Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
Last week I received a question via email regarding how Christians should respond to fellow believers who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. This is a great question, one that is extremely relevant in our current cultural situation. Permit me in this post to broaden the question a bit to this: How should a Christian relate to those who practice homosexuality?
It is important to establish first what the Bible says about homosexual behavior. In one of the least politically correct passages in the Scripture, Paul speaks of lesbianism (Romans 1:26) and male homosexuality (1:27) as “dishonorable,” “unnatural,” and “shameful” (ESV). The vice list in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 contains two Greek words that denote the passive (malakoi) and active (arsenokoitai) participants in male homosexual acts. A form of arsenokoitai appears in the vice list in 1 Timothy 1:8–10 as well. Leviticus 18:22 presents male homosexuality as one of several prohibited sexual practices. The narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20–19:29, especially 19:4–13) indicates that the destruction of these cities came about at least in part because of the homosexual practices of the inhabitants. When one looks at the biblical text, it is clear that God considers homosexual behavior to be a serious sin.
Christians should speak this truth to homosexuals in love (Ephesians 4:15), but it is important to consider what that really means. Those who speak the truth in love are humble and cognizant of their own faults (see our prior post on judging). They genuinely look out for the best interests of the other person. They realize that transformation takes time and that homosexuality is usually tied deeply to perceptions of identity and worth. They aren’t unnecessarily offensive and they don’t call names.
In fact, I am concerned that when relating to those who practice homosexuality, Christians are sometimes so focused on the “truth” part of speaking the truth in love that we forget the “love” part. I wonder if we would be so shortsighted when dealing with people who are engaged in other sins—some of which are prohibited in the same vice lists mentioned above—such as disobedience, lying, and extramarital heterosexual contact! When we view our relationships with homosexuals solely through the lens of challenging their behavior, we miss the charge to pray for them faithfully and to build bridges with them, bridges of acquaintance, friendship, and genuine, tangible care. Honestly, would we feel loved by “friends” whose only mission in the friendship is to confront us? Instead, let’s follow Jesus’ model of loving engagement—which caused Him to be criticized for being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).
There is also a biblical distinction that I should mention here, in light of the form in which this question was posed to me. The Bible directs Christians to be more relationally “open” to non-Christians who practice sin than to those who claim to be Christians and practice sin (1 Corinthians 5:9–11). Thus, regarding the unrepentant believer or professing believer who continues in homosexual behavior, eventually (not immediately—see the general pattern laid out in Matthew 18:15–17) the best course of action for a Christian may be to dissociate himself from that person, making sure he leaves the door open for future restoration and reconciliation (Galatians 6:1).
Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on this important and sensitive question?
—Beau StanleyFollow @beaustanley