As the calendar turns to June, we anticipate longer days and warmer weather. But in recent years, we’ve come to expect something else: ubiquitous rainbows, flags, and other reminders that we are in Pride Month. The promotion is relentless, weaving the celebration of LGBTQ+ into the fabric of our cultural consciousness.
My primary issue isn’t that the world around me is so comfortable embracing and affirming this. I expect it. Instead, I’m concerned with how eagerly Christians are beginning to do the same.
Reasons for Increasing Affirmation
I think a couple of reasons for this shift jump to the forefront.
First, there’s an over-correction. For many years, merciless scorn has been the standard religious reaction to homosexuality. We’ve lacked empathetic compassion that marks the heart of Christ. Too often, we spoke the TRUTH in love (heavy on truth, light on love). But now, it appears the pendulum is swinging the other way. To compensate, many are speaking the truth IN LOVE (big on love, light on truth). Before we left out the love – which wasn’t truthful. But now, as a reaction, I fear we are neglecting the truth – which isn’t loving. I understand (and empathize) with the reflex, but I don’t think it’s any more helpful than what it’s trying to correct.
Second, there’s a biblical burden. Many Christians are affirming those in the LGBTQ+ community because they want to welcome them into the church. The biblical burden comes from seeing Jesus inviting sinners and outsiders to come and join him on the way. We want to see people who don’t know Jesus come to follow him. Many people express their love and support out of a desire to bring people to Jesus. They want them to know Christ. I don’t think any thinking, feeling believer would quibble with this impulse. Instead, it’s how the burden gets worked out that raises the issue.
Categories for Concern
When I listen to and observe professing Christians who affirm the goodness of the LGBTQ+ movement (whether a reluctant side hug or full-hearted embrace), they seem to fall into at least three categories.
Rejection of the Bible’s Authority. The Bible is clear on sex, gender, and marriage. God created sex as a good gift to be enjoyed exclusively within the marriage covenant between a husband and wife, a biological man and woman. This is consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments (Gen. 1:26–28; 2:15–25; 19; Lev. 18:22, 20:13; Mark 10:6–12; Rom. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9–10). Remember, this was taught and affirmed by Jesus, the most loving man who ever lived. It’s difficult to see how anyone could reject the Bible’s clear teaching on this issue and still claim to be following Jesus.
Ironically, to emphasize God’s love in such a way that it crowds out his other attributes–even in the name of loving others–is actually unloving to God.
Confusion over God’s Character. It’s common for people to emphasize certain aspects of God’s character over others. As mentioned earlier, God’s love tends to be emphasized over his other attributes. It’s like God’s love squeezes out his holiness, righteousness, and goodness. But this is not what God is like; he’s not made up of parts. We can’t slice him up into parts like pieces of a pizza. No attribute of God is more important than another–all are central to his essence. Also, no attribute can oppose another (i.e., love doesn’t overrule righteousness). This is hard for us to get because it’s not the way we are. We may have stronger character traits that pronate to our values and experiences. But God is, what theologians call, simple. He’s not made up of parts cobbled together by different compounds. He is the self-existent One, eternally perfect, self-sufficient, unchanging, and glorious (Ex. 3:14; Ps. 90:1–2; Mal. 3:7; John 5:26; Rom. 11:33–36). Ironically, to emphasize God’s love in such a way that it crowds out his other attributes–even in the name of loving others–is actually unloving to God. This is something that I trust many big-hearted followers of Jesus haven’t fully considered. It would be unreasonable for them to attempt to show God’s love for others while expressing intolerance for who God actually is.
Unintentionally Marching in the Parade. The Apostle Paul warns of not only the practice of various sins but also commending them, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). Christians can be tempted to conflate the practice of maintaining a relationship with a friend or family member by approving their choices. There’s a big difference between having a meaningful, gospel-adorning relationship and marching in a pride parade. I think that well-meaning Christians can, by approving sin, unintentionally deny the Bible’s authority. The old adage of “loving the sinner but hating the sin” is subtly replaced with “loving the sinner requires I approve of the sin.” Followers of Jesus would benefit from giving this more thoughtful consideration.
Two Final Suggestions
I’m fairly certain that what I’ve written here is unpersuasive to those who would deny the authority of the Bible. But I’m trying to reason with those who love God and want to love their neighbors well. Christians who want to love their LGBTQ+ neighbors and faithfully love God must think biblically about how they do it.
As I’ve tried to think about this, it seems to come down to two simple questions and answers.
- Do you want to be loved and faithful? Realize this is impossible. You can’t affirm what God’s Word says (be faithful to God) and be affirmed by the world around you. Despite our best efforts, we will fail at one or the other.
- Do you want to be loving and faithful? Be clear and compassionate with the gospel. The only way to speak the truth in love is to faithfully, winsomely, and boldly share Christ. Here we point people to God’s true love and have integrity as Christians with our relationships.