|A member of the infamous Westboro|
Baptist Church holding signs during
one of their many protest events.
"You really feel like it's your right to look down your nose at me, don't you?" That was the statement made to me by a very angry homosexual male. It was my first time to meet him and the discussion up to that point had been completely neutral and far from any conversation about sexuality. It was not until the subject of marriage came up that he informed me he was a homosexual. As more time passed in our conversation, I asked what he did for a living. He told me and asked what I did. I told him. Upon hearing that I was a Pentecostal minister, the opening question of this paragraph came into play. His eyes narrowed, his brow furrowed and his entire demeanor changed.
I was being stereotyped and, unfortunately, I could understand why.
Groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, an absolute plague to Christendom, proudly stand in protest at the funerals of slain servicemen and women, political rallies and various other events holding large signs and screaming various anti-American, anti-military, anti-LGBT and anti-everything-else-under-the-sun sentiments. They have done a horrifically wonderful job of creating the "go to" image of the Fundamentalist Christian attitude toward the homosexual community. Sadly, they are not the only ones who have contributed to this image. Certain groups from within most every denomination or system of faith and doctrine have come forward voicing similar statements of hate and, sometimes, aggression.
The Pentecostal Church, sadly, has not been exempt. Over the same pulpits where the Truth of the Gospel and the Mysteries of God have been declared, some of the most hateful language in regard to homosexuals has also been proclaimed. From echoing the Westboro mantra, "God hates fags," to children singing gleefully of the eternal damnation of "queers," the Pentecostal Church has not always done the best job of putting forward a proper Biblical attitude toward homosexuals. In the strictest sense of the term, yes, some Pentecostals have been guilty of "gay bashing" as have some Baptists, some Nazarenes, some Church of Christ, etc.
THE OPPOSITE OF "BASH" IS NOT "CONDONE"
Within some ranks of Pentecostalism is the philosophy that there are two options in regard to the treatment of homosexuals: bash or condone. In other words, it is assumed by some that to say anything less than the most hurtful and derogatory of things to or about homosexuals is condoning, accepting or sympathizing with homosexual behavior. That is not at all the case.
The Holy Spirit spoke through the writing of the Apostle Paul in regard to who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. The list found in 1 Corinthians 6, though not extensive, is impressive in its own right and gives us nine categories to consider:
- the sexually immoral
- those who practice homosexuality
- the greedy
Three of the nine deal with sexual behavior and none of the nine are intended to be categorized by degree of sinfulness. In other words, there is nothing to indicate that the Holy Spirit intends for the Christian to view one of the nine as any better or worse than the rest. God expects this out of Believers because it is the same consistency of judgement that He practices Himself. Because one does not "bash" a drunkard does not mean such a one is promoting drunkenness. Neither was this list given so that nine particular categories of individuals could be shunned by the Church. Rather, the list was given as a reminder:
"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
The early Church was made up of the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers who had come to Christ, been washed in the name of Jesus Christ, received the gift of the Holy Spirit and been given a new life. For that motley crew of Believers to suddenly engage in "bashing" those who are engaged in that which they formerly partook of would be foolishness. Instead, the attitude of the Christian was intended to be the same as that of God:
"He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent." - 2 Peter 3:9b (NLT)
Early Christians were forbidden from assuming the right to look down their nose at anyone who was engaged in any lifestyle choice which was contradictory to the Word of God. They were told to consider themselves in matters of spiritual restoration (see Galatians 6:1). Certainly the same rule should apply in matters of extending the hope of salvation to all mankind. The opposite of "bashing" must be "holding out hope to" the homosexual just as we must hold out hope to anyone else who has not yet come to Christ for salvation.
WHAT WE ARE AND AREN'T SAYING TO HOMOSEXUALS
We are not saying that we agree with your lifestyle choice. No matter the inclinations of our own opinion, we defer to the Word of God to define what is and is not acceptable in the eyes of God. Why do we do this? Because, as the Creator of all things, God has reserved for Himself the positions of Lawmaker and Judge. We are not saying that you have a disease or mental disorder. We acknowledge that you have made a choice and that it is your choice to make. However, we wholehearted believe that it is the wrong choice even though you might act out your choice in your understanding of love and mutual consent. Any sin, be it sexual or otherwise, might feel very natural to the one committing it. We are not denying that, for you, your choice feels natural. We are saying that the one who Created all mankind has a plan for your life that excludes homosexual behavior while offering a life of love, joy and peace you've never even imagined.
We are not saying that we want you to die physically or spiritually nor do we want you to be beaten, discriminated against or otherwise mistreated. You're a human being and, as such, possess marks of Divinity as being created in God's image. We would be foolish to encourage any violence or mistreatment in your regard. Yes, the Law of Moses issued the death penalty for homosexual behavior. It was among 23 capital offenses under the Law. Understanding those Laws within their context in history is extremely important. Understanding how the Law is to be understood through Christ is of equal importance. Suffice it to say, we do not want to kill homosexuals nor do we want homosexuals to die. Yes, the Apostle Paul told the Church at Rome that those guilty of sexual sins are "worthy of death." As Christians, we accept the fact that, in reality, we are all worthy of death. That's the message of the Cross - man is worthy of death, but God has provided a means of eternal life.
We are not saying that we hate you. Furthermore, we are not saying that God hates you. When the Lord Jesus uttered the words, "For God so loved the world," you are included. It is not our desire nor God's desire to exclude you from access to salvation. In fact, the Scriptures make it clear that the call to salvation is not based upon gender, ethnicity or any other qualifier. All of humanity is called to the foot of the cross of Christ and all of humanity is given access to God by the blood of the Lamb. But to enter into the Kingdom of God, the benefit of that sacrificial act of grace, you must come through Christ who is the Door. That involves repentance and a part of repentance is submitting your entire life, including your sexuality, to the will of God as outlined in His Word. We aren't standing here cheering for you to go to hell. We don't want anyone to go to hell. We stand with open arms desiring salvation for you and ready to help you any way we can in making that decision to follow Christ entirely.
DON'T STEREOTYPE US AND WE WON'T STEREOTYPE YOU
The gentleman in my opening statement was guilty of stereotyping me. And, as I said previously, I somewhat understand why. There is little doubt that, as a homosexual, he had encountered those professing themselves to be Christians who felt their spirituality justified looking down their nose at him and others like him. What the Church must understand is that making fun of sinners, and I use that term realizing it might be repulsive to some, is neither acceptable nor righteous - but feeling compassion is. The Pentecostal Church cannot allow herself to be guilty of taking so much pride in the whiteness of our robes that we forget the darkness of our past as individuals and allow ourselves to fall into the trap of turning people away from Christ because of our abrasiveness, mercilessness or lack of compassion. If we are too clean to touch the lives of those unlike us, we are not, in reality, as clean as we might want to think.
To the homosexual community, the Pentecostal Church must say, "Please, come!" We must, with great love and mercy, find ways to communicate that our desire is to see all humanity come to the Lord Jesus Christ and, in Him, find the Way, the Truth and the Life. We cannot close the door of the place of Assembly in the face of anyone nor make it so narrow that only those already healthy and in no need of the Great Physician can enter in. The real and powerful presence of the Almighty God is a tremendous catalyst for conviction leading to godly sorrow working repentance toward salvation. Why would we want to exclude anyone from that possibility? And so, to the homosexual, we ask that you not assume how the Pentecostal Church will receive you, treat you or act toward you. If you have a bad experience, we ask your forgiveness and hope you'll understand that we're not all a bunch of Westboro Baptist types.
Pentecostal people, who can be among the most merciless if you fall among the wrong group of them, can also be the most merciful if you find the right circle of Believers. You'll find them willing and wanting to help you in your pursuit of Christ and the salvation, eternal life and abundant life that only He can offer. You'll find now, just as in the First Century Christian Church, flawed individuals with very diverse and interesting backgrounds who once walked according to their own will but have now submitted their lives entirely to the will of God and found therein the most wonderful life imaginable. No, you should not expect them to embrace, condone or excuse your choice of homosexuality but you should expect them to love you and to patiently explain why they believe God has a plan for your life that is more fulfilling than any sexual relationship or gender identity.
In writing this article I have gone to great lengths to phrase things very precisely and with the utmost caution and sensitivity fearing, as I really shouldn't but must, that I would be misunderstood in my intention. To the Pentecostal reading this article, please allow me to be very clear in my final remarks: I do not believe homosexuality is correct, ordained of God, righteous or acceptable. Furthermore, I do not believe that closing the door of the Church and the possibility of salvation in the face of a homosexual is correct, ordained of God, righteous or acceptable. This article is not intended to be an advocacy for the inclusion of unrepentant homosexuals into the Body of Christ. God has already, through His Word, excluded those who engage in homosexual behavior from His Kingdom. Rather, my purpose is to demonstrate that there is a right and wrong attitude toward and manner concerning homosexuals on the part of the Church.
To the homosexual who might be reading this article, please allow me to be very clear in my final remarks to you as well. Yes, the Word of God condemns your lifestyle choice. That's the bad news. The good news is that the same Word of God offers you a lifestyle choice that is unimaginably fulfilling. God offers you the gift of the Holy Ghost - His very real presence living inside of you; Christ with you now and always. If you would like more information on how to receive this gift that God wants to give you, please click HERE to be taken to a very brief introduction to the topic. There you will also find a link where you can submit questions and a request for a more in-depth conversation on the subject of who God is and what He wants.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Questions? You're welcome to tell us what you think in the comments section below! We'd love to hear from you.