In 850 we challenged you with the question, "How should a Christian respond when a close friend is gay?" We were subsequently flooded with a wide range of passionate, intelligent, gut-check responses. (You people are good at that.)
One reader said, "I view my gayness as a sexual handicap—it is not, perhaps, what God originally intended for me, but I nevertheless bear His image, and His grace is sufficient." Others pointed to the difference between love and acceptance. The majority of responses pointed out that all sin is equal: "We know that an active homosexual lifestyle is not pleasing to God, but it is important to understand that NO sin is pleasing to God and not to reserve a special category that brands one sin as worse than any other."
One reader said this is a grey issue that cannot be resolved as easily as some Christians believe it can be: "In truth, it is a far greyer area than many churches would ever admit. And in typical fashion, the church responds to a grey issue by overstating its position and understating its case."
We realize the issue of a Christian response to homosexuality is a delicate one. But it’s one worth discussing, so that’s what we’re doing in this week’s column.
We’ve divided the responses below into four categories of thought: Love vs. acceptance, I am the gay friend, All sin is sin, and We are not called to change anyone. Bear in mind these are reader responses and not necessarily the editorial opinions of RELEVANT magazine. (If you’d like to jump in on the discussion, visit the new RELEVANT message boards):
[Love is Not the Same as Acceptance]
Love is not the same as acceptance … At every point where Jesus showed love to a sinner, he never said, "I forgive you and I accept your situation, you can always come to me for advice." … Our society has mixed up the word acceptance with love, turning many important issues into grey areas simply because we don’t want to confront real problems.[N.R.]
The happiness [the gay friend] is experiencing, just like any other worldly pleasure, is not true happiness and will not last … It cannot, because it is not based on God and godly principles … God not only offers the fulfillment that your friend is looking for, but He also has the power to change his lifestyle.[K.S.]
From last week’s column: He has adopted so many worldly attitudes and bad interpretations of scripture that he doesn’t even see his homosexuality as a sin. I want so much to lead him to a correct understanding of scripture—not that God loves us all and overlooks our sin so we’re all OK and don’t need to worry about it, but rather that He loves us enough to lead us away from our sin. If we insist on our own interpretations rather than His, we’re actually walking away from His love.[J.S.]
[I am the Gay Friend]
I am the gay friend, but I am a deeply committed Christian. I guess I should clarify—I am sexually attracted only to men, but since I was saved in college over ten years ago, I have obeyed the biblical injunction to all single people to remain celibate. I do not date or have sex with other men. I have resigned myself to a life where my most intimate personal relationship will be friendship.
Consequently, friendships are incredibly important to me in a way they are not to my straight friends, married or single. My difficulty is knowing who to trust, who to "come out" to. People cannot really fully understand me or fully love me unless they know all of my baggage. But since I am a leader in a conservative church, I have to be very careful about it.
I have a very close friend now who, after five years, still does not know. He just thinks I’m shy about women. I would like very much to tell him, but I hold back. Why? No one I have ever come out to has rejected me. No one. I guess putting friendships on the line is hard to do because of how important they are. I would rather have my friend be ignorant of my orientation than risk losing him.
I’m not sure gay people would be better off straight. If I were straight, I would be a VERY different person than I am now. Being gay drove me when I was young to be a private person. I did lots of reading and practicing music—solitary pursuits—which has profoundly shaped who I am today. And God has used music and intellect as primary means for me to minister to others.
The naive evangelical approach to gay people is to expect them to somehow change their orientation, and become straight the way God intended them to be. In fact, that kind of transformation is both rare and very difficult to achieve. We don’t expect people born without a left hand to have to grow one out as an expression of their Christian faith—we see them as handicapped. There is a sense in which they are not all God intended for them to be; they are marred, but they are still people who bear in a unique way the image of God. I view my gayness as a sexual handicap—it is not, perhaps, what God originally intended for me, but I nevertheless bear His image, and His grace is sufficient.[L.C.]
Thankfully, I have had quite a few female friends throughout my youth and into my adulthood, who were greatly used, as a windowgate to salvation, by the Lord, in order that I could escape from the darkness and snare of gay American subcultural strongholds. I would never have trusted and listened to a man at first. It had to be from a Christian woman.[T.M.]
The second greatest commandment, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, certainly applies to those who are out of the mainstream, homosexuals included. Even Paul, who was clearly against homosexual practice, spoke of the body of Christ as one unit made of many diverse members. I know that Christ welcomes all people into his church, equally and lovingly. As Christians, we should do the same for our homosexual sisters and brothers.[E.H.]
[All Sin is Sin]
We know that an active homosexual lifestyle is not pleasing to God, but it is important to understand that NO sin is pleasing to God and not to reserve a special category that brands one sin as worse than any other. We have much to learn about how to reach out to those who are gay.[B.F.]
I think that the Christian community is too rigid and condemning when it comes to certain sins. It’s easier to turn a blind eye or distance yourself because it’s sin. Do we shun those who tell a lie?[L.]
I spent my entire self trying to find that peace, that good feeling inside about myself. I tried alcohol, drugs, sex, and considered homosexuality … Life was so phony to me. At some point lower than I care to remember, I cried out to God, even though I was sure He wouldn’t have anything to do with anyone like me … The reason I was so miserable so many years is that I knew I was wrong, but I THOUGHT that there was no hope. It is never too late and we don’t get sinful enough to handicap God. Gay is just another sin.[R.M.H.]
Our bodies are temples … that goes for all sins of the body—sexual, out of control eating, drug abuse, smoking, drinking, using bodies in witchcraft, sexual sin, masturbation, pornography, sexual promiscuity, premarital sex, multiple sexual partners, even sexual activities within a normal marriage are not all of God. People need set free of all sorts of bondage![B.]
I related to the article on having a gay friend. However, maybe next time you could spare us all the cliches attached to homosexuality. Not every gay person has friends w/HIV or has attempted suicide. My friend is actually quite grounded.
Also, you hit on the fact that we are all sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness, but I don’t think that point was emphasized enough. We can’t afford to isolate homosexuality as the only sin worth special attention. Everyone, gay or straight, needs praying for.[L.B.]
[We are Not Called to Change Anyone]
We are not called to change anyone, and more importantly we don’t have the ability to do so. All we can do it allow God to love through us and in God’s time they will be transformed.[J.T.]
Friends of mine who are of other religions, different levels of commitment to Christ and sexual preferences all share a part of my heart. Being gay is a political issue not a spiritual one because we all come short of the glory of God; we have to pray and be a good witness to everyone and God takes care of the rest.[J.H.]
I think the bottom line is we need to pray God’s will in these people’s lives, and nothing more. It isn’t up to me to work out my friend’s salvation. It’s up to me to work out my own salvation, and then pray and allow the Lord to unfold His will in my friends…gay, lesbian, Buddhist, Muslim, whatever.[S.G.]
… When I’m in local plays and some of the actors are homosexual, I say nothing because there is no relational permission to do so. This would offend those who would say I’m called to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, but unfortunately, these men have heard the Gospel. One even goes to a church and speaks of being led by the Holy Spirit. God never once prompted me to say anything to them, so I didn’t.[T.P.]
I honestly don’t know what I really even think about the whole homosexuality issue; I mostly think I don’t care. I’m more interested in loving people, and calling out the beauty I see in them, than discouraging them for the sake of being correct. But I feel like in that opinion, I get judged by the same Christians who want to ensure that people who are gay "know how evil they are" because I’m not being "bold" enough. Why is it so easy for Christians to force accountability on people (they usually barely know) with issues like homosexuality and abortion but not be accountable with their close friends with issues like pride and judgment?[J.D.]
If I can help to bring someone into relationship with God, our Lord and Savior, should I not also trust that God will show them the way to follow and take them in the right direction, according to His will and not ours? Instead of all this preaching and bible pounding to the gay and lesbian community, can we not talk to them and bring them into a relationship with Jesus? Let them ask the questions like "Does God think that being a homosexual is wrong?", show them the scripture, do not tell them what you got from the scripture, have them read it and ask God for guidance.[J.H.]