Jesus, the Friend of Gays

Lately there has been a lot of hubbub in the news over a statement that Dan Cathy, president of fast food chain Chick-fil-A, made about gay marriage. In a radio interview, Cathy said that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” His remarks drew a sharp reaction from gays and their supporters. There have been calls for boycotts of Chick-fil-A, and gay rights groups have staged same-sex “kiss-ins” at Chick-fil-A outlets.

Naturally, there has also been a reaction from those who agreed with Cathy’s remarks. Their reaction, though, has mostly been a counter-reaction to the protests coming from gay rights supporters. Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and current Fox News contributor, created a Facebook event called “Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.” On the event page, Huckabee wrote, “I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick Fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld.” The purpose of the event was to rally support for Chick-fil-A; supporters were asked to patronize Chick-fil-A restaurants on August 1 and voice their support via Twitter and Facebook. Many Chick-fil-A restaurants received a substantial increase in business as supporters crowded in to show their solidarity with Dan Cathy.

Now, we live in America, where free speech has long been a cherished and protected value. I hold nothing against Dan Cathy, Mike Huckabee, or any other person who supports Chick-fil-A and the freedom to speak out against gay marriage. Neither do I hold anything against the gay rights groups who peacefully protested what they perceive as an intolerant and incorrect position. But I am deeply concerned about this whole brouhaha, not from an American perspective but from a Christian perspective. For quite some time now, Christianity has been known for being anti-homosexual. Now, I know at this point that some people are probably thinking, “But the Bible clearly teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman!” Yes, I’m aware of what the Bible teaches, and I agree with it. That’s not the point. You see, the problem is not just that Christians are known for being morally opposed to homosexuality. We’re known for being hateful toward gay people. Christian researchers David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons proved this point with painful clarity in their 2007 book Unchristian. Kinnaman and Lyons asked young non-Christians, aged 16 to 29, to indicate whether they thought certain phrases described Christianity. One of those phrases was “antihomosexual.” 66% of these young people said that “antihomosexual” describes Christianity “a lot,” and 91% said it describes Christianity “a lot or some.” In contrast, only 16% said “consistently shows love for other people” describes Christianity “a lot,” while 55% said it describes Christianity “a lot or some” (p. 28).

Why is this a problem? First of all, shouldn’t every Christian be shocked and saddened that we’re known more for hating gay people than we are for showing the love of Jesus to all of His children? And second, don’t we have bigger things to worry about than gay activists protesting against a fast food chain because its president opposes gay marriage? Is it really such a pressing matter that we must mount a counter-protest to insist on our right to speak out against homosexuality? How exactly does a protest help us address the first problem—that people already believe we hate gays? Maybe the better question is, how does a protest help us spread the love of Jesus?

My point is that a more important issue is at stake here: our mission as Christians. Jesus commissioned us to carry on His work of bringing the gospel to every man, woman, and child (Matt. 28:18-20). As His representatives, we are to tell the world about Him, our Savior, the God who loved us so much He came to this earth and died in our place. The truth is that we’re all sinners—gay, straight, or somewhere in between. Without Jesus we would all be doomed. Thank God that we have found our Savior! What Jesus has done and continues to do for us is amazing! And He wants to do the same for every person on earth, including those who happen to be gay. Now, how can we hope to successfully communicate that amazing truth to them if we don’t love them like Jesus loves them? Why would they listen to us if they think we hate them?

I’d like to know why Christians in America have come to believe that the worst possible sin anyone could commit is homosexuality. How is it that we tolerate gossip, slander, lying, pride, injustice—and yes, even heterosexual misconduct—but homosexuality is practically the unpardonable sin? The Bible says far more about the former sins than it does about the latter. And why is it that many Christians put more energy into political activism, trying to lobby the government to outlaw gay marriage, than they do into evangelism for gay people? How many of us have even considered doing evangelism for gay people?

For me, it all comes down to the example of Jesus. Jesus came to this earth to save people, not to condemn them (John 3:17). Sure, He spoke out against sin. But the remarkable thing is that, more often than not, when Jesus spoke out against sin He was talking to religious people! It was the Pharisees and scribes, the religious elite of His day, who received the sternest rebukes. That certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus turned a blind eye to the sins of the common, marginally religious people. But He knew that there is actually bigger problem than sin: self-righteousness. Sin is no problem for Jesus. He can forgive sins in an instant. But if we’re not willing to honestly confess our sins, if we insist that we’re actually OK, that we’re better than the sinners of the world, there’s nothing He can do for us. Jesus can only save people who admit they need to be saved (Luke 18:9-14). So I ask you: who is actually in a worse state—the lesbian who needs Jesus but hasn’t met Him yet, or the professed Christian who looks down in judgment on the lesbian and thinks that he is better than her?

If Jesus was on earth today, He would be hanging out with gays and lesbians. Why do I think this? Because when Jesus was on earth in 1st century Palestine, He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, the outcasts, the sinners, the kind of people at whom religious folks turned up their noses. “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” complained the Pharisees, an especially grievous act in their eyes because in 1st century Jewish culture holding table fellowship with someone signified your acceptance of that person (Luke 15:2). “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Why did Jesus hang out with sinners? Because those are the people He came to save! “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). That’s why I think that if Jesus were on earth today in 21st century America, He would be known as the friend of gays. No doubt many pious people who attend church faithfully every weekend would be disgusted by Him and the company he kept. They would accuse Him of being a “liberal” and would justify their rejection of Him by arguing that if He was really a prophet sent from God He would know that the people He befriended were sinners (Luke 7:39).

Since I want to be a follower of Jesus, I would rather incur the wrath of the self-righteous religious elite than fail in my mission of sharing Jesus’ love with everyone. If Jesus is the friend of gays, then His love compels me to be their friend, too. What about you?

by Matthew Shallenberger

My husband wrote this thought provoking article yesterday and I thought that I should share it with you guys.

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