“We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
This was a statement supposedly made by the Minnesota Vikings special teams coach to the Vikings punter several months ago. How do you feel about that statement? What is your initial reaction to it? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Or, are you just confused? Such hostility (on both sides of the coin) is not uncommon when it comes to the subject of homosexuality. It’s a topic of Biblical proportions—one that 21st century believers must learn to handle. As the church marches into the future, how should we treat homosexuals? How should we treat them when we come into contact with them in our community? Should we scorn them and reject them? Should we condone their actions?
In order to answer that question, I believe we need to ask another one: how would Jesus treat homosexuals? We used to ask that question all the time when we addressed different situations: what would Jesus do? Why can’t we ask it when it comes to this? Some people might object to this because Jesus never encountered a homosexual (that we know of).
No he didn’t. But he did deal with people in similar situations, and through examining those I think we can come to some pretty important conclusions.
So, how would Jesus treat homosexuals?
He would remove the hypocritical/unbalanced judgment. Do you remember the account of Jesus the woman caught in adultery in John 8? The Pharisees had caught her in the very act of adultery and they wanted to stone her according to the Law of Moses—they had the rocks in hand! Yet, Jesus’ response to them was the last thing they were expecting: “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Jesus turns the question around on them: instead of dragging this woman out into the streets to be stoned, you should be asking why you shouldn’t be stoned! The Pharisees had a tendency to be hypocritical or unbalanced in their judgments of sin (Matt. 7:1-5; Lk. 11:42). They didn’t view their sin as nearly as heinous as this woman’s—yet, Jesus levels the playing field. Their unrepentant sin was just as bad as that woman’s! Their pride and their arrogance was just as bad as this woman’s adultery.
How many times do we Christians treat homosexuality in the same manner that these Pharisees do? We parade it through the streets, call it to the forefront of Christian discourse, and have the rocks in hand to get the job done. In our knee jerk reaction to the depravity of the sin itself, or in our reaction to the hostility we have received by the promotion of homosexuality, we have at times elevated this particular sin above others. Certain congregations might never talk about troubled marriages, divorce and remarriage, being a good wife or husband, but they will condemn homosexuality all day long. We have to be careful of this my brethren. Jesus would very well hand us a mirror and cause us to look at ourselves.
Now, that’s not to say that those promoting the homosexual agenda haven’t paraded this through the streets themselves, bringing it to our attention, not to condemn them but to condone them—Jesus did not do that either (we will look at this later). Either way, just as Jesus, we need to get rid of the stones and do an honest evaluation of ourselves and our ministries—are we placing an undue amount of attention on this particular sin?
He would respect them. Do you remember the Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke to in John 4? As he asks her a simple favor, do you remember her reaction? “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)? She was astonished that he was taking the time to talk to her; so were the apostles (v. 27). They were amazed that he had taken the time to talk to her, to show he valued her, to respect her. Jesus doesn’t use the common terms of the day that disrespected and devalued the Samaritan people. He didn’t tell crude jokes that made hurtful comments about this woman—he simply showed her the respect that he wished to receive—he was practicing what he preached.
What about us? Are we using common slang words to refer to homosexuals? Are we using offensive language and terms to refer to them? Are we telling dirty, crude and offensive jokes to jeer at them? If so, do we think we are being Christ like when we do that?
“Well they don’t treat us with respect! We are just giving back what they are handing out!” Where is Jesus in that statement (Matt. 5:43-47; 1 Pet. 2:23)? Doesn’t gracious speech demand that we give someone something they don’t deserve? The people you are dealing with might not deserve for you to deal with them in a respectful, gracious manner, yet we are called to give them grace anyway. So let’s stop the derogatory name calling and the dirty jokes and treat homosexuals with respect. Whether we want to recognize it or not, they were made in the image of God as well; therefore, when we respect them we are respecting the inherent value they have from the Father.
He would have a meal with them. Have you ever had a meal with a homosexual? Have you ever invited them over to your house or taken them out to eat? Have you ever eaten in their home? I haven’t, and that bothers me—because I think Jesus would have. We are beginning to step out of our comfort zone a little bit now (for some of us way out of it), yet we must center our ministries on that of Jesus Christ.
I am amazed at how often Jesus ministered to people around the context of table fellowship and food—particularly Zacchaeus. As we open Luke 19 the focus of the story is a sinner seeking out a saint, but as we progress through the narrative we see that isn’t the case at all—it’s a Savior seeking out a sinner (v. 10). Yet, notice how Jesus doesn’t stand under the tree (making sure there was a safe enough distance between them lest rumors start) talking to him—he goes into his house and eats a meal with him (v. 6). What wonders this worked for Zacchaeus! A man who he thought didn’t have the time (or interest) in talking to him is now sitting down and eating a meal and talking with him. The Holy God has become a humble friend—the majesty!
What about us friends? Are we willing to step out of our comfort zones to be like Jesus? Are we willing to take the time to have a meal and conversation with homosexuals in our community? Or, are we going to stand by like the religious elite because we won’t eat with “sinners”? Jesus would have eaten a meal with a homosexual.
He would guide them in the truth. Did Jesus condone sin? Would he have condoned homosexuality? Some seem to think so. Yet, I remember that, while Jesus wasn’t going to allow the Jews to stone the woman caught in adultery, He also wasn’t going to allow her to continue in her sin: “Go and sin no more.” I also remember that, while Jesus showed great respect for the Samaritan woman, he also let her know that she was not living in right marital relationship: “The one you are living with now is not your husband.” I also don’t believe that just because Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality means he condoned it. Jesus didn’t talk about a lot of things that we now of—torture and drug abuse to name a couple. Yet, the implications of Jesus’ teaching (such as his condemnation of fornication, Matt. 15:19, and his limitation of marriage to a man and a woman, Matt. 19) show us that Jesus did not condone homosexuality—to him it was a sin.
But I also realize that the first thing Jesus didn’t do when he associated with people in sin was tell them how wrong they were. Yet, somehow, that sin always came out and Jesus took those opportunities to instruct them in the way of truth. Notice, how often people willingly admit their sin after being in the presence of Jesus (Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus). People have a tendency to recognize their sin when in the presence of the Holy. What about us? Are we jumping on homosexuals the first time we meet them to let them know how horrible their sin is? Or, are we patient with them, using wisdom, respect and discernment as we guide them into the truth of God?
At the end of the day, you know how Jesus would treat homosexuals? With love. As we have seen, that love doesn’t condone their sin, but it does remove hypocritical and harsh judgments, it treats them with respect, it spends time getting to know them, and it guides them into truth. So, as the body of Christ, the constant presence of Christ in our communities, let us go out and treat homosexuals like Jesus would: speaking the truth in love.
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