Quoting Lucky Severson:
Pastor Heidi Neumark says that condemnation has led to outright discrimination. She says too many churches have created an environment where it’s okay to bash gays or lesbians or bisexuals or transgenders, known collectively as LGBTs.
In this, I would say that Neumark has a legitimate complaint. The types of jokes I’ve heard at churches, the types of references to gay individuals said with a sneer, even from a pulpit!…these are real things I’ve experienced myself. This doesn’t mean that everyone who makes a joke or a derisive comment is liable to drag a homosexual behind his/her pickup truck. I’m not nearly that paranoid.
So what are we supposed to do, as the Church? Neumark’s response is to reach out to the gay youth in her community, providing a place for them to stay when they have no other place to go. For this, she is to be commended. But her approach seems to stop short of Jesus’ command, proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Homosexuality, by Scriptural definition, is sin.
Romans 1 speaks of homosexual relationship which is not tied to any sort of cult prostitution and Paul does not use any language indicating that it is this sort of thing that he has in view as a specific situation. Instead, he creates an umbrella term using two terms from the Septuagint, which conveys the meaning of the commands in Leviticus very well. If we, as Christians, fail to call people to repentance, then we are guilty of being those who encourage sin, something which is ALSO condemned in Romans 1.
So, let’s suppose that tommorow, Neumark began preaching this very loving command that Jesus has given. Suppose also that she didn’t do so in a way that “crammed religion down someone’s throat.” Suppose finally that some never did accept Jesus’ message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Him. Should Neumark still house those youth?
Jesus didn’t make his healing contingent on the response of the hearers. He didn’t tell the woman at the well that she had to leave her live-in lover to drink of living water. He didn’t only heal the one leper that would return to thank him, while the others wandered away. Salvation comes to us as a free gift, and we are to proclaim that free gift with meeting the needs of others in a likewise free manner.
If we fail to give folks this message (which is, in fact, the sum and substance of the Gospel: that Christ came as a ransom for many and calls men and women everywhere to repentance and trust in Him), then we have not loved them as we ought to love. This, too, is a sin for which Christ died if we are in Him…but are we ourselves not to repent and believe again? Is repentance a one-time phenomenon? It is not.
Please hear me. I am not advocating a mandatory 2 hour chapel service where this stuff is shoe-horned into peoples’ lives. It is perfectly acceptable for relationships to be established and caring conversations to be carried out. Does the end of every conversation have to be “repent and believe”? No! That can do more harm than good. But if the message is not given, how are they ever supposed to know the good news? The act of housing gay youth who have nowhere to go is a good work IF done in Christ. It is a fruit of our repentance.
The fruit of our repentance must not be confused with the Gospel. The gospel is not what Christ has done in me. The Gospel is that Christ secured redemption for His people through His blood…apart from anything I have done or could do. My life of good works is a fruit of repentance which is, itself, a gift of God.
Jerram Barrs, in his wonderful 2009 book, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, has this to say:
How poorly we understand the gospel and the grace of God to us when we think we ought not to have “sinners” in our homes, or that we ought to keep ourselves and our children away from the homes of obvious sinners. Fellowship with sinners is the gospel. There is no other gospel of Christ.
The people around us are of course sinners: some commit adultery; some are practicing homosexuals; some steal; some cheat in their business practice; some are in love with money, fame, cleverness, or beauty; some gossip; some slander; all are idolaters. We often assume that even though the Scriptures require us to acknowledge that such people bear God’s image we must despise them for their sin and keep ourselves apart from them. But Jesus teaches us by his Word and by his example that, precisely because they are sinners, we are to look at them with mercy and gentleness, for they are in need of forgiveness–his “seeking and saving.”
If the Church’s ministry to homosexuals bore these important truths in mind, we would be faithful to the message of Scripture and meeting people’s needs spiritually, socially and physically–all in line with being fruit of the Gospel.