Between January 2010 and November 2014, 47 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in Turkey according to online news sources. Source
Today is commemorated around the world as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. In this article I want to persuade you that Christians should support such a day, and speak out against violence against gay people, against discrimination, and against rejection. We should instead offer an olive branch of love to these human beings as made in the image of God, and people for whom Jesus died.
I was speaking to a friend recently who told me that when he comes out as a Christian he finds it harder than when he comes out as gay. His experience is that people are now happier to accept him as gay than as Christian. But what baffles others most is when my friend comes out as both gay and Christian at the same time.
We have got to the point in the culture wars where to many it now seems impossible that someone might both have a homosexual orientation and be convinced by the claims of Christ. I am convinced that this is less about the beliefs many Christians share, and more about the perception the church has given.
Within the lifespan of many serving pastors today Society as a whole has changed in a remarkable way on how it treats gay people. How the church responds to these changes has become a crucial issue that affects her witness more than any other today. The popular movie The Imitation Game vividly tells the story of a brilliant innovator. It is impossible to overstate the many ways our society has benefited from the code breaking work during the war of Alan Turing. Thanks largely to him the computer was born, countless lives were saved, and he even gave us the Turing test to identify Artificial Intelligence.
One would have thought that the contribution of such a man would have been recognized at least behind closed doors, if not publicly because of secrecy concerns. But after the war, within the lifetime of many of my readers (tho not my own!) he was convicted of homosexual activity and offered a stark choice: be chemically castrated or go to prison. Like too many gay people he sadly ended his own life.
In some states in the USA, laws against homosexual sex remain on the statute books, although in practice they are not enforced. It is hard for modern Western people to imagine a world where someone could be arrested and sent to prison for practicing gay sex. Harder still to appreciated that it was only in 1861 (154 years ago as I write) that in the UK the law was changed so that the penalty for what was then commonly called buggery or sodomy was no longer death by hanging.
And yet, globally there are many nations where homosexual activity remains illegal, some where gay people may still be executed by the state as a penalty for their ‘crime.’ I know of no Christian in the West who would advocate homosexual sex becoming illegal once more in our countries, still less that the punishment should be death. But we do not often hear Christians advocating for a change in the law in other countries so that homosexual behaviors should be legalized. Christians would do well to add their voices to campaigns for the repeal of such anti-homosexual legislation. We must speak out for true tolerance everywhere.
God loves everybody and teaches us to do the same. Even till today in more liberal and theoretically accepting societies like America and the UK, gay people are stigmatised, verbally abused, and even sometimes physically attacked because of their sexual orientation. Christians should stand up for them, and argue strongly for fair treatment for all. We must speak out for the persecuted, the oppressed, and for the minority. Imagine a day when the Church is known for its love for gay people.
Christian, when you think of gay people what is your immediate thought? Is it revulsion? Do you avoid them? Do you angrily denounce them? Then you are contributing to the notion our society now has that Christians hate gay people. It is no longer considered to be acceptable to be feel such animosity towards people who are of a different race, so why should it be acceptable to react in such a way towards those of a different orientation?
The way the Church has treated gay people historically has not been her finest hour. There is no doubt in my mind that Christians will one day look back on this previous approach with the same degree of shame and embarrassment currently felt over the Church’s history with slavery, racism, and apartheid.
In particular there is no question that the ‘pray the gay away’ movement, offered a misguided and dangerous view that a homosexual orientation was always a choice, and could be easily changed by counseling. The simple fact is that many gay Christians were driven to despair by thinking they were the only ones who were unable to confirm to the heterosexual expectations being placed on them.
Meanwhile even the leaders of the so-called Ex-gay organizations hid the uncomfortable secret that change from an exclusively homosexual orientation to an exclusively heterosexual orientation almost never occurs. It is a good thing that such an approach has now virtually disappeared. But it leaves in its wake thousands of damaged, hurting people, many of whom never want to go near a church again. The church owes an apology to people like Vicky Beeching and Matthew Vines.
Of course, many Christians who love the Bible dearly, and who have chosen to follow its moral principles, will find it difficult to personally affirm sex outside of marriage. Yet nobody thinks Christians hate those who cohabit, those who divorce, and those who remarry. This is because to the shame of every Christian, the Church has treated gay people differently to straight people.
We cannot simply say that gay people are being hypersensitive. The Church has a long history of rejecting and denouncing them in ways that Christians simply don’t do to other people who also do not follow a conservative understanding of the Bible’s teaching.
Religious people have always liked to identify a group of outsiders and stigmatize them as ‘sinners’ and dehumanize them, angrily denouncing them. Jesus spoke out against such behaviors when he saw them in the Pharisees. Today many churchgoers have much in common with the pharisees. In fact Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, but a strong critic of Pharisees. I explore his approach further in the first chapter of my book Hope Reborn – How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus,
In my view there is no question that Jesus today would be known as a friend of gay people. I am sure that he is pleased with the fact that the church is indeed changing. Many churches today are a welcoming environment where anyone is welcome to visit and hear about the good news of the love of God.
Even in many conservative churches, increasingly more prominence is given to moderate, compassionate voices such as those from the Living Out organization rather than to religious zealots and bigots. And ever since the advent of HIV/AIDS there have been many Christian organizations that have been at the forefront of the fight. The recent scene where Rick Warren sat alongside Elton John at a senate hearing arguing for more funding for the fight against this disease was a welcome example of the loving response of many Christians to gay people.
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, and a writer. Since 1995 he has been a member of Jubilee Church London which has sites in Enfield, Wood Green and Ilford. Adrian serves as part of Jubilee’s leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn – How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ – How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock
Afterword comments from the Editor
Although the church has upheld the principles of Scripture in regards to homosexuality, so often we’ve not done it with a true reflection of God’s heart, His grace and mercy. When we gossip, condemn or judge others who have issues from by exposing their sin, we also fall victim to the pride of life. It is as if we are saying that it is by our own strength that we remain faithful.
In fact we can’t compare our sins to other people’s sins and say, “I think I am doing pretty well in that area; forget it.” God says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). And Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We cannot lean on our own integrity or morality, or pride ourselves that we are not as weak as another person. We must first remove the plank from our own eye, and then we will see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye (see Matthew 7:5).
We all have areas in our lives that have been regenerated by the Lord, while others still need work from Him. We are an ongoing work and we all work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
I am reminded of a story of two elders a few years ago approaching a man in their church who was in an adulterous relationship. On their way to the man’s home one elder said to the other, “Do you believe that you could fall into this sin?” the reply: “No I cannot.” The elder who asked the question then said, “You are not qualified to go in and approach this man” and the visit was cancelled.
Paul admonishes us in Galatians 6:1 that brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. The lesson here is: the person who knows full well that he or she could do the very same thing if at all it’s not by the grace of God is the only person qualified to help a fellow human being whether a Christian or not caught in any kind of sin.
The Bible says, He who trusts in his own hear is a fool but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26) We all depend on the grace of God to empower us to live in holiness and victoriously in every area of our lives. You cannot be a better person through will power or human effort. It takes the supernatural, all sufficient grace of Jesus Christ.
God is merciful because He was there when your body was abused. He knows the breaches in your soul. He loves homosexuals, lesbians, thieves, adulterers, prostitutes, fornicators ….you name it; He just hates their sins as much as He hates my pride, hypocrisy, gossip, anger, and unforgiveness.
He watches over all of us as we battle with devil, the world, and the flesh which are too much for any man or woman without Christ. He wants to restore, free and cleanse us from all iniquity and the shackles of sin that bound us. Don’t embrace the lies of Satan that you can’t be delivered. If at all you come to Jesus Christ in brokenness and repentance, He will save you from the shackles of any sin and bondage.
Copyright 2015, Adrian Warnock