We all need people around us to help in our struggles and no one should be forced to do it alone just because there’s no one safe to talk to. A safe person is one who listens, cares, learns and loves. It's called being Christ-like.

Final Thoughts. Remember back to when you became a christian. Try to remember all of the sin you were involved with. What if the church—or worse yet, Jesus Himself—would have rejected you based on one of the many sins that you were in. How would that make you feel? That's how the LGBT feels (present tense) when we—those who claim to be disciples of Jesus—behave. Jesus doesn't reject people, so how could we?

To be completely honest, I have a way bigger problem with someone who professes their allegiance to Jesus, but chooses to live contrary to His teachings, than I do someone who has never professed Jesus as their Lord, and lives the same way. Look church, it's time that we check ourselves; our own sins and shortcomings, and stop the judgmentalism, while pushing people away from Jesus. Remember, God's job is to judge. Our job is to love.

 

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