Who Are They?
They buy fruit from me every Saturday morning at the farmers’ market. They attend my classes and advocate for acceptance at my university. They live in my neighborhood and walk the streets of my town. They have visited my parents’ farm and shared dinner with my family; they have sung Christmas carols with my church family in my own home. “They” are gays and lesbians, and I rub shoulders with them nearly every day of every week.
Perhaps homosexual men and women have already entered your relationship circles – your community, school, or workplace – or maybe their lifestyles remain an oddity at which you gawk. Whatever your experience, the acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle as a legitimate form of expression has undeniably swept mainstream American culture.
Universities, governments, and church denominations cater to the homosexual agenda, and to raise questions invites accusations of bigotry and intolerance, the new racism. As tolerance turns into favoritism and the public display of homosexual behavior becomes commonplace, even an isolated Anabaptist young person will begin to encounter gay and lesbian men and women on a regular basis. When the homosexual couple moves in next door or frequents your workplace, how will you respond as a lover of Christ and a witness to the world?
First, seek understanding. Despite the profound impact of homosexuals on our culture, Anabaptists have in the past isolated themselves from real-life contact with the gay and lesbian community. This is not commendable! Learn to know men and women who identify as gay and lesbian; they are friendly people with unique struggles.
In conversation, practice suspending your first impressions and ten-second judgments, and remind yourself that a person created in the image of God, with dignity and honor, stands before you. Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian, says of the Christian couple influential in her conversion: “They seemed to know that I wasn’t just a blank slate, that I had values and opinions too, and they talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased.” 1
Initiating this type of relationship with homosexuals means conquering our fear and concealing our distaste. It means putting an end to insensitive, offensive, and stereotypical language. To crudely laugh about “being gay” or to participate in suggestive joking and actions, even when no harm is intended, reveals a glaring lack of sensitivity toward the intense struggles that define the lives of thousands of men and women in our country, in our communities, and in our own churches.
If you sincerely desire to model Christ to gays and lesbians, start by reading a book that offers an inside Christian perspective, such as The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield; then befriend the next homosexual couple that enters your life. Show interest in their stories; ask if they have a church background. Invite them into your home for dinner and discussion. Didn’t Christ Himself dine with sinners? 2 Follow in His footsteps.
Secondly, hold fast to truth. In keeping with the Anabaptist interpretation of Scripture and historic church teaching, the clear, literal reading of the Word of God reveals no change: the practice and pursuit of a homosexual lifestyle is sin, and so God hates it. Though popular culture and church denominations may increasingly affirm homosexual practice, the authority of the Word transcends twenty-first century American culture, and its standards are not open for re-evaluation.
It may seem unimaginable for you as a young person to reverse your stand on the Scripture, but the pull of society is strong. Attend a secular university, and you will encounter aggressive pro-homosexual rhetoric in the classroom, on the sidewalks, and from university officials. Engage with media, and you will become well-acquainted with arguments hailing homosexuality as the civil rights movement of the twenty-first century. Get to know gays and lesbians, and you will be tempted to suppress your belief that their behavior is displeasing to God. Stand strong!
Again describing Christians who invested in her, Mrs. Butterfield states, “Ken and Floy didn’t identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ.” 3 In modern times, homosexual men and women receive no lack of affirmation, yet they often conceal an internal, God-placed discontentment with their confused lifestyles. And if Christians quietly retreat from the standards of God’s Word, those Christians hold out no offer of a better Way.
A Better Way
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on homosexuality earlier this year, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, reminded Christians,
“There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth. We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. . . We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.” 4
May the American church, and the Anabaptist church, pattern itself after his words. The message of the gospel, encapsulated in the person of Jesus Christ, has transformed countless individuals and entire cultures throughout history, and it remains effective today. Christ, the lover of every man and woman regardless of sexual orientation, reveals Himself to homosexuals today through His Body, the church. By reaching out with understanding and retaining the true teachings of Scripture, will you answer the call to lead a disillusioned and weary generation into the all-fulfilling sweetness of God’s love?
|Seth Lehman loves God, his bride, and cities, in that order. He and his wife, Heather, live in Bloomington, Indiana, where they frequent the coffee shops, sell at farmers’ markets, and seek to share God’s love with their friends and neighbors. Seth is a senior studying mathematics and working as a tutor at Indiana University, and he enjoys gardening, playing piano, and reading in his spare time.
1. Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant, 2012), 10.
2. The Holy Bible, ESV (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), Luke 5:30.
3. Butterfield, Secret Thoughts, 11.
4. Russell Moore, “Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage”, The Washington Post, June 26, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/26/why-the-church-should-neither-cave-nor-panic-about-the-decision-on-gay-marriage/.