“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.”
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.”