If I become a Christian, do I have to hate homosexuals?
I cannot count how many times I've had a conversation with someone claiming not to believe in God, the church, or religion because of the way Christians have acted toward them or other people.
If you have read my blog before, you may have heard me say this: "Christianity wouldn't be so bad if not for all the Christians."
Something I noticed early after becoming a Christian is that straight Christian men and straight non-Christian men have a lot of opinions about homosexuals in common. Interestingly, in both cases, these opinions are unChristian.
One of the first articles I wrote on this blog was a two-part article, The number 1 rule of Christianity. In part 2, I discussed my frustrations with representatives of the Christian community vocalizing hatred toward various groups such as gays, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, etc.
In the five years hence, my time as a Christian has doubled, and the amount of Bible study I've undergone has doubled. But two things haven't changed. First, there are hate-filled people everywhere including in the church. Second, those who exercise their hatred from within the church always seem to find a way to do it on behalf of the church, the Bible, and religion.
I can think of no sadder reality than the fact that time and time again, people will misuse the Bible to be hateful and hurtful toward others and while their names are often forgotten, Christians, Christianity, God, Jesus, and the church all become associated with that hate.
Guess what I learned in church today.
Some take it for granted that certain forms of hatred toward certain types of people are not only acceptable but supported by the church. And sometimes, in some cases... they are not wrong.
Church selection has been something I take very seriously. You can research till you're blue in the face, but sometimes you just have to attend a church and do the work before you get to know enough about what's being taught and practiced there to become comfortable.
Certainly not often, but on occasion, someone in your church will say the quiet part out loud. And, sometimes, perhaps without intention, it's a hate salad.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with another Christian man at a men's Bible study. I won't give him a name because I have fellowshipped with dozens of men and do not want to accidentally use a name that belongs to someone. It went something like this:
Him: a female couple came to our church once, holding hands and everything. They sat in the back, but I only saw them here the one time.
Me: Did you introduce yourself?
Him: No (slowing down for me in case I didn't understand his description), these were lesbians.
Me: Did you share the Gospel with them?
Him: Well, no. They weren't there to hear the Gospel. They were there to cause trouble.
Me: What kind of trouble?
Him: (changing the subject) Look, I've shared the Gospel with their kind before and they don't really care to hear it. They just want to be told they're not welcome in church.
Me: So, they're not welcome in church?
Him: Well, no (frantically looking around for someone to bail him out, but no takers). Homosexuality is a sin.
Me: Oh now I understand. Sinners aren't allowed in church. Do me a favor and find me a Bible verse on your own time that supports that view and get back to me on that. I think we've delayed this group long enough.
These are tough questions for a Christian to answer, especially in the company of other Christians. I think what makes them so difficult is that the answers people sometimes want to give are so obviously contrary to Scripture.
They'll speak as though what they say is axiomatic, not expecting a challenge. And for support they'll cite Romans 1:27 and Leviticus 18:22. It would seem that this sin in particular holds a special place in Christian hearts.
I often wonder if there are as many Christians who can cite verses that mention their own sins as there are who can cite verses on the sins of others.
What does the Bible say?
To be clear on my, and the Bible's position, homosexuality is a sin.
If changes in circumstances, changes in cultures, changes in feelings, and changes in definitions of love, marriage, relationships, and a 'family' have justified the need for changes in the definition of homosexuality, or the way God sees homosexuality, since biblical times, then these phenomena would be unique to this one single sin in all of the Scripture.
Jesus, however, never instructed us to seek out people and point out all their faults while ignoring our own (Mat 7:5). He never told us to seek out all of the sinners we could find and tell them they were going to hell as if we were an authority.
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26).
Of the half dozen or so mentions in Scripture of homosexual relations, they can be broken down further into a few categories; legal violation, legal ramifications, and post-Torah (Law) consequences to the human spirit.
The Bible unambiguously states that all homosexual relations are unnatural and contrary to God's created order (Lev. 18:22, 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10).
It would seem though that Christians can take the above verses as a license--if not a weapon--to take an active part in the hateful condemnation of homosexuals today. But, as I will attempt to assert, there is no mention in Scripture that this is anything that God or Jesus has promoted or sanctioned for the Christian to take part in.
Let's revisit these verses in order.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
The two verses in Leviticus state the declaration of God's law and the ensuing penalty for violating it. Enforcement of this penalty was put in the hands of the Jews, by God, who previously took care of judgment Himself as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah.
Later, there are mentions in the New Testament. All of which are post-law, post-messiah, and post-Jesus. Enforcement was now back in God's hands but sin remained sinful.
The book of Romans appears earlier in the New Testament because of its size, but the two letters to the Corinthians were written earlier. So our next verse comes from 1 Corinthians.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Here Paul is writing to the church he'd planted in the city of Corinth--a city well-known at the time for its widespread sexual immorality and corruption. Paul is warning the church to remain steadfast despite its presence at the center of this culture. Can you see similar challenges to the church today?
Also notice the absence of pronouncement of an immediate death sentence, but rather the eternal death which would ensue--namely, the sinner's removal (by God) from the inheritance of the kingdom of God.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For the women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
In the first chapter of Romans, we see the same sentence, death, levied differently on the sinner than it was in Leviticus. God no longer asks His people to stone a sinner. Nor does God rain down fire to destroy the sinner. Instead, God "gives up" the sinner "in the lusts of their heart to impurity" (v. 24) and to the "dishonoring of their bodies among themselves" (v.25), the sinner thereby "receiving in themselves the due penalty" explained earlier in 1 cor 6:9-10 as not inheriting the kingdom of God, i.e., eternity apart from God. Eternal death.
Notably, after Paul's rather exhaustive list of sins, he then went on to point out the error of judging the sinners from chapter one as if one were innocent of sin.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1)
But we Christians tend to miss that part. J. Glen Taylor, an Associate Professor of the Old Testament at Wycliffe College put it this way:
"In light of Romans 2:1, from which it is clear that all of humankind stands without excuse before God, it would be inappropriately self-righteous for anyone to condemn homosexual relations as if these relations were not evidence of a sinful rebellion in which all persons participate. To miss this would be to miss Paul’s point entirely."1
On to the last verse from above.
...understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, (1 Timothy 1:9-10)
Innumerated sins, all. Still and always resulting (if maintained) in eternal ramifications for the sinner and a danger to the church which must avoid unrighteousness in spite of their proximity to the world.
This verse does two things; it mentions that homosexuality is clearly a sin while at the same time inclusively lists it among all other sins, i.e., whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
What else does the Bible say?
Please note the audiences Paul was writing to; the church in Corinth, the church in Rome, and a pastor Paul had appointed over the church at Ephesus, Timothy. Paul was advising churches to ensure that sinful behavior wasn't infiltrating the church. But Paul never advised active condemnation of those outside of the church. For them, Paul had a different prescription.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
The Apostle Peter made a similar point in his second letter.
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:7–9)
Both of the above verses from 1 Timothy and 2 Peter point to several important truths: God desires everyone to be saved. Not everyone will be saved. God will wait for more to be saved. God will not wait forever. When God is done waiting, those of us who did not turn to Him for our salvation will be destroyed.
To the pastor Titus whom Paul had appointed over a church in Crete, Paul gave similar guidance.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7)
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. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
In both verses above, Paul helpfully points out how (both he and) we Christians are no better. Sinners are afflicted, slaves to their sin. We too were once afflicted. We too were slaves to our sin. We ourselves were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, malicious, envious, hated by others, and hating others. (cue trumpets):
BUT WHEN THE GOODNESS AND LOVING KINDNESS OF GOD OUR SAVIOR APPEARED, HE SAVED US!!!
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
That only applies to certain sins, right? I mean, homosexuality isn't on THAT list. So we don't have to share the Gospel with them. We don't have to love them. I mean, homosexuality is an abomination, right? So...
We become Gospel Nazis; no Gospel for you... one year!
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
Jude, a brother to the Apostle James, and possibly also to Jesus, gave this exhortation.
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 22-23)
The Apostle John wrote this.
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)
NO! John said 'whoever hates his brother.' So that only applies to other Christians. Christian John was talking to other Christians about not hating their Christian brothers.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Christians cannot ask or expect "the world" to act like "the church." The Christian's job is to be an instrument that attracts "the world" to Jesus through righteous living and using the love that He gave us to share with them. If God so chooses, then He can lead anyone to Jesus and a life of faith (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). God can (and sometimes does) act on sinners without the use of another Christian. He did so with me. But mostly, this is the way God set things up.
Here's the thing, the eternal sentence is the same for every sin; not just homosexuality. And the solution, the cure, for all sins, to avoid eternal separation from God is the same for every sin, including homosexuality. That cure is Jesus Christ.
But we Christians were all once sinners separated from God, and are still sinners with faith in God.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23–24)
The Christian, once saved, does not then become a member of a divine jury to pass condemnation on those who have not yet been saved. Almost reflexively, Christians can embrace a condemning posture.
To be fair, condemning unrighteousness in others is easier than living a righteous life. And, as a bonus, it affords the condemner similar feelings of spiritual accomplishment.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:11–12)
While the Pharisee in this passage praised God for making him 'sinless' in his own eyes, the tax collector he was comparing himself to was simply pleading with God, saying, be merciful to me, a sinner (v. 13).
Jesus' point? The sinner was justified in seeking mercy for being a sinner, while the Pharisee was not justified because he was only interested in exalting himself at the expense of the sinner.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b)
Scripture makes it clear that the only One saving anyone is God. He went to great lengths to bring us His Son in human form so that we could kill Him so that He could defeat death by rising again on the third day, bearing all of the sin, and taking all of God's wrath due to all of mankind... all who believe, that is.
This belief is also in God's control. But rather than just impart the belief, God shares that belief with whoever heard His solution for the sin of mankind and accepted it. His methods of sharing His solution vary, sometimes through creation, other times just the heavens, maybe through looking into their child's eyes for the first time. Most times though, God chooses sinful, fallen, human members from His temple, the body of Christ, little old you or me.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Challenges exist, to be sure. Many will not be receptive to having the Gospel shared with them, or of receiving an expression of one's love for them, or a genuine concern for their soul. If this is honestly and actually what was presented, then you've done all that God asked. God will take it from there. If you started with condemnation, however, then you have failed them and God.
What if that doesn't work?
And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (Matthew 10:14–15)
So, the prescription is clear; love everyone, be grateful for your blessings, share them with others, and share that love with them too. Your love may be what God uses to attract another sinner into His kingdom. Whom would He rather, by the way; a sinner, or someone righteous? Even if it's a homosexual? Whom would you rather see brought into His kingdom?
But if you try and they'll have none of it, shake the dust off your sandals and try no more. God says it will be bad if anyone rejects His truth. That should be sufficient. But we're to go on living a life of righteousness, not hate. God's judgment is there. Ours is not needed. Perhaps more love or more prayer or more kindness is what this one needs. God is willing to wait. So don't be so quick to shake that sand from your feet only to cast it in their eyes.
Don't judge me!
In the Bible, God does not say, "don't judge" to spare the sinner from judgment. He says it to spare the Christian from judging because it's not the Christian's job. But He says, "I'll judge." When people feverishly point to the instruction from God, they love to treat it as though they are not to be judged at all.
The irony is that the one being judged isn't completely wrong. The Christian is not to judge. The Christian is to be loving. Not accepting or condoning. This is hyper-grace and it seeks to avoid conflict for the Christian but at Christ's expense. Love can be demonstrated in the absence of these other things.
But what if before hearing the message of God's plan for them, or after hearing it but before deciding to accept it; what if before these things could happen someone first encounters you, and the only two things that they know about you are that you are a Christian and that you hate them?
Rest assured, if God wants that person in His presence, He'll achieve it another way. But what does that say about you? In that circumstance, were you being loyal? Were you being faithful? Were you being obedient? Or were you just being hateful? Were you being like Jesus, or were you just borrowing His name long enough to hate someone?
So then, have we decided in advance with whom we Christians will and will not share the Gospel? Have we decided who is worthy of God's forgiveness and who is not? Who is worthy of salvation and who is not? Have we moved past the part where we're to love our brother and love the enemy we wouldn't dare call our brother and gone straight to condemnation? Have we decided to stop praying for those who persecute us and move straight to shaking the dust off our sandals? What gives us the right? It isn't the Bible.
1Taylor, J. G. (1995). The Bible and Homosexuality. Themelios, 21(1), 6.