“This morning in my adult Sunday School, someone said ‘I don’t understand how homosexuals can say they are Christians.’ How do I respond to this? I am a Christian, raised our gay son in a Christian home.”
This statement from a reader came in an email and is commonly asked as a real concern for people, as if being a Christian means being free from difficult issues they personally don’t understand or find reprehensible. Where do I begin? I hear this concern like a big ball I need to pack in a suitcase — I’m looking for the best way to deflate it.
To say, “I don’t understand how homosexuals can say they are Christians,” is like saying, “I don’t understand how judgmental people can say they’re Christians… or Latinos can say they’re Christians… or overweight people can say they’re Christians… or women can say they’re Christians.” To ask how homosexuals can be Christians is to tie up being a Christian with one’s behavior, or to tie up being a Christian with one’s predisposition at birth – depending on whether one views homosexuality as a choice or not.
We first have to ask: “What is a Christian?” By definition, a Christian is someone who accepts Jesus as Savior. People who were excluded by their behavior, Jesus dramatically included — which raised the eyebrows of the religious leaders of the day. [Acts 10.] People who were excluded by a condition of their birth (being born a Gentile or born blind), an attribute outside their control, Jesus dramatically included — which raised the eyebrows of the religious of any day. [Acts 8, John 9.]
Whoever accepts Jesus, to them he gives the right be to be called ‘children of God.’ [John 1:12.] Being a Christian is unrelated to our personal condition, and unrelated to our behavior; it is related only to our relationship to him.
We have a hard time with that as human beings. We think Jesus should accept those we consider worthy, and reject those we consider unworthy. Look at how many times the religious leaders wanted to exclude people in the Bible and throughout history. Women. Children. Jesus is clear about people wanting to include the “good” and exclude the “bad” according to our own calculations. He repeatedly tells us not to do that.
Jesus gave countless examples of how God’s thinking is different from our thinking, but we have a terribly hard time putting down our yardstick. When people insist on wrongly judging others, we as responsible defenders of the faith must speak up and say no, that’s not the truth of Jesus or what he offers us. That’s not acceptable.
To the mom who asked the question above, I wish I had one quick simple answer that would change people’s minds — and hearts. I have not yet found that one answer.
Instead, I say to parents, “Love your children. Let God do his work in them, whatever it is, just as you want others to let God do his work in you.”
I say to the church (to those who will listen), “God never told you to make a gay person straight. Decades of tragic harmful reparative therapy has proven that that whole endeavor (of “reorientation”) was not God’s idea or his heart.”
Of course homosexuals can be Christian. Every bit as much as I can be. And you. All of us are in need of amazing grace, and Jesus’ focus is always on relationship, always on the heart. The moment we forget that is the moment we chain the church doors and turn the whole gospel into a noose.