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.