Christian Response to Gays: Love or Hate?

Greg Strand – April 3, 2014 10 Comments

In our culture today, one cannot affirm the biblical truth about morality and marriage without the accusation of being bigoted, biased and a hater. There was a day when one could say regarding homosexuality or same-sex “marriage” that we in our churches would be “welcoming but not affirming.” By this we would mean that we would welcome any and all as fellow image of God bearers and extend love and grace to them. But we would not affirm sin or a sinful lifestyle.

Today this statement no longer stands to those outside the church. In other words, if one welcomes, one affirms. And if one affirms, one welcomes. The two are made equal, they are joined together, and what has been joined together culturally, let not a church put asunder (sorry for the sad irony).

Is it accurate to claim that Christians are haters of gays and homosexuals? Is it true to claim that because Christians are welcoming but not affirming that they are not only passively not loving, but they are more actively bigoted or haters?

Robert George, who has done a great deal in defense of the biblical and traditional view of marriage, was asked about this in an interview for Salvo Magazine. Here is the question and George’s response.

SALVO: One conservative Christian recently wrote that in the battle for traditional marriage, “Christians too often chose intolerance over charity when it came to how they treated gays.” Have we, as Christians, demonstrated a lack of love for gay people?

Robert George: No, we’ve been falsely accused of showing a lack of charity and a lack of love because that was very convenient to the arguments of the other side, a very effective tool. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people of all faiths who’ve been involved in the protection of marriage have gone out of their way, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church goes out of its way, to proclaim the truth that all men and woman are precious. Human beings have a profound and inherent dignity, an equal dignity, as creatures made in the very image and likeness of the Divine Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

This has never been something hidden. It has been frequently affirmed and re-affirmed, yet there are those who wish to refuse to hear it because it’s politically useful to their cause to depict Christians as mean-spirited or bigoted or hostile to people just because they don’t like something about them. It’s a slander. And for us to pretend that the slander is true is itself a sin against the truth. I’m all for confessing error and wrongdoing where error and wrongdoing have been committed. But I see no point in confessing sins that one has not committed, especially when doing so is the precise objective of those who wish unfairly to tar people or a movement as bigoted or hostile.

I agree with George. What about you?

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA’s Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

10 responses to Christian Response to Gays: Love or Hate?

  1. I agree with George in that the left, and especially the press have wrongly demonized “the church,” believers, and others who speak out against a gay or GLTB lifestyle.

    But I disagree with him in that Christians are not universally loving of those who live in those lifestyles. I think we generally speak to the biblical truth that we are to love them as ourselves (though not affirming the lifestyle) but you don’t have to look very far to see/hear bigotry in this matter. As an “over 65” myself, I believe that among our older generations there is much more struggle than in younger generations in accepting GLTBs as having God given worth.

    • Thank you for your input and insights, David. You make an important point about the differences in response generationally. There is likely some truth to that. However, I don’t think it is only generational, with which I am sure you would agree.

      It is also important to note the difference between what is biblically true and right morally (God is the ultimate and absolute determiner of what is “good,” what is “very good,” and what is “not good,” cf. Genesis 1-2) and one’s response to behavior that is inconsistent with that. The fact that some affirm truth morally and then do not show kindness and compassion towards those who are immoral does not deny the moral truth. Often that argument is used against the truthfulness of truth. In reality, this is first and foremost a character issue, which is also a moral issue, not a truth issue. It does become a truth issue in a secondary sense because an affirmation of the truth is also to be lived. But whether or not I live truth does not negate the truth.

      What I want to avoid is the all or nothing mindset. Here are two sorts of statements about which I am thinking: (1) All Evangelicals are concerned about is truth with no love (read as bigoted or haters). (2) All Evangelical millennials care about is love with no commitment to doctrine or truth in the moral realm. The common mantra today is that many/most Evangelicals are bigoted and haters because they affirm truth and absolutes in the moral realm. That is what I, and you, appreciated about George’s comment.

  2. Chuck Carlson April 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Bro Greg, one little phrase has distracted me. George says “because they (Christians) don’t like something about them” in reference to gays.
    I am not comfortable with that term. It sounds like a personal preference, or a simple putdown, but in fact, it is not the root of the matter.
    Would it not be better to say that such behavior “is not approved of God?” I did not make this judgment but God has, and thus it is mine conviction as well. I have gays friends in the community, and I like them, work with them, seek to win them to Christ, but I do not say they have something I dislike about them. If asked, I would probably say, “You have a bahavior pattern that is not approved by God in Scripture, and if God does not approve it, neither can I.”

    I am open to a better suggestion, or a better Christian response.

    • You raise a good question, Chuck. To clarify, I don’t believe George was attempting to make a factual statement here about how we as Christians view those affirming the immorality of same-sex marriage. Rather he was referring to those in the latter category of how they feel about the Christian’s response to them. It is not about them, it is not about who they are, but it is about what they believe, and it is about what they do.

      This, then, gets to how you refer to this. I think the way you refer to this is one possible way. Your statements are not preferential and they are not merely based on tradition. They are based on God and His revealed truth in the Word. This truth must be communicated or we do honor the Lord and we do not care for or love others. As George points out, for the Christian not to speak like this or to apologize for these truths and for speaking them may well be sinful. Furthermore, in today’s culture, speaking this truth is just not considered acceptable. I am not sure there is a way in which what we say, even assuming it will be said with the utmost of care, concern and compassion, will be received without drawing the conclusion it was negative against them.

      I also addressed another aspect of this in today’s blog post. Take a read.

  3. Dr. Greg Carlson April 4, 2014 at 9:48 am

    When interacting with a person with homosexual tendencies (or indeed any controversial matter), I sometimes ask, “If I disagree with you, does that show that I hate you?” Note: If it does, relationships can not be deep, right or sustainable.

    • Thank you for your comment, Greg. I appreciate the point you make. And I would add, if they do answer in the affirmative, you can be assured you will not make any headway in this conversation.

      I have found Greg Koukl’s response to the criticism of being intolerant, or bigoted or hateful, to be helpful (“Ask for Tolerance“). Koukl suggests using the claim of being intolerant in reverse, an insightful and wise response that addresses the possible accusation proactively rather than reactively.

      If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue—homosexuality, for example—preface your remarks with a question.

      You say: “You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking, and I’d be glad to answer. But before I do, I want to know if you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person. Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse ideas, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from yours?” Let them answer. If they say they’re tolerant (which they probably will), then when you give your point of view it’s going to be very difficult for them to call you intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too.

      This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view they think is right and everybody judges at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in any kind of morality.

  4. Marlin Mohrman April 5, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Sadly, our stance on Traditional Marriage comes across as hate because we are looked upon as denying the rights of others much like the earlier civil rights movement. I was active in the Minnesota Marriage Amendment while my other pastor friends stayed out of it. As a result I have been branded. There has to be consideration from the LBGT community that we can differ without being hateful. Thanks for the article. It was helpful.

    • I am grateful the article was helpful, Marlin. I am also encouraged to hear of your desire for and commitment to the biblical truth regarding marriage.

  5. Love is wanting people to repent so they can go to heaven. Hate is supporting their sins so they can go to hell. It’s that simple.

  6. First of all, the church is the body of Christ, not a group of unbelievers. Worship services are the gathering of the saints, not a gathering of the goats. 1 Co. 5 tells us not to associate or even eat with anyone who calls himself a brother but supports sexual immorality and in fact we are to expel them so they’ll repent and be saved on the day of the Lord. If the church does not expel the immoral brothers (and sisters), then Paul warns us that the yeast will work through the whole batch of dough which it’s doing,as we speak, thus proving Scripture right.

    Regarding unbelievers, in order to repent and receive forgiveness, they MUST admit their sins. No one asks for forgiveness for a righteous act.So if we or they deny that homosexuality is a sin, then we’re keeping them from God’s glorious forgiveness and instead, leading them to hell. So we are NOT to welcome unrepentant sinners into the body of Christ because as 1 Jn 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God continues to sin.” So it’s no surprise that welcoming has now been considered the same as affirming because they are the same. Welcoming unrepentant sinners into the body of Christ is welcoming and embracing sin. It is also making the claim that Jesus also welcomes sin when he does NOT. He came to save us FROM sin, not reward or welcome us if we have no desire to repent.

    And lastly, why would the professing church expect to be loved and supported by the secular world that’s ruled by Satan? Jesus and the apostles weren’t, which is why they were killed. (Jn 15:18-21). So what difference does it make what unbelievers think of Us? We’re not on earth to get the praises of Satan’s servants (and in fact, if we do, that means we’re not servants of Christ because Satan is Christ’s enemy.) Gal. 1:10. One cannot get the praises of God and the praises of Satan and his servants at the same time because God and Satan oppose each other. So being hated by the secular world should not only be no surprise, it should be expected if we’re passing along the same message that Jesus did.

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