Since I didn’t have time to blog about our 4th class, I’ll sum it up here along with our 5th class.
Two weeks ago, we were blessed to have my friend Lesli Skype in and share her testimony with our class. Lesli has a powerful story, which left some of my students in tears. She identified as transgendered growing up (physically a girl, mentally and emotionally a boy) and also accepted the Lord at an early age. Her church experience, however, was incredibly painful and dehumanizing. She knew Jesus loved her; His followers, however, didn’t. So, after graduating high school she fully identified with the LGBT community. Long story short, Lesli now has a great love for the Lord and for people who struggle with their sexual identity.
It was so encouraging and challenging to hear Lesli navigate truth and love in her approach to homosexuality. One of the things that she said that had a huge impact on
our class was when one of our students ask her the question: “What do you say when someone from the LGBT community asks you if you think homosexuality is a sin?” Lesli’s answer (borrowed from her good friend Bill Henson) was brilliant. “I tell them: Let’s hang out for 4 weeks, I’ll even buy the coffee. And then, after we’ve established a relationship, we can talk through that question.”
Truth in the context of relationship. Brilliant!
Lesli’s response unintentionally influenced our discussion last Tuesday, when we talked about Jesus and homosexuality. Jesus, as you may know, said that homosexuality is “ ” ( ; cf. the parallel in ). That’s right, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, which makes it difficult to enlist Him to support your view—whichever view you hold.
Or does it?
Although Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, this does not mean that He had no opinion on it. He never mentioned bestiality, incest, or rape, but this doesn’t mean that Jesus was indifferent on these questions either (I’m not equating these, by the way). If we say that Jesus would have affirmed consensual, monogamous, same-sex relationships, we’d have to create a very unJewish Jesus. Jesus’s Jewish upbringing unanimously viewed same sex sexual relations as a sin. So while Jesus discussed Jewish questions that were debated within Judaism—the resurrection, divorce, the Sabbath, for example—He doesn’t seem to preach to the choir about issues where there was no debate. But I’ve already blogged about Jesus and homosexuality here, here, and here.
Going back to Lesli’s “4 week request,” her advice correlates with Jesus in His approach to many people He encountered, especially the marginalized. Have you noticed that Jesus rarely fronts people’s sin when He meets them?
- When Jesus met the Roman Centurion (Matt 8:5-13), who lived a life of idolatry, oppression, and violence, He didn’t talk about idolatry, oppression, or violence.
- When Jesus met Matthew the tax collector (Matt 9:9-13), He didn’t talk about extortion but invited Him into a relationship.
- When Jesus saw another extortionist named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), He desired to have a meal with him. Jesus never mentioned his sin; it was Zacchaeus who after encountering Jesus repented from his extortion.
Now, this does not mean that Jesus was totally fine with idolatry, oppression, violence, and extortion. It just means that Jesus didn’t always feel the need to front such sins in His initial encounter with people. Some sins are best dealt with in the context of a relationship—“come follow me!”
So, on the one hand, Jesus didn’t say: “Hey Matthew, we can be friends and all, but I have to first let you know where I stand on the issue of extortion…”
On the other hand, Jesus’s relationship with sinners doesn’t mean that He was indifferent to sin. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) is one of the most stringent ethical demands in religious history. But Jesus offsets such strict morality with radical grace to those who fall short.
Therefore, we—who believe that homosexual practice is a sin—should model Jesus’s approach. He unconditionally loved people whom He believed were sinners (which is everyone) and didn’t always bring up their sin as a pre-requisite to relationship.
When He does, when Jesus does lay into someone for their sin and demands quick and drastic repentance, it’s usually toward religious, judgmental hypocrites, who looked down their noses at all “those other sinners out there.”
Heterosexual Christians need to remember that we are plugged into God’s life support of grace. It would be ironic—indeed, dangerous—to magnify the sin of others while sanitizing our own slander and greed (1 Cor 6:9).