Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia

Showing God’s Love to Homosexuals

December 5th, 2012

This summer, a website popped up entitled Queer at Patrick Henry College which is purportedly by Patrick Henry College students and alumni who talk about their struggles as a homosexual in the christianhomeschooling, and PHC communities.  When I originally saw the website a month ago, I thought it was part of an SEO attack similar to the SEO attack on Rick Santorum because of the large number of posts celebrating LGBT history.  After the website created a facebook page the school administration responded by trying to force the website to shut down, and blocking the website on the school’s network.

My initial thought is that this is an ironic response from a school which prides itself in teaching a Classical Liberal Arts education, one where students read books by people with whom they disagree in order to better understand and engage them.  Responding to criticisms of being narrow-minded by censoring a website seems to contradict PHC’s typical approach to teaching students to think for themselves.

The administration’s response also raises an issue that my generation is going to have to figure out as a result of the increasing size of the homosexual community.  How do we as the church interact with the homosexual community?

One camp says homosexuality is a sin and must be condemned.  This approach can quickly condemn the sinner for their sin.  Supporters of this view point to verses like I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 for support pointing out the seriousness with which God takes this sin.

We should not condone or excuse homosexuality.  However, as Christians we should show God’s love and grace to everyone, including homosexuals.  The idea of loving the sinner but not the sin should apply to everyone.  While Paul does say that homosexuals (along with people who commit a number of other sins) won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven, two verses later he goes on to show the beauty of the gospel.

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.

This is the beauty of the gospel.  The gospel saves those of whom it could once be said “they will not inherit the kingdom.”  The cross is the great leveler, and all who have faith in Christ can come to faith.

Following the I Timothy 1 passage where Paul condemns homosexuality, comes one of the most beautiful descriptions of the power of the gospel to redeem the chief of sinners.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:12-14)

If the gospel is powerful enough to save anyone, do our interactions with the homosexual community reflect that?  Wouldn’t that require us to show God’s love and grace to them as we interact with them?

Would a homosexual feel welcome in one of our churches? Probably not.  Can we blame them? Tragically not.  But how can we reach those who, as a result of our actions, expected to be condemned instead of loved when they came to our church?  I am not suggesting we should accept sin, but we should be willing to show God’s love to sinners.

Ironically, we understand the necessity of this much more readily when it comes to the other important social issue for evangelicals: abortion.  Murder is regularly condemned in the same breath as homosexuality, and sacrificing infants is vehemently condemned in the Bible.  Yet the pro-life movement has learned the importance of showing love to those who have abortions, and even those who perform abortions.  We understand that we must love those who have abortions, and seek to show them that God’s love can forgive them even for aborting their child.  We understand that we must love those who perform abortions, so they too will understand the love of God and be open to listening to us. We understand this…in the abortion context.  For some reason we don’t understand the importance of doing the same thing to those struggling with homosexuality.

Imagine if we believed in loving homosexuals like we do the mothers who have abortions.

In closing I would encourage you to read the stories of two prominent Christians who chose to love homosexuals without condoning their lifestyle.  The first tells how the head of the SBC in Oklahoma overwhelmed Soulforce with love when they decided to picket his church.  The second tells the story of a gay person giving Rich Mullins a lift.  I would encourage you to read these articles and ask yourself what would a gay person think if they interact with you?  Would they see God’s love through you, or would the be condemned by you?

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This article is not written as a condemnation of my Alma Mater, or those involved in the situation there.  I learned a lot through my time at Patrick Henry College, and I deeply appreciate Dr. Farris and the school leadership for the investment they continue to pour into students at the school, as well as their activism on many important issues.  The recent situation simply presented an opportunity to address an issue that Christian conservatives should continue thinking about.

 

Is Being Right What is Most Important?

November 21st, 2012

A recent discussion online about evangelicalism made me think yet again on the question of whether there should be something more important for Christians than believing and doing the right things.  Ben Tribbett, one of the leading Democrat bloggers in the state, shared an interesting story.

Willie Deutsch, I’ll share with you a story that is non-political on why evangelicals have trouble reaching people. My mom is Jewish- my dad is southern baptist, and whenever I went to Roanoke as a kid I attended a southern baptist church with my grandmother. One summer when I was about 5 and visiting for a month and my parents were gone the youth minister came over to the farm. I went outside with him and he proceeded to tell me that my mother was going to hell, and he wanted to save me from doing so. He demonstrated this by setting up some sticks on the ground to represent heaven and hell and stomped on the “jewish” sticks. My grandmother was PISSED when she heard what happened- because even though she was a devout baptist, she didn’t like people speaking “ugly” about other religions or people. I was perfectly happy attending church with her until that happened and never liked it afterwords.

This story brought to mind I Corinthians 13:1-3 and the need for Christians to show love.  Here Paul rattles off a number of valuable actions.  Things like speaking in tongues, prophesying, having great wisdom, great faith, charity, even martyrdom.  All these are good.  But Paul declares that possessing them without love is worthless.

One of the qualities Paul mentions is understanding “all mysteries and all knowledge.”  Understanding right doctrine and right practice certainly fits within the description of “understanding all knowledge.”  Imagine someone who perfectly understands all theology, and how people should live.  Wouldn’t that be pretty impressive?  Paul says if the person doesn’t have love, he is nothing.  Paul believes that all of that knowledge doesn’t matter if the person does not possess love.

Think back to the story of the pastor I shared earlier.  One can argue with whether the pastor was “right” in what he said, but what is undeniable is that he was unloving.  This also answers the question of why love is most important.  What the pastor did turned Ben away from Christianity, and who can blame him for having that reaction?  If your presentation or discussion of truth is not couched in love, how can you expect the listener to be willing to listen?  (As an aside, humility when talking about truth is also a good thing.)  An unloving discussion of truth will burn the relational bridges necessary to be able to influence a person.  How can you expect someone to seriously consider an idea presented in an unloving way?  Even worse, what will they think of Christ, whom you claim to represent?

Before writing off what I am talking about, consider this: when you know someone thinks differently than you do, are you quicker to judge or to try to love and understand?  What about homosexuals?  Do we as Christians love them or judge them?  Abortion doctors?  Those who have had an affair?  Those who have committed other grievous sin?

Thinking closer to home… What about the Christians who don’t act exactly as we do? The church with a different style of worship?  Those who don’t have the same standards of modesty?  Someone who is an Arminian or a Calvinist or Premill or Postmill, or you name it?  Are you quick to judge and distance yourself, or do you love them as your brother or sister in Christ?

“But Willie,” you may say, “These things are important.”  I know they are, but to Paul believing the right thing is worthless if you have not love.

You may also say, “Willie, I’m just showing ‘tough love.'”  Really?  Does the way you are showing love line up with the way Paul describes love in the rest of I Corinthians 13?

Another issue is that of intentions.  You may feel love towards someone, and believe that your actions are motivated by love.  But are the actions themselves loving?  The description of love, describes actions.  It is great to have the best of intentions, but are the actions themselves loving?  Think back to the pastor.  He was probably very well intentioned in wanting Ben to come to salvation, avoid hell, etc…  The unloving way in which he displayed his presumably good intentions had the opposite affect.

Think about the “being right” v. “showing love” dichotomy another way.  It is the difference between being more concerned with what someone does than in developing a relationship or understanding why they do certain actions when responding to them.  When you are more concerned about outcomes than building a relationship, you lose the ability to influence.  When someone thinks you are more concerned with making sure you act or think the way you do, then you have lost the ability to reach them at all.  This is the dangers that Christians face when they value being right over showing love.

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For a related sermon, I would strongly recommend this one by Colby Garman entitled Love the Mark of Christian Maturity.

Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia