God Is Greater Than Our Discomfort
It’s difficult to discuss sexual issues, even in the context of a godly marriage, so it’s no wonder we feel uncomfortable grappling with sexuality in the context of LGBT relationships. And what makes us uncomfortable, we push away. That’s a normal reaction, but we must fight our instinct for the sake of Christ.
Too many Christians have used “truth” as a sledgehammer to bludgeon people who identify as LGBT. Because so many Christians have hated LGBT members, they have (naturally) hated Christians—and Christ. This is not right. Shame on us.
Truth is important, and we must hold true to our convictions that God only endorses sex in the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. While LGBT sex is a sin, the inclination or temptation of LGBT is not a sin, just as premarital or adulterous sex is a sin, but the desire or temptation is not a sin.
Remember, Christ loved us while we were still sinners. We represent him best when we allow his love to flow through us to others while they are still sinners. Too often, Christians convey the message that people must clean up their lives before they come to Christ. That’s contrary to the gospel.
To love people while they are still sinners requires grace. Extending grace to others means accepting the sinner as a work in progress by God. On the other hand, truth stands firm that sin is still sin by any other name. There is always an uncomfortable tension between grace and truth. According to author Caleb Kaltenbach, that tension is love. We can be uncompromising on sin while still loving the sinner. We were all sinners before Christ changed our hearts.
Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners. The religious leaders of the day were all about enforcing truth, so they judged Jesus for the company he kept. But Jesus lived with grace and love for people, while remaining gently firm on the issue of sin.
Caleb Kaltenbach says we make the mistake of trying to convert the sexuality of LGBT members when we should be trying to convert their souls.
“Christians need to stop trying to convert people’s sexuality. It isn’t our job to change someone’s sexual orientation. You and I are not called by God to make gay people straight. It is our job to lead anyone and everyone to Christ.”
He explains that LGBT members find their identity in the LGBT community. When we tell them to give up being gay, they feel like they have to give up everything that makes them who they are:
“In their minds, they couldn’t separate their identity from their sexuality. That’s very common among the people I know who are LGBT. So, when you and I tell people to stop being gay, they hear that as giving up their identity.”
Our challenge is to encourage them to find a new identity in Christ, while loving, encouraging, and supporting them toward a transforming encounter with Christ. Each of us receives a new identity in Christ when he changes us. Kaltenbach says we shouldn’t focus exclusively on the sexual issue:
“Instead, we should try to help people whose overriding identity is LGBT to become people whose overriding identity is disciple. They can replace a false identity with a true identity in Christ.”
Messy Grace is a book every Christian ought to read. Caleb Kaltenbach offers a healthy conservative theology but presents it in a context of love and understanding that liberal theologians would embrace. The book doesn’t offer easy answers, but it does suggest how we can reach out in love (not judgement) to people who are LGBT. People will not find Christ desirable unless they first see Christ’s love in us.