Can Gays Be Christians – Yes or No?

Church Door Chained

“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.

21 thoughts on “Can Gays Be Christians – Yes or No?

  1. Susan you said in a previous answer that the bible doesn’t say a homosexual lifestyle is a sin? What about Romans 1:26-32. Now I don’t have a college education and I’m not a genious, but it sounds to me like this in condemning homosexuality.

    • I know it does, Brian. But what it is condemning is “excessive lust.” It’s very hard for us in 2014 to read into a context from 2000 years ago, to understand what it is really saying. But the short answer is that the men in ancient Greek culture were married to women, and they had extra sex with men and with boys. Paul was condemning this idol-worshipping, “excessive lust” Paul calls it, especially as it included raping slave boys. It was NOT talking about what we know as homosexuality today, which was not even a concept in the Bible. I really recommend Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian. He has researched this a LOT and presents the cultural, historical context. Paul wrote Romans as a letter to a specific audience. It’s like finding a letter from Marc Antony to Cleopatra with no historical context and figuring out what it means. We are certain to get it wrong! To pull a verse like that out and wave it around is also certain to get it wrong. We have to understand it much better than that, which many scholars have spent a lot of time to do, if we have any hope of understanding it well. Thank you for commenting, Brian.

      • Thanks for your quick comment. I’m not sure that anything will convince me that homosexuality is anything but a sin. I take the bible as literal as I can. It’s the same yesterday today and forever. I do however recognize this as a free country. People may do as they wish, within the law.
        Something that really irritates me is when they “grade” sins. God hates all sin. From homosexuality, you probably don’t agree, to a small lie. It’s all the same. We should stop saying how horrible one thing is over another and realize that what we think is small is just as bad. We all need the blood of Jesus to cover us.

        • Well, you’re right, Brian, in that ALL sin means independence from God. That is the only real sin! Doing things our own way instead of in relationship with God. But because the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, because we hear Jesus, the Shepherd, and we recognize his voice, then it becomes very personal. “Anything not done from faith is a sin.” There’s a good one for starters! I agree, Brian: we all need Jesus. Blessings to you.

  2. Hi,
    I just want to thank you for your blog and passing knowledge. Personally, I’m neither gay or a parent, but as a young women in college who has gay friends I always struggled with the knowledge of this. I was raised in a very religious southern-baptist home, where anything outside the laws of God, especially homosexuality, was highly looked upon on. As I grew older now in my early twenties, I grown to form my own opinions, as a young Christian woman, I’m moved with a heavy heart and great compassion. Though I can’t honesty say I support the LGBT movement (only because I, myself am still confused about it…whether to believe it is truly genetic and people are born that way or people just choose to be gay), but nonetheless these people need our love and prayers not our hate. And lately we Christians have failed on ALL of the above, offering a cold shoulder and a blind eye to those who identify themselves as that and my by struggling or trying to cope with it. Your blog just gave my hope that there is still good left in this world that is worth fighting for, and that loving gay people isn’t wrong.

    God Bless.

  3. I find it so ironic that Evangelical Christians preach about God’s grace rather than works, and yet they base their judgement of gays totally on a works mentality. Where is God’s grace in how these Christians treat gays? Telling someone they are sinning and going to hell for *whatever* reason is not love. And saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not loving. Christians need to be responsible and take a closer look at these issues, as Susan has done, before passing judgement that literally has led some to take their lives. Quoting these verses without doing their research is the height of irresponsibility.

  4. When I first came out in 1997, I would visit ‘Christian’ chat rooms. At some point homosexuality would come up and I would say that I was gay. That was it. In the eyes of the people in that room there was no way I could be Christian if I was gay. I heard it over and over again. What strikes me now, 16 years later, is how *I* never wavered on being a Christian. They all wanted me to say, “You are right. I will be straight from now on so I can be a Christian.” I never did that. I KNEW deep down that God made me the way I was and that I was, and always would be a Christian in HIS eyes.

    A friend that I was having a conversation with about this sent me the latest edition of Decision Magazine, part of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It is focused on just this question. Except that their question is “Can a Christian be a Homosexual.” It worries me for any GLBT folks that know others that receive this magazine. What they might have to hear could be very hurtful. It refers to homosexuality as a dreadful sin. And that “it causes a deepening corruption of human nature and departure from God.” It is a rough read for anyone not secure in the love that God has for them.

    I am so glad there are other resources like this one for people to find and hopefully learn of that love!

    • Yes, that is devastating for people when it’s not even true. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch asking, “Is there any reason shouldn’t be baptized?” What a perfect time for Philip to say, “Actually, you can’t be a sexual minority and a Christian. Sorry.” But he doesn’t. For us to do so is to add to the scriptures (and to misinterpret them). Thanks for sharing, Criselda.

  5. I am a gay Christian. I always suggest that anti-gay Christians read the REST of the Bible! Scripture is very clear about who can be saved. God is not impressed with PRIDEFUL SELF-righteousness! “As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10 ) “…in fact, all the world stand hushed and guilty before Almighty God.” (Rom. 3:19) “And the person who keeps every law of God, but makes one little slip, is just as guilty as the person who has broken every law there is.” (James 2:10 TLB) “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, no one…(Matthew 19:24-26) NOW what are we going to do?!
    “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can PRIDE himself in it or take GLORY TO HIIMSELF.] (Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible) Please read Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:15-23 “Jesus Christ has set me free!” Then Google ” sins of the bible ” to see if you are as perfect as Jesus! (“ALL CAPS” emphases mine)

  6. Susan, great response to Snooks…I would also just add something I learned recently, and that is that the words “homosexual” never even appeared in the Bible until 1946 or so…so the common and current interpretation of those troublesome verses in the Bible is *not* what God has passed down for thousands of years, as many Christians believe. As I understand it, our modern day term, “homosexual” is *not* the same as the original Greek translation in the Bible.

  7. To me, it’s like asking if blacks can be Christian. It all depends on how you define gay. Your sexual orientation is something you are born with, just like you’re skin color. Its a question of physiology. Not all people are born heterosexual…it actually is a bit ludicrous to believe otherwise.

    Being Christian is a faith choice…they are apples and oranges. Only those still living in the dark ages who think being gay is a behavior choice would even ask such a question…and of course these are the very people who would shun scientific evidence and studies to the contrary.

  8. Mrs. Cottrell, I agree with what you’ve written, and yet, the Scriptures do state that living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. I know it’s God’s job to resolve people’s sins, but, as a Believer, and someone who is friends with many LGBT individuals, how do I love them well, in Jesus’ name, and yet, tell them the truth of what the Scriptures say, because it does come up, and THEY ask. They want to know why the Bible says what it says, why does God hate them, why do Christians hate them? I honestly don’t know how to go about speaking the truth in love with these people I love, and being honest about my beliefs and what the Word says.

    I would really appreicate sound, Biblical advice on this.

    *On a side note, this is regarding my lost, gay friends, who know I’m saved.

    • I would encourage you to send them to my resources page with scholars who have studied this at length. Brownson. What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say. Vines videos. All better material than pulling from verses, out of context, unstudied, without proper context. The bible does NOT say living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. What is a homosexual lifestyle? What is a heterosexual lifestyle? Is it a monogamous married person? Is is a celibate nun? Is it a prostitute? But the second major point is that Jesus does NOT tell you to put conditions on HIS love he wants to offer freely through you. That’s something we’ve added to the scriptures, it really is. Paul’s words themselves have way too much context to address here (see Brownson), but just the context gives us pause. He was talking to specific people in a specific time about specific situations. He was NOT writing the new Leviticus. What’s the answer to your dilemma? Point them to Jesus, point them to Jesus, point them to Jesus. He is full well capable of directing them, and he is much more trustworthy than a church in splinters over this. I really appreciate your heart here, I truly do. I know you want to do the right thing. But we have to keep the first thing the first thing. If your friends are asking you about the Bible’s view on this, given the dispute over these passages, I think your only answer is, “I don’t know!” First things first: Love God, love others. If that sums up the law and the prophets, then let’s hang out there instead of hastening on the the law and the prophets. Thank you for writing and sharing your heart.

  9. No different than a straight person who is committing adultery says they are a Christian… we all are broken in one way or another and we all need God’s grace for redemptive healing. I really like your quote on making the Gospel into a noose… reminds me of how many different ways Christians argue on the technicalities of how to get saved, the rest is all window dressing without love.

  10. It seems to me Jesus Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is either enough or it’s not. It cannot be enough for some and not enough for others. For those who would add requirements to his death on the cross I would say “your Jesus” is awfully small and your heaven not supernatural if human behavior can alter the worth of the sacrifice required for entry. Thankfully I choose to believe Jesus is enough and he has proven himself time and time again.

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