Question: “It has been my experience that most Christians either go overboard with ‘hating the sin’ (ranting and condemning) or ‘loving the sinner’ (unquestioningly accepting everything) when dealing with homosexuality. What are some ways that a Christian can clearly demonstrate that they both love the sinner AND hate the sin? In other words, how can Christians reach out to homosexuals, accepting them without condoning their sin?”
Reply: In contemplating an answer to this question, I put myself back in the place I was before choosing to accept Jesus as Savior from my own lifestyle of sin as a homosexual. The kind of unconditional love demonstrated by my own parents towards me and my friends made a definite impression upon me, making it easier to respect their opinions and to eventually listen to their counsel. Therefore, I suggest the following:
1. Be both a loving and a loveable Christian yourself. Practice the method that Jesus Himself used to reach the sinner. He accepted their invitations to visit in their homes, to eat with them, to socialize with them, but without participating in any sinful behavior Himself. In fact, His presence was in itself a deterrent to sin, because His life was consistent with His profession and attracted the sinner to its purity and holiness.
2. If the gay person happens to be in your family, treat him/her as family. Don’t exclude him from your own family social events.
3. Be willing to listen, with sympathy and empathy. I think most gays carry a tremendous burden of guilt and pain and shame. You don’t have to condone the sin in order to show mercy and sympathy towards the sinner.
4. Don’t preach and lecture. It does no good unless invited. Watch for appropriate times to slip in a word of counsel only when you are sure that it is welcome, or receivable.
5. When asked about how you feel towards their lifestyle, don’t show or express revulsion. Be gentle, stating matter-of-factly that though you care very much for the person, you do not find their alternative lifestyle to be acceptable in accordance with your understanding of God’s word; that you could not recommend it, etc. But be nice and considerate with the words you choose to use.
For example, while visiting a high school friend dying of AIDS in an Amsterdam hospital a few years ago, at his prompting I shared my own testimony of victory over the sin of homosexuality. He was amazed at my story, but then somberly asked, “So, you are telling me that you believe homosexuality to be sin?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He struggled with my answer for a while. Then we changed the subject and talked about high school and mutual friends and acquaintances before drawing our visit to a friendly close. A few days later, before leaving Holland to come back home to America, I called him, asking if I could come back for a goodbye visit.
“Do you really believe that homosexuality is a sin?” he asked.
“Yes, I do.” I replied. “Otherwise, I would not have studied and prayed and struggled my way out of it.”
“I really don’t think you’d better come back,” he said. “I don’t want you to force that view on me.”
I then reminded him that I had not brought up the subject. I had merely answered his questions regarding my own experience and beliefs. My purpose in visiting him was simply to renew our acquaintance and to try to encourage him in some way during this crisis in his short life. In the end, we parted cordially on the phone. I did not get back to see him again before he passed away. Nevertheless, as a representative of Christ, I had been there to show love to the sinner. But I could not deny my faith in my Savior and His ability to save me, or him, from sin. The difference between us was that I had come to love truth, the truth that sets one free, while my friend chose to believe a lie and die in sin, rejecting God altogether.
There is no guarantee, friend, that while showing love to the sinner he will respond positively. He retains the power of choice until the day he dies. We can only hope and pray that he chooses the right before it is too late.
6. Another tip: Let them know, in word and action, that you love them and that God loves them, too, no matter how you feel about their choices in life. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
7. As a Christian, though you may invite them to attend church, it would not be appropriate to invite them into church membership or to vote for their
acceptance into church membership. Membership allows for decisive voting on church policy and vocalizing of one’s viewpoints in church board and business meetings and to hold offices of leadership. Membership should be reserved for those who have renounced the world and sin and Satan–those who bring forth fruit meet for repentance, as John the Baptist says. Otherwise the standards of the church might be compromised.
These are just a few tips that come to mind to help those of you endeavoring to bring healing to the sin-sick soul. Your hatred for sin should work in you to labor the more earnestly in love for the sinner, to save him from that very thing that you know to be so destructive to the soul and with eternal consequences. The wages of sin is death, eternal death. But the gift of our loving God who hates sin is eternal life to those who will accept His gift of love – Jesus Christ, Who came to save His people from their sins; even the sin of homosexuality. (See, Romans 6:23, & Matthew 1:21)
All Power to you!