When I first began to spend time in a gay bar and the people there found out that I was a Christian a number openly posed the statement/question, “But doesn’t God hate gays?”
I am aware that there are a number of churches in the USA that have made a bit of a spectacle of themselves turning up at Gay Pride events with banners depicting in large letters that “God hates gays.” Likewise participants also unashamedly reminding all who will listen that “homosexuality is an abomination” as per Leviticus 18:22.
The difficulty in this issue is not simply the result of bigotry on the part of some Christians. In recent times many have come to believe that a person’s sexuality is an essential element of identity. Therefore for a Christian to suggest that God loves gay people but hates their sexual practice simply sounds like some sort of nonsense. Obviously in a short blog I will not be able to sort through the complexities of this issue that presently causes more misunderstanding and hurt, even amongst Christians, than nearly anything else in our day and age. I do have some things that I can unequivocally share from a straightforward reading of Scripture.
Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Paul likewise affirms in Romans 8 verse 5. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The Scriptures are clear that God’s love for people is not based on what they do or don’t do. It is based in his very nature, which again to quote 1 John 4:8 ‘is love’. Whatever we might believe regarding homosexual acting out, the fact remains that gay people, just like straight people, are sinners. If they are indeed sinners then the Bible is clear and tells us that they are objects of God’s love. Unless, we are to suggest that gay people are somehow not human because we believe that their sexuality is evidence of some sort of complete genetic failure that reduces them to the category of animals or likewise that we might suggest that they are somehow sinless, and therefore by scriptural definition, also not human (1 John 1:8) then as I have stated they are indeed recipients of God’s love.
Interestingly enough, I have found that a few people in the bar have wished to take me to task because I have told them, in response to their determined questioning, that I don’t believe homosexual acting out is what God would want. They immediately assume that I am therefore telling them that I believe God hates gays or that I believe God will send gay people to hell. I have also been accused of judging people. Sadly, they like many Christians, fail to understand that the only basis I have for going to heaven is my faith in the finished work of Jesus. You see, I don’t believe that it is ‘sins’ whether gay sins or straight sins that will send me to hell, rather I believe that it is ‘sin’, something that has affected the human race since Adam and Eve and will continue to do so until Jesus returns, that separates people from God. I am not going to heaven because I sin less than other people, gay or straight. I am going to heaven because Jesus has destroyed sin and death through his obedience and death on a cross. I have put my faith in Jesus and his finished work to accomplish that which I could never accomplish and, despite the fact that I continue to sin, I am confident that I will indeed go to heaven.
Whilst I have tried as much as possible to avoid the obvious next question regarding whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to continue acting out homosexually, part of the main reason why I have sought to do so is because it is not the issue at hand and potentially a red herring in this particular issue. I am convinced that the message of the Gospel is simple. It is a message of Good News and a message of God’s love in Jesus to be freely shared with all people no matter what their sexual preference, identity or understanding. It is only after a person has received revelation of God’s love for them even whilst still sinners, that there is any hope that they might be open to receive the very Christian call of following Jesus, taking up the cross daily, and counting all things as rubbish for his sake.