Concluding Remarks on Gays and the Church

From time to time, you’ve seen doubtful warnings in articles, reports, and news stories shared by email and on social media. They are very alarming and potentially of extreme importance.

Though they may or may not be true, but seem so important, people often re-share them just in case they are true, and in doing so they spread misinformation and even cause unnecessary harm.

The Church

Just in Case

Sometimes we approach religious issues similarly. Things we were taught as truth begin to seem less clear than we thought; harsh doctrines seem inconsistent with the Father who loves us; our hearts respond to the pain of those badgered by doctrinaire Christian leaders. Yet whether it is creationism, legalism, or some other questionable doctrine, we often decide to defend that doctrine just in case it is true.

We do the same thing regarding gays and the church. Biblical passages condemning gays and biblical passages supporting gays are all extremely weak. In fact the Bible doesn’t seem to address the issue of being gay at all. Since it is so unclear, we might decide to condemn gays anyway—just in case it’s a sin.

As a serious follower of Jesus, working in stages through this issue, I decided instead to give the benefit of the doubt to supporting gays as much as possible. My first step was simply not to joke about or ostracize gays; then I decided to defend common civil rights for gays; later I quietly advocated gay civil marriage.

I dealt with the lingering thought of ‘What if God really does condemns them?’ but, since the Bible is so unclear, I decided to be as supportive of gays as I could—just in case God accepted them. I chose the ‘just in case’ of love instead of the ‘just in case’ of judgment.

Four Positions of Christians Regarding Gays

Among believers today, there are four main ways to think about gays.

  1. Gays are evil and should not be tolerated or accommodated in any way.
  2. Gays are sinful, but we should not deny them civil rights.
  3. Same-sex attraction is not a sin, but gay Christians must not act on their attraction.
  4. Same-sex relationships are not sinful, so gay Christians in relationship are not sinning.

I held all four positions at different times as I wrestled with the issue, but my conclusion is that being gay is not sinful and that gays should be accepted as equals in the church—position #4.

I believe position #1 is terribly wrong; extreme position #1 advocates even call for executing gays. I don’t think believers should hold position #1; however, I applaud believers who move from position #1 to position #2, or from #2 to #3.

Gay Christians, themselves, are divided between positions #3 (called side B) and #4 (called side A). However, both side A and side B advocates agree that same-sex attraction is not sinful and there is no reason to reject those in the church with same-sex attraction.

The Example of Jesus

The driving forces in my acceptance of gays are the inclusiveness of Jesus toward marginalized people of all sorts and the growing confirmation that same-sex attraction is not a choice. The more important is the attitude of Jesus.

I can’t imagine Jesus expressing the harsh condemnation of gays often heard among some believers today. His sharp words were only for religious leaders who burdened and marginalized the people the Father loved.

Chas, one of my regular readers, shared this insight:

It seems to me that we are responsible to God for the way in which we respond to things, so that would include the way in which we respond to/react against people who are gay.

The actions that draw us close to God are to show love and tolerance; the actions that push us away from God are to show hatred and intolerance.

I agree with Chas. Love for others always brings me closer to the heart of the Father.

Christian Bloggers who Support Gays

I am a minor voice among Christian bloggers who support gays. You might want to check out some of these advocates:

Justin Lee is THE Leader among gay Christians. He blogs at Crumbs from the Communion Table. He is in high demand as a speaker, so he doesn’t blog as often as he used to, but his archive is excellent. He also heads the Gay Christian Network.

Rachel Held Evans is one of the most popular progressive Christian bloggers and blogs on a range of themes.

John Shore is a blogger and a founder of the NALT video project: Christians are not all like that.

Kimberly Knight is an M. Div who blogs about being gay and Christian in America.

What are Your Views about Same-sex Attraction?

If you wish, I am happy to hear your thoughts about same-sex attraction in the comments section below, no matter what they are.

Next time, I will review Justin Lee’s book, Torn, which brings us to the end of this series. 

Photo Credit: slack12 via Compfight cc
I invite your comments and observations below.
If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please sign up in the column to the right so you don’t miss future posts.
Have a great day! ~Tim
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29 Responses to Concluding Remarks on Gays and the Church

  1. What I say to position 1, 2 and 3:

    I am not yet perfect. Seeing through a glass darkly and all that.

    I do not think myself called to celibacy. This may be because I am a backslider, but I experience the God of Judgement transformed to the God of Mercy.

    If we “expel the immoral brother” there will be fewer and fewer of us, getting more and more frightened.

    Worship with me, and after we can talk: but if you want to talk about my life, be prepared to listen at least as much as you speak.

    Like

    • I like your words, Clare.

      Indeed, we see through a glass darkly, but I agree that you are not called to celibacy; and I don’t think you are a backslider. I very much like your statement: “If you want to talk about my life, be prepared to listen at least as much as you speak.” Some people are interested only in half the conversation–their half.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, the translation in NIV has for 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

        This shows us how much even we may still project human qualities on what we think God is like. Although we have become more knowledgeable about the immensity and energies of the universe that He created and the near infinite possibilities for life contained in DNA, which were not available in Biblical times (so the writers of that time had a far more limited concept of God) we ourselves are probably still woefully short of seeing God as He really is. We know that modern mirrors are greatly superior to those of Paul’s time, yet ours are still not perfect. We see as well as we can, given the limitations that still remain in modern times.

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        • Chas, I absolutely agree. It amazes me that theologians can write lengthy systematic theologies describing in detail what God is like, when haven’t any idea about it.

          The only thing I think I know about God is that Jesus says the Father loves us. That is enough for me. The details can wait until we don’t need a mirror at all.

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  2. michaeleeast says:

    Thank you Tim for your series on gay related issues in the Church.
    My experience as a gay Christian is that God loves me as I am
    and does not condemn same sex activity.
    Despite some strong objections from conservative Christians
    I believe that God loves and accepts us.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Gays and the Inclusiveness of Jesus | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Tim, I think you’ve done a great job with this series (as usual). I don’t believe “being gay” is a sin and I also try to point out to people that the Bible is ambiguous about the issue, and when it seems to be clear it’s actually talking about other issues, such as sexual immorality or domination.

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  5. I believe that the Holy Spirit revealed to me that my same-sex attraction was not pleasing to God, and convicted me of it. I never felt condemned by God for my same-sex attraction, only convicted. 🙂 God is good.

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  6. cafedavid says:

    Sexuality is an incredibly complex issue. I’m still on a journey in exploring this area in representing God’s heart towards those with same sex attraction. So, whatever I’m sharing below is not my conclusion but just my latest thoughts.

    I wonder whether we should have 2 categories. The first one being those who are born with same sex orientation. These are those who can identify with same sex attraction from childhood. The second category would be those who were born with a heterosexual orientation but eventually developed same sex attraction due to numerous factors.

    In my years of counselling, those in category 2 would include those who have been sexually molested/abused, those who have been deeply hurt in a heterosexual relationship, those who have been pursued by someone with a same sex orientation and eventually developed the attraction themselves etc. There are just so many stories.

    This is my current thinking for your consideration. What if we took the position for those in category 1, that it is acceptable to pursue a loving committed same sex relationship. However, it is not acceptable to pursue non-loving promiscuous same sex relationships.

    For those in category 2, a better starting point would be to look into the root causes of their same sex attraction first before wholly endorsing the preference? Perhaps for a number in this category, pursuing a same sex preference may not be glorifying to God?

    What do you think?

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  7. fiddlrts says:

    I too have come to the conclusion that any error should be on the side of love, not condemnation. I strongly feel that “what if I am wrong” cuts both ways. If God considers homosexual acts sinful, and I am wrong to believe otherwise, do I really believe God will punish me for not condemning sin in others more? (I believe God worries more about my compassion or lack thereof more than whether I condemn vigorously enough.) Or, on the flip side, if it turns out that Evangelicals have misunderstood God and homosexual acts are *not* necessarily sin, then I might have some heavy stuff to answer for if I spend lots of time and energy on condemning them. I can no longer conclude that the risks are greater for failing to condemn than for failure to love.

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  8. Note: a reader offered this response, but asked to remain anonymous. So I am posting it for her. ~Tim

    Thank you for your blog on supporting gay people. I am not gay, but I am married to a man who has same sex attraction. I would never have known it, we’ve always had a great sex life and he always treats me better than any one’s husband I know.

    He was addicted to porn for years and that’s how I found out. He though being attracted to men felt I was cute and his best friend and he fell in love with me. I am honored that he chose to stay with me for almost 24 years now.

    It is very hard to be in the middle of such debates because he and I feel God created a man and woman in the garden but sin has damaged a lot of humanity and so we feel people are probably born gay and don’t really have much of an option about it. My husband says he felt this since he was four. He was not trying to be evil or bad. Whether it is conditioned form circumstances or genetic, how can we judge others and their choices?

    We support gay marriage rights and we feel they should be treated just like anyone else in the church. I think there was a time I felt this could be a threat to my marriage but now I am mature enough to realize the boundaries that keep any marriage and couple safe are in their own minds and relationship with God and each other.

    My husband shares often in men’s groups but he runs into people who hate him for choosing marriage as we see it and those who can’t stand him for having the struggle. He is caught in the middle. We have come to the conclusion sexuality is very complex and hard to know for anyone but that person what works for them.

    Jesus certainly taught love and he never spoke out about being gay so I think we should follow Jesus on that cue. Sorry I didn’t post this publicly but sometimes I get tired of people judging me for being married to a same sex attracted man–like I stole him from the gays or like something must be wrong with me that he loves me. Those people are pretty shallow because my hubby and I have decided that marriage is about so much more than sex and we do not wish to be defined by our sexual attractions but by our love for other people and Jesus.

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    • Thank you Anonymous for sharing your very personal story.

      Like

    • michaeleeast says:

      Thank you anonymous for your story.
      I for one certainly don’t judge you for your marriage.
      So long as the sex is good there is no reason why a gay man should not marry.
      I myself had a strong friendship with a girl who wanted to marry me.
      But because I didn’t feel O.K. about sex with a woman I felt that it was not fair to her to marry.
      This can be a very thorny field.
      So people have to be sure.
      All the best for your future happiness.

      Like

  9. Marc says:

    The English word sin is derived from the Greek word harmatia which means to miss the mark. We all fall short of the potential God desires for us, thus we are all sinners. No sinner (all of humanity included here), is fit to judge and condemn another sinner. Only God can make this judgement, and His judgement is a diagnosis of what we require individually to hit the mark. If we claim that our actions are not sinful when the revelations of God clearly indicate that they are, we injure ourselves and distance ourselves from God and those who strive to overcome their sins.

    Like

  10. sheila0405 says:

    I’m behind in my blog reading because my dad is in the hospital and doing poorly. Plus, Holy Week was busy & I’ve been under the weather myself. This was a great blog post, as usual. I love how you encourage people to examine their views and try to move them along from #1-#4. You respect those who are still on the journey while explaining how it is that arrived at where you now are. I was taught to be a #1 as a child, then moved along right through to #4 largely because of personal experience with wonderful gays that I have been privileged to know throughout my life. Thanks for the series, Tim.

    Like

    • Sheila, I noticed your recent absence, and I am so sorry about your Dad; I hope things go well for him.

      Thanks for your kind words. I think we must support people on the journey because many of us from conservative backgrounds, perhaps most of us, did not arrive at #4 quickly. I am glad to hear from you, and I do hope your Father is back home soon.

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  11. I’m a number 3 on your scale. I have been a number 3 for as long as I can remember. I have enjoyed reading your series, finding much food for thought there. I absolutely agree that we err on the side of love for individuals, but don’t think that necessarily means that we condone all of their actions.

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    • Hi Bright, I am glad you are at #3.

      I agree that we should not condone all behavior just to err on the side of love. But I no longer think that gay sex is a sin. Of course many gay Christians do not agree with me on this point.

      I am happy that you enjoyed the series and found it useful. I hope you continue to enjoy what you read here.

      Like

  12. jessedooley says:

    Thank you for being a voice for justice. That’s what the Kingdom of God is all about. I, like you, went through those for stages. I am thankful that I went through them because it allows me to be more compassionate with those who disagree with me. However, my compassion doesn’t mean I don’t speak my own voice on the issue. We cannot be afraid to speak the truth even if that truth flies in the face of common opinions. Justice is worth it. Feel free to add me to your list of bloggers who support the LGBT community if you want. Most of my writings, as you are probably aware, are seasoned with the salt of justice. Peace.

    Like

    • Jesse, you are right that going through the four stages can help us be more compassionate toward those at different levels. I found it to be true for me.

      But, as you say, we still have to speak out on the issue, though we need not castigate those with whom we disagree.

      Like

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