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If You Love Your Children or Grandchildren, You’ll Need to Love LGBT+ People Better
Posted by Clare
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Believe this: Many younger Christians are making how we treat LGBT+ people, the litmus test of whether they want anything to do with the church.

In the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking to pastors and church leaders as the chairman and CEO of The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender. www.centerforfaith.com. Our mission is to help Christians and churches love LGBT+ people better from the church’s historical understanding of sexuality and marriage.

Some pastors and lay people believe all they need is the correct doctrine and holding true to that will guard their church from going liberal or soft on LGBT people. Praise God, that attitude is changing. Here’s how I put both the problem and the solution to them (and to any parent or grandparent).

There are three groups in almost every evangelical church – your church, who you will need to educate about LGBT+ people. Because, the lines are being drawn more quickly than the average church member fully comprehends between those who believe the Bible allows loving, monogamous same-sex relations and marriage (affirming) and those who believe the Bible does not allow for same-sex marriage (non-affirming). Nowhere is the affirming movement gaining more strength than with college students, young Christians, youth pastors and seminarians – the future leaders of our churches.

Grace, with a minor in Truth
The vast majority of students and younger Christians haven’t based their views on a rigorous study of what the Bible says on this topic. Rather, most have simply gravitated to a “soft” affirming position. That is, they’ve become affirming largely out of empathy for how LGBT+ people have been mistreated by many Christians and churches.

Younger people feel the Church has given them only two options; They can either love without judgment all LGBT+ people, or they can write them off and vilify them.

Truth with a minor in Grace
But, younger Christians are not our only challenge. While younger Christians generally have more empathy, they also have less knowledge of and allegiance to Scripture, older Christians, often have just the opposite problem. They eagerly submit to biblical authority and morality, but genuinely struggle with showing real empathy and grace toward LGBT+ people.

In my experience, Christians over age 60 range from mildly homophobic to “evangelical red-necks!” The reality is that many evangelicals have a visceral reaction to homosexuality – a reaction that is driven less by what they’ve read in the Bible, than by their upbringing, personal biases and church culture. They will need to re-examine the origins of those attitudes so that their sexual and gender ethic is actually rooted in Scripture alone.

That brings us to the third group and in almost every respect, the most important – LGBT+ people and their families. Not only are many living in fear of being found out, or if “out,” they feel alienated and lonely. Good Christians often just simply don’t know what to say, or what not to say, so they just stay away.

Some LGBT+ people might never return to your church. But what ought to break our hearts is if the silent and scared remain that way.

How then shall we live?
To address these attitudes and begin changing the culture of churches and organizations, leaders will have to move beyond doctrinal statements and policies. The Center helps leaders cultivate a fresh culture of belief in their members. That is, they want to give Christians theological permission to engage LGBT+ people graciously without feeling guilty they’ve abandoned any core teachings of scripture.

“Always be prepare to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15b

Being the patriarch of your family
So what does this mean for you, if you are a parent or grandparent? It means you will need to educate yourself to be the thought leader for your family, on these issues. I’ve taken our high school age grandchildren out to lunch and I’ve talked to them about what the Bible teaches and what I believe about marriage, sexuality and I’ve confessed my past homophobia.

My goal for having these discussions is that I send out these signals – “I’m safe for you to talk to me about your sexual questions or those of your friends.”

Where to begin

  1. Read People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle
  2. Practice confessing your past homophobic thoughts about LGBT+ people. (It will open the door wide to dialoguing with your family.)
  3. Practice articulating four or five things you believe about same-sex, sexual relationships and marriage and why.
  4. Read a few of the free Pastoral Papers, on The Center’s website. (http://centerforfaith.com/resources?field_product_category_tid=1)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

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Comments (14)
Comments
  1. Doug Ditmar said...

    Each of has or has had LGBT neighbors, customers, clients or co workers, former classmates and more. I attended a meeting at our former church over 30 years ago where the speaker addressed this issue. When he suggested strongly that the church would struggle with this group down the road, more than a few people chuckled. Well, here we are. The question is, is the behavior sinful? Scripture clearly condemns it as such in both testaments. If the Christian evangelical community as we know it changes its position on this issue, then anything goes. It is the most peculiar sin. It, along with many others is part of the broken world that we live in. I believe that it would be a big mistake for the church to open the door to full acceptance.

    Reply
    • admin-3kr5M said...

      I fully agree. Our ministry intends to teach Christians how to understand and love LBGT people and their families, without guilt that they’ve abandon any of the church’s historical understanding of marriage and same sex sexual behavior. “Loud and proud” Christians will not like our position, but I’m more concerned about helping the silent and scared LGBT people in our churches.

      Reply
  2. Donald Daily said...

    Does scripture take on this topic directly?
    Why must we take sides on this?
    The topic of Women being Deacons is another example of this. I’m not sure God’s inspired word was meant to be interpreted by popular cultural trends.
    I do agree that bigotry and hate has no place in Christianity and the followers must strive to be non-judgemental and accept everyone without reservation. A sentence I found easier to write then to accept in it’s entirety.
    As I grow in my Christian maturity I question modern church doctrine and false teaching and politically correct humanism.
    My mind is open, but my many years of life’s experiences has taught me that skepticism and questioning all like the Berrian Kings (Acts 17:11) is a healthy exercise.
    Will earnestly read your suggested resources and probably should have prior to sending this response.
    Thank you for your insights and these thought provoking exercises that we utilize in our senior men’s bible study. You spoke at our group on the 10 second rule on the Beltline in Rockford. Again thank you for helping me examine where I’m at and where he wants me to be.

    Reply
    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Thanks. I’ve been on a journey myself. I still hold to the church’s historical understanding of marriage and sexuality and urge all Christians to do the same.

      Reply
  3. Austin Timyan said...

    Evangelical Positions on Homosexuality over time. (I’m not a historian but humor me)
    1. Gay people don’t exist
    2. Gay people do exist but they are going to burn.
    3. Not all gay people have to burn if they work to change their orientation.
    4. We love gay people and though It is not possible to change sexual orientation they can remain celibate and that’s just fine.
    5. Gay people are equal to heterosexual people in the eyes of God. (Final stage! Wohoo)

    Only one more level to Go everyone! I believe in all of you. Maybe It will be 2020 or 2030 but as you have said Clare, we young people are not very patient. Also, a really massive apology for all of the pain us gay people have gone through would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Austin, my hope is that we achieve level 5 as well. And I’m sorry for all the pain caused by misinformed Christians getting there. We Christians have sinned against LGBT people for centuries. Although it’s probably level 6 we’re going to disagree on. I’m guessing your level 6 is, “6. God and the Church views loving, committed same-sex marriages no differently than opposite sex marriages.”

      Reply
      • Austin Timyan said...

        Clare, yes unfortunately I fear we may disagree in that area but I completely understand and respect your position.

        I return to your point that young people are using this issue as a litmus test. You raise the point but don’t really come to a conclusion. I spend a lot of time – as you do – around gay people, young Christians and young people on the periphery of the church. What I have found is that this issue is more of a pregnancy test than a litmus test in that the result is either positive or negative and not spread across a range.

        Does a church or organization believe that gay people are equal (and yes equality includes marriage) or not? If yes, they are fostering a compassionate, Christ like community where people are challenged to love and accept. If no, they are leaving the door wide open for homophobia, judgment and creating a bunker community where likeminded individuals reinforce each others fears.

        I noticed a commenter above referring to homosexuality as “the most peculiar sin”. The point of all of your writing seems to be to open the door to gay people and encourage Christians to be loving. Can you see the cognitive dissonance? I’m afraid there is no middle ground, it’s a yes or a no.

        Reply
        • Clare said...

          Austin, you are right. We disagree on the basic issue of does God ever even hint at approving same sex sexual relations, or marriage in the Bible? We can email about that forever and neither of us are likely to change our minds.
          But here’s where I hope we can agree. To call an activity prohibited by the Bible a sin, is not, in and of itself unloving. As an elder I’ve had to tell people that adultery was wrong. Or that that marrying an unbeliever is wrong. I knew, and they knew, if they agreed with me that God prohibits both, it was going to cost them some short term serious sadness. If one of your employees stole from you, it wouldn’t be unloving to call it theft. It might be unloving to instantly call the police and press charges. But simply telling someone they’ve violated the law and insisting they stop it and make resitution isn’t unloving. By a biblical measure its a sin.

          So when Ive had to tell men that adultery was wrong, I’m trying to save their marriage.” I want what God wants for them. That is love. And I don’t have the right as a Christian to bless or approve of activities God prohibits, just so we can all get along in a loving, “compassionate, Christ-like community.” But how I say it, and why I say it, is important. No boney, self righteous, angry finger pointing at someone I disagree with. Even in our disagreement, I ought be kind and thoughtful.

          If you actually believe God blesses same sex marriage, then I can see my saying he does not, would feel unloving. I just cant find a single verse in scripture that ever encourages same sex sex. But I am working hard to keep the conversation civil, thoughtful and biblical.

          Reply
          • Austin Timyan said...

            I would love to keep the conversation going. Austin.timyan@gmail.com

            I believe there is a stark difference between the sins you mentioned and being gay.

            Also as you know the Bible does not address gay relationships.

            Reply
            • Clare said...

              Austin, just to be clear, I don’t believe simply having a same sex attraction is a morally culpable sin. By that I mean, at the Judgement, born-again gays who have not lusted or acted on their temptation, or have acted on it and confessed it as sin, will ever be judged by God, other than be found faithful.

              The same goes for straight guys like me. I find other women powerfully attractive. That is not a morally culpable sin. However, if and when I lust on that thought, or ever acted on that with any woman other than my wife, and did not cry out to God, confessing my sin, I would be held morally culpable. The temptation to sexual sin is not the way God made us. Dr. Richard Mouw once said, “Whether gay or straight, we’ve all been made crooked by the Fall.”

              As to your last comment, “as you know the Bible does not address gay relationships.” For the record, I do not believe that. I realise that in the last 60-70 years the gay Christian movement has made an effort to make a distinction between modern, loving, monogamous, lifelong, same sex relationships as having nothing in common with all the discriptions of same-sex, sexual behavior in the Bible, as being pagan and abusive. I believe that is imposing a “wishful interpretation” on the Bible. Austin, and anyone else, this conversation is too complicated for a blog comment. http://www.centerforfaith.com has a number of “Pastoral Papers” One of them is entitled “15 Affirming Arguments and 15 Responses” that gives our best understanding on this question.

              Reply
  4. Carolyn Klickermann said...

    Clare, this article sparked quite a discussion between my husband and I and we had to admit that we come from a background of mild homophobia and some personal baggage from our past church involvement. Not sure we agree with assimilating these folks into positions of leadership but they certainly as welcome as we ourselves were in our sinful state when we arrived at the front door. We do not encourage alcoholics, gamblers, prostitutes, thieves to stay in their sinful state & nor should we do so with the LGBTQ people. However I believe our approach should be first to welcome and become a friend, then listen as to WHY they have come to church – are they seeking God’s forgiveness or blessing? For us, therein lies the crux of this issue. The Lord loves us too much to leave us as He finds us – I know He has certainly made some wonderful changes in my life with regards to habitual sins and continues to work with me, as I am willing. We should offer the same help to these people.
    Thank you for the positive action items mentioned; we need to work on those as a couple!

    Reply
    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Carolyn, if you go to http://www.centerforfaith.com and click on Pastoral Papers. There is a free download entitled. “Guidance for Churches on Membership, Service, Leadership, Baptism and Communion for LGBT People.” That will introduce you to our thought process for how churches might make better choices in these areas.

      Reply
  5. JR said...

    Really?!
    “Homophobic”
    You have really taken a double swig of the
    Koolaid!
    No one serious about a discussion of this topic,
    And claiming to love people , throws that tired ,
    Worn out Liberal term around
    Get Thee behind me Satan!

    Reply
    • admin-3kr5M said...

      So JR, what term would you use to describe the disgust some Christians still have for gays in general, including born again Christians who have begged God to take away their same-sex attractions, but believe as you likely do, that same-sex sex and same sex marriage would be a sin?

      Reply
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