By Mark A. Taylor
Several years ago a friend asked me to read an opinion piece about homosexuality he had written for a Christian audience. Frankly, I don’t recall what he wrote, but I do remember his reaction after one comment I made to him.
“We need to keep in mind that some who see this will be homosexuals,” I said.
The look on his face told me he’d never thought of that.
He’d probably react differently today. So would I, because as one writer this week indicates, homosexual may not even be the best word to use when we talk about those with same-sex attractions. The word tends to stereotype those whose real-life stories reflect a variety of problems and experiences.
But today more than ever we cannot assume that only those outside the church are coping with this issue.
This week we introduce you to men committed to helping. They point out that love brings folks to wholeness long before shame. They tell what it means to look a sinner square in the face with a call for accountability but without condemnation. They describe the tightwire they walk when they commit to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”
They’re demonstrating the awareness of the apostle Paul who included “male prostitutes” and “homosexual offenders” among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God and then added, “And that is what some of you were” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Of course, “were” is the important word there. The greater struggle is with those who still “are” but who claim allegiance to Christ.
That’s a problem not limited to this one shortcoming. The church today is also populated with those who worship something other than God (“idolaters”), those who take what is not theirs (“thieves”), those who engage in extramarital sex or view pornography (“sexually immoral”), alcoholics (“drunkards”), and the money hungry (“greedy”). Paul puts all of these sins in the past tense (vv. 9, 10), but they are present today in our congregations.
Perhaps we cannot agree on how to respond to such sin when we see it in other Christians. But all of us know how we want help with the sin we see in ourselves.
Perhaps all of us can agree that this week’s writers confront sin just as we’d want someone to offer us a hand when we fall.
The way to deal with homosexuality in the church is neither to claim that same-sex activity is OK or unforgivable, but to acknowledge that it’s the same as the failures all of us experience. The call to repentance, holiness, and a new focus on God is not just for us to extend, but also for every Christian to heed.