Kelvin is a respectable church-going single man. Kelvin appreciates church involvement more than most, because he would be even more lonely without it.
But Kelvin has a secret: He is attracted to men. No, Kelvin is not sexually active. But he knows that, were the church to know his attraction is to men, they would reject him. God, Kelvin knows, does not reject him. God loves him with his struggles and all, the same way God would love a straight man or woman, or a lesbian, with all of their struggles.
Kelvin believe God calls him to be involved at church, but the church is a lonely place. Kelvin would never be accepted there if they knew about his sexual attraction to men. The others members of his church continually talk how sinful homosexuality is, and how God hates it.
Somewhat ironically, there is an understanding community where Kelvin’s loneliness will be silenced, somewhat: A gay teen usually grows up with many peers not wanting to play with him, and often with his dad rejecting him. In the gay community peers will play with him and older men will give him attention…
Julie is a 14-year-old girl in Sunday School and realizes that she likes girls, not boys. She is ashamed of that – her church calls it sinful. It is hard enough to be a teenager already, without hearing she is (without ever having acted on her desires) more shameful than her peers.
The gathering of believers is supposed to be a family for the lonely, but Kelvin’s church, and Julie’s church, are not. Too many churches does not have room for the Kelvins and the Julies to be honest, to admit their circumstances and feelings. If they knew the truth about Kevin, he would be stripped of the church tasks he currently does well. If they knew the truth about Julie, she would be ostracised at an age where finding a way to fit in is the big identity struggle. Is this the reflection of a Christ who would not break a bruised reed, who gives life and hope, who calls us to give honour to all members?
The church’s actions needs to change, but so does it words. For a start, I suggest to never use the words “homosexuality is a sin”. What you are probably trying to say is that homosexual intercourse is a sin, so say that instead.
Why? What is the difference? The difference is that “homosexuality” is a part of a life outlook which most likely also have non-sexual components, like an interest and aptitude for things the culture associate with the opposite sex. But God-given gifts – even if we associate it with the other sex – is irrevocable. (Rom. 11:29)
Calling a certain act (homosexual intercourse) wrong is one thing. Calling someone’s way of being human, with its combination of good and bad qualities, sin in its entirety, is very different.
Even better than replacing “homosexuality is sin” with “gay intercourse is sin”, do not say it at all. The gay community already know what you think of their actions. “Love the sinner, hate the sin“, you say? Fine. Let us learn to love the sinner.
Maybe you know want to say now: “It is loving to point out that what someone does is wrong…” Depends. If he don’t know what he does is wrong, and you can get him to stop, it may be. But there is a gazillion other things that are also loving, like – for a start – having a friendly conversation with him, the same way you would with anyone else. Or inviting him to your home for dinner – not to lecture him, but the same way you invite any other friend. The other people you invite for dinner certainly have their own sinful desires too, and God does not see the sinful desires of the gay man or lesbian as any worse.
And when you hear anyone else say “homosexuality is a sin”, be quick to tell him that he should stop trash talking a gay person’s personhood, character and (even non-sexual) desires. Insist that the trash talker should at least limit his judgement to the sexual acts he regards (by his Bible understanding) as sinful. Straight people also have sinful sexual desires (and many of us act on it), but we never say “heterosexuality is a sin” when we hear of sinful heterosexual desires. We do not make people unwelcome in a faith community when we hear they are heterosexual, when we suspect they may have a propensity for illicit acts with the opposite sex.
Please do not, from this article, try to deduct my opinion of gay intercourse. This piece is aimed at those making church a place where homosexuality cannot be admitted, not an opinion in the debate on whether the texts used to denounce gay acts apply to the gay community as it exists today.