“Homosexuals” are not an “issue.”
I’m guilty of this. When talking about homosexuality, we tend to tag on the word “issue.” And I’m sure most of us don’t mean it in a demeaning way. We are simply trying to speak about an issue that is deeply concerning to the Church – or at least it should be. But here’s what too many gays and lesbians hear, “You are an issue to be discussed and solved.”
Instead, gays and lesbians are individual people looking to be loved for who they are.
They are not a debate. They are not a scandal. They are not an agenda. They are not a political ad or battle ground. They are not liberal theology vs. conservative theology. They are not red and blue states. They are people. Individuals made in the image of God. People Christ died for, out of His unceasing love for those He created. They are “us,” “you,” and “me.”
Issues are most often dealt with strategically and methodically. There is an end result that needs to be achieved. Fighting for justice is usually intertwined with issues, such as human trafficking, extreme poverty, racism, and fair trade. In today’s culture, issues are too often embraced and passed on as fades. Yet, underneath most issues are people waiting to be seen as individuals. Today “homosexuality” is a popular issue to discuss within the Church. However, too many of us continue to see and speak about gays and lesbians for what they do rather than who they are.
Whether they are people who experience same-sex attractions or who are involved in same-sex relationships, gay people need to be dealt with compassionately, individually, relationally, and without fear.
We only need to be concerned with helping them embrace their identity within the incomprehensible love of God.
Something which we do not fully comprehend ourselves. As Brennan Manning says in Ragamuffin Gospel, “The moment you think you understand is the moment you do not understand” (pg. 160). In the margin I wrote, I cannot comprehend the depths of God’s love for me; yet I will live in this mystery of not understanding yet fully believing.
Some of us are convinced that people with same-sex attractions will be won to Christ by clever arguments, debates, or by throwing certain Scriptures out like grenades. When in fact it will be the power of the Holy Spirit and the transforming love of God that will win them. Or at least that’s how I was won. And that’s how my gay friends were won.
We, who are the children of God, have been seized by the power of a great affection. How then shall we live?
How shall this great affection seize our relationships with others, our words, our actions? Again as Manning says, “To evangelize a person is to say to him or her: you, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus…But that becomes possible only by offering the person your friendship; a friendship that is real, unselfish, without condescension, full of confidence, and profound esteem” (pg. 120-121).
A stretching truth: “repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance…is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace” (Manning pg. 74). In referring to the ‘sinful woman’ in Luke 7:36-50, Manning shares, “It is certain that of all those present, the one who most honors the Lord is [the woman] who is so persuaded of the infinite mercy of God that all her sins appear to her as but an atom in the presence of this mercy” (pg. 117, emphasis added).
Homosexuals are not an issue to be won, but a people to be loved as Jesus loves you and me.
This is the simplistic message Christians need to understand and live out. We do not whitewash the truth of the gospel, rather we live it out fearlessly. We allow it to rule our whole person, and we trust it to work and transform as the Spirit sees fit. The gospel is not ours to constrain; rather it is the message of Christ that compels us to love and to live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who, for our sake, died (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Christ has dealt with the “issue,” and now calls forth gay and straight people to be transformed by the “outcome.”
For more on this conversation, check out my book, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers.”
10 thoughts on “Gays and Lesbians are Actually Not an “Issue””
A few months ago I attempted to start a conversation regarding how to integrate gay youth into the general church population BEFORE the love of Christ has moved them away from their homosexual mindset and behavior. My concern then and now is that prior to conversion older gay youth can and do have a detrimental effect on easily impressionable younger kids.
Hi Bible Missionary – thanks for commenting. Have you read my book about this subject? If not, here’s the link from Simply Youth Ministry: http://www.simplyyouthministry.com/resources-adult-leaders-development-ministering-to-gay-teenagers.html
I think some older youth may impress other students, but not always. It depends a lot on the atmosphere you create within the ministry/youth room, and how you help these students move towards Jesus.
It almost seems like this theme can be about any type of person… Christians who hate being stereotyped, for example. The grander focus is to see through the label and see the person underneath. So much so, that we ditch the label altogether.
How close are we coming to that happening? Not sure. I do know that this context that you offer is helpful and a great reminder.
Totally agree. Thanks Tony.
This is a difficult topic to talk about so thank you for your post. Just wanted to mention that you wrote they need to be “dealt with compassionately….” I think a better way to phrase it is that we need to “walk with them compassionately…” Thanks for all your work, it makes a great difference! You are appreciated!
Great suggestion, Daniel. Thank you!
I am currently dealing with this subject in the community where we live. We have quite a few students who have “come out” this year. Some of these students I have seen make commitments to Christ? I know what God says about homosexuality. It’s a sin. No more than stealing, cheating, or overeating. I agree that showing the love of Christ is the first step. Withholding judgment and building a relationship with them is key. But the students who profess Christ, what’s the angle? They know what God says, so why are they doing it?
Could you give more explanation to your question, Greg. Not sure I fully understand.
I agree that students who identify themselves as LGBT aren’t a debate or a scandal, but they’re PEOPLE – but that doesn’t this also mean that they aren’t a problem to be solved? Shouldn’t our youth ministries (and our churches as a whole) be filled with STUDENTS and not gay students and straight students? Perhaps this is a theological difference, but are we expecting LGBT students who find faith in Jesus Christ to change to meet our theological expectations? I worry that we often spend too much time separating gay students and straight students rather than just embracing any student God gives us the ability to connect with.
Hi Ryan – thanks for commenting. I’m not suggesting we separate gay and straight students at all. As youth workers we minister to all students – period. Our only expectation is that all students follow after Jesus and His will, not our own will.