I have several friends who are gay.
Some of them embrace the homosexual lifestyle while others embrace the teachings of Scripture and fight against the sinful desires within them.
As I’ve interacted with them, I’ve come to understand something that, on the surface, seems painfully obvious and potentially even offensive to them: they have real feelings and longings and desires.
Yes, I know. That sounds like something Mr. Rogers would say. Maybe he would even make up a cutesy song about it that he would sing while zipping up his cardigan.
But this is real and this is extraordinarily important.
Many Christians talk about the LGBTQ community in the abstract, as if they’re a homogenous group of people who want nothing more than to destroy the Christian faith and make the entire world gay. And I will admit that the media as a whole is pretty strongly anti-Christian when it comes to the issue of sexuality. And the politically correct, never offend anyone atmosphere of today is incredibly frustrating.
But here’s the thing. Behind all the stories and arguments and political battles are real people, made in the image of God, who, just like me, desperately need Jesus. People who desperately desire human connection and sexual fulfillment. People who are trying to make sense of how to live in a world that is deeply and fundamentally broken.
When we call men and women to repent of homosexuality and embrace Jesus Christ, we need to realize the depths of what we’re calling them to. We’re calling them to a life of intense struggle and frustration. A life that is distinctly void of the sexual expression found in marriage. We’re calling them to lay aside something that feels central to who they are as a person. We’re calling them to give up something that seems part of their core identity.
Consider yourself. How would you feel if someone called you to a life of celibacy? How deeply would that cut against you? Would you struggle if someone told you that all your heterosexual desires are sinful? I would, and I think you would too.
My concern with all the passionate, vitriolic, and even violent rhetoric about gender and bathrooms and marriage is that we’re forgetting that real people are involved. It’s easy to lob grenades from the safe bunkers of our Christian communities. It’s much harder to do that when we’re sitting across the table from a man or woman struggling deeply.
I’m not at all advocating that we soften the claims of the gospel to be more inclusive. That spells death for everyone involved. And I understand that fundamental issues of religious liberty are involved that require clear, intelligent, passionate advocacy.
But as we preach the gospel and fight for religious freedom, let’s do so with compassion. The gospel is for sinful, broken, struggling, jacked up people. If we dismiss the struggle as non-existent, the gospel isn’t good news anymore.
The gospel is a superior pleasure – it’s superior to the pleasures of sin. But to hold forth the gospel as a superior pleasure, we have to first acknowledge that sin is desirable, even if particular sins are not desirable to us.
So yes, let’s call people to repentance. Let’s call people to repent of sexual sin and cling to the gospel. But as we preach the gospel, let’s wrap it in compassion. Let’s adorn the truth of the gospel with the grace of the gospel.