Christians should be challenged to avoid shunning and stigmatizing homosexuals, a practice which is quite common among Christians. When we Christians raise our young people to shun their ‘different’ peers we are actually limiting the spiritual influence they can have, and we force them to create a false barrier that leads them to question their faith in more significant ways. In addition, if we don’t work at developing meaningful relationships with our co-workers, whether gay or straight, how can we expect them to respect us and our beliefs?
There is certainly much work to be done on this point by evangelical Christians and churches. Knowing the biblical stance on this sin, we sometimes privilege this sin above others and end up being far less loving to homosexual people than our faith demands.
However, the fact that Christians call homosexuality a sin automatically brands us in today’s permissive sexual culture. The hard reality here may be that even the most compassionate Bible-believing Christians will find this image hard to shed in our day.
Bottom Line of Message: Jesus did not come to be our Judge, but our Savior. As followers of Christ, we must follow his example.
• The two greatest perceptions of Christians by young outsiders today are that we are judgmental and anti-homosexual. Interestingly, these are the same perceptions that young churchgoers have of Christians as well.
• Being anti-homosexual is just being judgmental applied to a specific issue.
• Why do people perceive Christians this way?
— Is it our stance toward legislation—we’re known more for what we are against (and therefore judge) than what we are for?
— Is it because we suggest to people that they have to change their sinful behavior before God will love them and accept them?
— Is it because we say that we hate the sin and not the sinner when people that are homosexuals see their behavior as an aspect of their identity (and so what they hear is that we hate the sinner)?
• Are we really following Christ’s own example when we judge the sinful behaviors of others?
• During Jesus’ own ministry, he was often put in the position of judge.
— The rich, young ruler wanted Jesus to “judge” him as someone who was good and would inherit eternal life (Lk 18:18-23).
— Martha wanted Jesus to “judge” Mary as not having done the right thing (Lk 10:38-42).
— The man who wanted Jesus to tell his brother to split the inheritance with him (Lk 12:13-15). Consider Jesus’ response: “Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
• But did Jesus accept this role of “Judge”? Let’s look at a defining passage. Biblical Text: John 7:53—8:11
• Be sure to give qualification about how this text isn’t in the oldest manuscripts, but we have no good reason to think it wasn’t an authentic story.
• The scene looks like a courtroom with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees as prosecutors, the woman as the defendant, the crowds as the jury, and Jesus positioned as the judge.
• The religious leaders think they have trapped Jesus. Under Jewish Law, it appears the woman should be executed because of her sin. But the Romans wouldn’t allow Jews to execute people—that was only Rome’s prerogative. So how will Jesus respond?
• In verse 7, Jesus implies that if he is to take the role of judge, then everyone will stand guilty—no one is without sin in their lives.
• Everyone leaves; no one is left to judge or condemn her except Jesus.
• Then Jesus says something incredible: “Neither do I condemn you.” He does acknowledge her sin and call on her to change her ways, but he doesn’t condemn or judge her.
• Refer to John 3:17-18. Jesus did not come to condemn or judge and if someone stands condemned or judged before God, that is not our responsibility. Our responsibility, like Jesus’, is to offer love and grace without condemnation.
• What if we applied this truth as followers of Jesus?
• Isn’t this how we want to be treated? None of us is without sin in our lives; all of us are in need of God’s grace and we are so thankful that Jesus loves us and accepts us in spite of our sin.
• Like the woman caught in adultery, our sinful ways and lives will only change when we have first received, accepted, and experienced the unconditional love of Jesus. If that’s true, then shouldn’t we be people who are focused only on showing unconditional love and grace, and not judgment and condemnation toward others?
• What if Christians and local churches became places known for their grace and love and not for their judgment? Do you think that would be attractive?
• Who have you judged in your life and what can you do to change your posture, and consequently, begin to change the perceptions?
• All of this does not ignore the complex issues surrounding such topics as homosexuality. But it does mean that we have a new and different starting point for our attitudes and actions: love and grace. Why? Because “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Are we willing to follow his example?
1. When you hear the word “homosexual” what are your first reactions? Discuss your opinions and try to assess the reasons behind them.
2. Discuss the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer as it applies to the homosexual discussion: “Nothing that we despise in the other [person] is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
3. If judgmentalism means you marginalize someone, describe a time when you have been judgmental towards someone else (whether regarding homosexuality or some other behavior you considered sinful). Compare that to a time when you were judged by another Christian who seemed wrongly motivated to find fault.
4. What is your reaction to 1 Corinthians 5, especially verse 12? Paul informs the Christian community that they have no responsibility to judge outsiders, but he says, “It certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”
5. How can Christian communities learn the proper balance between what it means to be gracious and effective with “outsiders,” while being very clear on not accepting sin among churchgoers? Keep in mind that its complex because many people who visit churches are actually “outsiders.” How should church discipline function when the community is invited in every Sunday?
6. Have you ever heard the statement, “Hate the sin but love the sinner”? Have you ever used that phrase? Is that really possible? How does this approach help or hurt your ability to unconditionally accept outsiders?
Negative Stereotype: Non-Christians believe we are Anti-Homosexual.
Treating gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, cross-dressers, transvestites, and transgendered peoples as immoral and some of the worst “sinners” among us (i.e. especially worse than us). We treat them as wicked or “filthy”. We suggest that Aids-HIV is God’s punishment of their sexual sin.
• What’s your definition of being anti-homosexual?
A Story to Make It Real:
“The truth is that evangelical Christians believe that being gay is a “choice” and a “sin” is homophobic, and perpetuates a culture that wrongly discriminates and marginalizes.”
“I enjoy cross dressing, it makes me feel good about my appearance. It is my right, however the value of that right is severally damaged when I am constantly under question, and attack by members of various religious groups. I know better than to treat people (religious or otherwise) in such a crass and heartless manor. However many religious people, from my experience, do not know better. Are you personally familiar with what it feels like to have people follow you around shouting rude things, throwing empty coffee cups at you, or cornering you with the intention of goading you into a fight? I just want to live my life, my way.”
Examples: (Do you have any stories to share? What’s the impact of our anti-homosexuality?)
1. We are viewed as anti-homosexual when we are seen protesting gay marriage.
2. We are viewed as anti-homosexual when we oppose adoption by gay parents.
3. “No one goes out and tries to force Christian men to be gay, but many Christians take no issue with going out and trying to forcing gay men to be strait.”
4. “You apply your morals to me… to limit MY freedom.”
• People often say that hate stems from fear or not understanding something. What fears or misunderstandings might we have about homosexuality or befriending homosexuals?
• Are homosexuals born that way or is it a choice/lifestyle? What’s your experience/thoughts?
• How should we respond when a homosexual wants to befriend our same sex children?
• Where should we draw the line in influencing our culture/another person with our morals?
What God Say About It (The Bible): God speaks to us about homosexuality and sin. In the Old Testament when Jews were under the Mosaic Law, some sins were punished by death and others were allowed to be forgiven by a ritual sacrifice or cleansing. In the New Testament, sexual immorality is discussed as a sin, but for believers, Jesus cleanses us of ALL sins (big and small).
• Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)
13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
• Deuteronomy 22:5 (NIV)
5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
• 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV)
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
• 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body…20 …Therefore honor God with your body.
• James 2:10 (NIV)
10 For whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
• James 2:13 (NIV)
13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
• Verses for further study: Rom 13:9-10, Gal 5:16-17, Gal 5:19-21, John 8:7,11, James 1:20
• Who has a sinful nature (all or just homosexuals?). Are we truly any “better”?
• How does God view one (or any) sin compared to another? (Examples: heterosexual lust, adultery (even just with eyes- better to poke out your eye than go to hell), divorce (let no one separate what God has joined), idolatry of money (cant server two masters), being IN the world and OF the world.) Do we hate “other” people’s sin more than our own?
• We are taught: “love the sinner but hate the sin”. How can we teach the truth, sincerely and lovingly, without coming across as intolerant, judgmental, and homophobic?
• Jesus came to save not just the righteous, but sinners. Jesus can save even homosexuals and Jesus loves them just as much as he loves us. Do you believe this? Why/Why Not?
Closing Thoughts on Homosexuality:
How would Jesus treat a homosexual? Similar to how he treated other “sinners” such as prostitutes. He would not condemn them, but love them. And if they accepted Him as their savior, he would forgive them and tell them to go, and sin no more.
1) In the coming weeks, raise your awareness of how you think and act around homosexuals. Examine your heart and ask God how to respond.
2) Study the Bible verses for greater depth and meaning.
3) How can you show love to a homosexual friend, family member, co-worker, or acquaintance?