I want to offer my solution to the problem of how Christians respond to homosexuality (and really any sexual sin). Very simply put: If you are convinced that X thing is a sin, we have an unlimited supply of grace and love available through Jesus. You are able to show grace to the “sinner” and the rest is up to God. That’s pretty much it.
I want to refute several of the dividing lines drawn on the Christian side. I can’t speak for the “other side,” in part because I believe there are no sides to this. For one, there’s this idea of ‘lifestyle sin.’ Show me where in the Bible where it differentiates or categorizes lifestyle sin versus other kinds of sin. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. The idea of ‘lifestyle sin’ is a relatively modern invention. Because an idea or phrase is relatively new in the history of the church doesn’t mean that it’s automatically false, so I will say this. There are many examples in scripture where people had lifestyles that were counter to the community, message, religious system, or the person of God in some way or many ways, and there is always a path to redemption for that person or that individual. I reject out of hand the idea that there are certain kinds of lifestyles that are worse than others. I am personally convinced that the greedy, money-driven stock brokers are certainly living a sinful lifestyle. I am just as convinced that people who derive their happiness from anything other than Jesus are living a sinful lifestyle. Here’s why I think that Christians talk about ‘lifestyle sin’ in reference to a very specific set of behaviors:
Imagine if pastors talked about obesity (which is the result of gluttony) the same way that they talked about sexual sin (which is the result of lust). Imagine if homosexuality was considered in the same category as greed, lust, gluttony, hate, and their corresponding behaviors. Respectively, omitting help to the poor, illicit sex, obesity, murder / violence. Any pastor who preached that way would lose every fat person in the church. They just would, because nobody wants to sit in a church and hear, on a regular basis how their sinful lifestyle has kept them from God. Or how they are going to hell for being fat. Nobody wants to go to church and hear about the dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘you people’ where the in-crowd is inaccessible to you. You can’t lose all that weight overnight. You can’t change careers that easily. You can’t just end all your relationships, uproot from your community, essentially die to your lifestyle and do something totally different.
Or you could, if you had a church that you trusted to take care of you in every way. In the same way that, in so many situations the church claims the authority to determine the course of someone’s life and takes no responsibility for it. There are contexts where women leaving prostitution, stripping, or other ‘sinful jobs’ have no other means to make a living. There are churches in those contexts that collectively make the decision to take care of that person. I just don’t believe that many churches are aware of the consequences that that kind of change would bring on a family or individual. The most egregious example is, there are no churches preaching against wealth and greed because those people would either a) leave the church completely and take their money somewhere else or b) those people would probably make a lifestyle change and make way less money. There’s no ‘win’ in talking some people out of certain kinds of ‘lifestyle sin.’ But with homosexuality, targeting that sin is an easy target. If those people leave that particular church, the congregants may not even care or notice. It is rare that sexual minorities have the kind of influence to stay when a leader in a church wants them to leave. So they end up as an easy target for ‘change,’ which is a hollow directive. Rarely would a church offer the kind of spiritual, emotional, relational support for anyone (in any situation) to completely leave their community and join another.
What I’m suggesting Christians ‘do’ about homosexuality, people who are homosexuals, or really any sexual sin is the same as any other sin. Can we just stop ranking sins? Or ranking each other’s righteousness? You aren’t good enough to do that because nobody is. If you are so convinced that homosexuals are damaging our community and nation, that God is judging them and such, then show them grace. We don’t live in a system of karma. Christ freed us from judgment, because all of God’s judgment was used up on the cross. Do you think there’s judgment left over? Do you think that God has saved up some for sexual minorities in some special way? That whole idea is absurd. We do it, we get away with it on some level as Christians because homosexuals rarely hold influence in Christian communities. Not like the rich do, not like so many other ‘lifestyle sinners.’ We Christians get away with picking on certain sins because it’s easier than dealing with our own sin. We target homosexuality as a special sin because it’s a mysterious unknown to so many raised in the Christian community. The unknown is a scary thing.
If you have somehow run out of grace and love for anyone, the remedy is the person of Jesus in you. That’s where grace and love come from. Beyond that, if you are so convinced that the homosexual neighbors are bringing damage or something to your community, you pay for it. I keep hearing this trope of how homosexuals are this scary spiritual force of evil or something. It just doesn’t work that way in the Kingdom of God. I’m not tainted by someone else’s sin, I don’t need to expel other people from fellowship so that I can get to God, and I will never block them from getting to God in communion, worship, fellowship, and taking the sacraments. That would be to put myself in the place of the enemy, standing between them and God. I invite all my brothers and sisters into the loving presence, and I invite them to come as they are – the same I would with anyone, everyone, all that God has created. If you are still holding onto the idea that this special lifestyle isolates people from God, and it separates those same people from the fellowship and from you, and that they are especially bad, meet grace. Meet God, who provides grace, and extend grace.
If grace doesn’t flow out of you, you don’t have access to it. To stop the flow of forgiveness, of grace is to stop the flow to yourself. The spiritual flow is one and the same. You love well because you are loved. You give grace because you have it. You can’t give grace you don’t have; and you won’t give it because you won’t receive grace yourself. It’s the nature of relationship, it’s the nature of the Kingdom of God and his life for us. The same grace you receive is the same grace that “the others” receive – the same grace that God extends to terrorists, murderers, rapists, politicians, bankers, and liars, it’s all the same grace that he has given you, me, and all of us.