Loving your gay neighbor as yourself
My heart pounded as the Sunday School teacher asked us to break into small groups and discuss how we might reach the homosexual community for Christ.
I had often wondered if everyone knew my secret. Now I would find out for sure. In my group of four, Rachel spoke first: “I don’t have any compassion for homosexuals.”
My heart sank.
Mark chimed in, “I don’t have any compassion for homosexuals either, and I think AIDS is God’s judgment against homosexuals.”
These two seemed so smug, so arrogant. Anger burned within me, and I vowed not to speak. But my friend Robert, who knew I was formerly gay, spoke next. “Christine, what do you think?”
I shot him a look that could kill. Then I took a deep breath and shared my secret. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop as the looks on their faces told me they were embarrassed and truly sorry.
What they didn’t understand was that I, like most homosexuals, never wanted to be gay. It just sort of happened as the result of a perfect storm of events—growing up with an abusive father, gender confusion, and numerous experiences of sexual abuse.
Twenty years ago I left the gay scene after becoming a Christian. Through the kindness showed to me by a group of Christians who stood in the gap for me and were Jesus with skin on, I tasted a better love and wasn’t willing to settle for a counterfeit anymore. I’m not talking about an opposite-sex partner but the love and forgiveness my Savior offered.
Over the years as the director of a ministry that helps people with unwanted same-sex attractions, I’ve heard far worse stories of how unrepentant homosexuals have been rejected or maligned by church culture because of the nature of their sin struggle.
This begs the question, if we can’t embrace and support a repentant homosexual, then how much more so will we struggle to show God’s redeeming love to someone who is actively gay?
When it comes to tolerating the homosexual—much less showing love and compassion—it seems we have a double standard in church culture. That is, heterosexual sin is just not so bad and not nearly as frowned upon.
In most of society, homosexuality is not only tolerated but celebrated today. Thank goodness many in the church still uphold the biblical worldview that homosexuality is sin. They understand that just because culture has changed its mind on the issue doesn’t mean God has.
However, what we need to remember is that just because God calls it sin doesn’t justify treating the gay person with contempt or disrespect. Where did we ever get that idea? I meet Christians all the time who think that to love a homosexual is somehow an endorsement of their behavior and a compromise of their Christianity.
On the contrary, when Jesus walked this earth He was called a friend of sinners. Since we are called to follow His example, this gives us full permission to engage and love those around us who may be different from us—who may even be gay!
Living in South Florida, where there is a growing gay community that is sometimes emboldened in its behavior, I have many opportunities for my sensibilities to be challenged by those who are out and proud. The question is how will we respond to the biblical mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves?
Thankfully, as I shared a few details of my story in that Sunday School setting, my two classmates had compassion for me. They also realized they were no better than the Pharisees who wanted to stone the woman caught in the very act of adultery. My two friends wisely put their rocks down.
Now if we could just figure out a way to get the rest of Christianity to do the same!
Some helpful things to remember
Gay people are not freaks. They’re not weird or abnormal just because of their sexual orientation. If you don’t understand homosexuality that’s OK, but that’s no reason to make fun of, reject, or discriminate against gays. They are people, too, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their sexual preference.
People aren’t born gay. Many people have been deceived into thinking that there is a so-called gay gene. Research has been done to find a genetic link to homosexuality, but it actually proved just the opposite, that homosexuality is not inborn. Its causes are varied but often include childhood trauma such as sexual or emotional abuse, early exposure to pornography, unmet emotional needs, and a breakdown in the relationship with the same-sex parent.
God loves the homosexual struggler. Though the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27), God does not reject the homosexual. He loves gay people just as much as He loves straight people. God sees us all alike, as sinners in need of a Savior. The Gospel is for everyone, including the homosexual.
There is hope for change. Gay people don’t have to stay that way. A homosexual orientation is not a life sentence. With God’s help and the loving support of others, many people have left the homosexual lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes or easy answers for gays who wish to change. That’s why it’s helpful to talk to someone who’s been there.
Christine Sneeringer has been walking in freedom from homosexuality for 20 years and is passionate about sharing God’s love with the lost. She serves as the director of Worthy Creations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and is a member of the SBC Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. Information on the task force can be found at http://www.sbcthewayout.com.