Let’s start with a statement about who this is for. I have had a few conversations recently with Christians who are truly struggling with how to respond to friends and family who are gay, especially in the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision that secures their right to marry their partner. This blog is for those Christians. Notice that I said, “truly struggling”. This blog is not for those of you who are not struggling, but are instead looking for a platform to posture. I know I can’t keep you from commenting, but I do want you to know from the start that this is not for you.
These conversations have had a few common themes. The folks I had them with feel utterly torn, because they have people in their lives whom they love that are directly affected by this ruling, and that makes them want to celebrate the feelings of joy with their loved ones. At the same time they have deeply held beliefs that make it hard for them to fully celebrate as they do honestly believe that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. They feel torn between incredibly important relationships and incredibly important beliefs. I simply want to affirm these folks and offer a challenge that comes from within their own frame of belief.
But first, a disclaimer.
I do not share your struggle. I am more than willing to have a genuine conversation if that would help, but for now I will simply say that I do not believe homosexuality to be a sin. I sincerely do celebrate the SCOTUS decision and see it as a decision that will be looked back on as the obvious “Right Thing To Do”. If that discredits me in your eyes, please feel free to close the window now. I won’t be offended.
I have felt a strong desire to answer the question this blog is based on with another (far more cliche and sure to get lots of eye rolls) question. What Would Jesus Do? Stay with me here! I ask that question, because it seems that if we are truly trying to find out how a Christian is to respond, Jesus would be a good person to consider.
This blog is being written for people who see homosexuality as something they do not condone, so I figured we should see if Jesus was ever confronted with the opportunity to engage folks who are in the midst of a “lifestyle choice” (using a common phrase among more conservative Christians in reference to homosexuality) that He would never condone. The immediate–and obvious in my mind–answer is Jesus’ interactions with Tax Collectors.
A little bit of background about Tax Collectors. These men–I understand they are mostly, if not all Jews–worked on behalf of the Roman Empire to collect the taxes demanded of the Jewish people. They were required to collect a certain amount, but most of them demanded more in an effort to use their position of power to get rich off the backs of their fellow people. They were considered thieves, and I believe Jesus would have strongly agreed with that understanding of their profession.
I feel this is a good place to note that I used the following story because Jesus was interacting with a man whose actions He did not condone, not because I believe you see homosexuals as corrupt criminals crippling the American people. I think better of you than that.
Probably the most famous story of Jesus interacting with a Tax Collector is the story of Zaccheus. Zaccheus and I have one thing in common–our height. He was so short that climbing a tree was his only chance of getting a look at this man they call Jesus. Jesus sees him in the tree and invites Himself over to Zaccheus’ home.
The people are outraged as Jesus extends this overwhelmingly kind gesture to such a terrible sinner who steals from his own people. Yet Jesus doesn’t seem to mind the talking. To Him, the gesture is more than appropriate.
Zaccheus experiences a sort of awakening and realizes how rotten he had been toward his people. He declares that he will pay back all that he stole with interest!
Let’s notice a few details about this story.
Zaccheus was complicit in a system that kept Jesus, and His nation of origin, in a state of deep oppression.
Jesus did not condone Zaccheus’ work. In fact, He probably wept over it.
Jesus embraces Zaccheus with no obvious agenda! That little detail often gets lost in this story, particularly because Zaccheus promises to pay back all he has stolen. In truth, Jesus (strictly speaking from the text) merely went to Zaccheus’ home. He showed him dignity. He extended an arm of friendship.
This one also often gets lost in the telling of this story. Zaccheus did not stop being a Tax Collector and yet Jesus affirmed that salvation had come to his home that day. While Zaccheus might agree to pay back those he had wronged, the system was still crippling most Jews and Zaccheus was still a part of it.
So based on this story, how could straight Christians who do not condone homosexuality respond to homosexuals? With friendship. With agenda and disclaimer free friendship regardless of how others might perceive that friendship.
I am not trying to suggest that your beliefs on this subject are unimportant. I am simply saying that your wrestling with those beliefs needn’t keep you from genuinely loving and supporting the people in your life who are gay. Even if it is true that Jesus would not condone homosexuality, I am deeply convinced that He would be the first to embrace those people in your life with authenticity and without an agenda.