Homosexuality, Derek Webb, and Following Jesus

I’m a big fan of Derek Webb’s music. It’s catchy, enjoyable to listen to, and it doesn’t fall into the musical ruts that so much Christian music falls into. Musically speaking, he’s a breath of fresh air. Which is why I was disappointed to read a recent interview with Derek, in which he made several statements that really bothered me.

For example, when answering the question: “How do you think the Christian community can build bridges to the LGBT [Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual/Transgender] community?”, he says:

The church has spent so many years dealing publicly in the morality of the issue, in a way that misrepresents the response that I believe Jesus would have, that Christians have forgotten, or maybe never really [knew] in the first place, that whether your moral response to the gay issue is that it is perfectly permissible in the eyes of the Bible, or that it is totally reprehensible, your interpersonal response should be absolutely no different to gay people.

The response, by the way, is love. Period. It’s love and open arms, regardless of your position on the morality.

I want to be careful that I don’t misrepresent what Derek is saying. He seems to be saying that the problem is the church’s emphasis on the morality of homosexuality, and that we’ve ignored the fact that we’re supposed to love people. This may have some truth to it. I really do want my friends and relatives who are homosexual to know that I love them and care for them.

But, I think we need to be careful about driving a wedge between loving people and calling people to righteousness. We do need to love people, but not at the expense of God’s commands. If someone that I love is engaged in sin, and I believe that homosexuality is sin, at some point I need to call them to repentance. If I don’t do that, I’m not loving them.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace always leads to righteousness. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” God’s grace and love have come to us, and they train us in righteousness. There is no division between God’s love and a life of righteousness.

Now, do we need to be careful about the way we communicate God’s call to righteousness? Yes, absolutely. All our discussions should be flavored with love and grace. But we need to stand firm on the issue itself.

A little later in the interview Derek says:

I have a lot of friends and family that have suffered because of the church’s judgment; my best friend in the world is gay. I felt a lot of people around me drawing lines in the sand, and that year I decided: I don’t want to draw lines and have to be on one side or the other, but if someone’s going to push me to one or the other side of the line, I’m going to stand on the side of those being judged because that’s where I feel Jesus meets people.

He’s absolutely right, in that Jesus does go after the weak and the suffering. Jesus spent time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and he loved them, and I want to be just like Jesus. But Jesus never left people where they were. He called tax collectors like Zacchaeus to give money back to the poor. He called the adulterous woman to sin no more. He didn’t just love sinners, he also called them to godliness. That’s what God’s love does. It meets us where we are and then draws us to godliness.

We must love homosexuals, and we must identify with them as sinners. We’re sinners, just like them, who desperately need a savior. There has to be a place in our churches for those who struggle with homosexuality. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised or fearful if someone we know is a homosexual or struggles with homosexuality. But if we are really going to love homosexuals, we also need to speak the truth of God’s word to them, which clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. This isn’t an either/or thing. It’s not that we either love homosexuals or we call them to righteousness. It’s both.

I may have misunderstood what Derek was saying. I hope so. And I hope that I have the grace to treat my homosexual friends and relatives with kindness and compassion, and the courage to call them to godliness.


  • lisa says:

    Well said, Stephen! Thank you!

  • Jason VanLue says:

    Well written Stephen. I agree with you, I'm also a big fan of Derek's, and I think he is what the church needs in a lot of ways – that is to not let our preferences and ideals turn into absolutes at the expense of loving and serving.

    That being said I fear that his position could lead to him eventually dismissing homosexuality as a sin…maybe not consciously but certainly in action.

  • @DaveKetter says:

    I think I get what Derek is saying, and I resonate with it a great deal. I also understand what you're saying…so in some ways, I'm right down the middle. But where I would be cautious is on the matter that sanctification is progressive. And people don't grow in righteousness with the same steps or at the same pace. Now, how I am responding to that as a believer will be different in how I would respond to that as a pastor (thus, the difference in role), but that's a difference in whether I have oversight and accountability for them, not a difference in my love.

  • Ajay Grayson says:

    Thanks for this, its so dis-heartening to see so many churches turn away from scripture in favor of political correctness. While it is true there have been Christians who have been very pharisee-ical (I know that’s probably not a word) and hateful towards homosexuals It does not mean denying the sinfulness of it is the answer. It is important to remember yes he loves sinners but is calling them to repentance

  • DWenger says:

    I agree with what you say and I, too, hope that hope that Derek is not compromising God's commands…the bible clearly states in I Cor 6:9-11…"9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous [2] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [3] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
    But, I do believe that the church often picks their battles around certain sins…notice the other things in the above list? Although some Christians may not have been homosexuals or thieves, all of us have been idolaters…loving self above God. I think this calls for remembering God's mercy in the Cross toward us when He opened our eyes to the Gospel and poured out grace for us to respond. We can turn and love ALL others by sharing that mercy with them. I would have a concern about Derek's statement: "I have a lot of friends and family that have suffered because of the church’s judgment; my best friend in the world is gay." If indeed his best friend is an unbelieving homosexual, I'd be concerned that he has as his best friend an unbeliever, since it's impossible to have fellowship with unbelievers and I'd sure want to have fellowship with my BEST friend! If, on the other hand, his best friend is a believer who is an active homosexual, than I believe he'd want to share God's word and truth with his best friend and see him come out of the bondage and deception that he's in. If he's only a "struggling" non-active homosexual, than support, love and prayer are the order of the day! Just my thoughts! God bless!

  • Thank you for so clearly and simply stating truth.

  • Charisa says:

    There is more to be said I think, and I think lots of qualifiers to be added. The issue itself is moot if the person has not been justified. And while I think this is what you mean, it's important to say that the call to righteousness is not totally in the turning from sin, but in the turning TO Jesus. In a lot of cases, Christians tend to focus on homosexuality is if it's the only sin or issue a person deals with, it's this big looming sin. We need to remember that it's just one of many sins and that turning from it is not what's most imporant. Turning to Jesus is, and in doing so, the bonds of ALL sin are then broken. So… well… I agree with Derek Webb on this, and I agree with you, but I think it's important to say our focus should be Jesus and not the sin itself. In addition, homosexuals are shunned in a way that those who are just having premarital sex are. Why don't we treat them the same?

  • Chip says:

    Also a fan of Webb's creativity…well said and should be said more often.

  • What a great article and great topic!

    "He didn’t just love sinners, he also called them to godliness. That’s what God’s love does. It meets us where we are and then draws us to godliness." That's exactly it! Amen!

    Derek Webb's comments lately have been really disappointing…he's sold out to the world, and that's clear. I'm sure that my comments are going to be judged as bigotry and being "judgy"…but let's keep in mind here that judgment is going to happen…and having RIGHT judgment is the issue here. Jesus said it himself (John 7:24).

    Derek Webb, and many other Christians need to realize that compromising the Gospel for the sake of self-preservation is not only sin, but is showing how much you actually HATE that person more than love them. It's showing that you care more about yourself. Love, "it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth." (1 Cor. 13:6) Yes, Jesus sat with the sinners, and the tax collectors…but can we forget what happened when he called them out? Went from 5,000 to 72 folks…even his own disciples were like, "I can't deal with what Jesus is saying…" (John 6)

    Are we in the business of pleasing man, or in the business of pleasing God? I'll leave with this scripture from Galatians:

    "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

    For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (v. 6-10)

    With the affectionate and steadfast love of Christ,

  • Bill B says:

    Though I have been aware of Derek Webb for years, I am a relatively new fan of he and his music. I read his interview in the Huffington Post and your response/concerns. Allow me to counter-post.

    In regards to your first point of concern, I don't see Derek Webb saying we should condone sin. I understand him to be taking issue with the churches response to the homosexual community. Let's be honest. Love is hardly the label I would put on many responses of supposed christians? Judgement and condemnation seem closer to the mark. Jesus came and loved messed-up people and it changed their lives. As Christ's ambassadors, Derek believes Christians can have that same impact on the world. (And I concur.) In truth, your siting of Titus 2:11,12 confirms this very idea. God's grace (love) draws people to salvation.

  • Bill B says:

    As to your second concern, Jesus did not implore Zacchaeus to repay anyone. This was voluntary on the part of Zacchaeus, but resulted from the love that Jesus showed to him. I believe that if Christians show the world what a loving relationship looks like, the Holy Spirit will impress upon and direct their life accordingly. You may think this is a passive approach, but I would like you to show me anyone that ever changed their actions as a result of a 'Bible beating'??

    In closing, the only person that you can control/change is themself. I think the wold would be a better place if we all concentrated our efforts do that.

  • Bill B says:

    Forgive me. my grammar/typing skills went awry. That last sentence SHOULD READ, "In closing, the only person that you can control/change is yourself. I think the world would be a better place if we all concentrated our efforts doing so."

    Also, understand that no disrespect is intended in either of my postings. I should have prefaced them beforehand. *smile*

  • Thanks for your comments Bill. I'm not sure exactly what Derek was saying in relation to whether homosexuality is a sin, and I think that was part of the problem with the interview. It was just so confusing. I do agree that we need to love people, no doubt about that. I just wouldn't want to do it at the expense of calling people to repentance.

    In regards to the second point, I think I disagree. Faith in Christ and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Faith and repentance always go hand in hand in scripture. Nowhere do you see an example of someone coming to Christ without repenting of sin. Now, it's true that repentance can be a process, so if that's what you mean, I definitely understand.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts!

  • Jes says:

    I agree that love in truth must be stressed, BUT I think an important point to raise is that the much of the Church has elevated homosexuality to be a "greater sin" but for the most part remains silent on the real "greater" sins, such as greed. There are many many more biblical references to not being generous to the poor and marginalized, hoarding earthly possessions, serving the "god of mammon", than there are with homosexuality. This silence shows a very despicable double standard, in my opinion, which is pretty hypocritical to our non-christian peers.
    To me this means, we must practice consistency as a church community in what we regard as "unrighteous".. If we cannot be a prophetic voice on things as corporate greed, human trafficking, inhumane food/agricultural system practices, the most loving (and possibly just) action towards our gay friends might be to be a most generous listener. To our shame, in many cases, the church has simply ignored the gay community at every level.

  • g_love says:

    It is so easy for a heterosexual to comment on this topic, So many gay christians out there feel rejected because how other christians have made them feel. Being gay is a part of who someone is, they should not feel judged or afraid to come to church. I am very much gay and very much a christian and i refuse to let people make me feel afraid to come to church. why this topic is always in the light is beyond me. There are alot worse things going on behind these judgmental christian's doors.

  • g_love says:

    I had the pleasure to see Derek Webb preform with Jars of Clay. I also watched his new video and think it's Great! gay people should be praying along side straight people for each other's sins.

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