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"So Dad, why are we supposed to hate homosexuals?" That was the honest question of a Christian teen in my congregation to his father.
That question reflects what seems to be the secular world's perception of Christians who still hold to the conviction that the Bible is to be our foundation for our beliefs. Unfortunately, that skewed perception has oozed into the church, including the PCUSA, the ELCA, the Episcopal church, and others.
That perception is based upon a false set of options, that either:
a) You are loving and kind, or at least respectful of others' beliefs and moral choices, and therefore at all costs you will avoid criticizing their behaviors; or
b) You are uncivil, unkind, and judgmental of others. Period. Oh yes, and downright mean.
Quite honestly, if those are the only two choices, I would probably pick alternative "a". I don't want to be mean or any of those other bad qualities.
But this forced choice is a lie, built upon a series of other untruths:
1. It assumes that there is no ultimate right or wrong in human morality, at least in our sexual behaviors, that either we or God should care about.
2. It assumes that only unkind people admonish anyone.
3. It assumes that one cannot possibly hold to a personal Christian set of Biblically-based values, point out another's wrongdoing, and still love that person.
4.It also assumes that the unpardonable sin is to appear to be "judgmental" - unless, of course, the speaker is someone angry at a "bible thumper" and is being "prophetic" by calling them "stupid", "simplistic", or "mean".
But the truth is: there is nothing unkind about calling people to repentance. It is Good News that yes, God means it when Scripture calls a certain behavior "sin"; He tells us where our lives are messed up and how we can find wholeness and joy in Jesus! And it is caring to tell others that there is forgiveness and a subsequent transforming power of the Risen Christ for all those who are willing to live life His way!
In fact, it seems to me that the most unkind thing is to mislead someone with the notion that their personal behavior is irrelevant to the quality of their life or to their relationship with God. Or to say that their personal behavior is beyond God's power to change it into actions and attitudes in line with what God says is good and pleasing to Him.
Of course, HOW we tell people the Good News of Christ's power is crucial. And sometimes people simply don't want to hear it. And often it needs more than words.
My brother Ron has had full blown AIDS since the late 80's. He has volunteered for just about every experimental treatment in which he was allowed to participate. I'll never forget the day he and I were talking about his health. I said to him, "Ron, I know you have a plan for what you'll do and where you'll go if you find that your AIDS progresses to where you can't take care of yourself. But if that plan falls through, my wife and I have talked it over and both want you to know that you can always come here for the duration."
He responded, "You don't know what you're talking about, little brother! When people get to that stage, it's a mess..." and he went on to describe those potential horrors of unsanitary gruesomeness.
I answered, "You're right. I don't know all of it. But the offer still stands. Because you are my brother, and I love you, man."
I do not know what the future holds for him. But I do know that my relationship with my brother changed that day in a remarkably warm and wonderful way. And "hate" is no longer in the conversation.
Ken Thomas ["Dr. T"]
Pastor of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, Monroe, NC
Board member of OneByOne