In my time in college I was privileged to take my first course in Biblical Ethics. As part of that course I had the opportunity to write a term paper on a topic chosen from a list. Because of personal prejudices that I was discovering in my own life, I chose the topic of homosexuality. I re-read my assessment this morning, and found it stepping forward from where I was when I started my higher education, but miles from where I need to be in terms of Christlikeness. I believe that this is one of the reasons that this particular issue is so telling in America’s version of the church community today.

I found it somewhat surprising, not entirely unexpected, yet still disturbing that David Kinnaman’s research zeroed in on “antihomosexual” as one of the gripes that outsiders have against American Christians today. Surely, this professional researcher did not ask a question like, “How do you see Christians responding to homosexuals?” I have to believe that the rising to the top of our attitudes toward the homosexual community was information that was volunteered rather than elicited specifically. At the same time, the on-going war (it isn’t simply a battle) waging between these two communities is causing younger generations to choose sides and take up banners.

On one hand, if a young person decides to claim his Christianity, the homosexual community labels him as a narrow-minded gay-bashing homophobe. However, if he decides to keep his Christian badge in his pocket so that he can remain loyal to his friends who are either openly gay or struggling with a gay identity, his friends from church will ostracize him as a gay-lover and sin-accepting liberal. All the while this young man is in love with Jesus and wanting to share Christ’s love with those around him—gay and straight alike. It is significant, I believe, that the chapter dealing with our antihomosexual perception is headed by a quotation from “Peter” a 34-year-old gay man, “It’s very much an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality, as if a war has been declared. Of course each side thinks the other fired the opening shot.” (see page 91)

In the Christian community (especially among evangelicals) we have a tendency to respond to all those who won’t be part of the church because “they are hypocrites” as latching onto a cop-out which makes it easy to avoid church attendance. I think that often we have earned the label, even if many who use that excuse are looking for a ready answer whenever we jump at them with evangelistic fervor. In the same way, we try to cover our own misshapen righteousness in the realm of homosexuality or any other activity that is opposed to what we learn in the Bible with “hate the sin; love the sinner.” I know that I have even tried to be-salve my own spiritual wounds with those very words.

The problem isn’t really in the non-acceptance of homosexuals because they live a lifestyle marked by sin. (My study of Scripture indicates that it is.) No, the problem has to do with delineating sin in the first place. Another thing that is loud and clear from the Scripture (but often ignored when we start naming the sins of others) is that we are to be concerned about our own relationship with a Living, Loving, Holy, Righteous, and Just God rather than others’ failure to have that relationship.

When I take a sin—any sin—that I have either overcome (with Christ’s help) or have never really had a struggle with, and point it out in another person’s life, all the while ignoring the fact that I have a completely different sin which I like to enjoy without doing anything about it, I stack sin on top of sin in my own life. Think of it this way, if I do not struggle with the sin of homosexuality, but want to point out that the one who practices it is living in sin, I am adding to the sin of, say, lying that I just can’t stop. Am I any less a sinner by expecting people to accept me even though I am a pathological liar than is the person who wants me to accept them even though they struggle with any other sin?

Among the Christian community, it has become unacceptable to love the homosexual, but we have tacitly sat by and engorged ourselves in overeating without concern. Is it a better witness for me to carry three hundred extra pounds than it is for me to carry on in any kind of sexual encounter other than with my life? The biblical grounds would suggest no, but the practice of the Christian community has screamed yes by not only accepting, but at times encouraging obesity as the norm among our leaders.

What I have concluded (am concluding?) is that as a Christ follower I have certain responsibilities:

  1. Be more Christlike daily.
  2. Worship God with my life and my lifestyle.
  3. Be a witness for Christ among the people who I encounter.

Any and all of these responsibilities preclude my taking any time to point out the sin in the lives of others. As a matter of fact, if I concentrate on doing just those three things, I won’t have time to police the lives of others for whatever sin may be their struggle. What should be happening is that God begins to speak to the sins of others through my Christlikeness rather than my negative words. And when I do open my mouth to share the truth of Christ, I focus on how good He is rather than how bad my friend is.

Shall we turn people away from the gates of the Kingdom because they make us uncomfortable, or shall we let God love them through us? It’s not my job to change someone else’s life. Jesus can make all the changes He desires—and it’s my job to let Him do it for me.