Christian’s mother took a heartwarming photo of the two, hand in hand, walking into school. Connor’s mother responded: “It doesn’t matter color. It doesn’t matter gender. It doesn’t matter disability, and it doesn’t matter anything—just be kind, open your heart . . . it’s what we need in this world.”
She added: “One act of kindness can change someone’s life, can change the world. That’s all it takes.”
Saying to people what we say about them
Among all people, Christians should be most known for such compassion. Jesus’ example of empathetic love (cf. Matthew 14:14; 15:32) was imitated by those who touched a crippled man with healing grace (Acts 3:1–10), gave sacrificially to meet the needs of others (Acts 4:34), and cared for “orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).
And yet, our positions on divisive moral issues such as abortion and same-gender sexual relations have been castigated as just the opposite. Pro-life advocates are seen as waging a “war on women”; those of us who support biblical marriage are described as homophobic and hateful.
Tragically, some of this is the fault of some who claim our positions. Those who bomb abortion clinics or murder abortionists are criminals, not genuine representatives of Jesus. Those who picket funerals while carrying signs slandering LGBTQ people are hateful enemies of the true spirit of Christianity.
However, we don’t have to be this extreme to make things worse. When we say about people what we would not say to them, we misrepresent Jesus. When we reject a person based on their sexuality, we denigrate someone for whom Jesus died.
Every time the Bible addresses same-gender sexual relations, it forbids them (cf. Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:8–11). For much more, see my article, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?”
The universal position of the Christian church across twenty centuries has been that same-gender sexual relations are outside God’s will for us. This is not a recent development, a “homophobic” slander, or a right-wing political agenda. I believe that homosexual relations are wrong because the Bible says they are wrong. Those who disagree with me are actually disagreeing with the word of God.
Two: Understand their position.
Many who endorse same-gender sexual relationships are unpersuaded by Scripture, of course. They view the Bible as we view the Qur’an—a holy book to some but not required truth for all.
Others believe we are misinterpreting God’s word on this subject, though it is their position that contradicts two thousand years of Christian orthodoxy. For more, see my “How to Defend Biblical Marriage (PDF).”
In addition, many view homosexual relationships as the civil rights issue of our day. To them, I am as prejudiced in refusing to marry a same-sex couple as if I refused to marry an African-American couple. Equating gay rights with civil rights is erroneous on many levels, but this is nonetheless the position many take who oppose biblical teaching on this issue.
Three: Find common ground.
John 4 tells of a remarkable encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman who was living in clear violation of biblical sexual morality. Rather than focusing on their differences, our Lord began their conversation with what they had in common: the need for water (v. 7). He then led her to seek the “living water” only he can provide (vv. 13–15).
In building a relationship with someone who endorses same-gender sexual relationships, I can likewise start with beliefs we share in common. Like this person, I strongly believe that LGBTQ people deserve to be treated with respect. I also know that same-gender sexual relations are not the unpardonable sin and believe that God loves such persons as much as he loves me. I want only what is best for them, which is why I seek to share God’s word and will with them.
Four: Stay committed and humble.
Convincing others that we love those with whom we disagree is so countercultural that we should expect skepticism and worse. We will likely need to invest much time in such relationships as we prove our compassion by our actions.
Commenting on the father’s love in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, Craig Denison writes: “May we commit scandals of grace that the lost cannot comprehend and the world cannot explain. May the love of our heavenly Father shine through us as we run out to meet the weak and sinful at their point of need and offer them mercy and compassion.”
Such compassion requires genuine humility that admits we cannot convict anyone of sin or change anyone’s heart. Since this is the work of the Spirit alone (John 16:8–11), it is vital that we pray for those we serve, asking God to do what we cannot.
It is likewise vital that we pray and work with the humility that recognizes our need of grace as well. We are all broken sexually. Heterosexual sin is just as sinful as homosexual sin. Each of us needs what all of us need: the transforming forgiveness of our Father.
“The arch has never yielded”
Charles Spurgeon: “The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”